I love my garden, the flowers, bushes, manicured paths, the beautiful lawn. However, my neighbours also love their gardens and I worry that they love their gardens just a little bit more. In a perfect world, I could pass to them my plants and walls that just don’t work in my garden and gratefully receive their unwanted flowers and statues that might just make all the difference. In Flourish (by Starling Games) this becomes reality in a very clever and unique drafting game for 1 to 7 players from James A Wilson (creator of Everdell) and his wife Clarissa A Wilson.
In the basic version of Flourish, you place a garden wall in-between all players and shuffle the deck of cards. 6 cards are dealt with all players from which everyone must pass 1 card to the player on their left, 1 to the player on their right and place 1 in their garden (a 3 by 4 grid). The cards passed to your neighbours are placed on their side of the wall and your card is placed at the next available slot of your grid. All cards are placed face down and then everyone reveals the cards placed in their gardens.
You then collect the 2 cards placed on your side of the garden walls and 1 more from the deck bringing your total back up to 6. You repeat this process twice before the first scoring phase activates. Then play two more rounds exactly the same, with another scoring phase for each, before a final round in which you do not take another card from the deck and instead place 3 final cards in your garden out of a choice of the 5 in your hand. Final scoring for that round is then calculated and then any cards with the end of game scoring are added.
I Love This Game
Each card offers clever ways of scoring not only from your own garden, but some cards also score from your neighbours on either side of you. This leads to some crafty drafting as you deliberately pass cards to your neighbours knowing it will score big for you by the end of the game. Cards can score for the round in which they are played, at the end of the game or both. Games are quick with everyone involved at the same time so there is no downtime. The box says 20 minutes duration and I would say that is right on the money. However, this game never comes out for only 1 play as we normally just shuffle the cards and go again.
The Component Quality
The artwork in Flourish is beautiful (art by April Borchelt, Naomi Robinson, Christina Qi and Dann May) and the iconography is very easy to teach and remember. The component quality is exceptional but maybe slightly over the top for what is essentially a very clever limited information drafting card game. This brings me to one other slightly negative point which is content. I very rarely say this but there is too much in this game. The game caters for 1 to 7 players but in reality, the game really sings for 3 to 7 players.
You can play the game cooperatively, but I didn’t find that half as much fun as the competitive mode. There is a Garden Show Variant (played over 3 games with special end of game achievements up for grabs) and a Compost variant (a way of digging through the deck). Finally, there are two expansions including Friends and Follies. The friend’s expansions provide a secret scoring card to help you focus on certain areas of your garden, whilst the Follies expansion seems to do not much more than provide a lot of cardboard pieces and some scoring opportunities. You could just play the game with the deck of cards which would keep the costs down, however, the game does offer something for everyone.
I always judge a game by how many plays it gets and this is where the game scores high. The replayability is so high because each card is unique. I have played Flourish over 100 times with my family, and we all love it. The box says ages 8 and up but I would suggest players over the age of 10 would be better suited.