Monday, January 23, 2023

Wow. Grove is good.

Orchard the Nine Card Solitaire was one of those games that was a milestone for me. It still holds out as one of the best nine-card games I’ve seen and the game that proved to me that you can make a tile-laying game out of nine cards that’s actually good.

Grove is its sequel (is that the right term?) and darned if it doesn’t improve on the design. (And there’s another game in the series called Forage. I will have to try that one soon)

While it’s also called a nine-card game, Grove is really an 18 card game. You just use only nine cards at a time in the basic game.  

Like Orchard, Grove is a tile-laying game where you are overlapping the cards. Each card has six spaces. Each space will a lemon tree, an orange tree, a lime tree or be empty.  Trees will have one or two fruit. 

You are stacking like fruits on like fruits. In this case, you are counting how many fruits are in each stack and you track each number with a die. Empty spaces can cover any square but any dice on empty spaces are worthless at the end of the game.

You also have a wheelbarrow token that lets you super stack one space for every points and a squirrel token that lets you break the like-on-like rule but it costs you points.

The basic version of Grove takes the rules of Orchard and gives you ways to work around or with the restrictions.

But, oh, there are advanced rules.

The back of each card is a recipe. That means it has a rule for scoring bonus points and a target number. You know how the Sprawlopolis family works? Same idea. Deal out two recipes in addition to the nine cards you’ll be stacking. They give you two more ways of getting points. The target numbers get added together and that’s the score you need to beat to win.

And the recipes are a total game changer for me. I don’t mind just heating my own score but having an actual win-lose condition is more fun im a solitaire game. I’m trying to beat the game as well as my past self.

I hate to say that I like Grove so much more than Orchard… but I do. Orchard was a big deal for me. It is an amazing use of nime cards (or eighteen when the cards are one-sided) Orchard is all about tight restrictions. Grove lets you wiggle around the restrictions but you need the experience of Orchard to appreciate that. And the recipe cards are the bomb.

Grove is really good and when I play it, I want to immediately play it again.

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