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Patrick Reynolds
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Garden Dice [5 Question Review]


What is Garden Dice?

Garden Dice is a board game for 2-4 players from Meridae Games. Players compete for space in a community garden. Actions are entirely dice driven - on a turn, the player rolls four dice (standard D6s) and then spends them to perform a wide variety of actions (similar to games such as Kingsburg or Stone Age). Players can purchase seed tiles (in one of five different types of vegetables), plant their seeds, water them to turn them into veggies, and harvest their veggies for points.

Each player is also armed with a few special tiles. Critters (birds and rabbits) can move around the garden, eating other player's seeds and veggies. Sundial/scarecrow tiles let players manipulate their dice results or protect their nearby seeds from birds. The powerful sun token allows the player to re-roll all of his dice or change one die result to any other result, once per game.

The strategy in Garden Dice comes into play in the form of watering and harvesting chains. Basically, when any player waters his seeds or harvests a veggie, it will also water/harvest neighboring seeds/veggies of lower point values, which in turn do the same to their adjacent tiles. However, you can't just place your tiles anywhere on the 6x6 grid garden. You need to use two of your dice that match the coordinates of the space on the board where you'll plant a seed. Because of this, immediately after rolling you need to take a lot of things into account - I like to look for the garden spaces first, to see if there's a choice spot (such as one of a few double score spaces) available, or if you can get into position to chain off of another players' watering or harvesting action and save yourself from needing to use a die for that.

Garden Dice also includes a small expansion that adds gnome tiles to each player's bag of tricks. The gnomes function similarly to the sundial (they let you manipulate your dice results) and you can have either a gnome or a sundial/scarecrow tile on the board at the same time.

And that's Garden Dice in a nutshell. Buy seeds, plant them, water them, harvest them, earn points. Along the way you might or might not use your sundial/scarecrow or critter tiles to give yourself advantages or hinder your opponents. The game ends at the end of the turn in which the last seed tile is purchased, and then final scoring occurs. Players lose points for each seed tile they have left unplanted (past the first), and then gain points for their veggie sets - 15 points for each set of all five types, and then score points for sets of the same type of veggie. Players also get 5 points for their sun token if they didn't use it during the game.

How is the component quality?

Garden Dice is hands down, one of the best produced games, in all areas, that I've purchased in a long time. The artwork is fantastic, the board and tiles are nice and thick, and the tiles are big. On top of that, the game includes very nice player aids, also on nice thick stock, which break down the substantial number of options available on which to spend your dice. The rulebook is excellent, with very easy to follow examples and really nothing left for players to wonder about. Really the only thing that could have made this package any better would have been a nice custom insert for the components, but since it's not a particularly component heavy game, and it does include a bunch of ziplock baggies (really, more than I needed to comfortably store everything) this isn't a huge issue.

How difficult is Garden Dice to teach to new players?

It's pretty easy. There are a lot of options, but they mostly break down into spending dice with values equal or greater than a tile (to purchase, water and harvest your crops) or using pairs of dice to place tiles on the board on specific coordinates. There are a few other, slightly more complicated actions, such as moving critters around and removing critters from the garden, but these things can be explained during gameplay. With four dice, players can take at most four actions per turn, and usually it's more like two or three since you'll be using multiple dice for placing tiles and you'll be doing a lot of that if you want to win. So even with the amount of options available, turns go by pretty quickly.

How long does Garden Dice take to play?

About an hour. The game scales from two to four, with some seed/veggie tiles removed in the two and three player configurations. I think that with two players who have several games behind them it'll go even faster, but an hour for a game of this weight feels just about perfect. It's not going to overstay it's welcome, but it's also not over so fast that you'll wonder if you even really just played a game (a problem I've had with Fleet, another recent Kickstarter-funded game).

What types of gamers would enjoy Garden Dice?

I think that Garden Dice really has something for everyone. The bright, colorful artwork, the unusual theme, and of course the dice rolling should appeal to non-gamers or casual gamers, but there really is enough strategy here to entice more serious gamers as well. I'd place Garden Dice in the deeper end of the lightweight spectrum. It's easy to pick up and get started playing, but if you're a seasoned gamer it won't be long before you start seeing the layers of strategy under the surface.

It's also worth mentioning that there is a family game variant that only changes one thing - the critters aren't used. Since these are the only way to directly affect other players already placed seeds and veggies, it effectively trims out the one cutthroat aspect of the game, letting the competitive angle come solely from jockeying for position on the board and grabbing the extremely lucrative double score spots. Personally, I like the critters and they feel well-balanced, and I'd use them in any game I play with regular gamers, but I think I'd probably leave them out when introducing the game to new players or playing with young children. Incidentally, the game recommends ages 10+ but I played with my 5-year-old and she caught on quickly. So for parents looking to introduce a fun game to their kiddos, Garden Dice should fit the bill.

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James Cartwright
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Excellent review.

My family and I really enjoy this game and the components are excellent.

My youngest is 5 and she loves using the bird and rabbit to get everyone else's seeds and veg.

Can't wait for the expansion.
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Doug Bass
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Thanks so much for taking the time to write a review, Patrick! I'm so glad you liked the game so much.

pkreynolds wrote:
Garden Dice is hands down, one of the best produced games, in all areas, that I've purchased in a long time."

This quote really MADE MY DAY today. Thank you so much!!

Doug
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Doug Bass
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Rindel wrote:
Can't wait for the expansion.

James, I think you've seen it, but in case others haven't, I just posted a card update on Kickstarter.
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Doug Bass
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pkreynolds wrote:
I'd place Garden Dice in the deeper end of the lightweight spectrum

This quote is a good one, too. This description jibes with how I feel about the game.

Thanks again for your time and kind words!
 
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Patrick Reynolds
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dougbass68 wrote:
pkreynolds wrote:
I'd place Garden Dice in the deeper end of the lightweight spectrum

This quote is a good one, too. This description jibes with how I feel about the game.

Thanks again for your time and kind words!


No problem. And thank you for such a great game! I asked my 5-year-old tonight what her absolute favorite game that we've played together is, and she said Garden Dice! It beat out the likes of The Adventurers, Mice & Mystics, Flash Point, Sewer Pirats and WizWar... all games that she really really likes

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