Designed By: Mark Tuck
Art by: Mark Tuck
Published By: Melmac Games and Side Room Games
Released: On Kickstarter October 2021
Player Count: 1
Time to Play: 5-10 Minutes
Last year, I went over to my parents for dinner one night and my dad was like "I have a game you need to try." He pulls out this little box and tells me it is a game that only uses nine cards and is a solo game. It was called Orchard, and from the moment I played my first game I was hooked. Needless to say, I immediately went only and tracked down a copy. Since then this ultraportable game has been many places with me and is probably my most played solo game.
Now I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to review its sequel, Grove! Grove takes the foundations of Orchard and expands on them, adding new challenges. I may even like it better than the original!
How to Play:
To get started, shuffle the 18 cards and deal out 9. These will be the cards in play for this round. Decide if you are going to play with the challenge cards or just the standard mode. If playing with the challenge cards, select two cards from the 9 cards not in play and put them challenge side up. Put the remaining 7 cards back in the box. If not using the challenge cards, put the other cards aside to use for a second game after you finish the first one (trust me, you will want to play it again). Place the dice, wheelbarrow, and the squirrel off to the side.
Grove is a beat-your-own-score game, if playing the standard edition aim to get at least 40 points, though this is still low. The higher you score, the better your rank. You can see these in the rulebook. If you are playing the challenge mode, look at the two numbers shown on the top of the cards, total them and that is the score you are trying to beat. Gameplay will work the same for both modes.
You are now ready to play.
Flip over one of the cards from the pile, this will be your starting card. Then draw a hand of two cards. On a turn in Grove, you will take one of the cards from your hand and add it to your grove, overlapping at least one space. When overlapping trees they must be either a matching tree or a glade (empty space). Glades will not score points even if they have a die on them so use them wisely. If you overlap matching fruit trees, take the total number of fruit and put a die with that amount on top of the top tree. For example if you one tree had a lemon and the other tree had two lemons, your dice would be a 3. If you overlap that space again in the future, increase your die by however many fruits you are adding. If you ever go above a 6, your die becomes a 10. If you can increase it once more it will become a 15 (this can only happen to a single die during the game).
Once you have placed your card, draw a new card so you have two. If there are no cards available to draw, play your final card and the game is over.
Once per game, you can break the rule and place the wrong tree over a different type of tree, but doing so will get you a sneaky squirrel in your grove. Place the squirrel token on the error spot and you will lose one point for the squirrel, as well as one point for each die orthogonally adjacent to the squirrel.
Once you have placed your last card, it is time to tally your score. Count up all of the dice faces, subtract any squirrel points if applicable, and check your challenge cards if you used them. Whatever number you end with is your score. If you played the standard edition check how well you did on the score chart. So far, our max score is only a 49....but we will keep playing until it is better! If you played the challenge mode, see if you beat the total score on the two challenge cards!
What's purr-ty cool:
Grove takes all of the things we love about Orchard and adds some fun new twists. The game will feel familiar but still has its own unique features. We love the challenge cards. It was a great idea to make use of the back of cards to expand the game. It also provides a variant to the beat your own score option, since you now have a target score that could change depending on the challenge cards in play.
I appreciate that they are sticking with high-quality materials from the start. No stretch goals are needed for this campaign since it comes with plastic cards and custom dice right from the beginning! The tuck box is nice and thick and holds up well when brought on the go.
We also liked the squirrel element. It is challenging to decide if the squirrel is going to be worth more points than you will lose for playing it. It stops players from just covering up any old tree to get an extra point or two.
The glades provide neat new options for removing trees that are in your way but play them in poor spots and you will only wind up scoring a minimal amount of points since you covered all of your trees up!
The best part about Grove is its simplicity. 9 cards, 15 dice, two pieces, that is all that is needed to play the basic game. It takes up remarkably little table space, making it a great game to bring with you on the go. It's super easy to learn or teach, but the challenge is still there when it comes to being successful at scoring. It is just the right amount thinky for the kind of game it is.
While inherently a solo game, if you have multiple copies of Grove, you can actually play against others. Each card is numbered so have one play set the game up like normal and have all other player's put their cards in number order. When a card is drawn from the main player's stack, all other players pull out the matching card in their stack and play that one.
If you loved the original, Grove is going to wow you. If you haven't played Orchard, but like quick, simple yet challenging, small box games, you are sure to enjoy Grove!
Grove is currently live on Kickstarter. You can find out more information or back it here!
The cat's meow:
"The card's being slippery are great for hitting dice around. They slide like me through my cat tunnel. Also if you do badly, call me I'll whack the dice off of the cards for you and you can blame the cat for your loss instead of your poor planning skills!" - Pudgy Cat
Disclosure: Pudgy Cat Games was provided a copy of this game in exchange for a review, however, this review reflects the honest thoughts of the author.