When I first caught a glimpse of the artwork and theme for Petrichor I knew this was a game for me. The idea of an area control game where you play as clouds moving around fields and raining on plants so they grow and give you points, was just too cute to pass up.
I invited my partner for a nice, easy, relaxing game of cloud pushing… How wrong I was!
If you were indeed hoping for a light, good-natured game, then think again. Petrichor is a deep yet accessible strategy and hand management game of cut-throat clouds on a thunderous quest for domination over nature, where players need to plan well, block their opponents and fight a battle of meteorological domination if they want to secure victory.
Through a combination of hand management, area/majority control, and voting, over four or six rounds, two to four players (five with the expansion) must utilise the four different phases of the game to win points, whoever has the most points at the end wins the game. There is also a solo variant in the box.
Art and Components
Designed by David Chircop and published by Mighty Boards and Advanced Primate Entertainment, Petrichor is indeed a visually stunning game, thanks to the work of Daniela Attard, with a unique and visually intriguing theme.
Each tile on the modular board contains a stunning picture of a crop plant. Players load up their cardboard baskets designed to look like clouds, and gorgeous glass beads to represent rain drops. A major part of the game is to get your rain drops out of the clouds and onto the crop tiles in order to gain control of the tile and win victory points.
Component quality in Petrichor is excellent, my only point of caution is that you need to take care when punching the pieces out, the irregular shapes of the cloud pieces led to a couple getting caught and the paper tearing off which was frustrating as it instantly damaged the aesthetic of the game, so take your time!
From the cards you are dealt at the beginning of the round you can do carry out these actions:
- Frost - Where you place a new cloud on the board with one of your rain drops in it, which adds to your ability to navigate and control the tiles.
- Sun - Where you add two new rain drops to one cloud you already have presence in, which could cause a cloud to become a thunder cloud or even burst and rain onto the crop below.
- Rain - You remove up to two of your rain drops and place them on the corresponding crop tiles, potentially allowing you to take control of a tile.
- Wind - You can move a cloud you are in to an adjacent tile which can be used both offensively and defensively to control areas or force clouds to rain.
The next part of your turn now comes into play with some medium and long-term strategy, you vote for a universal event that will affect everyone, or you can start moving things towards harvest. Only two weather types will happen during the weather phase based on the votes, this means you need to carefully think about how you influence what you want to happen next.
Here, the two most voted for weather actions trigger:
- Frost - All clouds become thunder clouds which means they will rain their drops onto the tiles if the rain action happens.
- Sun - Every player doubles the number of drops they have in a cloud which can lead to them bursting and players taking majority control of a tile.
- Wind - Move any one water drop to an adjacent tile, this can affect majority control.
- Rain - All thunder clouds dump their load onto the tile they are on.
This stage is very important, there is no point in just dumping all your rain drops on to a tile to take control, you need to time your moves and trigger the weather in an order that benefits you the most, then couple that with the triggering of the harvest phase to score maximum points.
Winning the voting during is vital to be in contention for victory. In fact, it can potentially add up to a game changing 36 points, so neglect the voting track at your peril.
You can gain points in different ways but the first one you will need to get to grips with is the harvest phase. But crops don’t just harvest themselves you know, you need to make it happen, and you’re not going to do that unless it benefits you.
What really appeals to me about Petrichor is that the players have some level of control over when scoring happens. Before you go ahead and attempt to trigger the harvest (scoring) phase you are going to want to get control of one or more of the crop tiles by having the majority share (usually) of the rain drops on the tile.
During the harvest phase, players look at each tile in turn to see if crops have sprouted or grown and if they have they get the number of points marked on the tile dependant on who has the most water drops present.
Final Thoughts on Petrichor
Petrichor struck the same chords with me as Photosynthesis, a visually stunning nature themed game that under its calming exterior hides a deep, multifaceted game.
It plays a bit heavier than Photosynthesis as there are more aspect to consider, to do well there's quite a bit to think about and as the battle heats up it's not always easy to get what you want. As a result, this probably isn’t a game for an new gamer.
This is even more true when adding the Flowers Expansion, which adds three new modules to the game including public and hidden special abilities which can easily sway the outcome of the game and increase the options for “take that” style tactics, adding yet another layer.
I found it easy to learn and to teach. When it is your turn there are only really a few options available, the game lies in how and when you choose to implement your actions and how you hope to influence the game by voting. I'd say that Petrichor is an accessible Medium weight game.
The rulebook is excellent. A lot of time and care has gone into it and it really shows in the speed you can learn a pretty deep game. However, I’m still finding I have to keep referring to the invaluable player aids. The reason being that the four actions of the action phase and the weather phase both have the same names: Frost, Sun, Wind, Rain, but have different outcomes and I find that confusing without the player aid on hand to remind me.
A criticism is, the game can be a little swingy. When that wheat tile, for example, is pocketing you 14 points a pop you will love it, when your opponent wins it three rounds in a row, you will start getting a little grumpy with it. It also means games will centre around a particular tile, so with all its options, there does not seem to be that many really viable strategies. If you are not in contention with the big point tiles and the voting track, you are going to lose.
The same with having all your best laid plans go to pot when your opponents' plays a well-timed card and destroys all your hard work. But that’s the game, if you don’t like take that elements in games this may be frustrating, particularly with the expansion.
Petrichor is definitely my sort of game: not too hard to learn due to a very clear rulebook and player aids, different every time you play due to the modular layout, visually stunning due to the brilliant artwork and components, quick to play due to the four round variant and relatively limited action selection and a thinky strategy due to the games multiple ways to win points and need to plan.
You might need a practice game to let the options sink in, then you are away!
Petrichor is a keeper for me.