Full disclosure: A review copy of Formosa Flowers was provided by Nice Game Shop.
More games from outside of the US! This one’s courtesy of Nice Game Publishing; they bring a bunch of games to the European market. And sometimes here! This game in particular comes from Soso Studio, which published Strange Vending Machine, a game I reviewed … sometime last year. It’s been a while. Hard to keep track. Anyways, let’s launch into this one.
In Formosa Flowers, the seasons are changing and you’re just kind of along for the ride. And that’s fine! In the meantime, though, you need to collect some of those cards so that you can … appreciate the art? Again, not a game with a ton of lore. That’s okay, though. Will you be able to outscore your opponents? Or will your attempts to push your luck end in failure?
Pretty much none. Set the score tokens to the side:
Also set aside the stay tokens:
Shuffle the cards:
Deal each player a certain amount:
- 2 players: 8 cards
- 3 players: 7 cards
- 4 players: 6 cards
If you want, you can give each player a card from the mini-expansion:
Reveal 6 more cards face-up in the center. Each player then chooses two cards to pass to the player on their right at the same time.
All players then must state the number of cards in their hand without symbols (white cards). The player with the most goes first!
A game of Formosa Flowers takes place as the seasons change. You’ll work to collect cards from various months in order to score points, and collect enough points and you’ll win!
On your turn, you’ll do two things: Play, and Resolution.
When you play, first, play a card from your hand. If any card in the center matches that card’s value, you may choose one of the matching cards and take it, adding it and the card you played to your tableau. If no card matches, leave the played card in the tableau.
Next, reveal the top card of the deck and do the same thing. If any card in the center matches, take it, adding both to your tableau. If no card matches, leave the revealed card in the tableau.
Now, to resolve. If you have at least three leaf cards in your tableau, discard all leaf cards in your tableau, returning any point tokens on those cards to the supply.
Then, score sets. Pairs of cards with certain symbols are eligible for scoring, allowing you to potentially collect points for them. If you have the correct sets, set them together in your tableau and add the correct number of points tokens.
- 2 Wind Cards: 1 point
- 2 Rain Cards: 2 points
- 2 Cloud Cards: 3 points
- 1 Sun and 1 Moon Card: 4 points
- 8 White Cards: 5 points
Now, if you have 5 or more points in your tableau, you may exit the round and score, if you want. If you do not want to exit the round and score, you take a Stay Token. When you do exit the round, you gain bonus points for how many stay tokens you have:
- 1 Stay Token: +3 points
- 2 Stay Tokens: +7 points
- 3 Stay Tokens: You immediately win!
Either way, once you score, you’re out of the round.
End of Round
A round ends once the required number of players score:
- 2 players: 1 player scores.
- 3 players: 2 players score.
- 4 players: 2 players score.
If the round ended and you did not score, return your points tokens to the supply; you score 0 for this round. If you did score and you’re playing with the expansion, take the bonus points pictured on the card if your tableau has the required elements!
End of Game
If a round ends and any player has 26 or more points, the game is over. The player with the most points wins! If any player scores out with 3 Stay Tokens, they immediately win, as well!
Player Count Differences
The major difference is between two and three players. Once you leave two players behind, you hit a new tier: now two players need to score before the round ends. This is a bit of a game-changer. Now, there’s a limited incentive to scoring out when you can grab Stay Tokens, unless your opponents are already score-capable. Instead, you may want to hang out for a bit and let your score climb before bailing, lest you hit a weird spot where your opponents can just race to see who will win the game, now that you’re out. And you can! Get legitimately locked out, that is, if you’re not careful. That may very well happen at the end of the game, so you’re kind of incentivized to go for it if you’re close! Either way, though, the game is pretty substantially different at higher player counts. At lower player counts, it only takes one player scoring to end the round, so, players are incentivized to end the round as quickly as possible so that they can get free points on their opponent. The only reason to run up the score is if you feel like you might be unlucky next round and you want to put some distance between yourself and your opponent. Either way, though, it makes the two-player mode feel pretty luck-dependent, so, I tend to
- Set yourself up to score as quickly as possible. This is pretty key. The faster you score, the faster you can just … be out. The thing about this is, I’m not saying go out as quickly as possible; just be ready to score. If you go out too quickly and the other person isn’t getting the cards they need, your opponent(s) may be able to stay long enough to win the game on points. It’s a risky gamble, but you should try to be able to force the issue quickly.
- In a two-player game, honestly, unless you are confident they can’t score, you should just go out as soon as you can score. Yeah, the first player to choose to score ends the round, so, you can just get unanswered points if you beat your opponent to the punch. That’s definitely worth considering. At higher player counts, two players can score, so the advantage of going out quickly is significantly reduced.
- Actually, at higher player counts, as soon as the next player to score ends the round, you should probably just score as soon as you can. Once it gets down to it, yes, unless the player who is scoring is going to win. If that’s the case, I mean, they should have stayed in because rack those points up. Or don’t. I have no preference on who wins your games.
