#704 – Succulent

Base price: $45.
2 – 4 players.
Play time: 45 – 60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 2

Full disclosure: A review copy of Succulent was provided by Renegade Game Studios.

Yeehaw. If you’re reading this, this hopefully means that I did it. I try, every year, with no success, to get a bunch of reviews banked for the next year so I start the next year somewhat ahead. I always fail, but it’s the promise of success that I find alluring, you know? This is my 2020 attempt, and it would be great if it worked out so that I could finally take the vacation I deserve in 2021. No guarantees, but I’ve got three weeks and I’m trying to get a review or two done every couple of days. If I can land that otherwise-hellish pace, then I’m golden. As a result, no time to chat; let’s get right to Succulent!

In Succulent, you play as gardeners looking to spruce up the place. A lot of us have become home gardeners in 2020, so, mood. For me it’s a basil plant, for my friend in Colorado it’s 30-something distinct plants. She’s great. That’s a lot of plants. Anyways. You’re going to work on projects based on your succulent clippings, but you’d ideally like to create projects that are more impressive than your opponents’. They want the same thing, naturally, competition ensues. You’ll have to manage your projects, your flower beds, and your water supply if you want to come out ahead on this one, though. Will you be able to work your way to victory, or are your chances of success going to wither?

Contents

Setup

You’re gonna start by building the garden. Place four garden boards in a row so that their long sides are adjacent, then place the other four so that their long sides are adjacent to the short sides of the garden (two above and two below):

Next, create the supply. That’ll include the droplets:

The flower beds:

The various cuttings:

Set those in separate piles near the garden. Then, shuffle the project cards and create a row:

The number of cards in the row will depend on your player count:

  • 2 players / 3 players: 5 cards
  • 4 players: 6 cards

Give each player a greenhouse:

Also, give them a set of flowers in the color of their choice:

Again, this will depend on player count:

  • 2 players: 14 flowers
  • 3 players: 12 flowers
  • 4 players: 10 flowers

Each player should take a small flower bed and a medium flower bed, and then the player with the first greenhouse alphabetically can start!

Gameplay

Your goal in Succulent is simple: make the nicest garden. Sometimes games are just nice, like that. Naturally, you want to complete some projects, and your equally-handy opponents want to do the same. Let’s dive into how you do that!

On your turn, you must do a few different steps.

Action Step

During the Action Step, you perform one of two actions. You either Place Flower Beds or Gain Flower Beds.

To place a flower bed, just take one in your inventory and add it to any open spot on the board that it’ll fit. Naturally, you can’t place it on top of an already-placed bed, or such that it’s hanging off the edge of the board or onto an unrevealed spot on the board. Once you’ve placed it, do the following:

  • Gain cuttings for each color plant you just covered.
  • If you covered one or more droplets, gain those droplets and add them to open spaces on your greenhouse. Note that these are small droplets you’re gaining.
  • If any player (including you!) has a flower token (the one of your player color in the flower bed) adjacent to your newly-placed flower bed, they gain a droplet for each of their flower tokens that is adjacent to your newly-placed flower bed. Again, add those to the greenhouse immediately, and these are still small droplets.

To gain flower beds, place your gardener player token on any card in the market and gain the pictured flower beds from the supply. You can move your gardener from card to card, but you can’t replace your gardener token on the same card you removed it from in the same turn.

Naturally, you can keep up to 6 flower beds and 10 cuttings on hand at a time; if you have more, discard down to those numbers at the start of your turn.

Project Step

During the project step, you may optionally claim a project card in exchange for clippings. To complete a project, look at the card’s requirements; you must spend the same cuttings from your supply to purchase the card. If you don’t have enough, you might not be able to purchase the card. You can also use droplets from your greenhouse to complete the purchase, though! If you have an entire color’s section filled out, you may use all the droplets in that section to count as one cutting of that color. Small droplets are returned to the supply, but large droplets are not. They stay in your greenhouse permanently.

Once you’ve paid for the card, take it and place it in front of you. Some cards have immediate bonuses; claim that, as well. If any player (including you!) has a gardener on the card you just bought, return it to them and they may claim one large droplet and place it on a space in their greenhouse. Generally, you cannot move droplets from one section to another in your greenhouse, but you can rearrange droplets within a greenhouse space (for instance, to accommodate a large droplet being placed). If you have no available spaces for a large droplet, return one of your small droplets to the supply and place the large droplet (if you want).

After doing all that, refill the project row with the top card from the deck, face-up. That concludes your turn.

