Garden Dice

Garden Dice

From: Meridae Games

Reviewed by: Marty Connell

While the mere mention of the Facebook game Farmville causes most gamers to roll their eyes and grimace, Doug Bass has created a game entitled Garden Dice that shed any negative feelings towards gardening games.

From the rulebook: In Garden Dice, you are gardeners toiling to coax the best crops from a  shared plot of land. You’ll take turns rolling dice and using them to perform actions such as buying, planting, and watering seeds; harvesting vegetables and moving hungry critters to gobble up your opponents’ hard work. When there are no seeds left in the supply, you’ll compare the fruits (well, vegetables) of your labors to see who’s got the bumper crop!

The heart of this game is around buying seeds, planting them, watering them and harvesting them for points. The game board consists of 36 squares (6×6) that are used to plant seeds. All the players share the same garden and thus are vying for space to plant their seeds and harvest their vegetables. However, there are six spaces on the board that have very rich soil and produce bonus points when vegetables are harvested from those locations. As such those are the spots everyone is working towards. In addition, each player has 9 wooden discs in their player color and these are used to mark their tiles so management of the seed and crops is very important.

At the start of your turn, roll all four dice to form your dice pool. You then can spend one or more of your dice to perform one of several possible actions. Spent dice are put aside and the remaining dice are used to repeat the process. This continues until you are unable to perform an action. At that time, the next player takes the 4 dice and begins his turn.

The following are the available actions during a player’s turn:

  • Buy a seed tile – Spend one die to buy one seed from the stacks with a point value equal to or less than the number on the die. Place the tile in front of you and put one of your wooden discs on the tile.

  • Place a tile – Spend two dice to place one of your special tiles (sundial/scarecrow, bird/rabbit) or a purchased seed tile. Use the numbers on the dice as coordinates (one die for the row and the other for the column).

  • Water a seed – Spend one die to water one of your own seed tiles that is equal to or less than the value of the die. When this is done, flip the seed tile over to the vegetable side.

  • Harvest a Veggie – Spend one die to harvest a veggie that is equal to or lesser than the value of the die. Remove the veggie tile from the board, put the tile in front of you, score the number of points it us worth and put your player disc back into your pool.

  • Flip a special tile – Spend one die with the result of six to flip one of your special tiles from one side to the other.

  • Move a critter – Spend one die to move your own critter in a straight line a number of spaces equal to or less than the value on the die. Birds can move onto opponents’ seeds and eat the seed or a rabbit can move onto an opponent’s veggie and eat the veggie. The only exception to this is that a rabbit can not eat a veggie if that veggie is adjacent to that same opponent’s scarecrow. When eating the seed/veggie you can remove the tile from the game or spend a die of equal or greater value of the eaten tile and take the seed tile for yourself.

  • Remove a critter- Spend three dice to remove a critter from the board. Two of the dice must correspond to the coordinates of the critter and the third die must be a six.

As mentioned earlier, placement of tiles is very important not only in bonus scoring but for chain effects that can occur during watering and harvesting. If a seed is watered or veggie is harvested and adjacent to that tile is a lower point tile, that tile gets the benefit of being watered or harvested as well. For example, if a 4-point tile is beside a 3-point tile and that is beside a 2-point tile, when the 4-point tile is watered, so is the 3 and then so is the 2. Thus, strategically placing lower point tiles besides higher ones can save you having to spend turns to water them. This even occurs when you are adjacent to an opponent’s tile!

The special tiles add some flavor to the game. The birds and rabbits can be used to attack opponents’ tiles which is a good way to try and keep them from scoring points. The sundial is very useful when it is in play. Each time you want to use two dice as coordinates you can either add/subtract 1 or 2 from one die or add/subtract 1 from two dice. This helps reduce the luck of the dice when wanting to place tiles in certain areas. In addition, each player has a sun token that can be used once during a game to re-roll all four dice on his/her turn.

The game is over when the last remaining seed tile is taken from the last supply stack.  Scoring is then performed as follows:

  • Deduct 5 points for each purchased seed tile not planted

  • Gain 15 points  for each complete set of the 5 veggie types

  • Earn points  from collecting like tiles. 3 of the same types of veggies is worth 10 points, 4 of the same is 15 points and 5 of the same is 20 points.

  • Gain 5 points for an unused sun token.

From the website: Garden Dice uses simple rules but delivers an unexpected element of strategy. Clever dice usage and tile placement are rewarded and the game features opportunities for symbiotic play. Even seasoned gamers will find something new in Garden Dice.

At first glance, Garden Dice looks very light-hearted. Roll dice, buy some tiles, place some tiles then take them off the board. However, the game is deeper than that. Placement of tiles on the board is critical when considering bonus scores and chain effects. The type of seed you buy is critical at the end of of the game as you are trying to make complete sets or make large collections of certain plants. Thanks to the rabbit and bird, there is a cutthroat aspect to the game that may appeal to more serious gamers. The drawback to the game for experienced gamers may be the luck of the dice themselves. However, the use of the sundial can help eliminate some of the chance aspect of the game.

For more casual gamers and kids, this is a really good game. The theme comes across very well as it never feels like you are just placing tiles but it does feel like you are buying seeds, planting them, and harvesting the vegetables As a result, the one with the best crop at the end is going to win. Another variant of the game for kids is to remove the bird/rabbit tiles from the game. This will remove the cutthoat aspect of the game that might frustrate kids or casual gamers alike.

So whether you have a real-life green thumb or not, take a chance on developing your boardgame green thumb and plant Garden Dice in the middle of your gaming table.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Garden Dice

From: Meridae Games

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Doug Bass

Graphic Design by: Kalissa Fitzgerald

Number of Pages: Rulebook: 8

Game Components Included: Game board, 50 seed/veggie tiles, 4 Bird/Rabbit tiles, 4 sundial/scarecrow tiles, 4 player aids, 4 dice, 36 wooden discs, 4 sun tokens, 2 rock tiles, Rulebook

Retail Price: $ 39.99 (US)

Number of Players: 2 to 4

Player Ages: 10+

Play Time: 60 min


Reviewed by: Marty Connell