Dale Yu: Review of Verdant


  • Designers: Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Aaron Mesburne, Kevin Russ, Shawn Stankewich
  • Publisher: AEG / Flatout Games
  • Players: 1-5
  • Age: 10+
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by AEG

Flatout Games is a design studio that has come up with a number of great family-leve games such as Cascadia, Calico, Point Salad and Truffle Shuffle.  Many of their games have been licensed through AEG, and Verdant is the next game in that partnership.  Given the rampant success of Cascadia (oh, and that Spiel Des Jahres award) – I had high hopes for this one: “Verdant is a puzzly spatial card game for 1 to 5 players. You take on the role of a houseplant enthusiast trying to create the coziest interior space by collecting and arranging houseplants and other objects within your home. You must position your plants so that they are provided the most suitable light conditions and take care of them to create the most verdant collection. Each turn, you select an adjacent pair of a card and token, then use those items to build an ever-expanding tableau of cards that represents your home. You need to keep various objectives in mind as you attempt to increase plant verdancy by making spatial matches and using item tokens to take various nurture actions. You can also build your “green thumb” skills, which allows you to take additional actions to care for your plants and create the coziest space!”

In this game, you’re putting together your (green)house – which is a 5×3 checkerboard of rooms and plants.  You start the game with a random room and a random plant.  Each plant card has a verdancy requirement – this can be met by placing it next to rooms with appropriate light qualities or by using things such as fertilizer or water.  If you have placed enough verdancy tokens on a plant, you can pot it.  The sooner you pot the plant, the more likely you are to get bonus points for your pot.

The rooms are of 5 different colors.  They have varying types of light on each side, and as mentioned above, you can put verdancy on plants if there is a match between the light on a particular side of the room and the plant that is next to it.  The room will score bonus points if it has similar types of plants adjacent to it (they will match in color).   Additionally, there is a space for an item in the center of the card.  If the item matches the color of the room, the bonus is doubled – but note that you do NOT have to match the color in order to place an item there.

Speaking of the items, there are a bunch of furniture items – 9 different types, one in each of the 5 colors.  There are also a bunch of gardening items (all colored green) which can be used to add verdancy to your plants in different ways.  These are all stuffed in a bag at the start of the game and shuffled.  While that is happening, someone should shuffle the deck of room cards and the deck of plant cards.  To set the game up, a market is created.  Draw four tiles out of the bag and place them in a row.  Put one room card face up next to each tile.  On the other side of the tile, place one plant card.

On your turn, you generally must choose a token and then one of the cards adjacent to it in that column.  The card is added to your tableau, and the token is possibly used.  You started the game with a room card and a plant card – they must be placed orthogonally next to each other in setup.  In each round thereafter, the card you draw must be placed orthogonally adjacent to any previously placed card.  You can choose to place the item you drew, though you do have the capability to store one item between your turns.  Any extras must be discarded.

After you place the card, you should check for lighting matches on your newly adjacent rooms/plants.  If there is a match, place one verdancy marker on the plant.  If this brings you to the finished amount, you immediately pot the plant – take a pot from the supply (highest point value still available) and place it on the card.  You can also now decide to place any items you have or use any gardening tools; remembering that you can only store one between turns.

Once you have done this, you place a thumb marker on the card which was not chosen in your column, and then refill the token and the card taken.  Your opponent now takes their turn.  This continues until both players have finished their 5×3 array of cards. 

So, why are you collecting these green thumbs?  Well, they have a number of uses – that are triggered as you need them on your turn.  The options each cost 2 green thumbs:

  • Reset 1-4 tokens from the row of tokens by drawing new ones out of the bag
  • Replace any cards from the display that do not have Green Thumbs on them
  • Select any card and token from the supply (they do not have to come from the same column)
  • Add 1 Verdancy to any plant

At the end of your turn, you may only keep 5 Green Thumbs, so you might find yourself spending them on extra Verdancy at the end of your turns.

Once both players have completed their arrays (taking 13 turns in total), the game is scored.  It’s helpful to use the included scorepad to track scores.

  • Completed Plants – score the VP in the corner of a completed plant 
  • Pots – if you placed a pot with a VP icon on it, score that
  • Verdancy on incomplete plants – 1 pt per 2 verdancy
  • Room bonuses – Rooms score 1VP per orthogonally adjacent plant that matches the type, or 2VP if the token in the room also matches
  • Furniture/Pets – score for the unique types of items on your room tokens per chart
  • Plant collector bonus – 3VP if you have all five plant types
  • Decorator Bonus – 3 VP if you have all five room types
  • Bonus card scoring – if you played with bonus cards, score them if you meet the criteria

The player with the most points wins.  Ties broken in favor of the player with most Green Thumbs left.

