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Michael Barlow
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A Review of Mus-in-sky’s Mighty Trees

Mighty Trees is an XCG (expandable card game) merged with an educational game, suggested for ages 8 and up. Plant your trees in the understory of the habitat and fight for the right to grow. Can they weather (literally) the environmental and seasonal changes to live long enough to stretch up to the canopy and dominate the habitat?

There’s only one set for Mighty Trees right now, so some symbols (mountain symbol) and sections ("preferred species") on some cards have limited purpose right now. But, I’m hoping interest in the game takes off enough to encourage future expansion.

Within the red tuck box are 100 cards. You get 50 unique trees (each player needs 24), 12 Weather cards (each player needs 6), 10 Habitat cards (each player needs 4), 8 Mutations, 10 Disasters, and 10 Critters (each player needs 4 of each).

The back suggests that 2 players can play with one box, but that will mean that players are better off randomly dealing out the cards and deliberlately distributing the habitats because there will not be enough cards left over for players to plan strategy.

Trees thankfully have all different combinations of stats and there are several Habitats of the same type (Coast, Mountain, and Forest).

Better to give each player a box; then decisions about which trees you want to mate with which habitats can be made with forethought.

General flow of the game
There are three levels of play in Mighty Trees. The first is played with just the Trees and the Habitats and is a good introduction for young players, but will hold no interest for older players who want more “game”. The intermediate level introduces the Weather (Trend and Cloud) cards and the Disaster cards. The advanced level integrates all the card types, introducing Mutations and Critters.

Three Habitats sit in the middle of all players. Each player has access to 2 rows adjacent to each Habitat. This needs some room on the table because in each row there needs to be space for 2 tree cards.

R1, or Row 1, is called the Understory. Plant trees here.
R2, or Row 2, is called the Canopy. Trees can grow up here.



You start with a hand of 6 cards. The draw piles at the beginning of the game are seperated into a “tree” deck and an “other” deck, so you have lots of control over bad draws (sweet!). As the draw piles empty, this two deck advantage disappears since the recycled deck is shuffled as one.

Each turn, you have 6 Sols ($) to spend in up to 3 Habitats on the table. You may spend no more than 3 Sols in each Habitat, so you can only do so much per turn. Most actions cost Sols: planting or growing Trees, and playing Weather, Disaster, Mutation and (usually) Critter cards. Discarding one card – either a Tree from play or a card from your hand -- costs 1 Sol.

Trees planted in the understory (Row 1) cannot grow up into the Canopy (Row 2) until the understory is full on your side. This is a nice catch-up mechanism.

Trees cannot initiate combat until a third one has entered the Habitat. This is also a nice catch-up mechanism. Initiating combat does not cost any Sols, so if I have two trees out in the Habitat already and you, on your turn put a tree there, I can interrupt your turn to attack your tree. In the basic and intermediate game, there nothing modifying combat, so a tree with an 8 will always stomp on a tree with a 7.

Oh, let’s look at how tree combat works.

There are two combat stats for Trees, sun combat and shade combat. Sun combat is used when there are no trees in the canopy (Row 2). Young trees can battle it out in full sunshine. Shade combat is used when at least one Tree occupies the Canopy. Only Trees in the understory may attack or be attacked. Canopy trees can only look down and cheer their fellows on. Just because a tree has excellent sun combat will not mean that it also has good shade combat. There’s a lot of variation due to the scientifical way that the stats were conjured using tons of tree data.

But, as I said, without using Mutation cards, you can’t modify Tree combat stats*. Mutations can increase a Tree’s Sun strength or Shade strength and can be played during combat by either side if the Sols are available. Each Mutation costs 1 Sol and is affected by the 3 Sols per Habitat spending limit. Most Mutations are temporary (meaning they’re one use), but a few are permanent. Mutations have other abilities as well as a combat bonus, so you may not want to use them for fighting.

*Habitat cards have 2 or 3 “preferred species” written on them, but many species (30% of the ones I checked) aren’t included in this first set of Mighty Trees. I would suggest ignoring this rule if you are only playing with 1 box – since all Trees are unique and only one player will probably have the right tree for a given Habitat. If you do use the “preferred species” rule, unless you want to brush up on your Latin, make a list of the tree species using their common English name for faster recognition.

The player who gets 2 Trees into his canopy wins the Habitat. All cards are discarded and his opponent (the loser) draws a new Habitat to take its place -- a new battleground is available. Capturing a Habitat does not end a player’s turn.

