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

Monday 26 August 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Orchard

Game: Orchard: A 9-Card Solitaire Game

Publisher: Side Room Games

Designer: Mark Tuck

Year: 2018

I first encountered Side Room Games during their last Kickstarter campaign for Maquis. I was really impressed with the art design of their games, as well as the solid gameplay. What surprised me the most though was that Maquis made me enjoy a solo game - something that isn't normal in my gaming experience.

Much like Maquis, Orchard is a solo game with a solid history as an award wining print and play game. It won the 2018 9-card nanogame award on BoardGameGeek, as well as becoming the 2018 Golden Geek Best Print & Play Board Game Winner. Since Golden Geeks are otherwise awarded to only the hottest titles of the year, Orchard is definitely worth checking out when it comes to Kickstarter on September 3rd 2019.


As you might expect from the name, Orchard uses just nine-cards. However, the deck comes with 18 cards which are shuffled and then only nine are used in each game, which adds some variety. Each card shows a grid of 3 x 2 trees in three varieties, Apples (Red), Pears (Yellow) and Plums (Purple). Each card has a different pattern. After laying one card on the table you'll then pick one card from  your hand of two each turn to place, partially covering any other cards laid on the table (think of the game Honshu, if that's a helpful reference).

You can only have like tree types placed on top of each other and for every match you create, you place a dice in the corresponding colour, with value 1. If you ever cover the same spot again with a matching tree, you will increase the dice value to 3 and then to 6. If you really want to place non-matching trees then you have two chances to create rotten fruit. The spots where you create the mis-match will be marked with a negative black cube and you can never place there again. Once you've placed all cards or you can't place legally, the game will end and you score.

Your score is the value of all dice, minus negatives for black cubes. Your score is compared to the score short where you'll get a pithy rating for your efforts. My personal favourites include "Tree-mendous" and "Remark-apple".

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Orchard is a delightfully simple game. It's definitely part of a category of games that appeals to puzzle lovers. I can see myself pulling out Orchard for the same reason I would do a Sudoku puzzle - it really scratches a puzzly itch, but does something with the components that couldn't be done simply with pencil and paper.

The addition of the dice, whilst a very neat and visual way to keep score, is a slight knock to the game's portability and I wonder if there's another way you could keep tally with a pen and paper to make the game truly wallet sized, rather than the handbag size it currently is. It's actually somewhat ingenious how the use of 1,3 and 6 accounts for the relative challenge of building out your layered puzzle to each of these levels.

Orchard won't define a game night, but it might just keep you amused on a plane or a train, or during the commercial break of your favourite TV show. And if you're looking to squeeze a little extra game time into your life, then Orchard would be a nice fit.

You Might Like...
  • If you're looking for a puzzle that continues to challenge you, then Orchard is a great pick.
  • With 18 cards, the puzzle should be slightly different every time.
  • Orchard delivers an addictive solo game with simple components.
You Might Not Like...
  • The dice slightly diminish the game's portability.
  • You need two copies to play a two player challenge.

The Verdict

Orchard is a fun little solo puzzle. It only takes 5 minutes to play, but you'll definitely want to play more than once in a single sitting. The difficulty level is well balanced, and there is variety in the deck which makes the game challenging and varied, so that you can always strive to do better. If you're looking for a thinky little puzzle that you can slip into your bag or pocket, then Orchard is a great one to try.

Orchard was a prototype kindly provided to us by Side Room Games. It is on Kickstarter from 3rd September 2019.

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