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Game Preview: Topiary, or I Think That I Shall Never See a Tile as Lovely as a Tree

W. Eric Martin
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In 2017, Renegade Game Studios assumed the unofficial title of "chief U.S. hobby game importer and repackager" that Rio Grande Games had held for so many years. In addition to releasing original titles such as Ex Libris and Flatline, Renegade announced licensing deals for — and in some cases released — games first released by non-U.S. publishers such as Altiplano, Dokmus, Dragon's Hoard, Honshu, Kepler-3042, Planet Defenders, Raiders of the North Sea, and the topic of this post, Danny Devine's Topiary, which was first released by Italian publisher Fever Games in mid-2017 and has a U.S. street date of January 10, 2018.

Topiary is a simple tile-based game for 2-4 players, one in which you try to create rows of topiary for your spectators to view, preferable in order from small to large so that you can see everything in front of you and thereby score as many points as possible. (Interestingly, another plant-based game from 2017, Photosynthesis, features a similar challenge as you want sunlight to hit all of your trees, so you try to plant and grow them in order to maximize sunlight absorbed while blocking light from opposing trees.)


In Topiary, sunlight is good only for seeing the tiles


Over 5-8 rounds, you place figures on the edges of the playing area, each one occupying a unique position among the tiles due to aggressive social characteristics or even more aggressive body odor, and in most cases you will transform a square of grass into a lawn sculpture. Sometimes you'll see something special because it matches what you've seen before or fits the size-requirement that you want to see in that space, and sometimes you'll have to place something there because that's what the rules demand you do. You took a chance on pulling a good tile from the board, and that chance has left you in a thorny predicament. Them's the breaks, kids!


Peeps


I've now played the game six times on a review copy from Renegade and offer these thoughts, in addition to a more detailed overview of how the game works, why you have multiple bodies, what's missing from the game world, and why you might want to reach for a knife after looking inside Topiary.

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