- If you can’t score, try to clear the main area of high-value cards. That will at least make it harder for your opponents to score out as well. It’s whatever the opposite of a rising ride is.
- Keep an eye on your opponent’s played cards. You need to be aware at all times how close they are to scoring out.
- Going for Stay Tokens is risky, but I’ve seen someone win the entire game in one round that way. It was awesome. If you’re going to go for a dunk, make it count, right? If it works, it’s incredible and super respectable. If it doesn’t work out, you likely came close. Still respectable. Either way, taking one and going out is just free points in addition to any subsequent scoring. May be worth the wait at higher player counts.
- If you get stuck with multiple of the same card in your hand, play the less valuable ones early so that you can drop the valuable ones and take them both. Just watch out for your opponents snatching up the cards you’re playing if you can’t use them to take other cards.
- It’s not altogether unreasonable to go for blank cards, if you’re struggling with taking anything else. It’s a bit more subtle, so, you do have the advantage of your opponents potentially not noticing. Plus, if they do notice, it’s hard to stop you getting those and getting other, more useful scoring cards. You can’t really prevent a player taking something.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Surprisingly peaceful game. I think this is the game’s main feature. The actual gameplay is somewhat aggressive and press-your-luck, but beyond taking a card someone else wants there’s not much you can do to affect other players beyond scoring out. It makes the game move at a good pace without too much negative interaction, so I appreciate it. The art helps a lot, though, in making that feeling work.
- The art is incredibly nice. It’s extremely good. Bright, colorful, smooth lines, and a lot of flowers and fun animals. It’s a great combination, and it works absolutely perfectly for this title.
- Very portable. I actually have it in my Quiver right now, since I’m writing this post from LA. That gave me a temporary panic attack about whether or not my Quiver made it into my suitcase, but I’m pretty sure it did. That was an emotional rollercoaster.
- Not too hard to learn, either. You pretty much play a card of your choice and flip a card randomly. If either or both match cards in the center, you take the pairs. If either or both do not, the non-matching cards are left in the center. If you clear the scoring threshold you can bow out and keep your points, but only players who keep their points get points. It’s a simple enough title, but I think it’s definitely one that it helps to start playing if you’re trying to learn it; the flow is pretty easy to grasp once you’re in it, I think.
- Decently quick little game, as well. I’ve seen the game end in one round, which, yikes, but also it doesn’t take a ton of time because the scoring threshold increases and the points required to end the game decreases as the player count rises. It’s a nice way to scale up.
- The idea of having to skip scoring to potentially win the game is an interesting press-your-luck element that I haven’t seen. Usually it’s just focused on going as hard as you can until you bust; this is essentially gambling against your opponents’ luck to see if you can win the game as you collect score residuals. I like it a lot, mechanically.
- I really like how cards are played and scored in this one. I like the idea of the visible tableau that players are claiming cards from by matching them with their own cards. Leads to interesting tensions as I have to decide which cards I want to add to the center and risk letting someone else take.
- The optional bonus conditions aren’t really something you can shoot for in a two-player game. This is just mildly disappointing. I like that there’s a bonus mini-expansion in the game, but if you’re as risk-averse as I am, there’s no way you’re going to hit scoring and your bonus condition without choosing to score out. That’s a lot of risk and points to lose.
- Can feel pretty luck-based. I mean, half of the game is flipping the top card of the deck and seeing what you get, so, this seems like a pretty fair criticism, all things being equal. I think, though, that there’s some nice strategy around what cards to put in the center so that you’re best set up to profit off of the flip without helping your opponent too much.
- In general, I think this game is weaker at two players than other player counts. It bums me out to say that because I do like the game, but at two there’s too strong of an incentive to score out as quickly as possible unless there’s no way your opponent can score (and, given that they can potentially take four cards in one turn, that’s a tough guarantee to make). It doesn’t mean that I think it’s bad at two players; I just think it shines at higher player counts.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, I like Formosa Flowers! I do have some issues with how much luck runs around in the game, but I think it compensates for that by being fairly generously short (and just a beautiful game, to boot). I think the nice thing about it is that it operates on a very peaceful cycle. Both my opponent and I are competing for cards in the shared center space, but we’re doing so very indirectly. I may put something into the center that I want that my opponent may take, but the extra step where I give it to the center makes it feel less personal, like it’s not mine anymore. Or maybe I’m gently disassociating. It’s a Wednesday; could be either one. Anyways, I think this game’s a great example of art enforcing gameplay. If the art were super aggressive, then I could see my opinion of the gameplay changing as well. But it’s not! It’s very peaceful and relaxing, and so I tend to think of the game as peaceful and relaxing, too. At higher player counts, though, I think this game starts to shine a bit more; the tension between players trying to figure out when the right time to go out is is interesting, to me. Plus, I think the included mini-expansion works a bit better at higher player counts, so, that also helps. Anyways, if you’re looking for a very pretty game to play when you’re looking to pass some time with friends, I’d recommend Formosa Flowers! It’s definitely very peaceful, and the art is super nice.