Main Event Games · Reviews

Review of Alwaysgreen Garden

Game: Alwaysgreen Garden

Designer: Darryl Jones

Published: Splattered Ink Games

Players: 2-4 Players

Playtime: 45-60 Minutes

Play Type: Set Collection

 

Synopsis:

Competition is fierce as you and three other Dobbers compete to be the best chef at the legendary Acorn Inn! Find delicious ingredients from the magical forest surrounding the inn, and combine them to craft the best recipes. Don’t worry though! You won’t be on your own in this quest, you will have the help of your magical forest friends as they support you on your quest!

Game Play:

Alwaysgreen Garden is a set collection game with a heavy focus on worker placement and resource management mechanics. In the game, players will be racing to try to get all the ingredients necessary to complete recipes on their card. Each recipe has a different point value; and for higher point value recipes, players must have more ingredients to complete them. The game ends after the first person gets four recipes completed. 

During set up, players are given three starting Recipe Cards, three Technique cards, and two Menu Cards. Players must look at and decide to pick one of the two Menu Cards. These cards offer players’ end of game goals that are worth additional points if completed. Players will also set up the board during this time, placing the matching animeeple on the correct colored space. Players will also place the matching dice in those spaces. Above the four tiled board, which can be laid out in any fashion, players will place Ollie’s Tools. When starting the game, make sure all of Ollie’s Tools show side A.

Players are now ready to begin taking turns. The game will take place of a series of turns. It will continue in this fashion until a player has played their fourth recipe card. After this action, each player will have two more turns, then the game will end and scores will be counted. 

On a turn, players have many options for actions that they can take on their turn. Let’s take a closer look at those actions and what a turn would look like during game play. Below are the steps a Dobber would follow to complete a turn:

  1. Roll The Garden Dice: Players must roll two Garden Dice at the beginning of their turn. During the beginning of the game, players only have access to the white Garden Dice. When a player completes a colored recipe then they also gain access to that color Garden Dice which provides a higher probability of gaining the associated ingredients.

    Players will place any ingredients shown on their corresponding tile. There are the four main ingredients (Vegetables, Fruit, Fungus and Grains), as well as three special die faces that can be rolled. Wood is used for Ollie’s Tools and can be placed in any open wood space. Sunny Day counts as a wild ingredient and the player may choose which ingredient type to place. Cloudy Day means nothing grows, and players are not able to place an ingredient. 

  2. Dobber Actions: After rolling the Garden Dice, players are able to use their Dobber to complete a variety of actions. These actions may be taken in any order. Players do not need to complete all of these actions each turn, but they may complete as many as they would like.
    1. Move Your Dobber: This is the only required Dobber Action each turn. Players must move their Dobber to an open space at some point during their turn, but it does not have to be their first action. If there are already two Dobbers at a space, then your Dobber will not be able to move to that space. Harvest: Players may add any ingredients from the tile that they are on, into their basket in their kitchen space. There is only room for 10 ingredients in the kitchen, once players have that many, they may not pick up any more ingredients. Players must be cognizant of what they need, and they do not need to take all ingredients on the tile when taking this action. 
      DSC_0854-01
    2. Play Technique Cards: Technique Cards may be played from a player’s hand during their turn. There is no limit to the number of Technique Cards that may be played during a turn. There are two types of Technique Cards, the first is an action card (shown with a green forward facing arrow) which allows players to take additional actions on their turn. Most of these actions are similar to other actions available to them such as Move or Harvest, but have a unique twist to them.
      The second type of Technique Card is an upgrade card (shown with an orange upward facing arrow). These cards are combined with already completed recipes to give additional points to the player at the end of the game. Some of these cards have a recipe cost in a banner in the top right-hand side of the card that must be paid to play the card. 
      DSC_0835-01.png
    3. Use Ollie’s Tools: Ollie’s Tools provides players with another way to maximize the actions they are able to take on a given turn. By paying a wood, players are able to select one of the actions Ollie has available. Each tool gives the player a different benefit. Once a tool has been used, the player will flip that tool over and the next player will have a different action available to them. Here are the different benefits these tools provide:
      1. Rotate the Garden Animals: Move each of the Gardeners one space clockwise around the board.
      2.  Roll Again: Roll your Garden Dice Again
      3. Move Your Dobber: Move Your Dobber to any open space on the board
      4. Draw Cards: Draw two cards in any combination of the Recipe and Technique Card decks. You may also discard two cards from your hand or kitchen.
      5. Work with a Gardener: You may work with a Gardener for a second time during your turn. You may either Submit a Recipe or Use a Gardener’s Ability. 
      6. Gain Additional Ingredients – Take one Fungus and one Fruit ingredient cube from the supply for each completed Owl (black) and/or Turtle (red) recipe. 
      7. Gain Additional Ingredients – Take one Vegetable and one Grain ingredient cube from the supply for each completed Badger (green) and/or Squirrel (yellow) recipe.
      8. Draw Cards – you may draw four cards, in any combination from both the Recipe and Technique decks. You may also discard up to four of any cards from your hand or Kitchen. You do not need to discard cards in order to draw cards or vise versa.

