Game at a Glance
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher; however, my opinions are my own
In Verdant, you are planning a cozy interior space full of colorful wallpaper, furniture, pets, and most importantly: houseplants. To help keep your indoor vegetation happy, you must ensure they’re getting the right amount of sunlight (and maybe water and fertilize them now and then). Happy plants will lead to a lush, verdant living space.
Verdant is the latest title in Flatout Game’s line of square-box, Beth Sobel-illustrated boardgames. Like its predecessors, Cascadia and Calico, Verdant is a puzzly abstract game featuring a draft and tile placement. In this case, tiles have been replaced with cards featuring a variety of houseplants and colorful rooms.
Players take turns drafting a token and card from a shared market and then placing them into a personal tableau of cards that represents their home. Plants have specific sunlight needs, and the rooms offer different lighting conditions. Placing a plant near a wall with its optimal lighting gives it verdancy, represented by wooden monstera leaf tokens. Additional verdancy can be achieved by nurturing your plants with tokens like watering cans and fertilizer. A fully-verdant plant will give maximum points. Players can also use tokens to add decorations to their homes, increasing room-scoring potential. As you play, you might accumulate Green Thumbs – special skills which allow you to mitigate some drafting limitations or add verdancy to your plants.
Drafting continues until each player has built a 3×5 tableau of alternating room and plant cards. Points are scored based on plant verdancy, end-game victory conditions, room adjacency bonuses, and more.
Staying competitive in Verdant is about making the best choices with what is available. The drafting market in this game is built like a sandwich – four plant cards on top of four room cards, with four tokens making up the “filling” in between. Players choose one token and an adjacent card. Drafting choices are often about what makes the most tactical sense at the time.
Verdant offers players many ways to score points. Houseplants have a lot of point-earning potential with their verdancy bonuses and pots. Aside from making their plants happy, players must carefully balance many other factors. Rooms score by having the right plant types nearby and matching decor. Diversifying decorations, plant categories, and room colors are another way to score points, and there are three randomized end-game victory conditions to consider. It sounds like a lot, but fortunately, the included scorepad walks players through each condition, making it easy to tally scores at the end.
The game’s puzzle lies in balancing these conditions. Sometimes they are at odds with each other, creating a wonderful push-and-pull for the players to puzzle out.
Some plants cannot achieve verdancy with lighting conditions alone and will need the help of fertilizer or watering cans. Timing the nurture tokens to get maximum efficiency from each is a puzzle in and of itself. Each player can hold onto a single nurture or item token, and the rest must be played in the tableau. Choosing whether to save a token or to use it inefficiently at that moment can feel agonizing.
Players are restricted to a 3×5 card tableau with a checkerboard pattern (alternating plants and rooms). There are more restrictions here than the previous Flatout title, Cascadia, but it is not as punishing of a spacial puzzle as Calico. Choices tend to dry up towards the end as your tableau fills up, and you may be forced to place a less-than-ideal plant or room card, but I have yet to feel one or two unsuitable cards have destroyed my chances to stay competitive.
Flatout games have a reputation for combining simple rulesets with puzzly depth. Verdant is no exception; however, it has a bit more management and upkeep. If players are not orderly with the turn sequence, it’s easy to forget to add verdancy and green thumbs to the correct cards.
That aside, the rulebook was laid out nicely – I had no issues learning to play. The setup was easy despite all the moving pieces. Teaching the game is a breeze due to the simple actions that are intuitive with the theme. This is a game I was able to introduce to my 8-year-old daughter and she not only was able to keep up with her parents, but she also won. For younger players, a family variant exists to simplify the game further.
A large number of scoring conditions plus three randomized end-game goals ensures the game has plenty of variety. In addition, the rulebook comes with optional scenarios with achievement goals. Players can challenge themselves to complete their achievement tree and explore new modified ways to play the game. Verdant has a lot of replay potential.
Theme / Aesthetics
With over 60 houseplant illustrations by Beth Sobel, it’s no surprise that Verdant is a treat for the eyes. The wallpaper cards are bright and punchy and are easily distinguished by color, pattern, and plant symbology. Artwork and graphic design aside, the game is stuffed with high-quality components, from thick cardboard tokens, distinctive monstera-shaped wooden trackers, a full-color scorepad… It is a beautiful production overall.
Personally, I love the theme. I constantly strive to keep my home full of happy houseplants, so this one speaks to me. Out of all the Flatout Game titles I have tried, Verdant does the best job of integrating the theme with the mechanics. Plants grow best with proper lighting conditions. Some are finicky and require more TLC from their owner – perhaps a boost of fertilizer or some green thumb magic from a skilled gardener. It all just makes sense and ties together nicely.
Interaction / Fun
There is little to no player interaction in this game. As with the previous two titles, the bulk of player interaction lies in the drafting market. In my experience, people are more concerned with their own puzzles than what is happening across the table. There is a bit of tension early in the game as players race for the high-point pots, and it may make sense to glance at the opponent’s cards to see if they are competing for the same room/plant colors as you. But all-in-all, this is a multiplayer solitaire game – so much so that I would not be opposed to playing Verdant alone (and I rarely play solo).
The satisfaction and fun come from the puzzle. For those that enjoy quiet, comfy games where they can work on their own project, this has a lot of potentially satisfying moments.
Verdant has so much going for it. Its unique drafting market is interesting and gives the players a lot of choices. The tableau-building rules give players some constraints, yet allow enough flexibility to prevent players from feeling painted into a corner. Because there are so many ways to score points, it is easy to pivot when the drafting choices aren’t going the way you envisioned. My only real complaint about gameplay is in the arc – the choices become more narrow as your puzzle fills in, which doesn’t always lead to an exciting conclusion. But the game is relaxing, so that fits.
The game mechanics are simple, in line with Flatout’s previous designs. It is low on player interaction in favor of a personal puzzle unaffected by external factors. There are more moving pieces in this one – they are crucial to the puzzle, but perhaps at the cost of a bit of elegance. The game more than makes up for this in thematic integration, however. I genuinely get the sense I am caring for my plants with my actions, and I love that.
The table presence is incredible. Calico and Cascadia also boast Beth Sobel’s artistic talent, but it is front and center here. The plant cards are placed directly in front of the players to admire the entire game. I got joy from collecting plants, especially the ones I have in my house, and reading the flavor text on the cards.
Overall I think this is a fantastic production. I appreciate games like this – ones I can pull off the shelf and know I will enjoy the personal challenge, win or lose. Players that crave heavy player interaction might not prefer this one, but for those who appreciate puzzle games and like plants, Verdant is a sure bet.