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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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DISCLAIMER ninja

I have published BASKETmind with nestorgames, but that is all my relationship with them. I did buy this game, as well as some other nestorgames, and I don't like all of them. Indeed I generally don't like abstracts! However, I did enjoy this game a lot, and with this review I'm trying to increase the attention it is getting here, to a higher level I think it deserves!

COMPONENTS meeple

The components of this game are what hooked me in first. The game is light and compact (the norm at nestorgames) and the components inside the case are 'wearproof': a mouse pad, 60 plastic colored discs, 6 plastic dice, and twice 5 lovely standing martians:



No cardboard, no cards... almost waterproof! You get a lot of playing hours ahead for a moderate price.

The martians could have been a flat token and the game would have played the same, but I think that they set the game apart from others. Specially in these abstract games with geometrical board patterns, standard pieces are easy to proxy. These martians, however, are not, they themselves are a very good reason to buy the game.

Some complain about the small size of the board and stability of the martians, but if you pay attention everything works as designed to. A tip we used to avoid over-manipulation of bits and add to the ease of play (see rules below): first choose your die and put it back in the case; then count the number of hexes without moving the martian and place the flower (disc); finally, move the martian on top of the flower.

RULES cool

I did read that this game was "Ingenious meets Royal Turf". This was the second thing that hooked me, since I like those two games a lot. As in Ingenious, you score points depending on the size of the group you are adding your flower to, so there is a motivation to add them better later than sooner. I found the principle better implemented here, since it only depends on the size, not the directions of the group, and thus the scoring potential is easier to grasp.

As in Royal Turf, you choose a die from the pool (instead of a horse from the group) and know what you leave to the others. Again, I liked the mechanics here best, since you know already the die results and you can calculate a series of things that will affect the outcome of your move.

Basically you choose a die, from the ones available as long as there are, or otherwise you roll as many dice as spaces without flowers around you. Then you move your martian that many hexes in a straight line, you plant a flower if the space is empty, and if it joins a group of that color you score as many points as flowers already in that group.

Your 'second' martian is indeed the score marker that will move around the board, and flowers are distributed among players randomly at the start, so not two games are the same. The norm in nestrogames, simple rules, but do they lead to interesting choices?

HOW DOES IT PLAY surprise

The rules are simple but there are a number of twists that make the gameplay interesting, and for us also fun. The theme can be considered as veeery thin, but it was a fact that we didn't say "I move my token to place a red disc", we did say "I move my martian to plant a red flower". Indeed not even "my martian", we ended up with nicknames for each of them! I guess the martians alone take this game from a pure abstract to a eurogame.



Here are the twists:

1) If your score martian lands on another one, you move past him. So no draws possible, and good opportunities appear, specially when there is a group of martians ahead of you!

2) Other martians block your movement, so you move to good positions for you but also to block other players. Specially because blocked players cannot play and lose 1 point, or more if that space is occupied!

3) If you plant your last flower of a given color you have an extra turn, so sometimes you may want to plant a flower that doesn't give many points but that allows you to play again. You can also try to have 1 flower left in several colors, to chain several turns in a row! This rule is optional but highly recommended, specially for 2-3 player games.

4) A second optional rule allows you to play again if your score martian lands on another one. We didn't use it.

On one hand you have many things you can control and plan: the number of dice rolled tells you who will (probably) roll next, when you choose a die you know what you are leaving for the next players, you can move to a place with as many empty spaces as dice you wish to roll, you can corner other players...

On the other hand, the game is light and you (at least we) end up trying to just guess all these things, not over-analyze them, so the pace is fast, and in any event you have the uncertainty of the dice rolling. The first game was more random, but already in the opening of the second we all felt as if we knew what we had to do or avoid. The 30 min playing time quoted corresponds well to our experience, some games were even shorter.

FINAL WORD thumbsup

I'm glad I added this game to my collection. It seems like one you can play in a more focused or more casual way, depending on your mood, and is definitely easy to explain and play out-of-the-case. I don't see myself playing Ingenious instead of this (I'll still play Royal Turf though, for the betting and crying!). We could not try the 2-player variant, but I guess it will lead to a more interesting game (use 2 white/black martians each and add scores).

I had never thought I would have enjoyed a game about pacific martians! Well, not so 'pacific' in our games...
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Néstor Romeral Andrés
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Thank you, Miguel laugh
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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franchi wrote:
I don't see myself playing Ingenious instead of this...

I still play Gardens of Mars, and I sold my copy of Ingenious today!
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Néstor Romeral Andrés
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franchi wrote:
franchi wrote:
I don't see myself playing Ingenious instead of this...

I still play Gardens of Mars, and I sold my copy of Ingenious today!




I think it deserves a cardboard box and a big publisher. But well, it's just a dream.
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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nestorgames wrote:
I think it deserves a cardboard box and a big publisher. But well, it's just a dream.

But then it would be heavier and less portable... I would stick to my nestorgames edition!
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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franchi wrote:
But then it would be heavier and less portable...
... and much prettier! meeple

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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: TETRARCHIA, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
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nestorgames wrote:
I think it deserves a cardboard box and a big publisher. But well, it's just a dream.
The 'dream' is closer:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bigkidgames/gardens-of-...

I have not played this version of the game, but I can guess how the new options will improve it: rock tiles that make the board change, special powers for each martian that make them unique, secret missions and screens...

So if you liked, or thought you would like, the 'base' game, you should love this new edition!


PS/ It could be interesting to propose in this new edition a 'simple' variant, with the bare rules of the previous one.
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Néstor Romeral Andrés
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franchi wrote:
nestorgames wrote:
I think it deserves a cardboard box and a big publisher. But well, it's just a dream.
The 'dream' is closer:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bigkidgames/gardens-of-...

I have not played this version of the game, but I can guess how the new options will improve it: rock tiles that make the board change, special powers for each martian that make them unique, secret missions and screens...

So if you liked, or thought you would like, the 'base' game, you should love this new edition!


PS/ It could be interesting to propose in this new edition a 'simple' variant, with the bare rules of the previous one.


Thank you, Miguel!
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Jason Moughon
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franchi wrote:
nestorgames wrote:
I think it deserves a cardboard box and a big publisher. But well, it's just a dream.
The 'dream' is closer:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bigkidgames/gardens-of-...

I have not played this version of the game, but I can guess how the new options will improve it: rock tiles that make the board change, special powers for each martian that make them unique, secret missions and screens...

So if you liked, or thought you would like, the 'base' game, you should love this new edition!


PS/ It could be interesting to propose in this new edition a 'simple' variant, with the bare rules of the previous one.


We'll defintely be adding them!
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Miguel (working on TENNISmind...)
France
Caen
(from Valencia, Spain)
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My latest game: Big*Bang, a simple abstract about the first minutes of the Universe
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My best-rated game: TETRARCHIA, about the tetrarchy that saved Rome
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For those that were not aware, this cute game got a sequel, Gardens of Io (see my review), that twisted it in many interesting ways.

And it seems the martians did not have enough, they keep exploring our solar system...
meeple
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