A review copy of Orchard was provided by Side Room Games. We would like to thank Side Room Games for supporting our blog. All thoughts, comments, and pictures herein are our own.
Planting, growing, and harvesting fruits trees is hard work. There is a lot of waiting for just the right moment to pick the fruit. Too soon and it might not be ripe enough. Too late and it may be over ripe. Patience is the key to getting a piece of fruit that is just right. There’s also some degree of strategy, knowing when and where to plant your trees to maximum fruit production. No, there is nothing easy about planting, growing, and harvesting fruit trees. That’s why rather than do the actual work, I prefer to play games about it…
In 2018 Mark Tuck designed and illustrated a 9 card game called Orchard. It was an instant hit, winning the 2018 Golden Geek Best Print & Play Board Game as well as the 2018 9-Card Nanogame Print and Play Design Contest. Fast forward a year and it is currently on Kickstarter (fully funded) and to be published by Side Room Games. Orchard is a solitaire game comprised of nine cards, 15 dice, and two black cubes. The game plays in about 5 minutes, and has the player trying to grow an orchard, by placing cards, that bears the maximum amount of fruit.
In this small box game the player starts by dealing out 9 cards. The game comes with 18 cards to help with replayability, as well as a multiplayer option. The first card of the deck is then turned over, this will be your starting orchard. The player then tales two cards from the deck as their starting hand. Each turn a player will take three actions. The first action is placing a card from their hand. Cards must be placed overlapping at least one existing card. Cards may be rotated in either 180 or 90 degrees in either direction. Trees must match the card they are overlapping, or your fruit will rot, more on this later.
The second action is placing dice. For each tree on the just played card that overlaps a matching color either a new die is added (if there was not one already there), or an existing die will be ticked up. If there was not already a die on the overlapped tree, the player will take a die matching the color of the tree and place it on the tree with the “1” side facing up. You have just grown one piece of fruit on that tree. If the tree had a die there already it will be ticked up. A one becomes a three, a three becomes a six, and a six, well, it stays a six. If the tree colors do not match a black cube will be placed on the tree. This fruit has now rotted. For the rest of the game this tree may not be overlapped, or harvested any further. This may happen up to twice per game.
The lat action is to draw back up to two cards in hand. Play continues until all cards have been played. Scoring then occurs by adding all the values of the dice showing on the cards, subtracting three points for each rotten fruit (black cube) in your orchard. The rule book has handy little chart in the back that lets you compare your harvest to find out just how fruitful it was.
Orchard is a quick game, with endless replayablilty. It is a great little puzzle that challenges you on every turn to figure out the right way to play your tress to get the most out of the placement. The footprint is very small. I have a copy in my backpack, and have played it a few times during lunchtime. The playtime is perfect for a quick game, but challenging enough that it is satisfying at the same time. Although Orchard only takes 5 minutes to play, it is a game that you want to play over and over again. I recently taught Orchard to my 6 year old daughter. We now have contests to see who can build a better orchard. It is fast, simple, and completely engaging for young and old. For me, it is a perfect little game, in a perfect little box, that I will return to again and again.
The copy that I was sent was a prototype, all components shown here are subject to change. The Kickstarter will also unlock some upgrades not shown here as well. The game that I played was near perfect, and in my opinion, all upgrades are just icing on the cake!
Orchard is live on Kickstarter until September 22, 2019. If you feel this is something that you may enjoy stop by and give them a little love! Thanks for joining me this week as I singlehandedly harvested the most fruit! Join me next time, follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and please, feel free to leave a comment below!