Card Types

The Trees are the backbone of the game. Trees have 8 stats running top to bottom along their left edge: planting cost/growth cost, moisture range, temperature range, sun combat strength, shade combat strength, fire resistance, and wind resistance. Generally, you can “statistically” compare Trees with the same plantng/growth cost. So a 3/3 Tree will kick butt over a 2/1 Tree (but not necessarily a 3/2 Tree). There is a whimsical illustration of the tree in question and a host of scientific data about the tree for botany students. In order to plant a tree, its tolerance range of moisture and temperature must bracket the moisture and temperature of the habitat. Combat stats are explained above. Fire and Wind Resistance are used to thwart Disasters.

Habitats are where Trees grow. They have temperature and moisture values that are used to see whether a particular tree can grow there. If a Tree planted in a Habitat no longer matches the water and temperature profile, the tree is immediately discarded. What can change the nature of a Habitat? See below.

Trends are weather patterns that stick around. For example, Drought dries out the Habitat, lowering its moisture rating and increasing the chance of fire Disasters. All Trend cards conveniently cost the same -- 2 Sols. Only one Trend card may be played on a Habitat.

Most clouds are pretty harmless. Severe cloud formations, however, allow nasty Disasters like Lightning to affect the Habitat. All Cloud cards cost 1 Sol. Only one Cloud card may be played on a Habitat.

Disasters, like fire, flood, lightning, and tornadoes, are fun to play. They can affect and attack all trees in a Habitat or only some (your opponent's). Some Disasters are “lingering” and stick around until the player’s next turn. Trees cannot be planted or grown during a lingering disaster. Some Disasters have a “fate” attack that requires a player to drop a card from above the table. If it lands face-up, a targeted tree is safe. If it lands face-down, a targeted tree dies! Players may wish to use a six-sided 1, 2, 3 / 4, 5, 6 roll instead. Disasters have varying costs, depending how nasty they are. All have a pre-requisite to playing them. You must have the right Cloud, Trend, or Habitat symbol in play to use them. Luckily, there are a few cards that provide the symbols.

Mutations fall into two categories: temporary and permanent. Temporary mutations can be used to bolster your combat numbers or improve your tree’s resistance to fire, wind, moisture, or temperature. Permanent Mutations can improve your tree’s growth rate or regenerate a lost tree. All Mutations cost 1 Sol.

These little, medium-sized and large critter cards are like a side-deck distraction. They have little to do with the trees, but if left alone, allow the player to reek havoc with the rules. A player’s only defense against little critters is to send other critters against them. All players may play critters! When all the critters have hit the table, in reverse order (last card played first), each critter carnivore has a chance to eat another eligible critter (it’s a “fate” drop). Eaten critters don’t get to use their special ability. If it’s your turn to chew a critter and there’s no critter left for your critter to eat, just return your critter to your hand. Better luck next time.

Critter cards all have 2 actions, usually only one that plays with the rules – the squirrel helps you grow trees, the chipmunk overfills your hand, the raccoon steals cards – and any carnivores also have the zero Sol cost “eat” action, that starts the "side-deck" interruption described above.

A "side-deck" is a term I picked up from the increasingly horrible Star Trek: Customizable Card Game (first edition), where besides your normal draw deck, there are side draw decks that are somewhat distracting from the goal of the game.

A Word about the Rule Book

This is my least favourite part about the game.

On the plus side, there’s a Table of Contents at the beginning, a playing example near the back, and a Turn Summary (with referring page numbers) on the back cover. There’s even a bibliography, tree planting guide, and soil moisture guide (from which the Habitat stats where created).

On the minus side, all the other bits are mingled inside. It takes a while of digging around to find the answer to a specific question. All the information that players need to play is definitely in the rulebook. It’s just a matter of finding it in a timely manner (like during a game).

The entire rulebook is colour-coded for each of the playing levels of the game – basic in blue, intermediate in green and advanced in red. All the text relevant to the cards used in each game is colour-coded, the bottom of each page has a colour-coded 1 to 3 word summary of what’s on the page, and even the page corner is colour-coded.

You’d think that’d help make sense of the rulebook. It doesn’t.

(I’ll get around to making some quick-notes of the rules and post them for players’ convenience. )

In short, Mighty Trees is a fun inexpensive card game. Again, unless you want to play a very random game, get 1 box per player.

I’d have to say that the game has a low language dependency. There are lots of symbols to assist younger players or non-English speakers, and only the Critter cards and some of the Disasters require players to read a complete sentence. And, happily, the wealth of scientific information on each card has both English descriptions and illustrations for anyone to enjoy.
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