Vadoran Gardens has the satisfaction you’re used to in tile laying games but also many different facets for optimization, creating a very layered puzzle!
Theme and What is it?
You are a young Vadoran acolyte and are studying to try to take the place of the high priestess of the Gardens. Each round, you study different lessons as you traverse the grounds of the garden. While you walk the garden, you feed animals, clean statues, water flowers, and return lost items to their rightful positions.
The main part of the game is placing pathway cards, which are square cards with a 3 x 3 grid of different configurations of grass, soil, water, and sand. Each type of area has different tasks – in grass there are animals to feed, in the soil there are flowers to water, and in the water there are relics to clean. Sand does not have any tasks, as it’s the undeveloped part of the gardens. Every round, a player will place a pathway card in their own area, following some rules:
- The cards cannot be rotated
- The leftmost column of the card must overlap with the rightmost column of the previously placed card, but all the cards placed cannot exceed 5 rows in height
- The card must match the type of lesson of the current round (also, some lesson cards tell you to do something different from rules 1 and 2)
Each player starts with a hand of three pathway cards. There is an area in the middle with more pathway cards, as well as a lesson card for each round (two revealed at once) and a set of randomized achievement cards. A player scores points by connecting large areas of the same type (grass, soil, water) that have at least three tasks in them. Additionally, a player can earn points by finding a lost item (an icon on the card) and returning it to another location (a matching icon), building a scoring section with the special 7 point tile, and by completing achievements (which are about type and a number of tasks completed).
Each round, a new lesson card is revealed and new pathway cards are revealed and selected. After 10 lessons, players tally their scores and the player with the highest score becomes the next high priestess of Vadoran Gardens.
It looked like an adorable tile laying game – and it was! It was a little more complicated than I expected from the components.
Game Build Quality
The wooden meeples in this game are great! They are all unique, custom shapes with screen-printed designs. The colors of the meeples were also a little off from the standard colors, which was a welcome surprise. The cards were standard thickness and the printing high quality.
The art was really cute! It was easy to understand the iconography, and the different tasks on the cards all had fun details. The animals, statues, and flowers looked both familiar and slightly alien, which fit the theme well. I’m not particularly familiar with the world this game comes from, but the art style meshes well with the art I’ve seen from The City of Kings (though perhaps friendlier).
This game inspired a lot of hard thinking. There were enough good cards available and the hand size large enough that everyone was trying to optimize as much as possible and plan multiple steps ahead. The best moments of the game were when you could string together multiple complementary cards to snag an achievement!
Age Range & Weight
The age of 8+ feels correct for understanding the rules, but probably it would be a little young to be competitive. There was more AP than I thought there would be, but it made sense given that we had a decent amount of information about the constraints in the next round. There was a lot of optimization going on. I would guess that 12 would be the average age to be competitive.
Vadoran Gardens had the satisfaction you’re used to in tile laying games but also many facets for optimization, creating a very layered puzzle. It also was adorable! I’d recommend this game to fans of Carcassonne or Kingdomino who are looking for an increased challenge.
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