Game: Cottage Garden
Publisher: Edition Spielweise
Designer: Uwe Rosenburg
Cottage Garden is one of Uwe Rosenburg’s 2016 releases, building on the basic mechanics of Patchwork. We’ve enjoyed a number of games of Patchwork, although it’s a two-player game that Amy wins 80-90% of the time. I was excited to try Cottage Garden on a recent trip to Draughts board game cafe in London, because it has similar mechanics but also plays 1-4 players, meaning it is likely to hit the table more often.
In Cottage Garden, each player is planting groups of flowers in two flower beds. When a flower bed is complete it scores based upon the number of flower pots showing, as well as the number of plant covers showing. Flower tiles are obtained from a central 4x4 grid and have different shaped and sizes, similar to the pieces in Tetris. You can also use turns to obtain additional plant pots or to place cats into your flower beds.
For me, the key element of Cottage Garden is the way that pieces are taken from the central garden. A dice is used to mark which row or column is active and you can take any tile from that column. When a column is full it has four tiles, however it may only have three or two. If there are less than two you refill the column at the start of your turn. You can also spend a cat token to refill if you want to do so out of choice. The dice then moves to signify the active column for the next player. If you care to, you can think very deeply about which tiles you’re going to get the opportunity to take and when is the right time to use a cat token to bring out extra tiles from the queue to enable you to fill an annoying gap in your flower bed. With more players I can imagine that people overthinking and planning might drag the game down, but with just the two of us we can keep up a good pace with only the occasional turn taking longer for some thinking time.
|The board set-up at the start of a two player game. The large green dice signifies the round. Each time the dice goes round the board once the number is increased until round 6 which is the final round.|
If you don’t want to take a tile or can’t take one that fits you can instead take a flower pot. It will only fill one space, but it is also worth points. Each flower pot is worth one point, whilst each plant cover is worth two. You can also use a cat to fill any leftover squares on your board but these have no points value. Cats can be super useful but are in short supply. You start the game with two and there are 6 further opportunities to get an extra token when you push a scoring cube past the 6 points square.
There’s plenty of thought that can go into the optimal way to fill up your flower beds, but in addition you can spend some worthwhile time thinking about how to manipulate your score track. You have 3 cubes for flower pot scoring and another 3 for plant cover scoring and both score tracks max out at 20 points. Getting to 20 without overshooting is the best way to get the most points which can involve careful planning on which of your three cubes to move as part of the scoring. When you score a flower bed you can move any cube, but only one cube. There’s bonuses for passing 6 on the scoretrack and for emptying your start space, all of which factor into the decision making.
|One finished flowerbed. This art in the game is so simple and effective!|
For Amy and me, Cottage Garden almost falls into filler territory. We can set up and play a game within 30 minutes – a lot less than the 1 hour play time it says on the box. I imagine with that more players the play time will grow quite linearly. For less experienced gamers the decision making takes a bit longer, but is still very understandable and I’ve really enjoyed teaching this game to new players. It’s a really relaxing game to play and just has really satisfying, simple mechanics.
For us, Cottage Garden has replaced Patchwork. We’ve actually sold Patchwork to a friend. Cottage Garden just does the same and more. If I want to go back and play something with fewer mechanics then I still have the Patchwork app on the tablet, which I’m enjoying playing on my way to work and slowly getting better at.
From the Yellow Meeple, Cottage Garden gets an 8/10.