Dale Yu: Review of Village Green

Village Green

  • Designer: Peer Sylvester
  • Publisher: Osprey Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Times played: 6, with review copy provided by Osprey Games

village green

In Village Green, you are rival gardeners, tasked by your respective communities with arranging flowers, planting trees, commissioning statues, and building ponds. You must place each element carefully as time is tight and the stakes couldn’t be higher! Split your days between acquiring and installing new features for your green and nominating it for one of the competition’s many awards. Will your village green become the local laughing stock, or make the neighboring villages green with envy?

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The game, at heart, is centered around building a 4×4 tableau of cards in your area, representing your Village green.  In the upper left corner, you place the signpost for your village so that everyone can identify the name of your village.  You also start the game with three Award cards – place on the top row of the 4×4 grid.   The left most column is reserved for other Award cards, but those spaces are empty at the start.  These award cards each list a different scoring criteria – at the end of the game, each Award card will score for the row or column which it heads up. This leaves 9 spaces which you will play Green cards to – these Green cards have all the different flowers, trees, lawns, ponds and buildings which you will hopefully arrange in a pleasing pattern to score points.  

The award card deck and Green card deck are each shuffled.  Each player is dealt a hand of 3 Green cards.  Then, a display of 3 cards from each deck is placed on the table.  A start player is determined, and then play goes clockwise until a game end criteria is met.  The final round is completed such that all players have the same number of turns, and then final scoring will occur.  

On a turn, the active player has two (well, three really) options – 1] draw and play a Green card OR 2] draw and play an Award card.  Optionally, once in the game, you can use the special ability of your Village sign card- but i’ll explain that after the regular actions.

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To draw and play a Green card, you can choose any of the three face up cards in the display or take mystery meat from the top of the Green deck.  If you take a face up card, replace it with the top card of the deck.  This drawn card is added to your hand, and then you choose any of the cards to play to your Village Green (or you can choose to discard a card to the bottom of the Green deck).  If you play the card onto the table, you must note the color (red, yellow, blue) and flower (petunia, rose, lily) combination in the upper left.  When you play a Green card, it must match either the type or color of every orthogonally adjacent neighboring Green card.  Generally, you can only place the Green card on an empty space.  There is no requirement to play a Green card next to a previously played one, but future orthogonally adjacent cards must match either the color or type of flower of this card.  Remember that you cannot play Green cards in the top row or the leftmost column of your 4×4 aray.

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To draw and play an Award card, you  can choose any of the three face up cards in the display or take mystery meat from the top of the Award deck.  If you take a face up card, replace it with the top card of the deck. This drawn card is added to your hand, but then you must play an Award card to your area – you cannot discard to the bottom of the deck like you can with the Green cards.   You can only play an Award card in the left column or the top row (and not on top of your village sign).  Unlike the Green cards, you can play on top of a previously played Award card.  At the end of the game, only the visible (i.e. topmost) cards will be scored.  Each award card states a scoring criteria – and this rule is applied only to the row or column headed by the award card.

OK, so what about the Village card – once in the game, you can flip this card over to take one of the two special abilities.  You could choose to discard the three face up card from either deck and replace it with three new cards, and then you take your normal turn.  You could also choose to play a Green card on top of a previously played Green card – breaking the rule of not being able to do so – though when you do, you must still match the color or type of all orthogonally adjacent cards.  One note is that if you play a card with a Structure/Building on it, you must immediately draw and play an Award card.

The game continues until one of three things happens –  A player has 9 visible Green cards in their tableau (i.e. all spaces are filled),  The Green Deck is empty or The Award Deck is empty.  When any of these three things happens, the current round is finished so that all players have the same number of turns, and then the game is scored.

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You get 1VP if your Village card is on the front side (you did not take the special action)

You get 2VP per visible pond (this is also denoted on the pond cards)

Score each of the award cards per the criteria on the card using the Green cards in its column or row

The player with the most points wins. Ties broken in favor of the player with the most visible Green cards.

There is also a solo game, which plays by most of the same rules – though you are not allowed to discard a Green card to the deck nor can you place an Award card on top of a previously played one (though there is an exception that you can play an Award card drawn as a result of playing a Structure card on top of another Award card).  There is a scoring rubric to see how you did – the goal is simply to score as much as possible.

My thoughts on the game

Village Green provides players with an interesting challenge of trying to maximize your score with the ever shifting Award card rules.  You start the game out with three Award cards dealt to you, so you have some focus to where to play your initial Green cards – but you can freely change the Award criteria by playing a new card – so you will end up watching the displays of both decks to get the card that works best for you.

One thing that I make sure to tell everyone learning the game is NOT to expect to have a full tableau.  In fact, in a multiplayer game, I have yet to see anyone finish the 9 Green card area before one of the decks has run out (though maybe we’re being too picky with the Green cards?!).  This is helpful to know so that players don’t try to max out the scoring for each line and column – sometimes you might be better off finishing a row or column that you can do well in rather than waiting for the exact card that will work for both the award scoring for that row and column.

As far as I can tell, the Award cards are balanced nicely.  There are all sorts of different options: number of trees, different types of trees, lawns or not, specific flowers on cards, set of flowers, cards vs empty spaces, buildings, etc.  Each has varying rewards for their goals, and some even have a risk/reward with a fluctuating reward based on how you have met the criteria.  We haven’t yet found a card that seems overpowered, and in any event, the placement restriction on Green cards helps prevent any Award card from being “too easy” to fully achieve. I suppose, there is also an element of hate drafting, as everyone can see the award cards in play, and you could theoretically prevent your opponent from getting a great card by simply taking it from the display before they get a chance to take it.

The art on the cards is great, and you do really get a beautiful image of a village garden when you are done playing.  My only complaint is that I find the yellow flowers very difficult to see, even when holding them close to my eyes.  I would have liked the interior/exterior border of the flowers to be black instead of white in order to give enough contrast to tell what type of flower it is.  I know that I personally have a lot of issues with colors and contrast due to my bad eyes, but in the case of this game, most of the other gamers I have played with have made similar comments, so I don’t think it’s just me.

While I have played at multiple player counts, I think this is the rare game that I honestly prefer playing solo.  Other than some mild competition for drawing cards from the display, there is no other interaction between players.  None of the award cards care about what the other players are doing, and adding to the player count only increases the amount of time I have to wait between plays.  I’d much prefer the 5 minute solo game where I can challenge myself to score as well as I can.  The game currently sits in my desk drawer, and it has come out a number of times this week when I have a short break.  As the components are just cards, the rubberbanded packet of cards is quite portable.

For those looking for a garden themed game, this is a great choice. The artwork is beautiful, and you really do get the sense that you’re planning a Village Green.  While I prefer it solo, it does work well as a casual multiplayer game, and it plays in a short time and gives a good gaming experience.  It would work well as a filler/closer as well as a good game to introduce to non-gamers.  Definitely recommended.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, James Nathan
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

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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