WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: 1-7
Published by: Starling Games
From the makers of Everdell... is that enough? I imagine that this is reason enough for many to just go and buy this game. Everdell was such a huge hit! But Flourish is a very different game. It has a familiar feel to Everdell. The sense of nature and the beautiful art seen in Everdell still shines through in Flourish. Flourish is much simpler and lighter and plays in half the time. But it is still about creating a tableau of cards to maximise your score. Let's take a look.
Flourish is a drafting and set-collection game. It feels surprisingly quick and light when you first play. Understanding the interactions the cards have with each other is crucial to scoring well. This will take a few games. But the rules are very light and you will up and away within minutes.
To set-up, place a cardboard fence piece between each player. Give each player a scoreboard, and deal six shuffled cards to each player. The game then starts simultaneously with players drafting one card from their hand to keep and two to pass. In round one, they will keep three cards in all. There are four rounds in total leaving players with 12 cards to score from at the end of the game.
When you pass a card, you must chose one to give to the player to your right, and one to give to the player on your left. Placing them either side of the fence next to you. In a two-player game you gave two cards to the other player. You will then pick up the two cards given to you, and take one more card from the deck to draw back to a hand of six. You will repeat this two more times then score the three cards you picked that round.
The cards have symbols on the top which are used for mid game scoring at the end of each round. And symbols on the bottom which are used for end game scoring. The cards will reward you with points for certain symbols you have collected in your garden and also symbols in your neighbors area.
The final round is played a little more simply where players chose three cards from their hand of five before they draw from the deck; and place them down on the table without a final drafting round. No matter if it is a one or seven player game, as all players are playing at the same time, a game of Flourish will be over within 20 minutes even on your first few games. It is a simple process of looking at six cards and choosing the one you want to keep and the two you are happy to pass to your neighbors.
The game has a clever opportunity to be played either competitively, or in a cooperative manner with no rule changes whatsoever. At the end of the game, in a competitive game, the player with the highest score wins. In a co-op game, the players adds their accumulative score and check to see which medal they achieved against the score sheet in the rule book. Both experiences offer a good option, and the choice really just depends on your own personal preferences.
All this is enough for me. When I am looking for a quick, light card game, that plays well in any player count, but still offers an interesting scoring mechanism with some engaging strategic choices, Flourish delivers. But perhaps due to the nature of this being a Kickstarter or because of the simple nature of the game, the designers have created a vast number of rule variants and expansions that can be added, all included within the base box. Let's take a look at them all.
Garden Show Variant.
During set-up, give each player three randomly assigned ribbons which are placed face up for all to see. If there are any duplicates, redistribute until all players have unique ribbons. The game then works as usual, except you will be required to play three consecutive games. All possible in under an hour.
At the end of each of the three games, players will see if they managed to attain the goals on any of their ribbons by having the most of the symbol shown on it. If so, you will flip the ribbon over and add seven points to your total. If not, you can try and do so in one of the following games.
This is a great and simple addition to make this game longer if that is what you want. I usually play the base game at least twice each time anyway, so this is simply a structured way to do this. But the ribbons are a simple add on with no extra rules that add a focus to each players game. Its a nice way to give newer players something to focus on when perhaps they may be overwhelmed by the choices.
The Compost variant is designed mainly to allow players to cycle through more cards in the deck. One minor complaint seen in Everdell and interestingly fixed in Flourish. It adds one simple rule tweak where after choosing one card to keep and two cards to pass, you can then discard one card and draw two, instead of just drawing one if you wish.
This is a good option to give players the chance to see more cards and get a higher score by having more choices, but perhaps not ideal for game one when the choice may overwhelm new players. This will slow the game down a little but only by a few minutes each game. It doesn't seem overly necessary but it is a nice simple addition you can bring in if you so desire.
The friends expansion utilises the deck of friend cards, where two are dealt at random to each player during set-up. In a co-op game they are placed face up, otherwise keep them secret. At the end of the game, players will score one of their cards based on which ever one has gained them the most points. They are all thematically linked where the butterfly wants more purple flowers,and the earthworm wants more fungi.
This adds a nice target and goal for the players to aim for, similar to the ribbons, with no extra rules or time added to the game. The difference with the ribbons being that the players will get the points for the friends no mater what other players do, as long as they have one matching symbol. Whereas the Ribbons are about having the most of a particular symbol and so a more competitive option.
A folly is a building or structure designed for decoration not purpose. A whimsy. Right up my street!
During set-up each player is given one each of the five different follies. They look great, and add some real table presence to the game but ultimately are just an extra symbol that you can add to a card at the end of the round. They can only be placed on one of the three cards placed that round and that share at least one of the same symbols as that of the folly.
In a more interesting rule change, with this expansion, for the final round, players can place the three final cards on either row. They no longer have to make up a fourth a separate row of their own.
At the end of the game, each placed Folly is worth two points for each symbol matching its symbol on the card it was placed on and each card adjacent. Any unplaced Folly will loose you five points.
This is my favorite addition as it changes the game the most. I like the extra challenge to work vertically, not just in the rows per round. Looking to place cards adjacent to the folly adds a new dimension to the game that I think elevates this to a new level.
Flourish is a beautiful game and will sell bucket loads for the art and theme alone. But it's also a very good set-collection game in its own right. The options available in the box are a nice option. You can add them all in, or just the ones you like. They work in a modular fashion and give you the chance to fashion Flourish to be played exactly as you wish.
The options with the competitive or co-operative game mode are a nice addition and make Flourish an ideal game for many collections. This game will work with most scenarios and with most players. There is a way to play it to suit most gaming groups, and when you do play, I would wager than most players will enjoy themselves. The theme and art certainly sell this to me. But the game play and simple strategic choices will keep me bringing Flourish back to the table.