    4. Work with a Gardener: There are four magical Gardeners in Alwaysgreen Garden. They are in charge of approving recipes for submission, as well as each Gardener having a special ability that can help you throughout the game. There are two different work with a Gardener actions that can be completed.
      1. Submit a Recipe: Once a player has all the necessary ingredients to complete a Recipe Card, then they may submit is to the matching Gardener. Players may NOT move the Gardener if they plan to complete this action. A player may move to this Gardener though. When submitting, turn in the necessary ingredients and take the card out of your kitchen. You also now unlock that colored Garden Dice.
      2. Use a Gardener’s Ability: Each Gardener has a special ability that can be used. In order to use this ability, the player must summon that Gardener by switching the one currently on their space with the Gardener of their choosing. If a player returns a Gardener to their home square, that player also gets to add one matching ingredient to the Garden tile. Here are the special actions for the Gardeners
        1. Ruthie the Badger (Green): Draw up to three Recipe Cards. The player may then discard up to three cards from their hand or kitchen.
        2. Clover the Turtle (Red): Add two ingredients to any Garden Tiles.
        3. Lily the Squirrel (Yellow): Take one ingredient from an adjacent garden and/or return one ingredient from the player’s kitchen to the space that they are on. That ingredient does not need to match the player’s current space. 
        4. Ursala the Owl (Black): Draw up to three Technique Cards, and then the player may discard up to three cards from the player’s hand or kitchen. Take one ingredient from another player.

    5. Discard Down to Six Cards: Players have a hand limit of six cards (not including those in the kitchen). After taking Dobber Actions they must discard down to six cards.

    6. Keep Your Kitchen Stocked: If any space is empty in your Kitchen at the end of your turn, you may replenish it with a card from your hand. 

Players continue taking turns in this order until the end of the game. Once the game has ended, players will score their final points by counting up the points on their completed Recipe Cards, any Technique Cards, and their Menu Cards. The player with the most points in the winner. 

 

Components:

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****I received a prototype copy of Alwaysgreen Garden for review, all components and rules are subject to change*****

The components in Alwaysgreen Garden are absolutely charming. The bright whimsical nature of the illustrations captures your attention immediately. Darryl Jones the designer and artist behind the game wanted to create something that would appeal to his daughter, Ruthie, who came up with the concept for the game. 

Not only is the game visually appealing, but also it is straight-forward and easy to follow. The game makes use of different symbols and colors to represent things like the Gardeners and ingredients. These symbols are self-explanatory and easy to remember, making game play flow easily.  Another element included to help game flow was the two player aids which help explain turn order and Gardener abilities. These were crucial to helping explain the game to non-gamers and helped keep the game moving. 

