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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Friday 15 March 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Gartenbau

Game: Gartenbau

Publisher: Fisher Heaton Games

Designer:  David Abelson, Alex Johns

Year: 2019

Gartenbau is a game of planting your seeds and watching your wonderful flowers bloom. It's a tile-laying game for 2-4 players that takes place on three layers, giving you lots of puzzly optimisation, to ultimately try and obtain the most points from your 4 or fewer large and impressive flowers.

Gartenbau is coming to Kickstarter in March 2019 who have previously funded a couple of small projects on Kickstarter and after a few plays, we think Gartenbau really has some potential.


In Gartenbau each player will have a hand of 4 mature flower cards. Your goal is to plant these 4 mature flowers before your opponent can, or at least plant them in such a way that scores the most points. Once one player has planted all of their mature flowers then the game ends and victory points from all mature and medium flowers are evaluated.

During the game players will take turns doing one of 4 actions: Planting seedling tiles, planting flowers, planting mature flowers or taking resources. If you decide to plant a seedling you will take one of the face-up seedling tiles from the central market and add it to your garden. Seedling tiles are domino-like with each side showing one colour of seedling. While there aren't many restrictions on how you place seedlings, placing the colours in the right areas is crucial to planting bigger flowers. To plant a flower you simply spend the resources (sunlight and water) shown on the card and then place the flower from the market onto our seedlings. Planting flowers requires specific colour matching, for example a red flower would need to be placed over 2 red seedlings, while an orange flower can either be placed over 2 orange seedlings, or 1 red and 1 yellow seedling. Planting a mature flower is very similar except that it needs to be planted on flower tiles rather than seedlings. In total a mature flower will take up a 2-2 space in your garden which should have a layer of flowers and a layer of seedlings underneath it.

Mature flowers each have unique scoring objectives, some, typically the primary colour flowers, simply reward having planted them, while others have more complex objectives such as having a lot of a certain colour showing at the end of the game or having large gaps in your garden. As an added level of complexity you can draft these cards at the start of the game to help build a strategy.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Gartenbau does something really clever this tile-laying. I love the multi-layer puzzle that you need to solve. You have to start thinking about your end game from the first turn, to plant the adjacent seeds that will create the adjacent seedlings that will ultimately let you lay the flower cards in your hand. Depending on the flower cards you have, there might be some benefits for adjacency or certain patterns, which mean that you also need to plan your blanket of seedlings in a way that will help all of the cards in your hand. This gives you a lot to think about at the start of the game, but from that point the simple gameplay flows really well and is very satisfying.

I like that the game has some recommended starting hands, as well as drafting for more experienced players. If you can identify some great synergy in your starting hand, then you're likely to score high points, but unfortunately, players with a less favourable draft might not have the same opportunities. Drafting should definitely be done amongst players with equal ability.

I really applaud the designers of Gartenbau for thinking of something simple, yet different that works thematically in their board game design. If you're on the lookout for a tile-laying game then I highly recommend checking out Gartenbau on Kickstarter.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Gartenbau is a lovely tile-laying game which feels extremely satisfying to play. The actions are so simple that almost anyone can pick it up, while the colour matching is intuitive to anyone who has ever mixed paints! The varied objectives on the mature flower cards give you something different to go for each game and bring about different strategies. A player who rushes to plant their flowers as fast as possible in a tiny garden may not score as many points as they perhaps could, but the hope is neither will their opponents.

There is a reward to growing flowers early, as the flowers will increase in resource cost as more of that colour have been planted. However, they also increase in points which is a nice compromise so long as you aren't planning to plant a mature flower on top! In practice though that is almost certainly something you are trying to do, the big points come from the big flowers and from the get-go you are planning your garden to fit the big ones in.

While the multi-level tile laying does make for an interesting puzzle, it is one that you can see the answer to from the beginning of the game. You always know what your final objective should be, it's simply working how to do it as efficiently or in a way that gets the most points. I enjoyed the unique and more complex objectives that rewarded making large holes in your garden or making sure you garden has as many edges as possible, ensuring that your garden looks unique to everyone's on the table. While the prototype we tried did have a few balance issues, these were actively being adjusted as we played, including the addition of 3 tools that give one-off powers to each player. What I am a little more concerned about is the art, a game about flowers which has art that is merely functional rather than beautiful is a little disappointing, hopefully when the Kickstarter goes live there will be some improved artwork to look at.

You Might Like...
  • Multi-layer tile laying is something that seems pretty unique.
  • Working on your four flower cards is a satisfying, but not too brain-burning puzzle.
  • The theme is simple, but it's intertwined totally with the gameplay and it works.
You Might Not Like...
  • Some of the large flowers feel inherently harder to achieve than others, taking much longer achieve.
  • The artwork is clear, but a little too basic, so hopefully this will be updated if the Kickstarter is successful.

The Verdict
Gartenbau is a thematic tile-laying game with a theme that seems to lend itself perfectly to the introduce this game to your parents' market. The mechanisms actually feel like something new and fresh and the puzzle is really satisfying to solve.

Gartenbau was a prototype provided for preview purposes. The Kickstarter is live on March 26th 2019.

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