End of Game

Once a player has placed their last flower or completed the required number of projects, the game ends. The number of projects depends on the player count:

  • 2 players: 8 projects
  • 3 players: 7 projects
  • 4 players: 6 projects

During this game end, you finish the current round and play one more round. Then, final scoring! You score the following:

  • Completed projects score their pictured value.
  • Scoring spaces on your greenhouse score their value if and only if you have a large droplet on them. Small droplets don’t count, and get moved into your “remaining items”.
  • Remaining items score at the rate of .5 points per item. This includes leftover flower beds, cuttings, and small droplets.

The player with the most points wins!

Player Count Differences

I actually don’t have a huge player count preference. The game moves at a fairly chill pace, and you can’t really block people that well beyond taking a spot that they want or a card they might have been going for. It’s hard to hurt your opponents, otherwise. The one thing you’ll notice is that at higher player counts, you end up seeing more droplets in play around the table (as there are more players to potentially give droplets to, on placement), but that’s largely the only thing I’ve noticed. It’s a relaxed strategy game, so I wouldn’t say I mind the higher end too much, but it plays very pleasantly at the lower end of the player count spectrum, as well. Just keep in mind that player scores will tend to be higher at lower player counts, as you need more project cards to win the game. Overall recommendation for Succulent? No real player count preference. Sometimes that’s nice when that works out.

Strategy

  • This is another game where I think a rush-the-end strategy won’t work. Part of it is that you just … need too many project cards to easily get away with rushing the end of the game. If you try, you’re likely going to be buying cheap cards the whole time while your opponents get more expensive ones, and a very expensive card costs less than twice the resources of a cheap one and often gives almost three times as many points. You don’t have to be a mathemagician to understand that that’s not sorcery; that’s just bad strategy. Getting a few quick scores so that you’re putting points on the board is fine, but overindexing on cheap cards to try and speed along the end of the game will just ensure that you lose.
  • If you can, try to guess which cards your opponents are going to try and purchase. This is really useful for getting large droplets, and the droplets themselves are very useful (as they’re both worth points and they make it easier to get more cuttings), so, if you see your opponent collecting a specific color combination, it may be worth placing your gardener on the card you think they want and hoping that you’re right. The speculation mechanic is very interesting, though I’ll admit it feels kind of weird for this type of game.
  • If you can’t, it’s not a bad idea to just speculate on the cards that you want to purchase. If your prediction luck is so-so, you do have a good sense of what cards you want, so it may be worth placing on those instead. Just remember that doing so will use up a turn, and may not be the most efficient use of your turn unless you can also buy in the same turn (which can happen, depending on how your droplets and cuttings work out).
  • Keeping a good supply of flower beds (especially one-space beds) can be pretty critical. You don’t want to run out of flower beds. Had that happen in one game on my last turn, so I basically could just … do nothing. Very embarrassing. Try to make sure you have a couple on hand at all times, especially if you finish a garden board. You get a free placement of a size one flower bed, so, if you don’t have any, it’s just kind of … embarrassing.
  • If you’re consistently going after one color, it may be worth investing your big droplets there so you always have access to that color. If you can get a full space on your greenhouse covered in big droplets, you can then always use that color cutting, once per project card. That may be huge, especially for certain cards.
  • If not, try to drop your big droplets on spaces that will be worth points. You may not be focusing as much on one color in particular, and that’s fine. If that’s the case, then focus on getting big droplets onto spaces that will generate end-game points for you. That can easily be another way to score 10+ points, which may make a difference.
  • Watch out for certain market cards that can turn into big rewards for the right player. I’ve seen players get 20+ points off the right card. Ideally, the player clowning everyone else with the high-scoring card would be you, so, try to make sure that you get that card or you at least block another player from taking it when they’ll obviously benefit more. It doesn’t come up often, but it’s often enough that you should watch for it.
  • Finishing up the last droplet on a garden board can be a great chain opportunity, if you have the right flower beds in your supply. You can open up a new board and place another token for free. If you place it in the right spot, you can get a new cutting and a lot of droplets for yourself, which is a great combination! You may be able to convert that into a new project card if you play your cuttings right, so, try to maximize your output on those combos.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The flow of a turn is pretty short and simple, which is very nice. I think that’s generally good for games, even complex ones. Longer and more complex turns make it really easy to lose the thread of what’s happening or misplace some points or accidentally short-circuit your train of thought because you’re like “oh I’ll just grab all my points at the end of the turn” but you forget and then suddenly you’re down points. Having a turn that is “You may do this OR this, and then optionally this” makes the game easy to explain and pick up, which is something I appreciate. I’ve even played some complex games with similar turns; they just have more complicated “this” and more impactful consequences as a result of a “this”.
  • I love the art for this game; it makes the whole thing really relaxing. It’s a very pleasant vibe. I think games with a lot of green and teal are just … relaxing, and for some ongoing reason I’m a sucker for a board game box with a lot of green on it? I think it just remains a color I don’t see altogether that often, which makes it more compelling.
  • I wonder if there’s something to games with themes like this, as it has a very similar vibe to Herbaceous and they’re thematically adjacent. I’d honestly suggest this as a game for someone who likes the interaction and “vibe” of Herbaceous but wants something that’s mechanically a bit more complicated (it’s definitely not a similar game, mechanically). I may even suggest it to my plant-aligned friend, but that’s because she just really likes succulents. I think it helps that the game isn’t overwhelmingly negative, but that does well aligning with the theme, too? Definitely here for more gardening games if they’re gonna have similar energy.
  • The components really give the game an impressive table presence. Whoever decided that the flower beds should have space for player flowers so that the game gets this three-tiered texture knew exactly what they were doing. It looks really good on the table, and it’s got the right color scheme (that green contrasting with the gray, and the flower colors on top of of that) to catch someone’s eye. Naturally, there haven’t really been conventions to show it off, but I could see it getting some traffic on component quality and art alone. It helps that it’s fun, too.
  • The rulebook is quite nice. I think Renegade has traditionally done very well on their rulebooks (nice work, Dustin), and this is no exception. The flow of the game is clear, exceptions are outlined and addressed without being confusing, and no page has too much information. It makes the game easier to learn and much more likely to hit the table, as a result.
  • The gardener / speculation mechanic is interesting. This is something that feels a bit out of place (just the speculation part), but it works mechanically with the rest of the game since you use this mechanic to buy flower beds. But I do like the idea of you getting rewarded for correctly guessing where other players will go! It creates a slight disincentive for those players, since it helps you, and that’s an interesting thing to see mechanically. It’ll play out differently for different players, for sure.

