Cottage Garden Review - Cats Love Wheelbarrows!

Whether you prefer to call it the Patchwork mechanic or the Odin mechanic, Uwe Rosenberg hit it big with the simple, yet engaging system of essentially putting "Tetris" into a board game. Patchwork is one of the most popular two player games out there, combining simplicity and elegance into a small package and creating one of the best gateway game designs in existence.

A Feast for Odin, released in 2016 uses the same tile system, but as part of this gigantic, complicated Euro monstrosity, which despite being an enjoyable affair, suffers from a massive thematic disconnect from using this mechanic. Seriously I'm placing food, weapons and cloth on a Tetris grid to gain points, what the hell? I miss Caverna and Le Havre.

Cottage Garden is the 3rd in the line using this Patchwork mechanic (it's what I call it, run with it) and at first I expected this to sit nicely in the middle in terms of complexity. But an inspection of the box let me to believe that actually I'm looking at something closer to Patchwork, but allowing more players to join in and even a solo mode. If this meets the gateway game criteria, does that mean it kills Patchwork?




Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
Publisher: Edition Spielwiese
Age: 8+
Players: 1-4
Time: 45-75 Minutes
RRP: £29.99


From Board Game Geek

In Cottage Garden, you compete in the art of gardening and are working two beds with a variety of flowers. Whenever no unplanted box is visible on a bed, you have completed it, then you count your points and replace it with a fresh, unplanted bed. You gain points for all of the visible plant pots and planting bells.

In more detail, players select various polyomino tiles of flower beds from a central market grid, depending on the location of the "gardener", then place them on one of their two personal garden boards. Each board has several garden elements that are worth points when not planted over, and these are scored on two different tracks as soon as a garden has been finished. Crossing over a line on each track awards bonus tokens that can fill in empty spaces or give you a better selection of the flower bed tiles. Whenever a garden is finished, you receive a new one to complete. After the gardener completes her fifth lap around the market, the game enters its last round. The player with the most points from their completed gardens at the end of the game wins.


HERE KITTY KITTY!


It's no surprise that you get a bunch of boards to represent flowerbeds and a pleathora of Tetris shaped tiles to fill them up with. Slightly less anticipated were the tokens for flowerpots and cats and even less expected was a "fold-in" wheelbarrow to use as a turn marker. All feel very sturdy and solid and of good quality, you shouldn't have an issue with these wearing out any time soon.

Cottage Garden gives off a light-hearted, charming feel with the artwork throughout. It fits the theme very well with a top-down view of cluttered flowerbeds littered with flowerpots and all sorts of different flowers to populate the tiles. I really like the kitten tokens also with them all curled up so cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!! Given that the turn marker is a little over the top I like to use it as in-game storage for all the kittens, which is both useful and amusing at the same time - note I don't condone the real life act of stuffing cute kittens into wheelbarrows for amusement purposes!


CAT-FIGHT


The gameplay itself is very simple - take a tile or a flowerpot, place it, next - but Cottage Garden is more clever than you think. The way the central board works allows you to look ahead and see what potential moves you can make, but also see what your opponents want as well. So as well as helping yourself, you may be able to upset an opponent. The point tracks allow for multiple paths to take as well. Grabbing as many cats as you can can be very useful, but the point bonus for reaching the end is so significant that you can't ignore it entirely. As both point tracks rely on different things to include on your flowerbed (pots and glass domes) you need to design your flowerbed to score on the tracks you're going for.

However eventually you'll need to hold yourself back because when the final round kicks in, you'll start losing points until your flowerbeds are finished. Do you think you can get another flowerbed completed quickly, or do you believe that it would be best to slow down to avoid losing too many points? This is a key factor to consider as spending too long on the last round can destroy your score.


DON'T GET TO SEE THE PLANT GROW


Cottage Garden surprisingly manages to scale very well among all player counts. The solo mode is a nice relaxing puzzle game that's super fast. And with every extra player the central board for picking tiles changes slightly to balance out the game length and selection available. The only reason even a 4 player game should take too long is if you encounter the worst of analysis paralysis players and sadly if you do, this will outstay its welcome a bit. But otherwise you're looking at a comfortable 45-60 minutes of play. Perfect. If only all gardening was this quick. . . .

It's a good thing it is fast though because any longer and the flaws I'm about to mention would be much stronger. Firstly despite the central board, the game isn't particularly interactive and removing a tile to screw another player is no different from worker placement. Secondly unlike an actual garden there's no real sense of progression throughout. You grab tiles, fill up a flowerbed, it goes away on completion and then you rinse and repeat until the end. You don't build up an actual garden over time, it's not a farming theme like Caverna for example. Thankfully as stated, because this is a short game, it's not as big of a deal.


VERDICT ON COTTAGE GARDEN


Patchwork was a very elegant and engaging game for 2 players. Cottage Garden basically repeats that elegance and engagement, but allows 2 more players to join in plus a solo mode. It's very simple to learn and play and anyone who enjoys that "Tetris" tile mechanic is going to enjoy this as well. There's enough depth to allow for planned strategies and a safe amount of player "screwage".

It scales quite well for all player counts and the garden setting makes it a charming filler experience to play with a typical running time of only 45-60 minutes. Its only main flaws are that there isn't a sense of progression throughout and it has very little player interaction. But when taken as a gateway Euro with charm, the design and simplicity of Cottage Garden is about as good as it gets.




BROKEN RATING - 8 Adorable Kittens In A Wheelbarrow





YOU WILL LIKE COTTAGE GARDEN IF:


You enjoy Patchwork but want to involve more players.


You want a solid Euro gateway level game with a charming feel.


You like putting cats in wheelbarrows.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE COTTAGE GARDEN IF:


You hate the Patchwork mechanic.


You like Patchwork, but want a heavier game to make use of it - see Feast of Odin.


You think putting cats in wheelbarrows amounts to animal cruelty.


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