Cottage Garden…. A Horticultural Hit!

Cottage Garden is a 1-4 player game, designed by legendary game designer, Uwe Rosenberg. I’m sure many of you out there will be familiar with Uwe Rosenberg, or at least some of his games. His gaming catalogue boasts titles such as Agricola, Caverna and the more recent hit A Feast for Odin. So how does Cottage Garden compare? Lets take a closer look.

Cottage Garden is a tile placement game that sees players take on the role of gardeners, competing to fill their garden with beautiful flowers. They’ll be drawing irregular shaped flower tiles from a central market place and adding them to their own flower beds. Players always have two flower beds active. As they finish each area, they’ll score it and start work on the next. Players score points based on how many flower pots and plant covers their flower bed contains. The player with the most points, at the end of the game, wins. Cottage Garden is a simple and highly intuative game that is going to be really easy for just about anyone to pick up and have fun with. If you’ve played Uwe Rosenberg’s Patchwork then you’re going to be really familiar with the mechanics. For a better feel for how the game flows, check out my time lapse video below.

Cottage Garden is a simple game to learn, but will provide plenty of strategic decision for those prepared to dig a little deeper. Firstly, the way in which you draw your tiles from the market place offers plenty of opportunity to plan ahead. A ‘gardener’ die will be travelling around a 4×4 grid and players will only be allowed to draw tiles from the row corresponding to the location of the ‘gardner’. As the market tiles deplete, new tiles will be added from a que of tiles waiting to join the grid. As a result, there is plenty of information available and player can begin to plan their turns in advance, or use the information to deny that ‘perfect’ tile to their opponent.

Scoring also offers an interesting conundrum to players. Each time a flower bed is completed players will choose how to assign their points to one of two scoring tracks. Each track will have three scoring cubes that cap at twenty points. Half way up the scoring track there will be a bonus threshold that, as passed, will reward players with a cat token. These tokens can be used to fill empty spots on your flower beds. Furthermore, the point track also has a points leap, for the final space. As a result, players will find themselves constantly juggling scoring cubes as they try to manage cube movement. Not only trying to maximise points and movement up the track, but also maintaining a steady flow of bonus tokens. It’s a nice little game within a game that gives players an extra element to manage as they play. That said, some may find the scoring an unnecessary process and I would concede that the mechanic can feel a little dry at times.

I think it’s about time we mentioned the beautiful artwork from Andrea Boekhoff. This, for me, is where the game really comes to life. Cottage Garden is one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I have played in a long time. The flower tiles, the cat tokens, everything about the artwork is just so satisfying. It’s a great example of how good artwork can really enrich the gaming experience. Normally you’d find me waxing lyrical over much darker more visceral artwork, but I can’t help but fall in love with the artistic style of Cottage Garden.

It wouldn’t be right to end this article without drawing some comparisons between Cottage Garden and its older brother, Patchwork.  While the core mechanics are largely similar, there are some differences between the two games. Unlike Cottage Garden, Patchwork relies on an income based scoring and tile aquisition system. Players purchase tiles using ‘buttons’, that also serve as their end game score. Tiles in Cottage Garden are aquired at no cost, with the only limit being which tiles are available on your market row. Patchwork also has a none linear turn system, where each tile has a ‘time’ value. It’s quite possible for a player to take multiple actions on one turn. Cottage Garden relies on a traditional clockwise ‘one action, one turn’ system.

Patchwork is, perhaps, the more elegant solution. That said, Patchwork is limited by its player count, as it is only a two player game. The none linear turn mechanic, that helps make Patchwork so impressive, really only works for a two player game. This system would have led to excessive down time if it had been implemented into Cottage Garden. As a result, both games serve their purpose and will happily coexist in your gaming collection. Where Patchwork offers a refined two player experience, Cottage Garden serves a wider audiance.

Overall, Cottage Garden provides a pleasing gaming experience and is well worth a closer look. If you enjoy tile laying games, then you are going to have lots of fun with this one. Gameplay is simple and intuative but still has enough depth to keep players engaged. It will really hit the mark with casual gamers and the theme epitomises family friendly gaming. If you’re looking for a change of pace from your gaming sessions this summer, then be sure to spend some time in Uwe Rosenberg’s Cottage Garden.

As always, you can follow me on twitter and let me know what you think. See you next time!

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