How To Play: Verdant
No one wants to see a sorry, drooping houseplant. Whether it’s a spider plant, an amaryllis or a zebra haworthia, they all need watering and decent light. But steady on there, green fingers. You can’t chuck every old plant on the same windowsill and expect miracle growth. Plants can be fussy eaters, like children. You need the correct quota of sunlight to get a veritable amount of verdancy.
Enter Verdant: the open-drafting, card-placement, pattern-building game about houseplants from AEG and Flatout Games. Can you construct a house filled with plants and get the light settings right so the flowers can flourish? Grab your gloves and your watering can. Prepare to get fussy with how wide you adjust the curtains in that south-facing room. It’s time to learn how to play Verdant!
What’s The Goal? How Do I Win?
The aim in Verdant is to score the most points, once everyone has built their own home (a 5x3 grid) of cards. I’ll get onto the specifics of scoring later on, but it’s all calculated at the end of the game. You’re shooting for various kinds of set collection goals. You’ll achieve this by drafting plant cards and room cards, and placing them in specific patterns.
I’ll mention the following point now, because it isn’t apparent from the rulebook. Everyone is building a grid five cards wide, and three cards high. As a result, Verdant requires table space. More than you might expect! The cards are traditional ‘playing cards’ size. Not too big then, you might think… But woah, there! When sat together as a 5x3 grid, this is approximately 30x30cm. Then consider that you’ll need space in the middle of you all for the public market area. A modest, small square table will be a squeeze, but with that in mind, let’s get you set up and ready to play.
Let’s Get Set Up
Verdant comes with two decks of cards: Plant Cards, and Room Cards. Keep both decks separate, and shuffle each. Draw four Plant Cards into a row in the middle of the table. Then draw four Room Cards, so one sits beneath each of the Plant Cards. Leave both decks face-down next to each corresponding row.
There’s 45 Item Tokens, and 45 Nurture Tokens – all identical in size (square). Place them all in the gorgeous green drawstring bag and give them a good shake. Then draw four, placing one between each Plant and Room Card. Keep the bag nearby. This area is the Market.
Keep the large and small wooden Verdancy Tokens and the Green Thumb chits at easy reach, too. Depending on player count (Verdant plays 2-5 players, and includes a solo mode), you include a certain quota of bonus pot chits. These sit stacked nearby, too. Excess pots can go back in the box.
Give everyone a Player Aid Card, and a Storage Card. Then deal each player a card from the Plant and Room decks. Check each players’ Plant Card: who has the highest Verdancy requirement? (The number in the leaf in the top-right. If there's a tie, then it's by plant name, in alphabetical order!) This person will be the First Player. They start with zero Green Thumb chits. The player to their right (as in, the last player in clockwise order) gets two Green Thumbs; everyone else gets one Green Thumb. Now you’re ready to begin!
What Do These Cards Mean?
Before you start though, each player gets to decide how to position their two cards. Let’s break down the anatomy of the two types of cards, so you know what you’re looking at, and what’s important.
The Plant Cards have a banner in the top-left. It shows the family that plant belongs to, and a colour. The colour matches one of the five different room types. Think of these like five unique patterns of wallpaper! In the top-left of the Plant Cards are the Verdancy requirement, within the leaf. Under this value is a second number, inside a gold circle. This is the plant’s point value, if you can complete its Verdancy before the end of the game.
There are light symbols running along the top of the Plant Card, between the banner and the Verdancy. They’ll either be a Full Sun icon, Semi-Shade, or Full Shade. This is what kind of lighting this plant requires. Now if you check the Room Cards, you’ll see that on each of its four faces are one of those three Lighting Conditions.
There’s two goals you’ll want to address while playing Verdant. One is having Room Cards sitting orthogonal to Plant Cards. In an ideal scenario, you want to have Plants sitting next to Rooms that share the same wallpaper/plant type. Plus, you’ll want to have the Plant sitting next to an edge of the Room where the Lighting Condition matches the plant’s requirement. This is tricky to achieve 100% of the time, but that’s the crux of playing Verdant, and what makes it such a fun challenge!
With this in mind, everybody decides how best to position their starting Plant and Room Card. They have to sit next to one another (not diagonal). Sat your Plant next to your Room Card and the Lighting Condition meets (one of) that on the Plant? Give yourself one Verdancy Token and sit it on the Plant Card.
What To Do On Your Turn – Feed Me, Seymour!
Players take turns selecting a card from the Market, and adding it into their grid. You’re all building a 3x5 layout; considering you get two cards to begin with, that means Verdant lasts for 13 turns. Your grid is going to be like a chequerboard pattern; room-plant-room-plant-room, and so on. Among your 15 cards, then, seven of them will be of one type, and eight of the other.
On your turn, you pick one of the eight cards in the Market that you want to add to your grid. You can take any of the four Plants, or four Rooms, but you must also take the token that accompanies it. Then you place the card you took into your home. Remember the requirements, though:
● The chequerboard placement rule! No two Rooms/Plants can sit adjacent to one another, but the card you’re placing must sit adjacent – orthogonal – to another card.
● You cannot place outside of your 3x5 grid.
● You cannot re-orientate Room Cards when placing. The text on them must always be the same way up.
