Review – Canopy

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Designer Tim Eisner

Artist Vincent Dutrait

Publisher Weird City Games

Category Tableau building

Length 30 minutes

Release Date 2021

Player Count 2, with variants for 1-4

Canopy is a card game of drafting and set collection. In it, 2 players compete to build the most bountiful rainforest. As they choose cards to add to their tableaus, they must find the right mix of plants and animals, all the while avoiding hazards like fire and disease. Let’s check it out!

Review

Right out of the box, Canopy is lovely to look at. As usual, Vincent Dutrait’s striking artwork hooked me and drew my gaze. As I was unboxing this game, before I had even glanced at the rules, I spent a good 10 minutes just admiring the imagery.

Canopy is a 2-player game in which players work to collect sets of plants, build trees, and help wildlife to thrive. The central play area consists of a few piles of cards; rainforest cards are the main type, and they are distributed into 3 stacks, corresponding to the 3 seasons/rounds of the game.

At the start of each season, players deal 3 columns of cards face-down from the current season’s deck. The first column gets 1 card, the second gets 2, and the third gets 3.

On a player’s turn, they begin by looking at the card (or cards, later on) in the first column. They can choose to either take that card or pass on it and look at the cards in the next column.

Here, the player looks at the first card, and it isn’t something she wants…

If a player takes a column of cards, they replace it with a single, face-down card from the deck. If they pass, they return those cards to the display, face-down, add a new card to the column, and move onto the next column.

… so she returns the card to the tableau, adds another card to its column, and moves onto the next option.

Should a player pass on all 3 columns of cards, they take the top card of the season deck. They must keep that card—no more passing.

Whichever card(s) a player ends up with, the player must add them to their personal tableau. There are a few different types of cards:

  • Trunks are used to start or extend a tree
  • Canopies are used to complete trees
  • Wildlife provide special, once-per-season abilities
  • Threat cards force 1 or both players to discard cards from their tableau

When the season deck gets depleted, players continue drafting until all cards have been claimed. At that time, the round ends and a scoring/upkeep phase takes place. In this phase, players earn points for completed trees, and for having the tallest tree. They can also gain new seedlings from the seed deck, and they must resolve any fire and disease cards. (These cause plants or wildlife to be removed.) Remaining trees and wildlife are kept for the next round.

The game ends at the conclusion of the third season. At that time, players earn points for their wildlife, as shown on their cards. Finally, the player with the most completed trees earns a bonus, and the player with the most points wins!


Though Canopy certainly leads with its art, its underlying gameplay is just as refined. With quick turns and enjoyable drafting decisions, it is a fun, breezy game for 2.

Players need to carefully evaluate their options when drafting, considering both what they want and what their opponent wants. Should you take a good card if you have to take a threat with it? Is it worth taking another fire card in order to deny your opponent something they need? If you pass on everything, might you wind up getting stuck with a canopy you don’t want?

Throughout the game, players create a forest.

This game feels less “all or nothing” than many push-your-luck games. No matter what, the active player will always gain something (and usually something good) on their turn. What’s more, since it is common to see a stack of cards multiple times, players usually have a strong sense of what they stand to gain. Sure, some unknown cards will be added from turn to turn, but rarely is a player flying totally blind on a large stack of cards. Also, Canopy does not ask players to take huge risks the way that, say, Can’t Stop does. Instead, this game is focused on smaller decisions that don’t generally involve game-swinging outcomes. Overall, it’s much more relaxed.

The production quality, again, is superb. The retail version (which I am looking at) uses cardboard tokens, but a deluxe edition is also available with wooden bits. Either way, Canopy is a real looker, and it’s compact enough that it can easily fit in a backpack or suitcase.

Bottom line, I am impressed with this game. I’m always on the lookout for robust 2-player titles, and Canopy fits that bill. If you enjoy fast-moving games and/or games with lovely nature aesthetics, this is one to check out.

A review copy was provided by Weird City Games.

The Bottom Line

Canopy leads with its art, but its underlying gameplay is just as refined. With quick turns and enjoyable drafting decisions, it is a fun, breezy game for 2. Recommended.

 

8

Author: Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.