Arboretum Review

It's been a few weeks of heavier games, so I thought I'd switch over to a lighter card game I played recently called Arboretum. The game plays between 2-4 players and Dan Cassar, the designer, explains some of his thoughts on the game and how it came to fruition in his lovely Designer Diary and Game Overview on Board Game Geek.

To start, players are dealt 7 cards each and the rest of the deck forms the draw pile. All of the cards are types of trees, such as Maple, Jacaronda, or Dogwood, and are numbered 1-8. There are 10 types of trees and one of each number per tree type, so every card is unique. On your turn, select 2 cards from the draw pile, from any player's discard pile, or a combination. Choose 1 card to place in your Arboretum, and 1 card to discard. Player's take turns until there are no cards left in the draw pile.

The point of the game is to build a beautiful Arboretum, and one that also scores you the most points! To score points, place your cards in order such that they are lined up in consecutive number order, going left to right, or right to left and/or up or down.

Arboretum card display

Designed by Dan Cassar, 2-4 players, ages 8+

Though this seems easy enough, there are a few addendums that make the game a bit harder. First, once placed, you cannot move cards around. Second, a consecutive set of numbered cards must begin and end the with the same type of tree. Though different trees may be in the middle of the path, to score, the path must begin and end with the same type of tree. Finally, in order to score any type of tree (only 1 person will score each type), you must hold the highest total of those tree cards in your hand at the game end. 

For instance, if you want to score the Cassia tree and start with a 3 and end with a 6, you must also hold the most amount of Cassia trees in your hand (e.g. if you hold the 7, and someone else holds the 4 and 2, you would score the Cassia tree). ONE LAST KICKER, if you are holding say the 8 of the Cassia tree (perhaps thinking that will likely get you the most points), but another player is holding the 1 of the Cassia tree in their hand, then your 8 is suddenly a 0.

Scoring is fairly straightforward, and you can see the full rules here. You score 1 point for each card in a path, and 1 additional point if the path starts with a 1 card, 2 additional points if the path ends with an 8 card, and 1 additional point for each card in a path IF the path is at least 4 cards long and is all the same color/type of tree.

Arboretum scoring example with paths for trees

Arboretum is a really well-balanced, beautiful, and challenging card game. There's something really special about it - perhaps the beautiful artwork or the fact that you can learn about types of trees while you play. There's something grounding and wholesome about looking at beautiful sets of trees while you are playing that just feels really good and this really differentiates Arboretum from other games. 

Arboretum Review
Critic's Corner Review
A beautiful and intriguing card game, this game will challenge you and fellow players. One part soothing, another stimulating, learn about trees and strategy in the same clip. Hard to be disappointed with Arboretum. Plays in under 1 hour.
Scoring conditions make the game stimulating
Pleasing card design
Well-balanced and challenging
GameHubHQ Rating