AEG and Flatout Games could easily have titled this Good Housekeeping - The Board Game because it's a game where the 2-5 players are competing to create a pleasing layout of rooms and houseplants that complement each other and so score the maximum number of points. It's called Verdant because well-positioned plants (those with the right amount of sun or shade through their neighbouring rooms) will add verdancy tokens that will enable the plant to be potted and so score its full potential of points in end-game scoring.
The creative team of Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Aaron Mesburne, Kevin Russ and Shawn Stankewich have come up with an easy-to-play and engrossing card drafting set collection game. There's a a central market display of four room and four plant cards, where the plant and room cards are separated by a token drawn randomly from a bag. The tokens either show a household item or pet, or an item for nurturing plant growth. On your turn, you choose any one of the four tokens on the market display plus one of the adjacent cards. The card is added to your individual tableau so that it will form by the end of the game a 5 x 3 'checkerboard' grid of cards where each plant is orthogonally adjacent to rooms, and vice versa. The household item and pet tokens have to be placed on a room card; there are set collection bonuses to be won at the end of the game for having different items. Rooms also score for plant adjacency but will score double if they have a token on them of matching colour. You can only ever hold a single item token in reserve.
You'll almost always have attractive choices available to you but the challenge in Verdant is to optimise your choice and placements of card and token so that they maximise your point-scoring potential. You definitely want to position plant cards so that verdancy is added to the plants to speed up their potting. The tokens representing items for nurturing plants will help here too because they can be played and discarded to add verdancy tokens, dependent on the type of item: fertiliser lets you add three verdancy to any single plant, the hand trowel lets you add one verdancy token to three different plants, and the watering can adds one verdancy token to all the plants adjacent to any one room (so potentially four plants).
When you choose a card and token, they are immediately replaced for the next player but the card that was left that was adjacent to the token also gains a 'green thumb' token, making that card more attractive for subsequent choices. Players can collect and hold onto up to five green thumb tokens and a pair of tokens can be traded in on your turn to reset the tokens in the market, reset the cards, ignore the selection restrictions (allowing you to take a card and a token that are not adjacent), or simply add one verdancy to any one plant. In our plays of Verdant at Board's Eye View, we found that canny use of the green thumb tokens could make a crucial difference to winning or losing - particularly in allowing a player to take from the market any combination of card and token.
There are meaty decisions to be made over both your card and token selection and their optimal placements but you should find Verdant plays quickly. There's not much player interaction tho': you're competing to get the most points and an opponent might just take the card and/or token you were hoping to nab or beat you to a more valuable plant pot token but there's no 'take that' element, so the game feels like multiplayer solitaire. You may find therefore that the game is at its best with just two or three players; with more you could be waiting for your turn to come around with not much to do while you wait. Given the nature of the game, it's no surprise that AEG and Flatout Games have incorporated a solitaire option. They've also added in advanced rules that add goal cards that give further ways of scoring plus simplified 'family' rules to make it easier to play with children and 'less experienced gamers'.
With art by Beth Sobel, Verdant is beautifully presented, and while playing you'll learn something too about the 60 unique plants depicted in the game, including their regions of origin. If the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval was given out to board games, Verdant would surely be a prime contender.
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