Published by Weird City, Canopy is a 1-4 player card drafting and set collection game all about building the best rainforest ecosystem of trees, plants, animals and weather.
In each of three rounds, players will take turns to look at the face-down piles of cards one at a time, each time choosing to either take all the cards, or pass over and add a card to the rejected pile. Upon taking a pile, all the cards will be added to their tableau: tree trunks will extend existing unfinished trees, canopies will finish trees and make them scorable, plants will form sets, animals may grant special abilities, weather (rain and sun) will make pairs, and hazards, including blight and lightning, will threaten the ecosystem.
With three face-down piles cards to consider each turn, there is a strong element of push-your-luck but that doesn't detract from the tactical decision-making aspect of the game. Every turn and every choice feels important and exciting. There are many ways of scoring points and many risks to be considered... Bromelia are excellent if you have one or two by the end of the round, but three or more and they will score negatively for you! Fire cards are not a problem on their own but if you have two then they will burn two of your plants at the end of the round. Of course, if you had too many bromelia plants, you may want to burn the excess, so a healthy amount of fire could actually strengthen your rainforest! Designer Tim Eisner has incorporated numerous details like this that make for fascinating gameplay whilst reflecting real life and evoking the theme beautifully, and Vincent Dutrait has done a fantastic job with the art.
The basic cards are simple and mechanics easy to grasp, even though tactics are tough to master. The game includes its own expansion tho', with 'Season' cards to alter the rules and more advanced cards to mix in, featuring trickier rules that would be harder to understand on a first play. This seems like an excellent design choice and will definitely help new players appreciate the tensions of the game before getting overwhelmed by the choices offered by having numerous special abilities. Rules are provided for solo play as well as 3-4 player games, but Canopy is at its best with two.
This is a beautifully illustrated, brilliantly designed, wonderfully thematic game that will have you planting rainforests over and over again.
(Review by Matt Young)