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Subject: Component Upgrade rss

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David Tolin
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Beaumont
Texas
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Garden Competition came along at an interesting time for us. I'd been trying to get my hands on the game for quite a long time after first hearing about it--mainly due to the theme, as it seemed like something that my wife would really enjoy. When I finally did pick it up, it hit in the middle of a perfect storm. I enjoy doing small things (and sometimes not-so-small things) to enhance various game components for my games, and I was kind of between projects.

In the past, the majority of my efforts focused on painting miniatures or creating custom playmats and other player aids. But, a while before I picked up GC, my wife and I had fallen in love with Agricola and dove headfirst into the polymer clay thing. I'm no sculptor, but working with the clay to craft improved game components is really enjoyable, and it gives me something I can do with my wife for some nice quality time. Even the kids get involved--though they usually end up working on completely unrelated little sculptures.

But, as I said, GC hit in the middle of a perfect storm--I was done with all pending projects and was still itching to work more with polymer clay after finishing off my Agricola box. When GC arrived in the mailbox and we subsequently gave it a try, we kind of joked that it would be neat to completely model all of the game tiles and different flowers into individual clay markers. For a solo production, GC is an admirable effort, but I think many would agree that the standard components leave a bit to be desired. We didn't enjoy the game as much as Agricola, but it was enough fun to withstand some more thought on the subject, and the following project was born.

I thought I'd post the photos here and see what others thought of the results. We had a lot of fun doing it, and we can't wait to play our first game with the new set. It really oozes theme now, and I'm curious if some of the changes we were forced to make will have a positive or negative impact on actual gameplay.



The primary goal in making these components was to spend some time together enjoying our new hobby, but it was also really important that we maintain the integrity of the game itself. So, obviously, the tiles were fashioned with the gameplay in mind. Those familiar with the game will know that the tiles come in 1x1", 1x2", and 2x2" sizes, and that's what we reproduced in clay. The information on the face of the tiles was kept to a minimum: (1) the name of the flower, (2) a visual depiction of the flower, (3) a base matching the color of the relevant sunlight requirement (i.e., we ended up with three shades of beige/brown to match the spaces on the player boards), and (4) for those plants that are initially available as seeds, we included a red signal in the lower right-hand corner as a reminder. This was necessary because the nature of our new tiles obviously precludes any sort of tile flipping during the game. The red dot will always be there, but our intent is that it will only have a game function during the period that flowers may be purchased as seeds.



This picture of a player board in progress gives a good idea of how the tiles function in the game itself. Before anyone goes nuts, though, let me disclaim that this is obviously not from an actual game in progress--I set it up hastily just to snap off a photo once all the pieces were done, and clearly I included two full sunlight flowers in the wrong area. In this photo, you can also see my solution for the weed mechanic. The textured tiles without flowers on them are weed tiles and, rather than flipping them to show when they've gone to seed, we plan to use small yellow "seed" markers. I'm actually kind of jazzed about this solution, because it was one of my criticisms of the original game when we played it. Once the garden is getting full, it was really fiddly to reach in and flip weed tiles in the middle of it. This way, we just have to move the little yellow markers around as weeds spread.



Would anyone like to comment that the Dahlia we created is orange rather than yellow? This was my fault, entirely. When sculpting, we just referred to the original tiles as reference for what the flowers look like, and it really did look orange to me. I wasn't even thinking about the score cards that award points for certain color plants. Shouldn't really be an issue when we play, but it was a flub nonetheless. My wife also thinks the Lavender looks blue, so clearly we'll have to explain to folks during the game that a couple of flowers belong to specific color groups.

Another issue we had was how to label the individual tiles, and you'll see if you look closely (well, okay, you don't have to look *that* closely) that there were plenty of mistakes in this area. We tried printing on an inkjet printer and then just laying it on the tile and applying water... disaster. We also tried iron-on sheets, to slightly better results. Ultimately, though, we found that there is a specific transfer paper that you print directly on (mirror image) using a laser printer, apply to the clay, and then run under water. Somehow, the text sticks to the clay and the paper literally melts away. Kinda cool.



This photo gives a good look at all of the new components together on the table. We still haven't tackled how we'll do this practically when we play the game itself. We have a large game table, but laying out all of the tiles takes up quite a bit of real estate. No stacking is possible, really, so this may just be what we have to do each time. My wife suggested leaving the tiles in the box and just putting out one of each, but I'm concerned that may lead to issues with planning ahead and knowing how many of each flower are still available. And speaking of the box... no, we have no idea what we'll do about storage. I'm assuming some type of foam solution, but it needs to be addressed. The new tiles are not especially fragile, but they're not all that sturdy, either. Any ideas?



And that's really it. It looks like a lot of work, and it was, but it really didn't take very long at all. 70% of the work was probably completed on this long holiday weekend. The problem is that the other initial 30% was completed back in 2006, I think, when I first got the game. In between, law school got in the way, as well as some other boardgame projects that seemed less self-indulgent. It's done now, though, and we're really happy with the results. I hope it was enjoyable to look at and read about.

-dt
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Nathan Morse
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Powell
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It's so beautiful! It is also the only version of this game I haven't played now. ninja

Great work!
 
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EGG Head
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Very nicely done!
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