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Vadoran Gardens review

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Set in the universe of The City of Kings, Frank West’s ambitious and sprawling RPG-in-a-box, this half-hour, light tile-placement game is best served as an appetiser to its predecessor’s hours-long buffet.

It plays like a combination of Kingdomino and Honshu, with the shifting tile/player order selection of the former and the overlapping cards of the latter – although here only the rightmost column of squares is covered, forming a constantly stretching pathway through your personal garden of soil, grass, water and sand patches. Connected areas only score if they contain three or more symbols, with bonus points obtained by forming certain combinations of icons required by objective cards and placing lost items by leaving certain squares uncovered. 

‘Lesson’ cards restrict which card suits from your hand can be played each turn, while others occasionally throw up the challenge of combining two cards for an extra wide or tall addition. Along with the inability to rotate cards (apart from a lesson that breaks that rule, flipping them upside-down) and a limited height allowed on your pathway, it means Vadoran Gardens occasionally feels overly strict on how and which cards can be played, taking away some of the interesting decision-making present in those other tile-placement challenges. It lands somewhere between lacking the simplicity of Kingdomino and the strategic thinkiness of Honshu, without finding a comfortable middle ground.

Still, it’s a solid enough design that benefits greatly from being handsomely presented – aside from the odd decision to have one of the player colours and lost item colours match, and use purple and black player pieces that can be hard to pick out at a glance in certain light.

If you’re craving more of The City of Kings, Vadoran Gardens’ visual panache and bitesized gameplay – different though it may be – might be enough to tide you over between full courses. If you’re not already invested in that bigger helping of this world, though, this is unlikely to leave you with a hunger for more. 

MATT JARVIS

 

PLAY IT? – MAYBE

 

Designer: Frank West

Artist: Miguel Da Silva, Frank West

Time: 30 minutes

Players: 2-4

Age: 8+

Price: £17

 

This review originally appeared in the April 2019 issue 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.

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