Mehs

  • A lot of the components are fairly small, so it’s a whole ordeal about potentially losing them. Maybe I just have ham hands, but the cuttings and the small droplets are tiny for an otherwise fairly large game, and that always causes me a little bit of stress. I’ve been dropping game components a bit during photography sessions (I am very tired), but I so far seem to have not lost anything. I just wish the components (especially the ones that aren’t going on anything) were … larger.
  • Half points are weird. This is a petty complaint, so it’s perfect for the Mehs. This is basically what this entire section is for.

Cons

  • The random market can really dunk on you in certain situations. Just the nature of things, but it’s very possible to hit situations where it’ll just take you a little while longer to get certain colors because they’re not available on the board but they’re required for the market, and that can be a bit frustrating. Worse, it makes you a little predictable, because your opponents can see what you can possibly buy (which is great for them). I’m always a big fan of being able to flush the market in games with random markets, and this isn’t much of an exception.

Overall: 7.5 / 10

Overall, I think Succulent is quite pleasant! I like a lot of things that Succulent does, like its art and its whole general vibe. It’ll work very well for players who are thematically into games like Herbaceous or other “chill” games that want something perhaps a little more complex. I think that’s a nice area to occupy, though, having games that are easy to play when you want to just chill out and hang out with friends. I’m pretty pleased with this complexity, as well, as these games tend to be on the lighter side, and the rulebook does a great job allowing for an increase in game complexity while still maintaining a good and streamlined rules experience. I do worry a bit, though, that this puts Succulent in an odd place; if you’re just looking to chill with friends, why would you play a more complex title when a lighter one would do? I’m honestly not sure what the answer to that question is beyond the idea that variety is good. That does make some moves against this title, just that I’m not sure where it “fits” into the overall gaming tapestry of “how and where would I play this, and who would I play it with?” And that’s a bit unfortunate, as every time I play it I have a very pleasant time. I think I just wish there was something in particular I could point to in this game and be like “ah yes, this is a thing that makes this game stand out, far and away from the rest of the pack”, and my repeated plays haven’t uncovered that for me. That’s … fine, sometimes, though. I think what it does well will appeal to players who want a spatial game with a bit more interaction that isn’t inherently negative, and that the vibe the game creates will carry it for the right people. That said, I’d love to talk to someone who says this is their favorite game, just to get a sense of their perspective. Either way, though, if you’re looking for a chiller game that’s got a good bit of strategy to it, I’d recommend Succulent! I really like the game’s vibe.


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