Dale Yu: Review of Horticulture Master

Horticulture Master

  • Designer: Lin Yen-Kuang
  • Publisher: Mozi Game
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 7+
  • Time: 45-60 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by MOZI

In Horticulture Master, players vie to have the most beautiful garden on their board.  The game has a number of tiles, each depicting a different part of a garden: ornamental grasses, cabins and temples, trellises, docks, rock formations, etc.  Each of these stacks gets an animal marker placed on top of it. There is also a deck of cards which has elements and tools in it. There is a central board which has a display of tiles available to the players as well as a 3×3 array of cards.  Each player starts with an empty garden board and 1 Magic Mushroom card in hand.

On a turn, player has an element phase where they take one of five action choices and then there is a tile phase.  Finally, there is a refill phase. The possible actions in the element phase are:

A] collect element cards – from the 3×3 array, you can collect one or two identical cards that are orthogonally adjacent.  If you collect one or more Bloom cards, you must discard a Sunshine card for that turn. Note that you have a hand limit of 5 cards.

B] collect Reborn cards – there are two types of Reborn cards, Frozen and Fire.  You can collect one or two identical Reborn cards that are orthogonally adjacent.  These cards do not go in your hand, but are laid at the side of your board. At any point, 3 identical Reborn cards can be used as a wild Element of your type. There is no limit to the number of Reborn cards you can have.

C] Exchange for Magic Mushroom cards.  Take one or two Magic mushroom cards from the array.  For each one, you must discard one element card from your hand or 3 identical Reborn cards from your area.  Magic Mushroom cards can be used as wild elements, but they are also worth 1VP at the end of the game if still in your hand.

D] Buy a tool card – there are 4 different types of tool cards, and each has a cost printed at the bottom.  You generally can have only one tool card at a time but if you have a Gazebo tile on your board, you can have an additional tool card.  The effects are ongoing; you do not discard a tool card after using it.

Shovel – collect 2 identical cards that are diagonal from each other

Glove – collect two identical cards, and then take one more which is adjacent to that group

Shears – collect 2 identical cards from anywhere in the array

Water can – draw a card from the deck, keep it is it is an Element card.  Discard it if it is a tool or magic mushroom.

E] Remove Elements – remove one row of elements from the array and replace it with cards from the deck.  Then, you are able to collect cards in the usual fashion OR you can choose not to take a card.

Once you have taken one of the five above Element actions, you then have the option to plant or transplant a Garden tile.  Each of the garden tiles has a cost – printed underneath the tile’s space on the central board. If you have the correct elements in your hand (or use Reborn cards from the side of your area), you can take the appropriate tile and place it in your garden.  Note that some of the tiles also require you to have a particular type of tool to place that tile. You may rotate, but not flip, the tile. You may have multiples of the same tile. If you are the first player to plant a tile of that type, take and keep the animal token found on the top of the stack.

You can also choose to transplant tiles – that is for all tiles other than the smallest (grass) and the largest (Cabin) – you can flip over the tile to get back the elements used to build it and then immediately use those elements towards a larger tile.  Keep the discarded garden tiles by your board. You immediately lose the effect of any tile which you choose to discard in this way.

Finally, the array of cards is refilled – all cards shift downwards into empty spaces and then the cards are refilled from the top.  However, Frozen cards prevent card movement, so any empty spaces below a Frozen snow card will remain empty. Also, Fire cards will burn the card immediately below them and the drop down into that empty space.  Fill the space(s) above the fire card normally.

The game ends in the round when either any 3 stacks of tiles are exhausted on the board or one player has completely filled in his garden board (and is able to claim the Horticulture Master tile).

Scoring is:

  • 3 VP for having the Horticulture Master tile (being the first to fill in their board)
  • 1-8 VP per tile on your board (see scoring in corner)
  • 1 VP per discarded tile used in transplanting tiles
  • 1 VP per animal marker collected (being the first to build a tile of a type)
  • 1 VP per tool card in play
  • 1 VP per Magic Mushroom card in your hand

The player with the most points is the winner

My thoughts on the game

Horticulture Master is a nice combination between tactical hand management (with an interesting card allocation system) and a polyomino puzzle in your own garden.  The first challenge of the game is getting the right cards into your hand. Sometimes, the cards just fall into the right place in the array, but you can definitely increase your options if you are able to get a useful tool card early on.  It definitely helps to have a good plan with what you want to buy with your cards, because the limit of 5 cards in your hand comes up on your pretty fast.

Once you have the cards, then it’s time to decide which tiles to buy.  Early on, the small low cost tiles are the obvious buys. After that, the animal tile on the top of each stack provides a valuable victory point that may motivate you to go that direction.  One word of caution- make sure that you map out your overall strategy early one. Once a tile is placed, it cannot be moved (though it can be removed when transplanting). Make sure that you leave enough space for a cabin if you plan to go that route!

The garden board is really not that big, only 4×5 in size – it will fill up quickly.  You can make room by transplanting, but again, make sure that you leave room for the larger tiles!

The rules are well laid out with plenty of pictoral examples to help you understand what is going on.  There are some terminology issues – I find some of the terms strange – such as “Source of Gardening Area” instead of a more simple “Drawpile” term.  But, at least, the rules are consistent in their usage of the terms so you should still be able to follow what is going on.

The artwork on the cards is quite nice, though I wish that the icons on the cards (which are really the only important thing game-wise) were a bit larger.  The animal tiles are also nice to look at, but the game would have been a lot simple with 7 “1VP” markers (additionally, the rules in setup about choosing and placing the animal tiles seem un-necessary).

Overall, Horticulture Master gives you a nice two-part puzzle – trying to get the right cards in your hand and then trying to get the right tiles in the right places in your garden.  As far as the polyomino games from SPIEL 2018 go, this one is above average.

Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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