- Designer: Kelly North Adams
- Publisher: Quick Simple Fun Games
- Players: 2 – 4
- Ages: 14 and Up
- Time: 30 Minutes
- Times Played: 5 (On Review Copy from the Publisher)
Quick Simple Fun Games is a relatively new publisher, and a couple of their titles — particularly Hanamikoji — have really impressed me. They specialize in games that “strive to be quick to setup, simple to learn, and provide a truly fun experience.”
So when I recently saw Veggie Garden and Moons on the BGG hotness list, they caught my attention.
My family and I played Veggie Garden several times over Easter weekend (as part of our tradition of playing games with rabbits), and we enjoyed our plays, so I wanted to do a quick review.
In Veggie Garden, each player cultivates the vegetables in a community garden. The game board has sixteen vegetable cards arranged in a 4×4 grid, and players will spend the game manipulating these cards to increase the score of their hand.
It is helpful to understand scoring first. The veggie types on the outer edge of the garden are worth the combined points on the Fence Posts next to that veggie type. In other words, add up the value of the Fence Posts next to a veggie type, and you get the value of that veggie for scoring purposes. For example, on the board below, peppers would be worth eight points at the end of the game, since the three pepper cards on the outer edge of the board are next to 3, 3, and 2 point Fence Posts.
At the end of the game, each player will have nine Veggie Cards in his or her hand, and the value of each veggie (as determined by the Fence Posts) gets multiplied by the number of that type of Veggie Card each player has. For example, if a player had three peppers in their hand, they’d get 24 (8×3) points for peppers. If a player has all five types of veggies, they get 10 bonus points.
The four cards in the middle of the board — called the Compost Area — do not add anything to scoring, but they are important for manipulating the cards in the garden.
Turns are fast paced: a player simply takes a card from the “Harvest” (a face-up set of four cards on the side of the board) and performs the action associated with the card they took, trying to maximize their hand for scoring purposes.
There are six types of veggies — and thus six possible actions — but you’ll only play with five in any given game. The actions are:
- Cabbage. Shift any one column or row of Veggie Cards or Fence Posts. You move the row your desired direction, and one card or token will fall of the edge: you place it back onto the newly-emptied space.
- Carrots. Choose any other fence post and swap it with the Bunny. At the end of the game, the card next to the bunny does not score any points.
- Peas. Move the Groundhog Token from one space in the Compost Area to another card in the area and swap two cards (including possibly diagonals) on opposite sides of the Groundhog token.
- Peppers. Swap any two adjacent vegetable cards or fence posts either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. The Groundhog blocks his vegetable.
- Potato. Exchange a card from your hand with any other one in the garden. The Groundhog blocks his vegetable.
- Tomato. Discard a vegetable from the garden and replace it with one of the remaining 3 cards from the Harvest. The Groundhog blocks his vegetable.
The rules are easy to remember, but the game comes with reference tiles showing the action associated with each vegetable.
Each player starts with two Veggie Cards in their hand, and over the course of six rounds, they’ll get six more cards. At the end, they’ll each take one more card in turn order (but won’t take the action), thus finishing with nine cards. (The Harvest doesn’t refresh as people take cards, somewhat ameliorating the last-player advantage.)
At that point, the final score is calculated, and the player with the most points is the winner. The rulebook does not specify what happens in the event of a tie.
My Thoughts on the Game
Veggie Garden is a pleasant game with interesting decisions, short playtime, and easily-understood rules. Every turn is fun, almost like a little puzzle to be solved. Throw in the attractive artwork and original theme, and this is a title many gaming families would likely enjoy.
Veggie Garden is all about tending to the garden by manipulating the order of the cards — or at least the order of the fence posts — to maximize the points in your hand and minimize the points of your opponents.
My favorite aspect of Veggie Garden is how the cards in your hand become tied to the action you take. This makes for an interesting tradeoff: oftentimes the card you want doesn’t line up with how you want to manipulate the garden. You might see a great way to shift a column or row, but is it really worth it if cabbages won’t score many points?
Though the game is friendly, it is very much worthwhile to try to remember what cards the other players have, since you can target those vegetables. As I said in one play, “Hey, I see you’ve developed a love of tomatoes. Well, off to the compost they go!” Nonetheless, the game does still seem friendly, if nothing else because of the lighthearted theme.
The game can be taught in less than two or three minutes, and gameplay is fast. The box advertises thirty minutes, but for our group, we’ve been playing in about 20.
Veggie Garden works well at all player counts, but two is my favorite. With two players the game is a bit more tense, because you can more closely track exactly what the other player is trying to achieve. With four, there’s a bit more chaos, and early moves rearranging the garden don’t seem to matter as much (although they still matter quite a bit because of which vegetable you took).
My family and I enjoyed our plays, and this will probably go into our Easter-weekend repertoire. (We have set games we play on each holiday, and Easter is for games with rabbits.) But I’d happily pull this out at other times of the year too.
This is pleasant, lightweight fun, that fits into a short timeframe. Like I said above, many gaming families would enjoy Veggie Garden.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Chris Wray
- Not for me…