I love the shape of the player meeples and the Gardener’s meeples. They help ensure that the theme is complete throughout, and also help tie the game into the Dobber’s universe. 

Overview:

Positives:

  • Puzzle Like Feel
  • Easy to Teach, Difficult to Master
  • Surprisingly Thinky
  • Replayability
  • Family Friendly
  • Beautiful Illustrations
  • Player Interaction
  • Two Player Variant

Negatives:

  • Low Player Count
  • Difficult to Reach Goals

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Alwaysgreen Garden was a game that instantly grabbed my attention, and I knew I wanted to review and own it after just one play. The game sparked a special interest in me because of the simplicity of the rules but the depth of the decisions that must be made throughout. It was a game that I was able to teach to my non-modern gamer grandparents, but also will keep my brain stimulated throughout the entire experience, including on other player’s turns. 

Each turn in the game feels like a puzzle in which players are trying to figure out the best actions and order possible to maximize their return on potential points. I loved that players were not assigned an order in which they must complete their Dobber Actions because it provides additional depth to the player’s strategies. There are often times in a game where I take an action, and realized I should have done something else before that action to make the best use of my actions. It makes this game difficult to master, and it will appeal to those players who enjoy planning and strategizing in games. 

Additionally, I love the theme and art of the game. It absolutely feels as though you are diving into a whimsical forest filled with magical creatures. The game is light hearted, and can have humorous moments.  Players can easily get a laugh out of the odd recipe combinations that can be created. Due to the lighthearted nature of the game, I would say it is family friendly. However, it is important to note that the game is probably too complex for very young children. I would think that children 8-10 could be taught the game, but it would take an older child to grasp the complex decision making that really makes the game shine. 

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Alwaysgreen Garden also stands out from other worker placement games due to the level of player interaction present throughout the game. This is a game that does not feel as though players are playing solitaire style game with multiple people. Players have multiple actions that can engage other players, such as Ursala’s Ability and Technique Cards. Additionally, because the board is always changing, players will want to pay attention to the ingredients available, Ollie’s Tools, and  where Gardeners are to help plan their turns. A player’s plan will vary immensely based on what happens during other players’ turns. The game does introduce light aspects of take that, as players can steal from one another, or move Gardeners to block another player from completing a recipe. 

I love the level of player interaction available in Alwaysgreen Garden, but it does make me wish that the game could be played at a higher player count. As someone who has a family of five, it can often be difficult to get games that are 2-4 players to the table. That being said, I was really happy that there was a two player variant included which helps make the game more competitive at a lower player count. 

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Another concern that came out of playing the game several times was the difficulty of completing Menu Cards that required four recipes to be completed in specific colors. When the game ends after the first person plays their fourth card, this can be extremely difficult for someone who is trying to curate their recipes to fit a menu that requires four different recipes in specific colors to complete. This is especially true if that person does not start with any of those recipes in their starting kitchen. I would love to either see a drafting mechanic or a draw five then pick three mechanic introduced for recipes to help counter the luck based aspect of initial hand draw. Alternatively, players could also play until five recipes are completed, giving players slightly more time to meet their menu requirements. 

Overall, Alwaysgreen Garden is a beautiful, thinky game with great replayability. It is a game that continues to blossom the more plays you have under your belt, as the strategy often takes a couple of plays to truly master. The variety of Technique Cards and Recipe Cards guarantee that the game will continue to provide a new experience each game. It will appeal to players who like games that are easy to explain, but require plenty of thinking and strategizing. The level of decision making reminds me of games like Rajas of the Ganges or Euphoria, while the ease of teaching and family friendly art style is reminiscent of games like Takenoko or Ticket to Ride. If you enjoy any of the games listed, I would highly suggest taking a look at Alwaysgreen Garden. If you are interested in hearing more, keep an eye out for the Kickstarter which will go live on July 2nd.

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