Kolossal Games was kind enough to send me a preview copy of the game Papillon Gardens by J.B. Howell and artwork by Whitney Rader. Other than the copy, I received no compensation from Kolossal, and my opinions are my own. The components shown are also prototype and many will be subject to change before the final printing. The game will likely be coming to crowd funding at the end of April 2023.
The game is going to come with the typical sheets of paper, but I went ahead and laminated mine as I played about 13 games over the last two weeks. One of the things I am most looking forward to in the final game is added tiles for more variable setup. I got to the point where my games were becoming somewhat similar, but I was still having fun drawing and making decisions.
The game is played over 10 rounds. Each round 3 cards will be flipped to and three dice will be rolled. These dice and cards become a pair for the players to choose from non-exclusively.
If you choose a pair, you will get three actions: 1. A fill/brick edging/feature option 2. a flower/butterfly movement/field & butterfly option 3. caterpillars/caterpillars & field/caterpillars and brambles option. Also, on alternating even rounds players get an additional action to take. Caterpillars are used to fill out a track at the bottom of the second sheet, the flower sheet. This is where players can get gnome bonuses over time. Gnome bonuses allow the player to do things like take a free fill action, fill in two brick edges, draw an open field, etc. You will need all these at times so that you can get the best combinations.
Finally, features will go into empty field plots. The field must be there for a feature to go in, so you will have to balance out which caterpillars to take to ensure you have enough fields.
Flowers are stamped in patches across the board. The patches can get additional points if they are completed surrounded by brick edging. All of this play leads to a delightfully well contained game of combinations and planning. After all, who doesn't like a well planned garden to visit and explore.
Throughout the game, butterflies will move across the board and your board will fill up with the features and flowers you have chosen. Each player will end up with a unique field sheet every single time.
I was reminded of other games like Delicious where part of the appeal of the game is the calm drawing that happens while filling out your sheets. This game allows for some of the freedom of expression via the features without getting the players bogged down too much. The whole thing provides a calming experience even though it is competitive. After all, it's not like someone can take the flower or feature you need and deny it to you.
That is one of my favorite features of roll and writes, having an experience together that remains competitive while giving responsibility to each player. Papillon Gardens gets that right.
MInor quibbles with my prototype? I don't like the yellow flowers. Even on regular, non-laminated paper, it was impossible to see this stamp. This was disappointing when the rest were easily visible. I wanted far more tiles. This is where the game will stay interesting over multiple plays. I was already getting to the point where I knew optimal scoring routes. I would like to as much variability in final setup as possible with the feature tiles. I'm hoping both of these issues are resolved before the final version. There was also some wording I had to guess at, but I understand this will be cleaner in the final version too.
I think this game will appeal to people who like competitive games, but don't enjoy take that. It can be a little thinky, but not in an exhausting way. It's the process of planning a garden. For those who like things like Delicious, Cartographers, and other mid-light roll and writes, I think you will enjoy this. However, if you are looking for an extremely heavy roll and write with optimization of strategy or a Euro-like feel: this game may not be for you.
What would you like to see for a feature in the game?
Papillon Gardens by J.B. Howell; published by Kolossal Games
Artwork by Whitney Rader
Time 30 Minutes