1-4 Players, 45-60 minutes, Age 8+

Who is Uwe Rosenberg?
Uwe Rosenberg is a name synonymous with pattern building, thinking, puzzle element style games. Some of the most notable games he has produced in recent years include, Agricola (2007), Le Havre (2008), Caverna (2013), Glass Road (2013), Patchwork (2014) and most recently Feast for Odin (2016). in fact he is so prolific that he has to date designed approximately 60 games in the past 25 years. As well as contributing to other notable designers works such as Viticulture (Stonemaeir Games). So even if his name is not immediately familiar (shock gasp) there is an extremely good chance you have played one if not several of his games.

What is Cottage Garden?
The main concept behind Cottage Garden is deceptively simple. You are a gardener working on creating the most beautiful flower beds while your rivals do the same. Whenever you complete a flower bed you get paid (score points) and start on your next magnum opus. Unlike real life even the soporific sedated cats can be your best friends. Choosing to sleep taking up those difficult to fill spaces. As opposed to the real life version who dig up the garden to poop everywhere.

What’s in the box?
1 Nursery Game Board
36 Flower Tiles (polyominoes:- think Tetris shapes)
9 Flowerbeds all double-sided light and dark
1 Large Green Gardener (die)
1 Parasol Token
30 Cat Tokens
16 Flowerpot Tokens
2 Beehive Tokens
4 Planting Tables (score tracks)
1 Wheelbarrow
1 Rule book
12 Orange scoring Cubes
12 Blue Scoring Cubes

So, Multiplayer Patchwork then?
Despite the obvious similarities between Patchwork and Cottage Garden with both using poly…Tetris like shapes and you needing to fit them together on what is effectively a square grid. That is more or less where the similarities end. Uwe’s latest offers you no time penalties, you can freely “miss” a go to obtain a sometimes valuable sleeping cat And who doesn’t love the idea of a 3D cardboard wheelbarrow.

Do I have to get my hands dirty?
Play throughout this game is easy to learn and easy to follow. You have two flowerbeds in front of you and on your turn you take the following straightforward actions.

– If the row of the main “Nursery board” containing the “Gardener die” has 3 or 4 empty spaces you refill that row with the planets from the “Plant Queue” using the wheelbarrow to follow the correct order.
– Choose a piece from the full/ almost full row and plant it in one of your flowerbeds (there is no saving it till later).
If there is no suitable piece OR you just don’t fancy any of the shapes you are free to do the following instead
– Take and place a flowerpot which takes up one square of your flowerbed.
– If you complete a flowerbed you immediately score it and replace it with a new flowerbed from the communal pile.
– You may at any point use one of your cats to fill up a single space which can be very useful but will not score you any points.
Obviously tile placement is going to be restricted somewhat and the rules are very straightforward on this. No overhanging pieces and no putting tiles on top of another piece.
– Move the Gardener (big green die) along the track and if he reaches the turn marker you rotate him up a number. He effectively doubles as the game timer or turn marker.

Okay that sounds easy enough.
Do not allow yourself to be fooled. The simplistic gameplay hides a nice amount of strategy and can require quite a bit of forward planning. The flowerbeds are not just blank areas to fill there are randomly placed flowerpots and Plant Covers (think Cloches) printed on them. Requiring you to think much more carefully about the placement of your flowers. These can count as filled spaces and will both score you very valuable points so you will definitely try not to cover too many of them. Cats can be handy gap fillers but do not score any points.
That brings you onto the scoring. Which in this reviewers opinion is a stroke of genius. You will find you have six (yes 6) scoring cubes. Three in orange representing your flowerpot scores and three in blue relating to your plant covers. When you score a bed you move the score cubes along your track BUT you can only choose one cube to move in relation to the Flowerpots (orange) and Plant Covers (blue). If the cube reaches the end of the track before all points are added tough luck you lose the rest of the points. Considering though that the score track jumps from 15 (14 blue) to 20 on the last space this can sometimes be worth while. Additionally mid way along the score track there are some mice and a red line. Each cube that passes this earns you a cat token which you can choose to use straight away or save till later you can however only store two at one time.
Just when you think you have a handle on all of this once the last round is triggered, your sole aim is to complete your remaining Flowerbeds. You will start to lose points for every turn you make. This in turns makes every decision critical. At the end of this phase the player with the most points wins the game and ultimate gardener bragging rights.

Shh here is a secret.
Cottage Garden is about clever tile placement, looking ahead for future moves and thinking about your opponents possible plans. That is not all however. You will also need to plan for the final round. You do not want to have to lose too many points while you complete that final Flowerbed. This brings in the whole subset strategy of score management. Getting those helpful cats but at the same time getting into the Target Zone and the points boost that will give you.

The Summery
You will here lots of people comparing this game to Patchwork. This is very unfair Cottage Garden is a puzzle about shape placement, whereas Patchwork was more “button economic management”. Despite the simple gameplay mechanism this is a game that is very think-y. This can lead to some analysis paralysis while a player tries to work out their optimum move. For once I am going to say a bit of AP is okay though. Here we have a game that much like flowers in a garden should not be rushed but time taken to think, sit back and enjoy. In matter of fact sitting back will allow you to admire the gorgeous artwork that adorns the whole game thanks to the amazing talents of Andrea Boekhoff. Oh and did I mention it has a 3D Wheelbarrow?

The Summary
I really like Uwe Rosenberg’s style of games and this is no exception. What this does mean however is that player interaction is next to none and the game can feel a bit “multiplayer solitaire” but the cleverness of the scoring and the look of the game more than make up for it. It is going to suffer from unfair comparison to Patchwork. So is there room for both of these games on the shelf? Simple answer is yes and no. If you predominately play two player games then you will be fine with Cottage Garden or Patchwork. If however you have 3-4 players available as often then both should have a space on the shelf. This is a game that will play as well with both family play and boardgames group equally

The Good
Beautiful artwork
Clever theme
Great solo gameplay
Brilliant scoring mechanism
Good production Quality
3D Wheelbarrow

The Bad
Minimal player interaction
Can feel like multiplayer solitaire
Will be compared to Patchwork.

Engagement 3/5
Re-playability 3/5
Component Quality 4/5
Player Interaction 1/5
Total Score 75%

Authors 2021 Edit: No ratings have been updated As I feel it is better to let the review sit as it was written in 2017. I no longer rate games (out of any number or percentage) preferring now to recommend or not to different groups of players.