A Review of Flourish

Flourish was a game that was on Kickstarter back in September 2020. It promised delivery in March 2021, and you know what? I got mine in March 2021 (just a few weeks ago)!! It is really rare to have a game deliver on-time!

I picked up this game because it had a cooperative mode and a solo mode: this is a cooperative games blog after all.

Unboxing

This game is pretty.

There’s a lot of cardboard (that you don’t really need … see below)

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At it’s heart, this is a card game. The cards are gorgeous and linen finished.

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This is the signature edition, so it has some extra stuff in.

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The boards above are for making the box!

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You can see how the boards go in above (in English, French, and German).

Overall, this game looks really nice.

All packed up, it looks pretty cool (see above). You can see the counters (upper left) and a lot of extra cardboard …

Rulebook

The rulebook is ok. It’s more like a pamphlet of three pages (see above). It describes the base game (competitive), solo mode, cooperative, two player game and some challenges. It’s very terse.

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Like a good rulebook, it shows the set-up right away (see above middle). The overview and details come next (above right).

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You can also see a lot of the rules described above. Here’s the thing: the rules are a little too terse. The description of how to score is very weak. Only after studying the two examples above did I have a sense of how the game worked. This was an operational definition of the game with a very weak abstract definition of the game. Without that example on the right (above), I am not convinced I would have played the game right! Recall, I had a similar problem with some of the rules in Sleeping Gods (see combat rules in that review). Again, I am happy for the examples to clarify the rules, but I feel the rules as presented are incomplete without the example.

The rules, as they are, are readable. You can learn the game (barely). But the rules are too terse! And I believe they are incomplete without the examples. Make sure you look carefully at the examples to learn the game!

The Game

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If I were to describe this game in one phrase, I’d say “Seven Wonders with Flowers”.  This is a drafting game (for some definition of drafting)  where players pass cards to their neighbors and choose one card to play.  Players choose three cards per turn:  one to pass to the left, one to pass to the right, and one to play in your “garden”.  After three turns (called a round), you do some scoring.  After four rounds, you do some special final scoring add up the points.

Ultimately. this is a victory point game. You are playing cards into your garden and scoring at the end of every 3 turns, and then a special scoring round at the very end (after 4 rounds, where each round is three turns).

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The victory point markers are really nice and make it easy to keep track as you score throughout the game.

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The most important picture in the rulebook (above) shows an example card and indicates when you score parts of the game.

The game is very easy to play and get into.  My friends and I were up and playing very quickly after I gave them a rundown.  The phrase “Seven Wonders with Flowers” goes a long ways towards helping people into the game.

The scoring is basically encapsulated on some summary cards.

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Solo Rules

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Hurrah! The game has solo rules!  (Thank you for following Saunders’ Law).  You basically play normally, trying to build your garden and pass cards to your “neighbors”, but in this case you only have one neighbor who is just “randomly” building a garden (to my left, below).

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After you play through, you do some math and subtract your fake neighbor’s score from your score and compare it to a chart at the end of the rulebook (see below).

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As a solo mode to learn the game, it was pretty good. I didn’t think it was a great solo mode: I don’t have a burning desire to play this solo and try to “get a better score”, but I could see maybe playing it again solo. It is a fairly relaxing solo mode, which might be the main reason to play it solo.

Competitive Mode

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Out of the box, this is competitive game.   Again, think “Seven Wonders with Flowers”.  You try to build the best garden you can, all the while passing “junk” cards to your neighbors.  The strategy in the game is trying to figure out what’s best for you, and worst for your neighbors.

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We have played Flourish a number of times competitively and liked it.

Cooperative Mode

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The cooperative mode is similar to the solo mode: all players work together to get the best score (looking it up in the rulebook after you are done). You simply add your scores to find the “group score”. There is NO SHARING information when playing cooperatively, all you can do is look at your neighbor’s gardens to figure out what works best for them.

Here’s the thing: I think this game works best cooperatively! I know I am biased (as this is a cooperative games blog), but rather than the “hate-drafting” you do in games like Seven Wonders or the competitive mode of Flourish, in the cooperative mode, you look at your neighbor’s garden and get EXCITED! “Oh, I can’t play anything great, but I got something good for you!” There’s more excitement in the air as you are sharing cards! Sometimes, you don’t have anything great for your garden, but there’s a thrill you get helping out your neighbor!

We thought Flourish was pretty good as a competitive game, but was significantly more fun as a cooperative game!

Some Caveats

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This game, at it’s core, is a simple drafting game.  You pass 1 card to the left, 1 card to the right, and play 1 card in front of you.  Grab a new card, lather, rinse repeat.   This game, at least the signature edition is waaaaay over produced.  I spent an hour punching out the cardboard (see above).  I found out you don’t need them EXCEPT FOR THE EXPANSION. 

 

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I am not convinced it was worth all that for the expansion.  I mean, the game is huge now! 

But, it’s just a card game. And then they give you these little cardboard trellis between players to help you keep track of when you have passed cards to your neighbors:

I’ll admit, it did help a little, and it looks real nice, but I could have easily done without it. Here’s the thing: I don’t think you need the signature edition of the game (which I have been describing here) which is more expensive, more complex, bigger, and doesn’t add that much.

At it’s core, Flourish is a simple drafting card game. I am not sure all the extras are worth it.

One Suggestion

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Although we like the cooperative mode best, trying to get the “best score” is not really the funnest objective. We were discussing it after we played a few games, and we think there should be a series of “mean neighbors” you have to try to “defeat” by having a better garden than them!

For example: Mean Mr. Green Jeans is extra proud of his roses, so he can grow them faster! He can redraw a card every turn if he has no roses! If you can grow more roses than Mean Mr. Green Jeans, you get extra points! If you get over 300 points, you can beat Mr. Green Jeans!

I think the idea of a “mean neighbor” would give the game more focus and make the cooperative game more fun! If players have a much more tangible and identifiable and personal goal than “beat 300 points”, I think it would made the game even better.

Conclusion

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This is a good game. The solo game is decent (if not great), but fairly relaxing. The standard competitive mode is good, but the game really opens up the cooperative mode! In the cooperative mode, you always feel like you can do something on your turn .. even if your garden stinks, you can still help your neighbors!

The rulebook isn’t great: Make sure you read the examples thoroughly as a I am not convinced you can play with the rules as given.

The production is beautiful, but I don’t really think you need the Signature Edition. At it’s core, it’s really just a card game. All the extra cardboard seemed to distract from the game more than help it.,

At the end of the day, Flourish will probably be played cooperatively by all my groups. If you’ve always wanted a drafting game like Seven Wonders but with a cooperative mode, Flourish might be what you’ve been looking for. The only other cooperative drafting game I know of is Sidekick Saga, but Sidekick Saga is much more complicated. Flourish is a simple cooperative drafting game that I think will appeal to a lot of people.

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