09 November 2020
A peaceful way to game
Not every game needs to be about dungeon delving or fighting dragons, instead, it can be good fun to spend your time getting green-fingered. Enjoy the fruits of your labour with ten of the best gardening games
A recent entry from Bruno Cathala that sees players attempting to collect sets of orchids from the main garden board to their own personal board. From here it’s a case of carefully placing sets together with tetris-like tiles, and selecting locations for your bee hives to gain the most points. It’s an incredibly good-looking game with excellent pattern and colour design, which has to be a consideration for a game about flowers. Believe the buzz about this one.
A beautiful game of garden arrangement and panda management, including extremely tactile bamboo pieces. The one who keeps the panda fattest and happiest for the game is the winner. Or rather, who manages to maintain their flowerbeds while keeping the pandas from enjoying them a little too much. A gentle family game with wonderful pieces that hide a lot of subtle frictions between players.
For something more substantial than flowers, cultivate your own arboretum with this set collecting card game. Collect matching cards and lay them in front of you to create patterns and chains of trees starting and ending with the same tree type. The shape is freeform – although you’re free to branch off – but the scoring requires you to hold on to the highest card of that tree type. Understanding what your opponent might be playing for is key, and diligent pruning and bluffing is required from players here.
For a theme that includes classification of plants, it’s only natural that there’s a lot of set collecting and combo making. Herbaceous is a game of picking and potting herbs. Choose to keep the first card drawn, or second – either way the other one is going into the community allotment. Take sets from the table and pot them up. These pots can only be used once however, so timing is everything.
Not all gardens need to be on solid ground. Water lily gardens aren’t particularly fond of it at all. In this game of pattern creation you play an apprentice gardener hoping to harness the wind to create harmony in their arrangements. This transpires to be the art of shifting blossoming lilies into point scoring patterns. Players take turns laying their blossoms and moving them, so planning ahead is key, even if it doesn’t have to be a season.
Allotments, apart from being known for their long waiting lists, should be about communal veg celebration. Part of Uwe Rosenberg’s puzzle trilogy (along with Indian Summer and Spring Meadow), players set about filling their flowerbeds with tiles (and cats). The placement all depends on the position of the gardener, adding an additional layer of complexity to the tile-taking choice. Yet it remains easy to pick up, and the flowers are very nice in their splotchy illustration.
This isn’t Michael Kiesling’s first gardening game, Sanssouci from 2013 is similar, but not quite as pretty. Miyabi is another tile placement game where player try and create terraced gardens in matching rows on their own private grid. You can only play your tetris-tiles to score in one column however, so a sparing and considered use of the space is vital. You can build up as you go on, creating an interesting, tiered garden. The game comes with five expansions to the game, tweaking the rules – and they’re all good.
8. Garden Dice
Garden Dice probably has the most vegetables in it of all games on this list. Using dice to designate where these tasty plant friends grow may seem random, but it’s all about the allocation of the four dice that you roll. Players have to make the choice as to whether to spend their dice on buying in seeds, or to place their seeds in the shared garden grid. Once your veggie seeds are placed you can water them to turn them into point scoring plants. With the addition of rabbits that can eat opponents’ veggies and sundials that modify the rolls needed to place around them, there’s plenty to dig into over the table.
A little more grown up, with a certain Nordic bleakness, Reykholt is all about growing tomatoes, lettuce and carrots in a place they have no right growing naturally – Iceland. Don’t worry though, we’ll be using the geothermal energy at the heart of Iceland to power our greenhouse. With the tourist season coming and going fast, having the right vegetables at the right time makes for a winner. A serious looking strategic bit of shed-bothering.
Named after that smell of rain on dry soil that we all instinctively love, this is a game of being a cloud. That’s right, you’re taking a top down look at this one. Clouds are a democracy it turns out, as you vote what weather is going to arrive. Move clouds around together to rain your coloured droplets on the most advantageous field for you. It’s a kind of tug-of war up in the air, and a joy of stormy interactions when someone moves a shared cloud away from your target field.
Picked by Christopher John Eggett
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This article originally appeared in issue 41 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.