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Verdant Solo Review

Verdant Solo Review

Potting Plants is an activity I have come to enjoy as I have gotten older. When I was in my teens and twenties (heck, even my thirties!), gardening seemed more bore than brill. But straight off the bat, board games featuring plants (and nature generally) have been a huge success for me. And whether it’s life imitating art, or just a 40 year old switch, I am planning my veg beds and repotting roses like a Don (Monty Don that is!).

So when I saw Verdant was being released by AEG and Flatout Games, I immediately wanted it. Pretty plants! I mean seriously pretty plants! Plus the designers are in my stable of favourites. But even if Verdant wasn’t following in the fantastic footsteps of crunchy Calico and chilled Cascadia, I still would have craved it.

For whilst the artwork and theme are spot on, it also has that hallowed 1+ player label. Ahhh solo puzzle games. My happy place. My focus is on single-player mode. And I can tell you right now that verdant solo did not disappoint me.

Prepping My Pots

One of my requirements is that when solo gaming is set up has to be simple and speedy. I have huge admiration for gamers who spend half a day setting up their epic solo quests with eleventy billion components spread across their dining room table. But I don’t have the time or the patience for that. So it’s got to be out and playing within a few minutes.

Verdant solo is simple to set up. It’s almost identical to the multiplayer. You lay out the 4 Plant and Room cards in columns with an item token in between each pair. You give yourself a storage card, a reference card, and two green thumbs. Select 3 random advanced objectives (if using), and you begin with a random Room and Plant card. The only differences are: you have 4 bonus pots of each type in every game, and one (starting with the highest value grey pots) gets placed above each of the 4 cards in the market place. Apart from those tweaks, you’re up and running.

So, just like Calico and Cascadia before it, prepping for a game of Verdant doesn’t feel like admin. Of the three, Cascadia is probably the fastest to set up – pile up the hex tiles, lay out 4 habitat tiles and 4 wildlife tokens to form the market, pick your set of scoring objectives, and you’re off. 1 minute tops. Calico has a little more prep work – after selecting boards and the scoring objectives, you decide where they go. Then you set out the market, give yourself two tiles, randomise the cat bonuses and get out the buttons. But now I have all my tokens and tiles boxed and bagged, again it’s only a few minutes before I am tabletopping. For me, Verdant sits comfortably in the middle.  A little more to do than in Cascadia, but not as much as Calico. And admittedly that really isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things.

Smooth Like Sandy Soil

The standard BYOS solo gameplay is smooth and familiar. Again, more akin to Cascadia than Calico, but only because of the pairing up of token and card on each turn. Basically they all work on a conveyor belt system. And if you have played either of the other games, you’ll know what I mean. So in Verdant, after you have taken your card and token pair and placed your green thumb (just like in MP mode), everything that is left in the fourth column (i.e. the rightmost column), gets discarded. Top pot is out of the game (but retain it as it might be recoverable later), Plant and Room cards are discarded, and the token is eliminated from the game. Any thumbs on those discarded cards are shifted across to the left most available card (unless that would exceed 3 which case all thumbs are returned to the supply). Then everything in the marketplace gets moved along and the new empty leftmost column is refilled.  And then you pick again.

Even knowing Calico and Cascadia really well, it took me a few turns to get the conveyor belt sliding along super smoothly – I forgot a thumb shift and somehow ended up discarding too many tokens on my first turn. But the pattern is now set in my head, and my cards and tokens are all organised in play-straight-from-the-tray-pots. Together that means I am getting Verdant from box to game ready in around 90 seconds.

Interestingly, if you double plant (i.e. achieve verdancy) on any turn, you get the top pot from the rightmost column for your initial plant, and then the lowest value pot from those previously discarded for your second. That’s a solo specific rule and I think the intention is to recreate limited availability in terms of top bonus pots. If you were playing other planters, the highest ones would be in double demand, so it makes sense to have to gain a lower value one.

With just 13 turns to create your checkerboard house replete with pointastic Plants, Verdant solo plays fast. Well, as fast as my AP allows! Because I am finding really crunchy decision dilemmas amongst the choices on offer. Placement optimisation that is all down to me! A pressure crunchier than Cascadia for sure. But perhaps not quite as catty as Calico!

And it’s surprising because, knowing the 4th column gets wiped at the end of the turn, is the same insider-information advantage that comes with many solo modes (including Calico and Cascadia). If you want something from it, take it now as the other columns survive into the next turn. But it also makes you play a different game.

Effectively, your strategy is impacted by that knowledge and I feel an even tighter restriction around what I could or should pick. In MP mode, your opponents will be taking what works best for them, which is more random, especially if they use thumbs to take a mis-match of card and token.

And whilst you can see their houses developing (plus you know what the scoring objectives are if used), there’s little time for predicting or hate drafting. I mean you can, but unless taking the card and token they probably want also works within your tableau, you are going to seriously mess up your own house! So in MP mode you can blame a curve-ball pick from them if you miss out on something good. But in solo mode, that particular green-fingered get out is gone. Optimal placement is there - I just have to figure it out!

Killer Campaign

As well as the standard solo mode, there is a fantastic solo campaign to follow in the back of the rule book. Having got stuck into both Cascadia and Calico’s campaigns, I know this is going to be a great way to amp up the solo crunch even higher as my plays go on. Specifying additional achievements to be reached within a game gives something extra to strive for. Another accomplishment to seek out. And I love that satisfying feeling I get when I can tick something off! I am an obsessive list maker, and naturally goal orientated, so this just feeds both traits like bumper Baby-Bio! Haha

Final Thoughts

Verdant solo is wonderful. We already know its thematic and artistic pedigrees – I mean, just look at it! Beth Sobel’s magical green, blue, and every other coloured fingers have touched it. We are potting gorgeous plants in pots and getting rewarded when they grow greener and more glorious in just the right lighting conditions! But it’s also a cracking crunchy solo experience that doesn’t make me yearn for another player. Moving a few cards along and remembering to ditch or shift the green thumbs is a little more effort than Cascadia or Calico – that’s just tiles in, tiles out. But in the grand (green?) scheme of things, it’s nothing. Verdant Solo is going to blossom on my shelf for years to come!

So, that concludes our thoughts on Verdant. Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts and tag us on social media @zatugames. To buy Verdant today click here!