Quick Look: Bonsai
Designer: Rosaria Battiato, Massimo Borzi, and Martino Chiacchiera
Solo Designer: Marta Ciaccasassi
Artists: Davood Moghaddami
Publisher: DV Games
Year Published: 2023
No. of Players: 1-4 Players
Playing Time: ~40 Minutes.
Being honest, I didn’t know this game was on its way to me. I found the package in the mail and when I broke it open to see what was inside, I had no idea what it was about but I was already interested. I’m a sucker for nature themes, and a gorgeous bonsai tree right on the cover was about as much as I needed to want to dig in. Then I found out the whole game was about building your own custom tree! Suffice it to say, it was first to the table on the following game night.
From the Publisher:
The Japanese term “bonsai” means “planted in a pot”.
A bonsai is a living work of art, a perfect miniature plant, identical in all respects to its full-size simile, but several times smaller.
In Bonsai, players take on the role of expert bonsai masters intent on growing their own bonsai.
Whoever grows the best plant will be appointed to show their Bonsai at the Imperial gardens.
Disclaimer: The publisher provided the copy of Bonsai. The opinions expressed in the review are completely my own.
Spoiler: top marks for quality, and top marks initial impression.
The cards are either a very high-quality stock and finish or they are a thin but sturdy pvc card, it was tough for me to tell but I’m leaning toward pvc. All cardboard components are thick and durable. The box is solid with a bumped in sides to protect components from too much shifting and it even has nice graphic inlays.
Making your very own custom Bonsai tree out of an adorable little pot? I mean, come on. Of course, that’s my favorite. As a runner up, I was stoked for a really well adapted solo version. Some games just can’t hack it as a solo game but this one really solidified its place in my collection with its strong solo variant. The optional scenarios are plenty hard and will require you to make multiple attempts!
You are a little limited on card availability. As the deck is small and has few duplicates, you are hard pressed to get all of the cards you are trying to get. This does add to the difficulty factor, which I like, but it could be a little disheartening in multiplayer games when the options available to you aren’t desirable.
– Open Drafting (similar to a free market)
– Solo Game (separate mode)
– Tile Placement
– End game bonuses
– Scenario games (optional)
– Variable open goals
A quick and simple ruleset around 2 main actions:
- Take a card from the open draft/market collecting any associated tile(s) and resolving the card.
- Put tiles from your supply onto your tree.
There are other nuances like placement and scoring rules as well as group objectives to try and claim. All in all, as the gametime suggests, this title is short and sweet.
Areas they did well:
• Very satisfying visually and putting your tree together tile by tile
• Peaceful and patient/tranquil nature of the bonsai coming through thematically vs gameplay
• Well thought out for tile placement rules
• Great difficulty for getting high points in the game (and the solo scenarios)
• Very easy game to explain and get started right away
• Variable setup (goals to shoot for)
• Well done open drafting/market
• True to gametime
• Art and component quality. The production quality was really high, everything felt like a luxury component.
• Excellent graphics on the tiles that match the rules (for example, flowers must have an adjoining leaf tile – one edge of the flower tile has leaves)
Areas they could have improved:
• I’d like the game to go on a little longer, so I wouldn’t mind if it came with a few more Zen cards (general deck)
• The same is definitely true for the solo mode. For every action you do, you have to discard a card from the market or deck and that burns through quickly. I got destroyed on my first solo game attempt, though I did go for the super hard scenarios. Don’t get me wrong, I love a ridiculous challenge so I’ll keep at it. I’m not sure that’s the normal attitude for gamers though.
• It costs a lot of turns to get some of the goals which make it hard or impossible to get others. For example, using the solo scenario “long winter” you need to get X wood tiles, and X leaf tiles (+ make the tree stretch out in a specific way). Going for both wood and leaf in high quantities is really tough.
I had a fun time with Bonsai multiplayer and solo. The first game I played was with 2 strangers in a board game shop and I hadn’t even read the rules yet. We broke it out, learned together and agreed it was really enjoyable. A feel-good visual and tactile experience.
I’ll be playing this one more both multiplayer and solo. It’s a good game to introduce to some of my less experienced gamer friends and see if I can bring them a little deeper into the hobby. As for the solo mode, I will not walk away defeated, I’ll finish each one even if it takes me a few months! This is a great little game
I’ll see you next time, back here at The Game Table,
Brad Hiscock, aka Zerility
Here’s a link to their website:
After reading Brad’s review, if this sounds like a game for you at the time of this posting Bonsai will be released this coming August. Check it out and follow along HERE.
Find out more at BGG.
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Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”, is a construction project manager and electrician by trade who was the owner of a 6-time award winning electrical company. His passion for board games has led him from playing hundreds of original titles to creating a design and publishing company of his own, Convivial Games. As an up and coming collaborator on many projects, he is always eager to try new games and meet new people.
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All of Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”‘s reviews can be found HERE.