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Subject: Where is the game in Cottage Garden? Let's discuss! rss

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Spencer C
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The initial reviews have mostly focused on disappointment regarding Cottage Garden as a sequel to Patchwork. While I admit Cottage Garden hasn't inspired the same instant appreciation that Patchwork did, I'm unwilling to totally discount it yet.

So rather than focus on negative comparisons, I'd like to explore the game itself a bit, and try to identify where tactical/strategic opportunities lie.

Piece Selection and Manipulation
Due to the gardener mechanic, piece forecasting is clearer here than in Patchwork. Similarly, just as you have greater knowledge of your own piece availability, you also have greater knowledge of your opponent's. In theory, the central garden market makes it much easier to screw up your opponent(s). In practice, with two gardens each, it is hard to keep track of the opposition's player boards. Still, there are definitely occasions where the board state is simple enough to manipulate against your opponent, and the increased clarity makes it easier to plan several pieces ahead.

Additionally, the inclusion of flower pots on some of the flower tiles brings about the occasional Patchwork-esque calculation. Which brings us to...

Flower Pots and Plant Covers
As the victory point generators, these are necessary for scoring and provide some of the more interesting choices in the game. When to cover one of these point-scorers or not is a very tough decision to make. Churning through boards increases your total number of scoring rounds, but doing so by covering up pots and covers will limit your score per scoring round.

Similarly, taking a Flower Pot will eventually give you +1 point, but is a very slow way to fill up one of your boards. Too many pots on a single board could be hurtful, too, if you want to spread out your points across your scoring cubes...

Score Track Manipulations
The scoring track has several twists that make it interesting. First, the jump from 14/15 -> 20 means that maximizing out a single cube is often most useful. The fact that you only move one cube per color per garden scored requires some thought before choosing which cube to move. Further, the two special bonuses along the track add to these considerations. The free cat line may be more immediately useful to cross with a lower cube than pushing a higher cube into the target zone. The last cube flower pot gives some further incentive to move all six cubes, rather than maxing out to the target zone. I suspect, however, that the +5/+6 points from the target zone are generally more useful than the maximum +1 point from the bonus flowerpot -- unless the tactical considerations of your particular garden dictate otherwise.

Timing
Much like gardening itself, a lot of Cottage Garden seems to be about getting your timing and rhythm down. On top of the aforementioned planning for upcoming tiles, there's the final round to consider. At first blush, it seems that you want to finish off both your gardens just before the final round begins to avoid any negative penalties. This doesn't stand up under basic scrutiny, however, as your gardens themselves will score points.

Provided that Points Scored - 2*(Number of Turns Needed to Complete) > 0, you're better off running into the final round. Considering that most gardens score you 6-7 points, and generally require around 5-6 tiles, cats, and pots to complete, it seems that you're best off having two on-going gardens entering the final round. With 3 tiles in each garden (the minimum needed to hold on to your garden), you're likely to finish them within 3 turns and break even at worst.



So those are my thoughts so far about the mechanisms in Cottage Garden. I'll need to play a few more times before I can really cast my judgment on the game as a whole. What are your opinions on the strategies within Cottage Garden? Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Have I overlooked some crucial consideration for success?
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Jimmy Okolica
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Great writeup! I've only played once so I have nothing to add, but I'll be watching this thread develop with interest.
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Peter Dringautzki
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You could add some more points to it if you like.

Piece Selection and Manipulation
This is one of the major factors that you know which pieces will be available to you and your opponent. Especially you might not take a tile due to the fact that this would give your opponent a free re-fill. Plus the option to activate a cat to get new tiles gives a more strategic option than in Patchwork in terms of tile selection.

Score Track Manipulations
Actually I thing moving your markers into the 20 score field is more important than getting a flower pot for removing all markers of one color.

Timing
The one thing I like most about Cottage Garden. Timing for selecting a tile, sure. But needing to be finished on the spot and not just covering as much as you can to compensate negative points is something I like very much. Especially as there are options to keep running as you might score more points if you go 2-3 rounds spending points just to get one more cube up to 20.

