Dale Yu: Review of Floriferous

Floriferous

  • Designers: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn
  • Publisher: Pencil First Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 20-30 minutes
  • Times played: 6 with review copy provided by Pencil First Games

floriferous

Floriferous is a gorgeous game where you collect flower cards (and other things) to score points.  I was made aware of the game this fall after multiple of my game reviewing colleagues asked me what I thought of it – as they pretty much uniformly loved it.   This game somehow flew under my radar (though that is not surprising given how many new games there are each year now!) – but once I read up on it, I was instantly interested.

Pencil First is the firm behind Herbaceous, a really neat game that came out a few years ago.  I was pretty impressed with that one.  Also, one of the designers of this game, Steve Finn, has been a consistent producer of solid games – and I’ve been following him all the way since Scripts and Scribes and Slush Fund.

So, I acquired a copy and quickly got it to the table (well, not so quick, having to dodge a brutal IRL work schedule, multiple holiday conflicts and a few COVID related hiatuses) – and thus far, it’s been a gem.

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To start the game, you must first deal out the three Bounty cards and lay them on the table. These are scoring goals which all players can strive to complete. Then you set up the initial array of cards (you will make one such array for each of the three rounds in the game).  You will lay out 5 columns of cards, the height of these determined by player count (1 row per player).  The top card of the 2nd and 4th columns is dealt face down.  Stones are placed on some of the lower cards.  Then, at the bottom of each row, a half-size desire card is placed.  The player markers are randomly placed next to the array, one to each row of full sized cards.  The player whose marker is at the topmost row will go first.

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A turn here is fairly simple – you simply draft a card by choosing one of the available cards in the adjacent column, and then placing your marker in the space vacated by the card you chose.  You are allowed to choose the desire card in that column as well.  The catch here is that your card choice in the current round will directly affect your turn order in the next round as cards as always chosen in top-to-bottom order of player marker.

As you choose a card, place it in front of you.  Most of the cards are flower cards – having a flower type, flower color, and possibly an insect on them. By themselves they do not score points, but they are necessary to score points with the other cards!  The desire cards (half size, always found at the bottom of the column) each have a scoring criteria on them – such as score 2 VP for each violet flower that you collect.  Arrangement cards can also be found; they have 3 criteria on them, and at the end of the game, you will score points based on how many of the criteria you fulfill.  Sculpture cards reward points to the players who collect the most of them. 

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After you draw a card, carefully look at the Bounty cards at the top of the array – they remain there the whole game.  If you meet all three criteria on a Bounty card – that is, you have at least one card which has each of the criteria – then you place your marker on that card, in the space matching the current round of the game.  You will score more points for meeting the criteria in an earlier round.

When the player markers have moved through the array, the current round is over.  Now, set up a new array as you did in setup with regular and Desire cards in the 5 columns; then repeat the process.  After three rounds, the game ends, and it is time to score.

There are six ways to score points in the game:

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Desire cards – look at your flower cards and score based on the criteria on the Desire Card

Sculpture cards – Score 5/3/1 points for having the most/2nd most/3rd most Sculptures

Arrangement cards – Score 5/3/1 points for having 3/2/1 of the criteria on that card

Bounty cards – score points based on when you finished each card; 5/3/2 points for 1st/2nd/3rd round completion

Stones – score 1 VP for each 2 stones collected

Cup of Tea card – score 2VP if you have collected the most stones

The player with the most points wins.  Ties broken in favor of the player with the higher player marker (nearest to the top) at the end of the game.

My thoughts on the game

This game is one of those games that feels instantly familiar, but yet, there isn’t another game like it in my collection.  I think the big part of that comparison is due to the drafting (similar to Kingdomino and other games).  It is deceivingly simple – there really aren’t many rules, and you can get started in only a few minutes.  As most of the cards are face up in the initial array – you can often set up the game, and have all the examples you need for scoring face up on the table.

While the game seems simple, there are lots of subtle decisions to be made as you go.  Obviously you want to collect the cards you want, but it is very important to remember that your choice in this round affects your turn order in the next.  It may turn out that you have to take a less desirable card this round in order to put you in the right place to get a card you want in the next or second column forward!

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Also, the flower cards don’t score points on their own.  I have found that the Desire cards are the best way to score points, but they are at the bottom of their column – so each time you take one, you put yourself in the end of turn order for the next turn.  This makes the decision to grab one a big deal.  The sculptures and Arrangements also score you points, but each one of these takes up one of the 15 slots you have for cards.  If you collect too many of these, you won’t have as many Flower cards at the end to use for the other scoring methods.  And then, let’s not forget about the Bounty cards.  They can give a pretty good return, but they score more if you fulfill them early, and maybe you’ll end up working on one or two of these in the first round to max out your points on them.

And of course, as with all drafting games, there is the possibility to deny your opponents a particular card that they want by simply choosing it first.  Sure, you’d probably do better getting a card that you need yourself, but if there isn’t a good card for you, maybe it’s still a good idea to take a card that would highly benefit one of your opponents who is drafting later in the turn?  Anyways, you can see that there are plenty of things to think about when trying to decide which card to draft each turn.

The beauty of the game is though – you don’t have to think about all that if you don’t want (or if you are a gaming novice) – you can simply concentrate on getting cards, and the game will play out before you.  There are enough ways to score points that everyone will feel like they are playing towards a goal – though admittedly, some of the goals score more points than others.

I have played at a number of player counts, and for me, I prefer this most at 4 and then at 1.  In a 4 player game, you will use the whole deck of flower cards, and I like knowing that I’ll see every card in the deck.  In the two and three player versions, some of the deck remains unseen, and while it still plays quite well, your plans can be dashed simply because cards of a specific type didn’t show up as you dealt out the array.  I like the elegance of knowing that I have the chance at every card in the deck.    The solo game is interesting as well, based on the 2 player set up, but then using a deck of Crow Cards to constantly change the cards available to you.

The art on the cards is really quite gorgeous, and the iconography on the cards is easy to parse.  The cards are also done on nice thick stock, and they have a good feel in your hand.  I do like the fact that the desire cards are half-sized as this makes it easy to not get them mixed up with the other cards.

Given it’s accessibility and surprising depth, this will likely end up being one of my most played games in this holiday season.  It is the right weight and length for holiday parties, post dinner games, etc – and my game shelves are super happy to see that it comes in a nice compact box!  Having liked the first two games in the “trilogy” – namely Floriferous and Herbaceous – I’m definitely keeping my eye out for the next game, Delicious, which is slated for 2022 release!

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B.: The game is generally fine – except for how turn order is handled. As mentioned, it’s similar to how it’s handled in Kingdomino. However, in Kingdomino the tiles are ranked so if you take a tile giving you a later turn next round, you’re getting a better tile. Here the cards are entirely random except for the desire cards in the bottom row.

The game attempts to make each row more valuable than the one above, but the way it does so is really bad. In the top row every other card is face-down and in the third row every other card comes with a stone, so on average the rows are differentiated, but players don’t get averages, they get individual cards. If you take a face-up card from the top row you’re incurring no penalty.

I’d also note that there’s no compensation for turn order at the start of the game, and that a rock is really not enough compensation for possibly having to go last next round.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. Eric M.
  • Neutral
  • Not for me… Dan B.

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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2021, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Dale Yu: Review of Floriferous

  1. Jacob says:

    I just got this a week ago and I love it. Played five times now. I play with my sons aged 7 and 4 and we’ve had a great time with it. I will say we play 3p but set it up for 4p so we see every card.

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