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Subject: A Octopus and his prize garden. rss

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Kevin Wenzel
United States
Bloomington
IN
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Octopus Garden

This is the text only part of a full review. Please go to http://www.2d6.org/2012/02/octopus-garden/ for the full review with all the embellishments.


Introduction

This is a very tactile game. The board has this beautiful linen finish with the illusion of a submerged environment. The token has the right feel to and gives us the insight to some marine life. Now if you have ever been tide pooling along a rocky shore you can have a pretty good idea what this game looks like. Artwork by Mark Poole is top notch and reminds me of some of the best of the children’s book illustrators out there!

Gameplay

It has a simplistic market system to buying tiles. There is a tic-tac-toe like layout to the market board and you place the tokens up for sale from lowest number to highest. Players have to purchase a row of three across or from top to bottom but never diagonal. Once you purchase your objects for the garden, you place them on your sea floor in the best way possible to maximize points. This is basically the game in an oyster shell. You can place some items in groups to attract special bonus animals. You can buy more oysters to produce more pearl buying power, but they are ugly and cause negative points to your overall score. You can also purchase rows with garbage in them which cost less but has a negative impact to your score.

Gameplay Vs. Educational

This game gives the feel that it is meant for a younger audience and meant to be played in a household where people have an interest in marine biology. This is where the game hits a crux, and I think all games of this type hit some kind of invisible juxtaposition. How much of the game is designed for a learning tool for the theme, and how much is the game is designed for playability. If this was to be a great game it would have to knock both these goals out of the water and on to the beach.

As a teaching tool for underworld biology it offers some information about the type of animals you will find in these ecosystems. The argument is that you as an octopus and is building a beautiful garden. So it leads itself away from lessons learned about habitat. It does do a fairly good job describing relationships that animals have to one another and some of the basic food chain, but loses some credibility in the category of what sea life uses for habitat and how sea life interacts with human debris. But like all things beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

For gameplay it sends a mix message which allows a picture of a bottle (but labeled garbage) as a detriment to the overall beauty of this fictional garden scoring -2 point, but allows crusted artifacts (which is older human garbage)as a multiplier. Most of the strategy is simple buying a collection of plant and animals for bonus points like kelp or Sea Anemones that attract a bonus score. Feather worms disappear when star fish are abound so if they are placed in a way to show no points at the end of the game. Finally this brings us to the starfish which is five points, but will travel the board avoiding coral but on a mission to eat all non-shrimped oysters. Oysters add more buying power but our octopus friend find them to be ugly. So the game centers on buying ocean objects for their point values and trying to make the best purchases with what you’re given. In different groups people complained about the star fish element as too gamey and simple avoided picking one up (both times it was a women player if that has any factoring in).

I feel this game only accomplished half of both goals. I wanted it to be more specific to how marine life interacted in its ecology, and have tokens for specific things tossed into the sea not just the generic title. I wanted to see how plant and animal life interacts with these items in a true complex world. This could of lead into more strategy game play with having things have a risk/benefit like collecting one would have been a negative but collecting more could create usable habit. Bottles of many different colors could of created beauty and came with a bonus that wiped out the negative points.

Theme

The theme did not appeal to a large percentage of male adult gamers that I introduced to the game too. One of my members responded when I pulled out the box “What the hell is this”. Here is the plight of the reviewer. On one hand you want to be open to all different types of games, but sometimes your left with what games you can get onto the table. I had to pull teeth to get this game to play. It is designed by Roberta Taylor, a new woman designer and I really want to see this game succeed and these kinds of games break into the market of a very male dominated arena.

Good: The components are top notch and very well made. I think it is a great game for a starter for a discussion on marine biology. Octopus Garden at its best is a children’s oriented family game for people who are interested in life in the ocean. It is also good as an educational tool for counting as well.

Bad: Very limited choices in types of tokens leads this game to be more luck oriented in the way you pull tiles from the bag for the market. This game is a limited strategy where you’re buying the game more for the theme than for game play. I feel for many of my groups that I play games with in its current state Octopus Gardens will have very limited replay value, and for some of my gamer friends this game was simply DFOA (Dead Fish on Arrival).

Conclusion: I want to see more of Roberta Taylor. I think in this case of Octopus Garden was a good beginning and could grow into something more complex as the topic she chose to design about. Dually noted that there are two expansions to the game currently out that would greatly add to gameplay: Divers and Parrot Fish and I wished these were shipped with the original package!
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Roberta Taylor
Canada
Edmonton
Alberta
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Thanks for the thoughtful review. Just wanted to note that Octopus' Garden is actually my second game, my first being Sherwood Showdown, a card game for 2 players.
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Kevin Wenzel
United States
Bloomington
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RobertaTaylor wrote:
Thanks for the thoughtful review. Just wanted to note that Octopus' Garden is actually my second game, my first being Sherwood Showdown, a card game for 2 players.


Doh!, and I knew that cause i was looking at your video before!
 
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Andrew MacLeod
Canada
London
Ontario
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I haven't played the game, so my comments are of very limited worth; but I have read the rules...a couple of times!
As far as I know, in marine biology, octopi (and other cephalopods)are not noted for engaging in horticulture.I have not been left at all with the impression that Octopus' Garden was meant (on any level) to educate about marine biology. Using the logic that it is, one could say that Zooloretto was meant to teach basic zoology.

Thus far, I have been (and continue to be) pretty enthusiastic about Octopus' Garden; it's on my wish list, for example. Probably half the appeal of it for me is the theming; and yet, as far as I know, I am a male. With all due respect, Kevin, you really seemed to be engaging in gender stereotyping here.
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Kevin Wenzel
United States
Bloomington
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Andrew, Yes I understand that their are a lot of different kinds of people out there, and I am one of them. All my conclusions where drawn from the response I got from the three different playing groups I introduced the game too.

Ok, So I edited accordingly thanks for the response Andrew!
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Zaphod Beeblebrox
United States
Redmond
Washington
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This is the first time I've heard of this game, but now I'm certain I'll have Ringo singing in my head for the rest of the day.
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Kevin Wenzel
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Octopus' Garden » Forums » Reviews
Re: A Octopus and his prize garden.

Yea I was thinking of doing a video and use that song, but I knew they would never allow me to use it!
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