A review by
- 2-5 Players
- 15 Minutes
- 6+ Age
Samurai Gardener is an interesting concept. You are a Samurai “a member of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan”. Your Lord has built a grand home near the capital Edo, where they spend most of their time. So you do the only thing any self respecting warrior can do. You decide to make an impressive garden to bring honour to your master.
Hako ni? Inside your copy of Samurai Gardener you will find. 64 Garden cards. 20 Feature cards (4 per player). 5 Score markers. Score board. 5 Scoring reference aides.
To play a game of Samurai Gardener. Each player will place in front of them their set of Feature cards. These consist of Garden, Tatami, Path and Pond. The deck of Garden cards are shuffled and placed face down. One card is then turned up in front of each player. This is the start of your garden. A number of cards are turned over equal to the number of players. Players simultaneously call out “Ei, Ei, Oh” and on “Oh” they slap their hand down onto the card they want. Whoever gets their hand onto a card gets that card (only 1 card per player). They can then be Zen like and add it to their tableau trying to create their ultimate garden.
While placing your Garden tiles in samurai Gardener. It is most important to consider the aesthetic pattern that will most please the forefathers. Otherwise know as “You need to make a row of 3, 4, 5 or 6” for which you will score points. You will get bonus points for multiple scoring rows. The kicker is that when you score a particular design (Garden, Tatami, Path or Pond) you turn over your feature card. This means you cannot score again while it remains flipped. When all four feature cards are flipped then you will unflip them to allow you to score them again. This leads to tactical planning over how you place your tiles to maximise your score. The first player to reach 25 points wins.
The theme in Samurai gardener is spot on for what your trying to achieve. It feels very authentic to what is commonly culturally considered to be feudal Japan. You could easily have just had patterns or some other symbols but the idea of Japanese gardens just feels right. The artwork is very pleasing as well.
I really wanted to like Samurai gardener. The problem I had was that it felt at odds with itself. The whole fastest hand gets the card. Was very much at odds with the Zen like placing your card. Very much “hurry up and wait” I also struggled with the idea of a Samurai being a gardener. This is probably due to being fed a westernised view of samurai. After a little research I discovered that originally it meant “those who serve in close attendance to the nobility”. This makes the theme much more authentic. I question how many will look into it and how many will dismiss it as just a bit odd.
Thankfully there was included an optional rule set which allows for drafting of the garden tiles instead of the hand slap method. This makes the whole game a much nicer and gentler feel. I really think this should have been the other way round. In the end though while I enjoyed samurai gardener in the short term I cannot see it having long term appeal and think it might start to feel a little “samey” I will let you be the judge as It is not a bad game and it is definitely worth a few plays.
- 2-5 players.
- Easy to learn.
- Easy to teach.
- Short play time.
- Alternate rule-set.
- Can become a little samey.
- questionable long term appeal.
- Too light for some.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of Samurai Gardener in order to write my review. This in no way affected the review above.