Not the trees!!!
- Easy to learn.
- Attractive cards.
- Interesting scoring system.
- It can get a little personal.
- Theme can be a turn off.
Arboretum looks like a game you’d play with your grandma. You’ve got these pretty cards featuring a dozen different types of colorful trees, with each set numbered from one to eight. Who can make the prettiest and most score-efficient arboretum? Such a peaceful little game right? Nah. Arboretum is a tense game subtly focused on screwing over your grandma and anyone else who thinks they’re going to score a single point for their intricately planned tree pathways.
On your turn, you’ll draw two cards from the draw deck, the top of anyone’s discard pile, or a mix of both. You play one card from your hand into your arboretum and discard another. It’s that simple, that fast, and that easy. Well, except when you start to considering two things: Scoring paths in your arboretum and earning the right to score those paths.
At game’s end, players will have the chance to win the right to score paths for different trees in their arboretum. The official scorer will run down the list of trees and, one by one, scores for each are tallied. Let’s use magnolias in this example. The scorer calls out magnolias and everyone at the table reveals all the magnolia cards still in their hand (of seven total cards). Add up the score in the top corner of the cards, with a one turning an opponent’s eight (the highest number) into a zero. Just ‘cause. Whoever has the highest total from their hand earns the right to score from their arboretum. Everyone else is screwed. Even someone who might have had a really potent path of magnolias. Tough luck, Chuck!
A path must start with magnolias and every step along the path must increase in number. The path has to end with a magnolia also. So, you might start with Magnolia 1 that goes to Oak 2 then Oak 5 and ends with Magnolia 6. Each card on the path is worth one point. You get a bonus point if it starts with a 1 and two points for ending with an 8. The real magic path is one that has at least four cards, all magnolias. You then get two points per card, plus the bonuses if it starts with a 1 and/or ends with an 8. So a path that is Magnolia 1-Magnolia 4-Magnolia 6-Magnolia 8 is worth 11 points. Of course, you better hope you have magnolia cards in hand at games end with a point total higher than your opponent or you aren’t even scoring those 11 points.
And that’s the real beauty of Arboretum. You’re trying to create high-scoring paths by playing cards, but you also need to keep cards in your hand to earn the right to score. And you also want to have cards so you can prevent other players from scoring.
In this way, Arboretum is a surprisingly aggressive game. Players won’t discard a card that might help the person next to them. Or will snatch up a card someone else needs just to screw them over. Don’t let the cover and theme fool you – this is one of the more back-stabby games of 2015. And just a great card game in its own right.
Arboretum is definitely a winner.