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Arboretum Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Dan Cassar
Artists: Beth Sobel, Waldo Ramirez
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-4
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Getting the Game:
Arboretum is known for its attractive art. Looking at the box and cards I would agree that the trees are very well done and look beautiful with its many colors. But another thing that I was surprised to find in this game was a very deep strategic gameplay behind the alluring look. The game is for 2-4 players, for ages 8+, and takes around 30 minutes to play. The game was first published in 2015 by Z-man Games, but has recently been reprinted and redone by Renegade Game Studios in 2018. If you are or become a big fan of this game, there is a deluxe edition available that has a holographic appearance to it.

When first opening the box, I was a little surprised how big the box was compared to the number of cards within the box. The game has 80 cards with 10 different species of trees on them. In fact, I can place all the cards in the insert and take only half of the space in the box. The score pad is nice, which is the size of the box and might help lead me to believe it's the reason for the larger box. I think I secretly am hoping they are just planning on expansions, but after playing the game, I'm not sure if the game even needs an expansion.

Playing the Game:
The player count will cause you to choose different species of trees to play in the game. Two players use 6 species, 3 players use 8 species, and a 4-player game will use all 10 species. Cards are shuffled and 7 cards are dealt out to each player. The remaining cards are used as a draw deck.

On your turn, you will draw 2 cards. These cards can be from the draw deck or from the top of any player's face up discard pile. You will then choose 1 card to play in your arboretum face-up in front of you. After the first card, cards will need to be played adjacent to another card either vertically or horizontally. To end your turn you will then discard 1 of your cards face-up in your discard pile. Remember, all other players are welcome to take this card, so look first to see what cards other players might be looking for as well.

The game goes on until a player takes the last card from the draw pile. After that player finishes their turn, scoring occurs. Scoring rules will help you figure out where and how to place your trees in your arboretum.

To score trees in your arboretum you will need to make a path that: 1) starts with a specific species of tree,  2) ends with the same specie of tree, and 3) each card in the path must be a greater value than the card before it. The cards in the pathway don't necessarily need to the same type of tree, just the start and end of the path need to be the same specie that is being scored.

Each card in a path will score 1 point. If the path is at least 4 cards long and all the same species, 1 additional point is awarded. If the path begins with a "1," another point is scored. If the path ends with an "8," an additional 2 points are scored.

You will only be able to score one path per species.

Now, not everyone will score all their paths of every species in their arboretum. At the end of the game, every player will still have 7 cards in their hand. Whoever has the highest sum of each species will be the only player who will be able to score that species. In case of a tie, all tied player will be able to score their paths of that species. Now, there is a twist on this as well. If you have an "8" and another player has a "1" of the same species, then the 8 turns into a "0" while the "1" will stay a "1".

The player with the most points wins with the best arboretum.

Let's score the Blue Spruce first.....

This will give me 1 point per card plus an extra point for the 1. Points scored = 7.  But wait, there looks like there is a better way to score this...

Since this run is more than 3 cards, each card is worth 2 points, and an extra point for the "1" card. This would bring the total to 9, which is 2 points more than the previous way.

Let's score the Maple trees.

Similar to the first blue run we scored, we will start with the "1" and end with the "7" of the maple tree. This will score 1 point per card, plus the extra point for using the "1" in the run. Total points = 8.

I couldn't score my oak because the other player had the "6" and "5" oak cards. They get to score their oak cards, but if I would have "won" the species, then this is how I would score it:

Now to score the willow trees:

This run scores 1 point per card, plus 1 more point for using the "1" in the run, plus 2 more points for using the "8" in the run.  Willow would score a total of 10.

Total score: 

Artwork and Components:
I can confirm that the artwork is just perfect for this game. I'd like to see what the deluxe version does to the art and components as I am concerned if the holographic affect might make all the cards look similar, and harder to differentiate. The box is made out of nice thick cardboard. There is an extra touch on the box, as the symbols and title have a glossy look to them and reflects the light a little more to make it look very attractive. The insert isn't anything special, but can appreciate that is has one and the size looks like it would accommodate sleeves.

The Good:
The thing I love the most about this game is that it gets your brain working hard. Every time you place a card you're trying to help your arboretum grow. Hopefully it's in the best way possible without blocking yourself of further growth in each pathway. You also will need to decide which card is best to discard as you will be placing a card in your discard pile that could help another player. You are always trying to hold onto good cards in your hand for the end of the game because you will want to be able to actually score your path for those trees.

I like how in 2- and 3-player games you get to pick your species of trees to play with. My wife and I do not like the dogwood trees that live near us, as they tend to flare up allergies for many, so we don't like to include that species when playing. Yet, I love the blue spruce as it reminds me of home in Colorado.

I like how you can always score decent points on a species of tree later in the game because you can use other species of cards in the middle of your path. I like how the "1" helps kill the power of the "8" at the end of the game when it's in your hand. When playing near the end of the game you are able to locate which cards might be in other player's hands that will lead you to play certain cards to help you out the most. For a card game, this game goes deep in strategy and you gotta love a game with only 80 cards that can cause your brain to burn like this one does.

The Bad:
This game isn't for everyone. I think there are a few of my family members that would understand this game even after explaining it well. The game looks so beautiful I think it might appeal to many, but the gameplay causes one to burn their brain, and might not be as enjoyable for some.

Final Thoughts:
You need to know this game isn't like other card games. Turns take a little longer due to the strategic nature of the game. The game is beautiful with  a deep strategic gameplay to follow behind. For me, I always enjoy games that do not use a lot of components to make such a great, in-depth gameplay, and this game definitely does that.

Check out Arboretum on:


Brody Sheard - Outreach Manager

Brody Sheard played board games with his large family growing up. He continues with his love of games by teaching his family, local gaming guild, and friends about new and exciting games. Brody believes that board gaming keeps your mind healthy while also having fun interacting with others.

See Brody's reviews HERE.
Arboretum Review Arboretum Review Reviewed by Brody on January 08, 2019 Rating: 5

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