Hanging Gardens hasn't been seen for a while: our first time since the end of 2008 (the year it came out it appears!) and, it turns out, my first time with 4. So a quick refresher was needed (I remembered it quite well, apart from the bonus tile for a 6-size garden). In essence, you are playing a card down into your garden (obeying placement rules) to build up different types of garden areas and if you make an area of 3 or more of the same color/type you can get a tile. Collecting sets of the tiles gains you more points, and there are some bonuses for the people related to that tile type.
Rules refreshed, it was pretty quick and indeed over before I was ready for it to be over. I collected yellow tiles early on, with the relevant person in the opening set, but J grabbed the person. I waited to try and get a 6 but the cards were not kind and after a full set of yellow and a single gate (0 points) I was at a loss what to collect. J had picked up yellow Jess some green and a few other things. Rick had 2 blue some tigers and a couple of odds and ends.
Suddenly it was the last round, Jess got the green person to go with her set of green, I got another blue gate for at least 5 points. J was unable to get the last one of her set, so missed out there, while Rick had his tigers and gates but little else. Jess's big set of green was plenty enough to give her the win.
I quite like this game. As a lunch game it is eminently suitable, playing easily in 45 minutes (and not much change with different numbers of players as it is once through the deck of cards). It is a light game, but with enough things to think about to satisfy: you have the puzzle aspect of building your garden so you can score tiles (often around your temples which you use to score an area and then get in the way). Then there is the set collection, making your own sets while watching what others get - some are quite lucrative if you get a set of 3 or 4, but fairly mediocre if you only get 1 or 2 of the set. Avoiding letting your opponents have these is quite key (and clearly we did a bad job here, though both Rick and I thought Jessica only had 2 green when she took her person tile).
I'll note that the 4 player game is quite tight and short. It really did feel that I was just getting my garden set up when the game ended. I noticed the scores I recorded from our earlier plays (mostly 2 player in which very much higher scores were made), the 3 player I had was scored such that Jessica's winning score here would have been comfortably last in that game. So the number of players has a great effect on the overall game experience and how much of a long game you can play.
thanks to andre1975 and verkoma for photos