Review – The Gardens

Construct your own royal garden that pleases your visitors!

G Box

 

Designer Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert

Artist Kerri Aitken

Publisher Grail Games

Category Drafting, Worker Movement

Length 30-60min

Release Date 2022

Player Count 1-4

Reconstruct your own Sydney Royal Botanic Garden in The Gardens. Place garden cards, move visitors, and score points based on what your visitors saw! Is The Gardens an overgrown, unweeded vernal nightmare, or is it something straight out of the garden of a Disney Princess? Let’s find out. 

Review

The player with the most points wins, and players will score points through scoring cards on the scoreboard. There are 18 different scoring tiles, but you’ll only use 7 per game, so there’s some variability on what scores points. There are end-game points (such as having the longest path or most statues) and during-game points (such as when your visitor sits on a bench or when your visitor crosses streams on their way to a fountain). 

To begin, each player will set up their garden with a 4×3 grid on either side of the middle piece. Players will also take their color pawns and place 3 of them on the middle piece and 1 on the scoreboard. There are 3 stacks of cards players can choose from: top, middle, and bottom. The number of face-up, choosable cards in each stack varies depending on player count, but essentially each player must take 1 card from each row. 

On your turn, you’ll choose a card, add it to your garden in the appropriate row, and then move that row’s visitor to the card, scoring points as applicable along the way (show them your garden’s beauty!). Turns continue until all cards from the round have been claimed, at which point the players will have each taken 1 card for each row of their garden. 

The gameplay is as simple as that, but the scoring is where things become tricky. As you place cards, you’ll move your visitors to the new card. You only score points for cards that visitors pass, so you’ll need to be careful about when you place cards. Placing a card right next to a visitor means the visitor only moves once, minimizing point-scoring opportunities. 

The Gardens also provides opportunities for player interaction. Choosing the right card for your garden is important, but making sure your opponents don’t get the perfect card for their gardens is even more important. There are some point-scoring card combinations that are tough to get, but if you can get them, they offer 10 points, which is game-changing. 

The art is, as you’d expect for a game like this, quite good. The scoring cards fit into indented slots on the scoreboard, and the player pawns each have a special accessory (sunglasses, ponytail, etc.). The Gardens also includes rules for landmark cards, which offer more ways to get points, and a solo mode, so there’s solid variety here. There’s also a 2-player variation that’s the most strategic (and my preferred) way to play The Gardens

The Gardens is a solid game that I enjoyed playing, but it didn’t offer anything that really caught my attention. However, I could see someone who’s really into gardens or botany enjoying the theme enough to elevate The Gardens past its okay-not-good gameplay. 

Grail Games (Asmodee North America) kindly provided a review copy. 

The Bottom Line

Too long without enough interesting decisions to hold my attention, but I can see the appeal for garden-lovers.

 

5.5

spencer
Author: Spencer Patterson

I'm a teacher, writer, and board game reviewer. I especially love board games that pull me in like a good book. My wife is my favorite gaming partner.