With the current week's heatwave giving us a final taste of the warm weather we'll be missing over the coming months, it's time to start thinking about retreating indoors. But the arrival of autumn is not all bad news. This is the time for cosy jumpers, watching the leaves turn and drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream while wrapped up in a nice warm blanket. And there are some lovely board games that capture the best bits of autumn too. Here, a few of the Zatu blogging crew take a look at some of their favourites.
Despite having summer in the name of the game, this is definitely a game all about autumn. This game is part two of Uwe Rosenberg’s tile-laying trilogy of games. The aim of the game is to try and cover as much of your forest floor with crunchy orange and brown leaves as you can. You will also be foraging around trying to find little treasures of the forest to use as one-time bonuses to try and have the best possible forest floor. Yeah, I’m not sure how that works thematically, but it is compelling!
Each of the leaf tiles also has a hole punched in it. If you manage to arrange your tile so that the hole is positioned over one of the foraging treasures, you get to place a treasure token over the hole. The forest floor is split up into six areas. Once you’ve fully filled in an area you get to harvest all of these goodies to your backpack. You can now use these tokens to do a variety of things from getting a few extra tiles to choose from or being able to play two tiles a turn.
If you’re very clever about how you play, you can even start bringing various beasties and creatures to your little corner of the forest floor. If you manage to arrange the holes on your leaf tiles in such a way that the shape of the holes matches the shapes of one of the animal tiles, then you can place that on your board as well. This comes with the added bonus that any treasures that you cover can be claimed again!
The game ends when somebody manages to cover the whole of their board with leaf tiles. I really like how this game can evoke the feel of autumn from the lovely colours on the artwork of the tiles. It’s definitely one to play with a nice warm drink on a cold evening.
When I think of autumn, one thing which springs to mind is the increased chance of a wet, windy day. Perfect for playing board games but not so good for a walk!
So, what better game to play in autumn than a game all about rain - Petrichor. There are elements of both area majority and hand management in Petrichor. The base idea of the game is that you are rain clouds. You want to rain your coloured droplets onto tiles depicting various crops. When enough rain has fallen, the crops will grow and are ready to be harvested. Then, when the harvest comes, players will gain points dependent on the number of their raindrops on the crop and the type of crop to be harvested.
In order to create rain clouds, fill them with water droplets, and rain those droplets onto the crops, you have to play cards from your hand. Each card is linked to one of four types of weather - frost, sun, wind and rain. Cards are used both for their immediate effect and to vote on the weather effects they want to happen at the end of the round. These effects are different to those when the card is played immediately. They are equally as important, however, as some crops need certain weather conditions to grow.
As well as getting points from crops, players can also gain points by having the most votes on the type of weather at the end of the round. This creates an interesting balance throughout the game between placing your water droplets in the right places and making sure you aren't giving points away on the voting board.
Petrichor is a great game with an interesting theme and definitely better than a walk in the rain!
Never before, and never again will the soothing pastime of cultivating an Arboretum be so brain-bendingly agonising. Or even potentially so wilfully spiteful. Your turn could not be simpler: draw 2 cards, each depicting one of the 10 suits of beautifully illustrated trees. Then choose one card from your hand to play and a second to put into your individual discard pile. How easy is that? Well, while the process is simple, the decision space is massive and crunchy.
In laying cards you are trying to create numerically ascending, orthogonal paths beginning and ending with a tree of the same suit – bonus points for all the same suit, bonus points for beginning with a 1 and/or ending with an 8. This in itself creates a puzzle-based challenge. Extra spice is provided by the individual discard piles, as players can draw from these or the draw pile.
But the real brain-melter is the condition for scoring. Only the person with the highest total of a suit remaining in their hand at game end can score that suit in front of them. And if you have the 8 and an opponent has a 1, then the 8 is worth nothing!! This adds a whole new dimension to the game. Suddenly, the implications of what to draw, what to play and what to discard become enormous. How many Lilacs can you afford to put down and still guarantee you will score them?
Do you want to hang on to some Magnolia to try to render your opponent’s longest path redundant? Is anyone collecting Jacaranda, and is there time for you to start? Epic crunch, and a whimsical theme given real strategic heft. So, you end up playing something quick and gorgeous – the art is a delight - but also satisfyingly thought-provoking and, occasionally, downright mean. Just what you want for Autumn!
I've chosen to talk about Everdell, a game of cute critters and tableau building, designed by James A Wilson. Originally published in 2018 by Starling Games, Everdell quickly garnered attention for its adorable artwork, table presence, and quality components. However, Everdell hasn't just gained fans because of its looks. The game combines elements of variable setup, worker placement, card drafting and hand management to provide a solid gameplay experience.
Players each lead a tribe of woodland workers. In the base game, these are animeeples in the shape of hedgehogs, mice, squirrels, and turtles. Workers are deployed to locations in the forest, to gain resources or claim bonuses. Players will then utilise the resources to play cards into their tableau, creating a woodland city comprised of critters and constructions. The city you build becomes your game engine, generating resources for later use.
During a turn, a player will take one action: deploy a worker, play a card, or prepare for the next season. Everdell does not have game rounds in the traditional sense; players will progress through seasons individually. A player moves to the next season when they have deployed all workers and played all cards that they can/wish.
Players will often find themselves behind or ahead of opponents in terms of progress through the seasons. This mechanic opens the door for some tactical gameplay. A player's workers remain on the board until they prepare for the next season, allowing them to block actions. Spotting the most beneficial time to progress to the next season can be the key to success.
Once all players have passed through Autumn, the game ends. The player who has collected the most points from cards and bonuses will win. If you enjoy worker placement games and engine building, Everdell might be for you!
Autumn Themed Honourable Mentions
So there we go! Four excellent choices for autumn-themed board gaming. A couple of tree-based honourable mentions would be Photosynthesis and Bosk. Both offer interesting takes on growing trees in a forest and trying to cover as much of the board in your pieces as you can. Lastly, Reykholt is a wonderful game all about providing food for a harvest festival in Iceland. It has lovely wooden vegetable pieces as well as some brilliant crates to store them in.
Editors note: This blog was originally published on 14/10/2020. Updated on 09/09/2021 to improve the information available.