Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Friday 29 June 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Herbaceous Sprouts

Game: Herbaceous Sprouts

Publisher: Pencil First Games

Designer: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, Keith Matejka

Year: 2018

Pencil First appear to produce lovely looking, simple, accessible games that are the kind of game we often introduce to our family. The original game, Herbaceous, is one we tried and just found too simple for our tastes. Sunset Over Water had a lot more going on, especially with 3 or 4 players. Herbaceous Sprouts has the same herb garden theme as Herbaceous, but definitely adds more mechanisms and components and is slightly more of a board game than a simple card game. We've had the chance to take a look at the Kickstarter prototype are are keen to share our thoughts.

Don't worry if you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign, Herbaceous Sprouts should be available at retail in early 2019 and in the meantime you can enjoy the beautiful Herbaceous and Sunset Over Water from the same design team.


Rounds in Herbaceous Sprouts are quick and simple, with the whole game taking place over 10 rounds. At the end of the 10th round the player who has earned the most points, by planting herbs and claiming garden spots, will be the winner. At the start of a round the current lead player will draw a number of cards equal to the number of players. Each card will have various tools on it which can be used for one off benefits, and a number of space for dice. For each card with dice slots that number of dice will be rolled and placed onto the card.
Prototype components only.
The dice come in 4 colours, each die colour has 1 face for each of the 5 herbs in the game and 1 special face. Blue die have a wild card, green die have one of the 3 flower varieties, red die have gloves, which let you re-roll dice and yellow have trowels allowing you to plant flowers.

Players will take turns choosing a card and all the dice on it. In player order they will then each get a chance to use tools (letting them reroll dice, plant flowers, or several other abilities) and then in player order each player gets a chance to plant herbs. When you plant a set of herbs you discard those dice back to the bag and place one of your plant tokens on that spot on the garden (the game board).

There are 4 areas spots in the communal garden, the first requires multiples of 1 kind of herb (there are 5 in the game), the more you play at once the more points you will claim. The second area requires different herbs, again the more different herbs you can play at once the more points you get. The third area rewards pairs of herbs, and the final area rewards flowers, flowers are special as they only appear on certain dice and you need to use a tool to plant them. The first player to have planted in all 4 areas will be rewarded with refreshing lemonade! This is worth a couple of extra points at the end of the game, but isn't a deal breaker.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Herbaceous Sprouts is a lovely little dice game, there is a constant choice between going for the small easy pickings or saving up and pushing your luck to try and get the better spots which are worth far more points. Of course if you go for the slow route you are less likely to get the lemonade bonus card, but as each space on the garden can only have one player's token it can be best to block off the best spots as soon as possible!

The special powers on the tool cards are all meaningful, being the main way that you can manipulate your dice to be more to your liking. Luck is still a factor of course, but I feel that there is enough mitigation that it's rare that you are unduly screwed out of points, though you may often not get exactly what you want.

A personal player board with limited wheelbarrow space and a good, clear player aid for all of the game's symbols.
The two player variant introduces an imaginary third player who will block up spaces on the board based on which of the 3 cards wasn't picked. This adds an additional level of strategy as you can try to manipulate them to fill up the spaces your opponent is going for. While having an imaginary player is rarely a perfect solution for making a game work 2 player, with Herbaceous Sprouts their actions are simple enough that it doesn't slow down gameplay, while it does keep the playing area low on space. Herbaceous Sprouts makes for a lovely filler game with just the right mix between strategy and luck.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Herbaceous Sprouts is a simple card game, but there's still a few interesting things going on that give you a couple of good decision points each turn. First you need to select your action card and dice, which can be influenced by the number of dice, their faces or the ability of the card. Second, you often need to decide whether to take a low scoring spot or hold out for more dice and a spot with more points in the future. Most have our games have ended in very tight scores and I've suffered from holding out for the high scoring spaces, with Amy winning by having more smaller spots and the lemonade card!

Towards the end of the game in particular, luck becomes a slightly frustrating factor for me. With fewer available spots on the board, the things you want to roll get more and more specific. Your wheelbarrow fills up and you are reliant on re-rolls to try and find a way out of bad situation. With that said, this occurrence has been rare and luck in quick games isn't too much of a problem for me.

Playing Herbaceous Sprouts is a pleasant experience and with two players we've found that it plays quickly, in around 20 minutes. Rolling dice and picking the best combinations is fun, but at the same time I also find that it's just not very exciting either. Herbaceous Sprouts is the sort of game I might play out in the garden whilst relaxing with a drink, but not one that I'd seek out on a 'game night'. Although it has more going on than the original Herbaceous, it's perhaps still not enough for me. I'd definitely play Herbaceous Sprouts again if someone offered, but I am unlikely to be the one bringing it to the table, except than perhaps with my parents, who I've yet to introduce a dice game to.

You Might Like...
  • The lovely artwork, from the ever talented Beth Sobel.
  • There are some great choices between card powers you need vs. dice faces you need that make each turn interesting.
  • We've only ever had really close games - you need to judge well the right times to take big point and small point spots in the garden to come out on top.
You Might Not Like...
  • There's definitely luck in the game if you're perfectly poised for a certain play and the dice just don't roll in your favour. The push your luck mechanisms may not be fore everyone.
  • The flower strategy can feel quite under-powered, especially if the flower zone is targeted by the dummy player.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Herbaceous Sprouts is a pleasant experience to play and it plays very quickly with two players. However, it doesn't do anything outstanding in its mechanics, meaning it's a game we'll gladly play, definitely introduce to our family, but that might not stand out enough in our collection.

Herbaceous Sprouts was a prototype review copy kindly provided to the Board Game Exposure Reviewer Collective.

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