● Once placed, you cannot move cards later on. So place with consideration!
You don’t have to place Plants next to matching Room colours, or next to favourable Lighting Conditions. The only issue with this is that it’s a missed opportunity with regards to scoring. (I'll explain this later.) But hey: if you match the Lighting Conditions, you get to add a Verdancy token to the neighbouring plant. Later on in the game, you may place a card so it touches numerous others due to adjacencies. In such a case, check each card for matching Lighting Conditions. You might earn quite a few Verdancy Tokens this way!
Furniture, Pets and Nurture Tokens
What about those small, square Item Tokens, then? Next, you get to place one into your grid, or spend one. If it’s a Furniture or Pet Item, it will be on one of the five wallpaper colours. You’ll want to place one of these onto a square gap on a vacant Room Card in your grid. You want the colour to match, for scoring purposes, but it’s not essential if it doesn’t!
Nurture Tokens (with the green backgrounds) don’t sit in your grid. Instead, you can opt to spend one of them to feed your plants. The Fertiliser Bag lets you drop 3 Verdancy onto any one Plant Card. The Hand Trowel lets you add 1 Verdancy to three different Plants. With the Watering Can, you pick one Room Card; then, each Plant surrounding that Room gets 1 Verdancy.
What if you decide at this point in your turn that you don’t want to place a Token or spend the Nurture? You can sit it on your Item Storage Card to use on a later turn. Note that you can only have one Token sitting on here, though. Otherwise you have to discard the excess Token, and you don’t want to do that!
A Whole 'Potta' Love
Next, check your Plant Cards. Have you managed to complete any of their Verdancy requirements? If so, remove the Verdancy Tokens and reward yourself by taking the highest-value bonus pot available in the supply. If you’re too late and they’ve already all gone, take a terra cotta pot. It’s not worth any extra points, but shows you that you’ve completed that plant, at least.
The last thing you do on your turn is refill the market. There will be a gap in the eight cards, because you took one. Place a Green Thumb chit on the card opposite the one you picked. Then replace the empty space with a corresponding card type. Add a random Item Token from the bag. Now the next player can take their turn. If they take a card with Green Thumb chits on it, they also claim those Green Thumbs!
I’ve Got Green Thumbs! But, Err, How Do I Use Them?
So what are those Green Thumbs about, then? You can spend two Green Thumbs at the start of your turn to do one of four bonus actions. You can use them to reset any of the Item Tokens in the Market (in case they’re not what you’re hoping to take this turn). Or, you can remove and replace all cards in the Market that have no Green Thumbs on them right now. A third option is you can ignore the selection restriction – meaning you can take any card and any token. They don’t have to be in the same column! The final use of Green Thumbs is, instead, you can use them to add 1 Verdancy Token to any one of your plants.
You can spend as many Green Thumbs as you wish, per turn. Once spent, they go back into the general supply. Your Storage Card also states you can only hold onto five Green Thumbs (max) at the end of your turn. Use them or lose them!
Time To Add Up The Scores
So how do you score points? Once the final player in turn order has placed their fifteenth card, it’s time to add up scores. There’s a few categories to consider, but Verdant comes with a handy scorepad for this.
First, everyone adds up the total score of their completed Plant Cards. (Those whose Verdancy target you reached.) That’s the golden number, remember. Then you add up every Verdancy Token you have remaining on incomplete Plant Cards. Divide this number by two, rounding down. (So if you have, say, 9 Verdancy spread out across Plant Cards you didn’t finish, that would earn you 4 points.)
Then add up the value of your Bonus Pot Tokens. Each concrete pot is worth 3VP, the wooden ones are 2VP each, and the ceramic ones 1VP each. Terra cotta pots score zero.
Next it’s time to check your Room Card bonuses. Check every individual Room Card in your grid. Every Plant Card sitting adjacent to it that matches that colour/plant type scores 1VP each. (This means you can score the same Plant Card for multiple Rooms.) Have you got a Furniture/Pet Token in a Room that matches the wallpaper colour? Then each neighbouring, matching Plant Card is worth 2VP each, instead. It’s recommended that you score your Room Cards one at a time, in rows, left-to-right.
You also score increasing amounts of points for having unique Furniture/Pet Tokens in your house. There’s a whopping 25 points up for grabs if you can nab eight different ones! Plus, you’ll also get a bonus 3VP if you’ve collected all five types of Room Card. There’s another 3VP available if you got all five types of Plant Card. Add all that up, and most points wins! (In case of a tie, the player with the most Green Thumbs left wins.)
Other Verdant Variants To Try
There’s two other variants you can add in to make Verdant advanced, or more streamlined. The Advanced Setup includes adding three random Goal Cards. These are face-up and public, and everyone also competes for these.
The Family Variant makes things less complex so younger gamers can enjoy the fun, too! In this version, you don’t use Green Thumbs (nor their bonuses). Lighting Conditions aren’t in this version, either. Instead, you add Verdancy to Plant Cards via the Nurture Tokens. You play any one Nurture Token to complete any one Plant Card in one swoop. Plants score a standard 5VP per card, regardless of the actual score stated on the card. Everything else is the same, though!