What is Verdant?
Verdant is a puzzly tableau building game for 1 to 5 players. It has a very approachable theme where you are somebody collecting and arranging houseplants in the perfect interior. You will use the simple mechanics to position your plants in a way to give them the most light and add items to your rooms to enhance their appeal.
How to play
In Verdant you draft plant and room cards to create a five by three tableau. This tableau will resemble a checkerboard with alternating room and plant cards. The goal is to complete plants by giving them the right amount of verdancy tokens. Plants gain verdancy from adjacent rooms with the right lighting circumstances and from certain items. When a plant is completed it gets potted and will score you points at the end of the game. Rooms will also score points based on the plants adjacent to them and from item tokens matching their colour. Lastly, you will score points for the amount of unique items you have in your tableau and for having all five plant and all five room colours.
Look and feel
Let me first get something out of the way, why are almost all game boxes so much bigger than they need to be? I know it has to do with their presence on shelves and stuff but I’m not a big fan of so much empty space in boxes. Verdant is one of these games sadly. It isn’t as bad as some games but the box definitely could have been smaller. It’s a minor thing but it still bugs me.
But once you get past this little detail you take a look at the components and those are great. The plant cards have beautiful art and all the plants look unique. The iconography is very clear and easy to see on all the cards as well. The room cards are simple but the colour palette is nice and goes well together while still being distinct. Verdant is also colourblind friendly because all the cards do not only have a unique colour but also a pattern so you can differentiate them easily.
The wooden verdancy tokens are nice and fun to play with. The items tokens and the green thumb tokens are simple cardboard and do exactly what they need to do. I do like that the green thumb tokens have all kinds of different skin colours, it’s a nice detail.
How do you play Verdant solo?
If you are familiar with the solo mode for Cascadia the solo for Verdant will be very easy to grasp as it is basically the same thing. For the solo you draft cards and tokens just like in the multiplayer game. You make four rows with four items each, one for the pots, one for the plants, one for the tokens and one for the rooms. When you grab something you can only pick one card, so either a plant or a room and you get the item token in the same column. After picking your card you will put a thumb on the other card, so if you pick a plant card you put a thumb on the room and vice versa. After placing your card and item you will finish your turn by removing the rightmost cards, tokens and pot from the drafting area. You then slide all the other cards and tokens to the right and add new ones on the left. Just like in the multiplayer game you will play thirteen rounds and then count up your score.
What I think of the game
When I wrote my review on Cascadia I concluded that it was well worthy of the Spiel des Jahres 2022 and that I enjoyed the game a lot. While I still stand by that statement I can now confidently say, after playing both Verdant and Cascadia at least a dozen times, that I enjoy Verdant more.
One of the things I enjoy about Cascadia is how open it is, you can put your tiles down on a lot of places and the more tiles you play the more spots you have to play new ones. Verdant does the opposite. When you start the game you place your two tiles and you have a ton of places to put your next card and the choice of a plant or room card. You can figure out your 3 by 5 grid as you go and choose plant or room cards accordingly. But as the game progresses the game becomes tighter. You are confined by the 3 by 5 grid and by having to alternate rooms and plants in that grid. Once you have a row of five or a column of three you can no longer expand in a different direction. Suddenly choosing cards becomes more difficult, you might want to pick that plant card for the colour but that room is a good fit for that one spot and might not come around again soon. This creates an exciting balance of starting with wide open game full of opportunities and ending with a tight puzzle where you might have to choose the lesser of two evils to fill your tableau.
I enjoy this aspect of the game because you know you have to plan ahead to play the best game. In Cascadia there is always an okay place to put a tile, in Verdant this is more up to you and your planning.
Another aspect where planning ahead comes into play is completing plants and placing pots. When you start the game you have access to some pretty high scoring pots and as the game progresses these cycle out and are replaced by lesser scoring pots. So you will benefit from finishing plants early in the game, on the other hand the plants that you can finish early on are almost always lower scoring plants of four or five points. So you will get the higher scoring pot but with a lower scoring plant. Maybe this is worth it but what if you can find a higher scoring plant of the right colour? Maybe that will be even better? This back and forth between options gives you some interesting choices and sometimes a gamble is worth it and sometimes it isn’t.
The last aspect to mention are the goal cards. In Verdant you have optional goal cards to add to the game. These will give you goals to achieve for victory points. They add a new layer of strategy to the game and will influence your choices. Personally I haven’t used them a lot because the base game is fun enough for now. But if I ever get tired of the base game they will add some nice variety.
As you can probably tell from all of the things mentioned above, I really enjoy this game. I was already pretty impressed by Cascadia but Verdant is even better (in my humble opinion). Of course a lot of this comes down to preferences. I like that this game is tighter and that the end game can totally swing your way or blow up in your face. When it goes my way I always compliment myself for good planning and when it doesn’t it’s of course because of a bad draw. If this is something you don’t enjoy this might not be the game for you and Cascadia might be the better choice.
The art and theme are also things I enjoy. Yes, it’s again a game about nature and plants and there have been many of those lately. But in this game the theme feels cosy and I like putting down couches and snuggly cats and dogs in my rooms. Does the theme really matter to the gameplay? No, it doesn’t. But it works well with the game and for me that is good enough when the gameplay is fun.