Players: 1- 4
Game Time: 60 mins
The gardens of Creepstone Manor are a shambles and ghosts can’t use lawnmowers! In Haunticulture build the best flowerbed amongst your undead peers. Hire and fire spooky monster gardeners, and use the innovative ‘Grid Bid’ system, to grab plant and ornament tiles whilst dodging those pesky Snapper Weeds! Haunticulture is the second spooky game from Tinkerbot Games (https://tinkerbotgames.com) after Ghostel. Could we see a third on the horizon? We'll have to wait and see! In the meantime, let's focus on this new game to come to Kickstarter this October.
The game takes place over four rounds, which are split into three phases:
Gardener Phase Hiring monsters, playing monsters, and triggering abilities all take place during this phase. This all goes to the play area. Once all spots are full, tally up the gardening skill scores in each row / column and the highest score gets first pick from the tiles in the subsequent row /column.
Planting Phase In this phase players MUST plant all tiles acquired in the Gardener phase and can optionally pay to build ornaments accrued.
Tidy Up Phase Here players MUST discard all monsters from the play area.
Each player begins with an identical deck of six monster cards. The cards feature various zombies, skeletons and ghouls each with their own abilities and strengths. Each player also chooses one of their two dealt “Secret Task” cards, which are exclusive end-game objective for player(s).
Depending on the player count, a grid with space to play monster cards is laid out (4×3 for 5 players, 3×3 for 2-3 player) and then outlined on the left and right, top and bottom with greenhouse cards. Plant and garden ornament tiles are then placed on each of these greenhouse cards. Players also receive their own 5×5 garden board. The game also features a bag full of extra garden and ornament tiles for later use, an additional deck of special monster cards, each with more powerful abilities, and a pile of gold tokens that are used to purchase additional monster cards.
During the Gardener phase, gamers take turns putting a monster within the grid, essentially putting in a bid on the opportunity to choose specific garden tiles. The best tiles might have unique capabilities that impact the game, like searching the tile bag to have an additional floor tile later in your own garden. Each monster card has a specific number value that determines how effective that monster is at gardening.
The player with the highest TOTAL Gardening Skill amongst their involved monsters gets first choice of either of the two tiles available in the ‘greenhouse’ spaces end of the top row.
Players may choose to hire a new monster with special abilities during their turn in place of playing a card in the grid. These special monster cards take the place of a current card in the players deck and provide the player with a stronger monster or additional chances to snatch an extra plant and ornament tile.
During the Planting phase each player takes the plant and ornament tokens they’ve accumulated during the gardening phase and prepares to plant them on their personal board.
Items are scored based upon specific patterns played out on their garden board. There will be nine unique yard and ornament floor tiles each with the individual unique scoring style. Some tiles, including the moonflower, gain more items when planted throughout in diagonal lines and pumpkins gain even more value when selected and planted in a rectangular series. Snapper Weeds cause you to LOSE points, while ornament tiles such as urns act as multipliers. Finally, during the Tidy Up Phase, the board is restocked; players gather their monster crew, and the next round begins.
Haunticulture also features an AI deck for 2-player games, as well as a solo variant, which is excellent. I played the solo version initially before playing with my wife, and it was a ghoulish experience which left me struggling to bring in victory, a true challenge and learning curve.
The gameplay gives those new to gaming enough enjoyment to allow for replayability and FUN, and for the more competitive hardcore board gamers the sneaky scoring system makes for some real puzzle tactical plays that will leave your opponent dead in the flower beds.
The card stock used for the tiles is excellent; it's hard enough to withstand regular play and is also better than most. A lot of new games opt for linen finish, which I despise as it makes things hard to read in certain light, so I am glad of this! Some excellent choices have been made and it reflects well. The artwork is excellent. My only criticism for the game production is I wish the tiles were a little bigger and maybe the artwork a little brighter (up the hues slightly, it's a full moon, isn't it?).
So, let's break it down for you in our key areas:
Highly replayable with a solo mode to challenge most.
Could be improved BUT I do have a prototype so can't complain too much. The graphics are great and should appeal to a wide audience.
Spooktacular, the Artist Alexandra Vardanian has nailed it!
Not over complicated. The age rating 14+ could be maybe drop to 12+. Its mid-range for sure, and fun
In some places the rules could be fine tuned (rulebook descriptions), otherwise easy to follow and play, but I am nit picking.
100% unique, not seen anything like this. Well at least not from anyone other than Tinkerbot. It uses a grid system for which the only similarity to my knowledge is Ghostel.
Good value. With the replayability I can see this doing well, especially during seasonal holidays like Halloween. I would pick this over Betrayal any day of the week!
I feel my score reflects the unique and well-designed nature of the game and doesn't reflect any prototype woes. It's unique, offers solo play and has alternative play variants, which is great for a small (ish) box game. Well-rounded and very easy to pick up and play. Well done team #Tinkerbot
You can sign up to the Kickstarter preview page here
Your friendly DoaLG Founder and Talent