Sunflower Valley (Game Review by Brandon Kempf)

  • Designers: Wouter van Strien
  • Artists: Alexander Shaldin & Weberson Santiago & YOU
  • Publisher: Hobby World, Ultra Pro, Playroom Entertainment
  • Players: 2-5
  • Time: 45-60 Minutes
  • Times Played: 3

“Chugga Chugga Choo Choo”

                                  -Brandon Kempf April 2019

We’ve all dreamed of a place nestled in the mountains, a valley filled with sunflowers, trains and sheep. A self sustaining valley where sometimes train tracks will just be laid leading to nowhere because we have enough resources to just do that sort of thing when we have nothing else to do, and are feeling a bit bored. Welcome to Sunflower Valley.

Sunflower Valley is a roll-and-write game for two to five players, yup, I’m reviewing another one, but rest assured, I believe this may the last roll-and-write review from me for awhile.

In Sunflower Valley you are settling a valley by placing houses and connecting those houses via railroads, because we all know that’s the most efficient way to travel in the valley. You need to keep your new sheep herding villagers happy, so you’ll also be planting sunflowers in order to bring a bit of sunshine to everyone. To start the game, everyone is going to select one of the eight different available player sheets, all players need to be playing with the same sheets. Based on your player sheet, you will build your first house in the valley at a predetermined location and attract your first villagers. Gather the six dice, and set the player board to the correct side and you are ready to roll.

On a player’s turn, they will roll all six dice and then each player, in turn order starting with the starting player, will select a die and draw the appropriate symbol on their board. When selecting a die you will also be selecting one of the five colors to draw the symbol in on your sheet. Each color may only be used one time per round as when you select that color you place the chosen die on the player board on that color to show that you have selected it and it becomes unavailable for the rest of the players this round. If none of the colors available on the player board can be used by the player selecting a die due to the fact they have already filled that color on their player sheet, they will draw a Sunflower on any free hex on their sheet.

Your goal for drawing these symbols is to gain points at the end of the game based on your keen planning and a bit of luck. On the bottom of your player sheet you can see what you will be scoring. You need to pair sheep with houses. Every house in your Sunflower Valley needs to have a sheep available to them. Available can be adjacent to each other, or if you can transport that sheep via the railroad system to another house that is considered paired. Each pair will gain you three points at the end of the game. If you do have a house, but that house has no sheep available to it, that will cost you five points at the end of the game. You also want to plant Sunflowers, you want them everywhere. For each colored area on the player board, the player with the most Sunflowers will score three points. Ties are not friendly in Sunflower Valley if the players tie then no one gets the points. The Mountains on your player sheets will be worth points equal to the number of Sunflowers that are adjacent to them. Whomever attracted the most villagers to their valley will gain five points, and second place will gain three. You attract villagers by building houses, each house will gain you two villagers, and also by planting Super Sunflowers, those will gain you one visitor, since you know people will come from all around to see your wonderful Super Sunflowers. Lastly, you are going to score points based on your Valley Express Railroad, which are your houses connected via the railroad tracks that you have built in your valley that have at least two tracks in between them. Two houses will gain you four points, three will gain you nine, four will gain fifteen and so on. Add up your points gained and if you have the most, you have settled the best, Sunflower Valley.

Sunflower Valley is a title that has a published date of 2017, so this one is almost two years old by now. Most of that time though it was unavailable here in the North American market, or at least it wasn’t readily available without importing it. It was a darling of “Influencers” and “Bloggers” for quite awhile, but since it has landed here on North American shores from Playroom Entertainment a couple months ago, we haven’t heard much about it. I worried that it may be one of those things where scarcity and “hipster-ism” may have been driving a lot of the hype, but after sitting down and playing it I’ve learned that isn’t the case. Sunflower Valley is a perfectly charming roll-and-write.

The production may be the finest roll-and-write that we’ve seen put together. Each of the twenty double sided player sheets is dry erase friendly, meaning this is a far more sustainable game. You have no worries about running out of player sheets. Not to mention that this is far friendlier for the environment. With that comes one of the few drawbacks of the game, your player sheets are prone to smudging when you run your hand over it to draw something, or when you just accidentally touch it. Also, if you are a 9 year old, it can be messy, well, sometimes even if you are a 46 year old you’ll walk away from the table with black dry erase hands. The dice are wonderfully done with clear symbols on them and the rule book is well written, even if there is a bit of unnecessary snark in it.

The ease of play somewhat belies what is going on here. While the planning that is necessary to do well in Sunflower Valley isn’t quite as heavy, or as mind melting as something like Railroad Ink, you do have to think ahead, and plan where you want to place certain symbols to best score. You have to minimize damage when your opponents take a die that you desperately need and then they use a color that you also needed. It can have it’s moments of frustration, but ultimately Sunflower Valley isn’t about that frustration, it’s about the fun that is had playing a roll-and-write game. You hardly ever feel like there is just nothing that you can do that will ultimately help you until later in the game. Sunflower Valley is really well balanced in our experience, there is no real dominant strategy, you want to do everything. Don’t get me wrong, that Valley Express bonus can careen a bit score wise, but ultimately, the odds are not in your favor that you will be connecting five or six houses on a regular basis, and your opponents should be watching what you are doing fairly closely to prevent that from happening.

Sunflower Valley is one of those rare delightful games that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously, it’s a fun, quick paced experience each and every time it is on the table. I mean hose serious can the game be when sometimes your player sheet will end up looking like this? Yes, that’s my drawings.

Well designed, fantastically produced, and even pretty nicely priced for what what you get in the box. Sunflower Valley is a game that deserved far more attention than it is gathering since landing here. Only time will tell of it’s longevity here, but with eight different variations of the player sheets and ultimately a low barrier to entry to teach the game to newer roll-and-write players it may outlast a lot of others on our shelves that are slowly working towards the end of their “pad of paper” score sheet lives.

Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers:

Chris Wray: Sunflower Valley is a fine roll-and-write. Nothing Earth shattering, but pleasant enough to play. I enjoyed the inclusion of different player sheets in the box and I appreciate the production value here. I n a year of increasingly tough competition in the roll-and-write genre, I don’t know that this stands out as exceptional, but it is certainly above average.

James Nathan: I played the 2017 edition from Fully Analog once, and found it, well, as Chris said just now “certainly above average”.  It wasn’t my favorite, but I do want to give a shout out to the pens that come in the Fully Analog edition. Hotcha-cha, those are some sweet markers. Crisp, fine points.  Not a dry erase inclusion that the publisher treated as disposable and will dry up after too short a period of time. Also, I liked that the Fully Analog version used standard D6’s and a conversion chart, because that means we can work it into one of our Roll-and-write-athlons.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

I love it. Brandon

I like it. Chris Wray, James Nathan

Neutral.

Not for me…

This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s