My thoughts on the game

Verdant is an easy-going game that uses a lot of familiar mechanisms – a little bit of drafting, a little bit of tile-laying, a little bit of set collection – and puts them into a nice quick package.  I’ve played it with all player counts, and it works well at all of them.

My first few games were played with the base rules, and there is a nice tight game there.  When you add in the bonus goal cards, players have a lot more choices on strategy, and I’ve found that I like that type of game better.  But, for those new to gaming, the base game is challenging enough, and I’d recommend sticking to that format.

There are a lot of different ways to score, and as you will soon find out, it is impossible to do well in all the categories.  In one way, you’ll want to concentrate on a particular type of plant to max out the room bonus, but if you do this, you’ll make it harder to score the bonus on other rooms in your house; it might also be harder to score for the plant variety bonus.  Also, if you put a premium on the matching of the room and plant type, you might not get the verdancy if the light type doesn’t match up.  At least the decision on the room item can be deferred; you can wait to see where you get a lot of matches and then later try to draft a tile that matches to color to double up on the bonus for that room.   But don’t wait too long!  Remember that you only have 13 total turns, and the game will surely end with you wanting to do more things on your final turn than you have actions to do!

Another tough decision comes when you have to decide between picking up the green gardening tool tiles versus the room colored tiles.  The green tiles will help you finish your plants; and frankly some of the plants can only be finished with the aid of the green tiles; but when you do this, you lose out on the opportunity for increased room scoring as well as the potentially sizable bonus for variety in the room tiles.

By picking up some Green Thumbs along the way, you can give yourself some increased odds of getting the things that you want – for me, the best use is to take cards and tokens from different columns, but this only works if the things you want are in the display.  Sometimes, you have to just replace unwanted tokens or cards and hope that the desired things show up.  But regardless of how you use them, the Green Thumbs generally are good to have, and certainly taking a card with two or more of them might even outweigh the negatives of an otherwise useless card…

In the end, nearly every card will score you some points, and your job is to figure out which choice will score you the most.  And, it’s definitely not as easy as you would think… If you’re a serious gamer, you can work on puzzling it out.  If you’re more of a casual gamer, you will likely feel good that each of your turns helps your score move upwards.  In that way, it is a great game for that crowd.  It looks beautiful on the table, the rules are pretty straightforward (and the somewhat complicated rules for how to use the thumbs are on the player aid card), and it is rarely frustrating as you’ll be able to do something positive on nearly every turn.  For me, I’d prefer the slightly more complex version with the goal cards, but I’m happy to play the base game any time as well.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan B. (2 plays): It’s fine but suffers from the inevitable comparison to Cascadia; the games are not extremely similar but both have the same basic turn structure (each turn you take a card/tile and token pair) and of course are from the same publisher and appear to be aimed at the same target market. Verdant has 13 turns per player as opposed to 20, which gives less time for luck to even out. It has more rigid placement rules for the cards/tiles which restrict your options more. And it has more fiddly scoring rules as well as more fiddly rules during the game. So Cascadia wins on all those counts.

Of course Verdant is its own thing and one could argue that it has a bit more to think about than Cascadia does, which I would agree with – but is it worth the extra complexity? It isn’t to me, and I honestly can’t imagine introducing this to my casual gaming friends as having to keep track of the thumb tokens and then remember how to use those and the other green tokens every turn is exactly the sort of thing that turns them off of games.

So I’m willing to play it, but I’d rather play something else of similar weight.

Michael W. Verdant and Cascadia have both landed on the game shelves thanks to my better half. They’re not games I would have sought out, but I do enjoy them both. They are similar in mechanics but play differently enough to each stand on its own. I prefer Verdant due to the slightly shorter length – acceptable luck for game length, where Cascadia’s extra turns can’t rein in the luck factor enough – and feeling like you have to focus a bit tighter on your scoring strategy.  We only play with the bonus goals and have always taught it that way, ymmv. 

Brandon K (3 plays) Verdant is the third in the line of games, Calico, Cascadia and now Verdant. Each of those three titles share some aspects with each other, but each has differences, albeit mostly smaller ones, that make bits of difference that make you think that you should try all three. Of these three, I think I enjoy Verdant more than the other offerings. Calico was really a wonderful game, but something about the patterns and colors made it a real mind f&*^ of a game, at least for me and the folks I taught it to. Rules were easy enough to understand, but the min/max nature of it made it a bit of a no go in our group. Then Cascadia comes along and while it’s another Min/Max placement game, it ratchets the complexity and confusion down to a level that was too “Kid Gloves” for my tastes, but man, families sure do love themselves some wild animals. Verdant manages to get in between the two and find a nice combination of luck and planning. It’s not nearly as appealing to look at as its two predecessors, I mean cards on the table isn’t really the most sleek look/design for games any longer, but it works really well, and it plays smoothly as well. 

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y, Michael W, Steph H, Brandon K
  • Neutral. Dan B.
  • 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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2022, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply