This article made possible due to the gift of a review copy, QWERTY and smacking the table.
The art of Osprey’s Samurai Gardener game is immediately appealing. A clean lined, colorful break from the overly dark, digital art that graces so many games and RPGs currently. It promises a quick, engaging game of tile matching. Yet underneath the eye catching, unassuming, mostly white box lies a bit of violence which the word Samurai in the title hints at.
The goal of the game is straightforward. Match Japanese garden themed tiles to earn various points and the one with the most points at the end of the game wins. The Samurai part of the game comes out in how each player gets those tiles. Tiles are laid out on the table within easy reach of all players. On the count of three, all players must put their hand down on the tile they wish to claim. The first person to touch a tile is the one who gets to claim it for their garden. This soon results in a lot of hands slamming a table in an effort to get their tile first. This isn’t a quiet game, but lends itself well to family game nights or more boisterous game rooms where energy is high and enthusiastic. Don’t play this in a library, no matter how committed the players may be at being quiet and laying their hands on tiles quietly. It won’t stay quiet for long.
This is an excellent game for families as long as a sense of humor is maintained and no one gets so wild with their tile claiming that they start hurting other players’ hands. The game doesn’t leave a lot of time for deliberation over strategy, nor can a player become overly attached to plan, since losing the tile claiming round to someone else who also wants that tile requires adaptability and being able to go with the flow. Although quick, about 15 minutes for a game, a lot of space is required for the players’ gardens, so I wouldn’t recommend this for game to play while traveling, but it certainly would be great at the destination.
Samurai Gardener is the perfect game for perking up a dreary winter evening or for drumming up some excitement over spring returning with thoughts of plants and gardening.