Dale Yu: Review of Applejack


  • Designer: Uwe Rosenberg
  • Publisher: The Game Builders
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 8+
  • Time: 30-60 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by publisher at SPIEL 2022

So, Uwe Rosenberg might be best known for his epic games (Agricola, Feast of Odin, etc).  But he’s also made a bunch of card games, and in recent years, lots of tile laying games.  Applejack falls into the tile laying genre, but this time with hexagonal tiles; a shape I don’t think he’s ever used before.

The publisher entices you with this description: “A wide orchard lies in front of Applejack’s cottage. Help him and his daughter plant apple trees and harvest the juicy apples. Don’t forget to set up the beehives between the trees. Because at the end of this game, whoever gets the most honey wins!”  We previewed this game around SPIEL 2022, but now that we’ve had a chance to play a few more times, it seemed like a good time to revisit the game.


Each player gets an orchard board – it is double sided, but to start with, all players should use the identical side A.  The starting player begins with 16 honey, and each player in turn order gets progressively more per the rules.  The Feldian 7-sided Harvest board (choose the one based on your player count)  is placed between the players, and each side is seeded with 2 face up tree tiles.  The die is placed on the first space of the track.  The rest of the tiles are set aside in the supply.

Turns will be taken around the board in the game, with each player getting 19 turns.  Pay attention to the symbol under the die on your first turn; each time the die is on that icon, it’s your turn!  Each turn has five phases:

1] Choose a tile – you choose one tree tile from one of the two troughs nearest the die location.  Alternatively, you can take an unknown tile from the supply.  This tile shows a combination of types of apples and apple blossoms as well as beehives on one side, and shows a pasture on the other side. 

2] Pay for your tile – The price of the tile is seen on all of the beehives on that tile.  Pay the amount of honey shown to place the side tree side up.  If you cannot or choose not to pay the cost, flip it over and place it pasture side up.  You will also gain 2 honey for this choice.

3] Place the tile – The tile can be placed on any open space in your orchard.

4] Collect honey – now see if you have connected beehives together – either with other tiles or with beehives scattered around the outer edges of your orchard.  For each connection made, score the lower of the two numbers of each pair.

5] Move the Applejack die – move the die clockwise to the next space.  If the die crosses over an apple icon, interrupt the game to score a Harvest for each icon passed over.  Ater you move the die, if there is only one total tile available in the two troughs next to the new location, add one tree tile to each of the 7 troughs on the board.  Finally, if you are at the innermost space on the track, move it back to the starting space, perform a blossom scoring, and then increase the number on the die by 1.

Harvests – you only score for the particular variety of apple which the die passes over.  Determine areas for the apple variety in question; that is all the apples found on adjacent tiles.  You will gain honey for each area equal to the number of apples in that area minus the current value of the die.  Do this for all the areas you have of this variety.

Blossom Scoring – each time you move the die back to the start, you gain one honey for each blossom in your orchard per pip on the die (thus x1 after the first lap, and x2 on the second lap).

After 19 turns each player’s orchard is filled and the final scoring takes place. At this time, the die will have 3 pips showing and will be on the autumn leaves space.   There are five parts to the final score:

  • Honey collected during the game
  • A final harvest for each of the 7 varieties.  Remember to subtract 3 from each area
  • For 4/5/6/7 varieties that scored in the final harvest, gain a bonus of 4/11/21/35 honey
  • Score 1 point for each blossom on your board

The player with the most honey wins.  There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

This is an interesting tile-laying game, and I find that I really like the ones that Uwe has designer.  This is a bit different than some of the earlier games as I feel there is a bit more planning that can be done here.  As the die spirals around the central tile, you can look ahead and see what your possible choices will be when your next turn comes around.  Of course, your opponents will have some  ability to change the available tiles; but this game lets you glimpse what you *might* get, and your emotions will rise and fall as your turn grows nearer.

Most turns focus on the obvious choices of which tile to take – from the two locations adjacent to the die location, and don’t forget that you can always take mystery meat – and where to place the tile on your board.   There is plenty to consider in the choice of the tile… which apples do you want on the tile?  What about the beehive number?  Perhaps, the cost of the tile is also a big  consideration.  Or maybe you have a place where you can score a lot of honey by pairing up two higher numbers… Or perhaps the flower blossoms will entice you; after all, they provide guaranteed scoring at each time the die resets itself on the track as well as one final time in the endgame.  It’s hard to win without getting good blossom scoring IMHO…

As you gain experience, you’ll then start to look ahead to see what tiles might be available on your next turn, and use that information to guide your current choice.  Or, maybe you’ll take a sub-optimal tile in order to not trigger a tile replenishment.  Remember that when it happens, ALL troughs on the board get a new tile; so you’d like this to happen closer to the start of your turn so that you have the best selection of tiles (and your opponents therefore do not…) Or, you’ll consider taking a tile on the current turn because you know it will score very soon; and this will outweigh your long term strategy that you’ve been working on…

As you can see, there’s lots to think about when drawing your tile.  You have plenty of short term things to consider, but the blossoms and the large bonus for apple variety at the end of the game give you some far away targets as well.  It’s a lot of strategy to get out of what appears to be such a simple game.

Component wise, everything works, and it all comes in a nice small box.  I have noted some very mild warping of the player boards, but we were able to manually bend them back into a more-or-less flat state.  The artwork is very functional, and I appreciate that the different varieties of apples are easy to tell apart from their appearance.  It makes it easy to see which tiles you want to draw and which apples will score as the die moves.  The included scoring pad also is a nice player aid for the scoring, and I usually give a previously used sheet to new players to remind them of the possible scorings.

All in all, a most enjoyable and challenging tile-laying game, and one that I think will continue to get a lot of play here in the Gaming Basement.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Dale Y
  • I like it. Steph, JN
  • 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.

4 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Applejack

  1. Doug Garrett says:

    Missed my chance to comment on this one officially, but Shelley and I have loved this one. It’s probably our favorite Rosenberg in the last few years as it’s both inventive and straightforward. We discussed it on Episode 862 of our podcast and it made our Top 10 of last year.

  2. Nate Dorward says:

    I really love this game, but (playing online at BGA) I have some concerns about balance, especially in a 2-player game. The rules as written give a large (4-honey) compensation to the 2nd player in a 2p game, but it’s not clear why this compensation is needed (there’s no obvious advantage to going first), and I’ve been finding that in games with reasonably skilled players, the 2nd player always wins. I’d be interested to know if this matches other people’s experience, or if someone can explain the rationale for strong turn-order compensation.

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