One thing I love for sure would be a bonus if you finished 5 or 6 gardens to make it more interesting even to cover stuff to be the first to get the bonus.

Still I like Patchwork too due to the double resource management in it (time + buttons). It is kinda neat too.

All the best
Peat
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Rich P
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After only one play myself, I don't have much in the way of strategic analysis to add but I did want to address the Patchwork comparison. I'm not a big fan of Patchwork, I find it just OK, so the negative comparisons Cottage Garden has been receiving were making me regret ordering it. Then I played it and found I much prefer it to Patchwork. It focuses more on the puzzle of which pieces to place on your board and is less of an economic game. It's gentler, less directly competitive and I like the churn through multiple boards to give you hope that the next garden will be better...
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Spencer C
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MeeplePeat wrote:
Score Track Manipulations
Actually I thing moving your markers into the 20 score field is more important than getting a flower pot for removing all markers of one color.


We're in agreement on this point. Sorry if I wasn't clear in my post.

Quote:
needing to be finished on the spot and not just covering as much as you can to compensate negative points is something I like very much. Especially as there are options to keep running as you might score more points if you go 2-3 rounds spending points just to get one more cube up to 20.


Ooh! Excellent point that the target zone bonus could make continuing gardens doubly useful. I still suspect it's almost always a good idea to have two gardens on the go when entering the final round.

Quote:
Still I like Patchwork too due to the double resource management in it (time + buttons). It is kinda neat too.


The double resource is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite part of Patchwork. I love the interplay between area, buttons, and time, but dislike the opaqueness provided by that calculation. To evaluate a piece's basic worth, you have to calculate (2*Area + Buttons*(Remaining Pay Days) - Cost)/Time. That's the starting point information before evaluating higher level strategy, such as which pieces will your opponent have access to, what will fit on your board, scoring track position, leather patch position, etc. Never mind that this value estimation quickly becomes untenable more than 3-4 moves out. I've developed a fairly good intuition about relative piece worth, and rarely explicitly evaluate it, but it's a layer of opaque abstraction that keeps you away from the game itself.
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miha hančič
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All the planning and looking ahead really fits thematically. I found it, not so much a competitive game but more as a lovely multiplayer puzzle to solve. The wonderful art certainly adds to the experience.
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Jérôme
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mihaha wrote:
All the planning and looking ahead really fits thematically. I found it, not so much a competitive game but more as a lovely multiplayer puzzle to solve. The wonderful art certainly adds to the experience.


+1 for all these points.
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Spencer C
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How important is grabbing high-value flowerbeds when they come up?

A quick run down of what the boards have on them (f=flowerpot, p=plant cover):

1: 4f, 2p
1*: 3f, 3p
2: 4f, 2p
2*: 2f, 3p
3: 4f, 2p
3*: 3f, 3p
4: 4f, 2p
4*: 2f, 3p
5: 4f, 2p
5*: 8f
6: 4f, 2p
6*: 6f, 1p
7: 4f, 2p
7*: 7f, 1p
8: 4f, 2p
8*: 5f, 2p
9: 4f, 2p
9*: 1f, 4p

You can see that the light sides of every flower bed always have 4 flowerpots and 2 plantcovers, for 8 points total with 6 squares covered. The dark sides vary a little more. The point values are are always 8 or 9 points total, and can vary from 5 to 8 squares covered.

From this breakdown, it doesn't seem that flowerbeds vary widely in their value. The difficulty of filling certain flowerbeds may vary, but with the broad piece selection it seems unlikely that any flowerbeds are out-and-out much more difficult than another.

An analysis for another day would be trying to find the minimum number of flower tiles needed to complete each of the flowerbeds. Some beds might be completable with only three flower tiles, while 2*, 4*, 9* would require more ( (25 spaces - 5 flower pots and covers) / 6 squares, maximum area of flower tiles).
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