I recently got a chance to try out Samurai Gardener, the upcoming release from Osprey Games. In Samurai Gardener, 2-5 players compete to create the best garden, made up of four different types of terrain: water, garden, path, and wood.
To do so, players must choose cards from the middle of the table. Each card has six squares, each containing one of the four types of terrain. Once a card is chosen, it is added to other cards in that player’s garden, following certain rules for placement. The rules for placement are easy enough after a couple of rounds.
After a card is added the player scores points depending on the number of contiguous squares of similar terrain in the garden. Bonuses can be earned for forming multiple lines at once. The game ends after the round in which one player gets to 25 cumulative points. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins.
Samurai Gardener has several things going for it. It is a small box game that is easily transportable and doesn’t end up being much of a table hog, something which most tile laying games cannot boast. The art is very pretty and evocative – it looks like a Japanese garden when you are done. Also, while the card placement rules are relatively simple, scoring big is difficult to do unless you really plan well (and a little luck in obtaining the card you want before someone else does).
I should mention that while the base rules call for players to simultaneously reach for the card they want each round in a dexterity/speed manner, my group elected to play with the optional rule of choosing in turn order instead. We felt that the “grabbing” mechanism seemed out of place with such a thinky game with the theme of gardening. It really played well with the optional rule, and that is how I will most likely play going forward.
In the end, Samurai Gardener is an excellent game. It should take you less than 30 minutes, and when you are done (win or lose) you’ll have created something beautiful. Hard to complain about that! I suggest you check it out as soon as you can.
Thanks for reading, and keep nerding on.