This is probably my favourite game to teach and there’s a reason it was the subject of the first blog I wrote. It’s easy to explain as there’s only 4 things any player can do on their turn and the pyramid is always a fun thing to show off. But the high point is revealing the entire trick to the game of the camels stacking. You can see when people start enjoying the game in the moment when they learn about how the stacking works. It’s a perfect level of complexity and silly randomness for a ‘Just a bit of fun’ game that anyone can win. Every game results in several moments of laughing/cheering/groaning as dice are revealed, and I don’t think you can get a more positive review for a game than that.
I’m intrigued by the second edition that’s recently been announced. I like the idea of the plastic pyramid but I’m not sure if I want everything to be plastic, which is how it appears. Also, I’ve got the expansion and I’ve upgraded the camel meeples in my copy, so it’s unlikely I’m going to change camels mid race and switch to the new edition anytime soon.
Hey look at this nice card game, with its Victorian era style tree art. This has all the hallmarks of an easy and relaxing card game, fun to play with family and friends alike.
That impression falls away as soon as you hit the 4th or 5th turn in your first game and the cutthroat world of competitive gardening rises up to tear your dreams of having a full set of Willows to shreds.
This is more of brain burner than you’d expect, with the decisions becoming very tough almost immediately. All each turn includes is picking up 2 cards, playing one card into your arboretum, and discarding a card. As your opponents are able to take the cards you discard and the scoring at the end of the game is dependent on the cards left in your hand, it takes no time at all until all 7 cards you’re holding are cards that, under no circumstances, can be discarded (and you have to discard one each turn). You quickly become a master of nonchalantly putting crucial cards into your discard pile as if they’re not important at all. Trying to read exactly which trees your opponent’s needs is crucial, but they know that. It’s possibly the only game in the world where picking up 2 cards that are perfect for you can trigger total panic because you don’t know what you’ll discard.
I recently bought and played Startups by Oink Games and it shares a fair bit of DNA with Arboretum, set collection and hand management with a scoring twist. They’re both great but I can’t include a game I’ve only played 3 times in this list, no matter how much I enjoyed it.
Arboretum is about to find a much wider audience with a long awaited reprint finally hitting stores soon.