Spring is here, and you have been elected head of your village’s horticulture campaign just in time for this years Village Green of the Year competition. The only downside is currently your green is completely devoid of plants, and you only have a few months before the judges arrive.Starting from nothing, its up to your to turn your bare green into a beautiful stretch of blooming flowers, trees, ponds, lawns and decorations. Time to get your green fingers ready for some large scale landscaping before your rival villages beat you to it!
Playing the Game
In Village Green, 1-5 players take on the roles of rival villages, competing to win this year’s prestigious competition. Setting up the game, each player is presented with their village, a small starting hand of 3 green cards, and 3 awards they will be aiming to earn points from. The main gameplay focuses on tableau building, using your limited supplies to turn your village green into a masterpiece, however, your limited space and strict competition rules mean this will be a lot harder than you may have originally anticipated.
Each player’s play area consists of a 4×4 grid of card spaces, most of which begin empty. Your upper left space is filled in by your village card, and the remainder of the top row and left column are spaces for your Award Cards to be played into. This leaves you a 3×3 grid to fill with your Green Cards, but being a stickler for consistent design, you may only play cards adjacent to one another that have a matching flower type or colour. Only lawn cards allow you to bypass this restriction, providing you with an open space devoid of flowers to provide a break in your green’s design plan. Luckily, you can place these cards anywhere in your free spaces, so you don’t need to work from one space outwards, but this can cause some problems when looking for the one specific card you need to complete a row or column. You may also place Green cards on top of lawns, so they can be replaced if necessary.
Green cards also tend to feature either trees, structures, or ponds, all of which provide different benefits. All three provide bonuses for Award cards, some awards requiring a mix of features, and some looking for unity and consistency. Structures and ponds also have their own mechanics, with structures forcing a player to immediately place an Award card, and ponds adding a bonus 2 points to your end game scoring.
Award cards, unlike Green cards, cannot sit in your hand, and must be played as soon as you pick them up. The only bonus is that Award cards can be played on top of each other to replace your current scoring systems, so you can change the plan if it begins to fall apart. The challenge of these cards however, is that they only score for cards in the same row (if placed on the left hand side) or column (if placed in the top row) they are in, forcing a very tactical build that can easily be damaged by opponents taking the supplies you were seeking.
Players do have some bonus options on their turns as well. Instead of placing a Green card into your village, you can instead put one at the bottom of the deck. Additionally, for the cost of forfeiting 1 point when scoring, players may flip their village card 1 time during the game in order to either reset one of the two rows in the marketplace, or to place one Green card on top of any already placed Green card.
The game ends once either one of the two deck piles is depleted, or once one player fills in their full green area with cards. After all players have taken their turns for that round, scoring takes place and a winner of the contest can be declared.
The game has a simple system, but uses it to create a fun, challenging puzzle for players trying to maximise on their point score. Very few parts of the game are set scoring, so every play of the game will present a new puzzle for players to try and adapt to. Peer Sylvester has once again designed a cracking puzzle of a game.
Additionally, the artwork for this game is absolutely stunning. The gorgeous landscapes and features of the game are brought to life wonderfully by Joanna Rosa. This seems to be the only game illustrated by them, so I for one am hoping to see their skills in future games as well. My only slight criticism of the design for this game is that the yellow flower symbols on white backgrounds are somewhat hard to determine at a glance.
While the game describes itself as “The game of Pretty Gardens and Petty Grudges”, the grudges do not escalate to Hot Fuzz levels of sabotaging other villages winning the contest of the year. While players may create some minor annoyances of moving Green cards to the bottom of the deck, there is enough overlap on cards to cause this not to be a major issue. Player interaction is very limited, mainly consisting of simply removing cards from the marketplace.
Overall, Village Green accomplishes its aims very well, and is in my opinion a perfect opening game for a game night. It won’t take a huge amount of time (2 player games last about 20 minutes, 5 player slightly longer), but to me is a perfect light card game, and would lead well into other botanical games such as Tang Garden, Herbaceous, or Photosynthesis.