Village Green is a new release by Designer Peer Sylvester (The Lost Expedition and Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth). Players take on the roles of rival gardeners. These rivals are in charge of the preparations for the Village Green of the Year competition. They must arrange flowers, plant trees, build ponds and structures. Meanwhile, they'll need to maintain their lawns to impress the judges and bring the award back to their village. So, is this a relaxing walk through the village or a cut-throat competition? Let’s find out!
Building a Village
Published by Osprey Games (Undaunted, Cryptid, High Society and Odin’s Ravens), Village Green is a small-box game for 1-5 players. Setup is quick and simple. At the start of the game, each player receives a village card and three award cards, which they place face-up to the right of their village card. They also receive a hand of three green cards, which they keep hidden.
The game is simple and quick to teach to new players. On each turn, players will either draw and play a green card or an award card. So, the rules are very simple, but the core of the game lies in the placement of these two different types of cards.
Every village will be made up of a 4x4 grid of cards. Award cards are placed in the top row or leftmost column of the village. Although award cards must always be placed, they can sit on top of other award cards. Green cards are placed in the remaining nine spaces and they can only be played if they match adjacent green cards in flower type or colour (symbols in the top left corner of green cards). So, a red rose could be placed adjacent to a red lily and/or a purple rose, for example. Certain green cards have their own abilities, such as structures and lawns, as well as scoring potential.
Winning the Village Green Competition
At the end of the game, players score each award card in their village according to the green cards in that row or column. The awards might score points based on the number of structures, types of trees or number of flowers, for example. Ponds give an automatic two points, and the village card gives one point if it is still face up at the end of the game (players can also choose to flip their village card once per game for a special action).
The placement of the award cards and green cards makes for quite a puzzle. For the award cards, you need to decide when and whether one is worth playing, based on the green cards already in place, and also when it might be worth changing an award card completely and covering it with something different. The green cards are even trickier to place. You need them in the rows or columns that will score points, but you are obviously restricted by the placement rules. The puzzle is enjoyable, but also quite frustrating. It might lead to analysis paralysis! This is not ideal in a game that should be quick to play. There is also an element of luck in both the green and award cards drawn, which might put off some people.
Players are so focused on perfecting their own village green, there is very little interaction between players. Even if players were keeping a close eye on the other villages, it would probably not be worth them taking a card purely to disrupt an opponent, because it would hinder their score too much. A player taking a card that someone else wants is therefore more likely to happen by accident! Because the game is quite individual, it does make a nice solo game. There are only a couple of small rule changes and, again, it is very quick to play through.
Village Green has simple rules and plays very quickly. Despite this, there is plenty to think about in the placement of the cards, so it should satisfy both new and experienced gamers. It has beautiful artwork, which also adds to its appeal, and the theme is certainly a popular one.
However, the rulebook could possibly have clarified some of the award cards and been a little clearer in places. My major grumble is with the yellow flowers. The three flower types are hard to make out in this colour. We found ourselves looking at the symbols behind the yellow flowers to work out which type they were.
There is no shortage of small-box games on the market, but I would recommend giving Village Green a try if you like quick-to-play puzzle games.