Do you ever find the name of some games just won’t stick in your head? No matter how much you enjoy and play them you can’t help but call them something else? Well for me, this is one of them and I know what you’re thinking ‘I bet she calls it the tea dragon game’ Well you’d be wrong. Autumn Harvest somehow has prompted a latent childhood memory in me and I have to try my best not to call it Harvest Festival!
However Autumn Harvest has nothing to do with dodgy tins of kidney beans and home grown vegetables, but everything to do with some of the cutest tiny dragons you’ve ever seen and a cheeky bit of deck building to boot! A game for up to 4 players and a follow up to the tea dragon society card game that can be played as a standalone or as an expansion of the original.
I’d Like My Tea Strong With One Dragon Please
Autumn Harvest just like the tea dragon society is based on graphic novels by Katie O’Neill and features the same gorgeous artwork. Each player will have one starter deck featuring their dragon which will have a variety of cards in, some which are growth cards, these feature things like sleeping, feeding, entertaining and all the other things you would need to do to keep a tiny dragon happy. These growth cards will have a value in the top left corner written on a leaf, think of growth value as cash if you will as these will help you buy other cards to expand your deck. But keep your eyes peeled as some of these will also have a cheeky extra effect written at the bottom of the card. However within your starter deck there will also be some mischief cards, which don’t do anything other than hinder you, because hey, dragons can’t be good all the time!
One player will start with the mentor card which is worth one growth and must be passed to the player on your right when spent. Every player in Autumn Harvest will also get to start with one growth token – YAY!
Each turn you can either draw one card from your deck and place it in your hold ready for use or buy a card by spending growth cards from your hold along with any growth tokens you may have. Spent growth cards must be placed in your discard pile, which will inevitably be shuffled back into your draw pile when required. Initially when you first start Autumn Harvest you’ll probably need to draw for a round or two to be able to build up some cards in your hold to help you gather enough to spend.
Time To Take Your Dragon To The Market
In the centre of the table you’ll place four market cards, and the market card draw pile. These cards will have a cost in the top right hand corner featured on a little Mug. That’s how much these cards cost in growth to buy. These cards often have special abilities that let you earn point tokens, draw again or negate mischief cards etc. Often these cards do not have a growth value, so cannot be used to buy further cards but are useful when sat in your hold. Other cards may just be additional growth cards such as sleeping, these cards however do have a growth value for purchasing further cards. A select few of the market cards will also have a point value at the bottom. When purchased these go straight into your hold.
Also on the table you’ll have your Memory (or season) cards, obviously you couldn’t have a game called Autumn Harvest without seasons. This is where the big points hide and where the better effects often are, but also where the cost is higher. These are set up the same as the market but the seasons are much shorter and consist of fewer cards (I’m sure theres a metaphor for life in there somewhere!) You’ll work through the seasons starting with spring, how many people are playing autumn harvest will determine how many cards are used in each season. Unlike with the market cards any memory cards purchase will go straight into your discard pile which you will shuffle back into your deck. Once the penultimate card in each season has been purchased you will discard the final season card and move on to the next season, where the rewards get higher but so does the cost of the cards. Once the final winter card has been discarded its game over and time to tally the points.
As you’d expect with a deck builder there are lots of clever little mechanism’s to help you reach your goal of scoring points and lots of hefty point scoring cards that do nothing more than take up valuable space in your deck. Theres even a couple of cards that make you discard a season card, which could trigger an end to the current one or even the end of the game. There are of course choices to be made along the way. When is the right time to buy? Should you draw and risk turning over a mischief card? Which card should you buy?
Pocket Sized Happiness?
Autumn Harvest is a nifty little card game, some of it gives me dominion vibes but instead of building your empire, its pocket sized and you’re just trying to make a tiny dragon happy!
Inside the box as well as the rule book you also get like a little cartoon guide, I went to this first hoping it would be like a quick start guide but I didn’t find it much use as one. It’s cute as it contains the same illustrations as Autumn Harvest and no doubt great for fans of the book but in my opinion a little unnecessary especially given there are little guide cards also included. I also initially found it tough to distinguish the relevant memory cards from market cards. I think this is just a ‘me’ thing as the theme matches the beautifully elegant style of the illustrations and was just too subtle for me, I like something bolder to help me.
We have also had some arguments over rules as there are a few little niggly things not clarified. For instance if you have purchased multiple of the same item card from the market, should you carry out the action multiple times or just once. Also some of the winter cards awards points per remaining tokens at game end. The question of which tokens are included arises because if the point tokens are included, anyone who traded in five individual 1s for a single 5 token could be left at a disadvantage.
So how does it compare to the tea dragon society? Well here’s where I’m going to make an admission, ive never actually played the original! When I bought this I was unaware it could be used as an expansion and have purely enjoyed Autumn Harvest as a standalone game. Disappointingly this only seems to extend the tea dragon society by one extra player to five in total. Presumably the game just felt too sluggish if doubled to the full 8 players included with both and I think that’s one of the reasons I haven’t felt the need to buy the original, which probably says a lot. Although I haven’t been able to find a copy of the original to play, I have done some research on it.
New additions to Autumn Harvest include point tokens in the form of 5s and 1s, growth tokens worth one each and an additional rule regarding the mentor card. It also includes a replacement dragon card and growth card for each starter set in the original game, eight total cards, two for each dragon. These seem to bring the original dragons in line with the new ones in regards to being offered growth tokens which obviously didn’t feature in tea dragon society. Also if you hold the mentor card you must spend it when you make a purchase, I do like this as it could mean for you to bag that market item you have to pass the card on possibly giving your opponent a chance to also make a purchase they couldn’t previously afford.
I’m going to make a bold statement (given the fact I haven’t played the original) but I prefer Autumn Harvest. I really think the point and growth tokens add a bit extra into it, and I love that you must spend the mentor card, that alone could alter the course of the game. Once you’ve played it a few times, you’ll know where that sticky rules are and you can make your own decisions about house rules to fix what you need too. Autumn Harvest is a cute card game complete with adorable tiny dragons and a clever bit of deck building, what’s not to love.