Balancing thoughtfulness and great speed - such is the way of the gardener. You are a samurai, tasked with upholding the honor of your noble lord. Now you must face your toughest task yet - ensuring he has a more beautiful garden than the other Japanese lords.
Cards are dealt face up in the middle of the table according to the number of players. Everyone then puts their palms down on their laps. The starting player will call "Ei! Ei!" then everyone will shout "OH!" and quickly put their hand on the card they want. If there is a tie, whoever got there first gets that card and the other player/s must take a different card. Each card consists of six sections of several types of areas (pond, floor, garden, etc.). Players lay the cards side by side or overlapping in order to create long rows of the same area type. Each round, rows/columns of the same area type are awarded points, and the player with the most points when all building cards are depleted wins.
The cards are very good quality and the cubes for scoring are big enough to cover the whole space. I wish cubes were all translucent so you could see the score underneath but that's just me. The art is very serine and peaceful aligning itself very well with the theme.
The game is a mix of real time speed play and thoughtful tile laying. When you're looking at the card before the draft phase you only have as much time as the starting player gives you. You have to have your mind made up pretty quick because as soon as the starting player is ready the call will begin and hands will be coming down! I am not big on the speed aspect of the game, but that is because I'm not fast. I'm really tall with long arms. Imagine Herman Munster trying to move his arm fast enough to hit a card on the table.... not so much. That being said the strategy side of the game really kicks in when you don't get the card you want because you have to look for possibilities you did not plan for (like when you get an unfavorable tile in Carcassonne). This is the part of the game I really enjoyed. We did create a variant where you could draft a card from the middle or you could blind draft from the deck, and for me personally, that made it more enjoyable. Younger players absolutely love the slap mechanic right from the beginning. Overall this is a great family game that is easy to teach and has enough strategic elements for adults.
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