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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Sunday, 12 September 2021

The Game Shelf Previews:- Verdant

Game: Verdant

Publisher: Flatout Games

Designer:  Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Aaron Mesburne, Kevin Russ, Shawn Stankewich

Year: 2022

Verdant is a puzzly spatial card game for 1 to 4 players, where each players lays cards to create their own home in the form a tableau of cards. You are however, all playing as houseplant enthusiasts, so at least 50% of your home is taken up by plants, which would all like to be situated in ideal light conditions around your home. 
If you've enjoyed Calico, or you're anticipating the arrival of your copy of Cascadia in the coming days/weeks, then you'll be familiar with how the Flatout Games Colab excel at designing puzzly games. Verdant is no exception with its many different scoring objectives and areas to optimise. It's also filled with delightful, artwork from Beth Sobel, that comes together to convey that stylish, cosy type of home decor that I can only hope to be able to achieve some day.


Each player starts with a single room and a single plant placed next to it. These are both placed into the player's 5x3 grid. Rooms and plants both come in one of five colours. Rooms have four symbols around the outside of them, representing how light, or shaded, that part of the room is. If a plant is adjacent to a room for the first time and it features the same light-level symbol at the top of its card, then it will grow, gaining a leaf token. Once a plant gets enough leaf tokens it is fully grown, letting you take a plant pot for it which is worth some bonus points on top of the plant's individual score for being complete.

Every turn the active player will take 1 card and an associated item. There is a market of four rooms, plants and items, placed so that each item is paired up with one room and one plant. Regardless of whether they take a room or a plant the new card must be added immediately to their grid, causing plants to grow should the light levels match. The item can then be used, or be stored for future rounds, though each player can only store one item at any one time. The market will then be refilled, with a green thumb being placed on the card not chosen. Green thumbs can be cashed in to get several immediate bonuses.

Items come in two main varieties: Furniture can be added to rooms, each room typically scores 1 point for each flower that matches it's colour that is adjacent to it at the end of the game. Should the room have furniture of a matching colour in it then this is doubled. But even non-matching furniture is important and at the end of the game there's a sizeable set collection bonus for having different types of furniture in your house. The other types of item are gardening tools, these each offer a different way to add more leaves to your plants, vital tools if you take some of the more difficult plants to grow, or can't get the right light levels in your rooms! The game ends once each player has completed their 5x3 grid of rooms and plants.

Amy's Final Thoughts

Perhaps it's only natural that such a wide variety of plants can come together to make such a healthy point salad. Verdant rewards you points for doing so much that it's often hard to decide what you want to do. The reality is, much like their previous game, Calico, There is always an ideal plant/room for you in the deck. That perfect combination of colour, light level and growth. There's also the perfect item to go with it, the furniture you need in the matching room colour of your dreams. Well it's time to shatter those dreams because you'll likely never see it, either it'll be paired with an awful item, someone else will grab it first or it simple won't appear from the deck before you give up on it. 
See, so much of the puzzle of Verdant grows as you play, do you surround a yellow room with four yellow flowers? Well that's a fifth of your play space taken up, and you'd better hope that room has the right shading all around it. Once you committed to those flowers, do you focus on surrounding them with more yellow rooms to get more points, or try to get rooms with the correct shade to make your plants grow. Do you go for low scoring plants to get those plant pot bonuses fast, or high value plants and take the long game? Decisions you make early on cascade into limitations later. However unlike Calico, there's no initial guidance on how to play, the limitations only grow as you play, which can make the early game feel a little more free, but also makes it far harder to know what you want at any one time.
The addition of the objective cards does alleviate this a little, giving you an end game objective to work towards, but even with those Verdant feels a little more free form, creating a less tight and stressful puzzle, than its predecessors. That's not to say that it's a bad game, quite the contrary, being rather more approachable to new players. The bad choices in Verdant are not quite as bad as they have been in their previous games, personally I find that reduces the puzzly feel a bit too much. Ultimately Verdant is a really solid game with lovely visual and symbology that does wonders to help make the game self explanatory from the moment you sit down.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Games with a spatial puzzle are some of our favourites and Verdant ticks a lot of boxes. Each player will play just 13 cards to complete their tableau of 5 x 3 cards and those 13 choices have so many layers to them. First you need to choose a new room or a new plant, where you might be influence by light conditions available or some of the different end game objectives you need to achieve. Then you'll want to consider which tile you want - either furniture, a pet or something to help you grow your plants. Plus you'll want to consider the colour of any pets or furniture you choose. Or perhaps you'll get tempted by a card with lots of green thumb tokens! There's lots to think about and that's before you even decide where you want to place the chosen card and token in your tableau.

Another significant choice is whether you want to play lots of smaller plants, which need less light to grow. This gives you a chance to get plant pots early and the early plant pots give you points. However the bigger plants are more economical in terms of the end game points they give you. You might also find yourself with less to do towards the end of the game if you only take small plants, but that might give you flexibility to more easily achieve some of the end game objectives, either from the standard or the advanced game.

As you might be able to tell, this is a puzzle with lots of levers to pull and I love how these come together to give you constantly interesting choices during the game, but also inspires you to think of other avenues you want to explore the next time you play. It doesn't burn your brain like Calico, it is a more relaxing game which is very in keeping with its theme and is that perfect chill-out, casual experience.

You Might Like...
  • Verdant feels cosy - in theme you're making a cosy house and in gameplay, it has an easy breezy yet satisfying feel.
  • There's many different scoring opportunities to aim for and you can choose a different focus each time you play.
  • Two different puzzles are very elegantly woven together.
You Might Not Like...
  • The shuffle can vastly change the game and a game with very few watering cans, fertiliser etc. can feel less fun.
  • Verdant didn't quite have the special sauce we found in Cascadia and Calico, but it's still a very good game.
The Verdict
Verdant is another beautiful addition to the accessible but thinky games that Flatout Games are now known for. If you enjoy optimising a puzzle and discovering the small strategic nuances in a simple, elegant game system, then you're sure to enjoy creating a delightful, colourful tableau in Verdant.

Verdant was a prototype kindly provided to us by Flatout Games. If you want to be notified when the Kickstarter launches, you can sign up here https://www.flatout.games/verdant-signup.


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