Garden Dice is a 2012 release from Meridae Games, for 2-4 players. The game takes about 60-75 minutes to play, and it is a fun little family game. The primary mechanic is dice rolling, but in a non-traditional sense. It is not a roll-and-move game, but instead, the dice are used as part of players’ actions, not unlike Alien Frontiers or Kingsburg.
The basic premise of Garden Dice is that players are planting seeds in a garden in hopes of harvesting the best crops. On a players turn, they begin by rolling 4 standard, 6-sided dice. From there, players can use the results to do a variety of actions. These include buying seeds, planting seeds, watering seeds, harvesting crops, or moving cute critters throughout the garden to attack other players vegetables. The board is set up in a 6×6 grid, and players can place seeds by using two dice results as coordinates. Seed tiles have certain values from 1-5, and players can spend dice to buy seeds of equal or lesser value than the result. Once the seed is planted, players can spend dice to water a seed, and later, to harvest it, scoring points.
One very interesting aspect of the game is “chaining.” When a player waters or harvests a tile, any adjacent tiles of the same kind (seed or plant) of lesser value are also watered or harvested, respectively, possibly creating a chain reaction (5-4-3, etc.). This leads to some cool player interaction, in that players need to strategize their moves based on who is around them. It is often a good idea to try to make other players do your watering and harvesting for you through chaining on their own turns. In other words, players should try to place their own lower-numbered crops next to the higher-numbered crops of their opponents.
During the game, players can place a double-sided bird/rabbit tile that allows them to attack the seeds/crops of other players. This player interaction, if done correctly, can be devastating to other players’ progress. While there is a way to remove another players critter tile, it is very costly (three dice, at least one of which must be a 6!). Another option players have is the sundial/scarecrow tile. This allows players to modify a dice roll, or prevent other players’ critters from entering the surrounding area, depending on which side is active.
The game ends when no more seed tiles are available for purchase. At the end of the game, the winner is the player who accumulated the most points through planting and harvesting crops. Bonus points are awarded for several things, including getting sets of all the vegetables or three or more of a kind of a single vegetable.
The components in Garden Dice are high-quality. The box is smallish, comparable to Elder Sign. The game has nice artwork, and it includes a colorful board, tokens, and discs, and nice, wooden dice. While the game is certainly intended for a younger audience, there is enough strategy that older gamers can still enjoy it. The theme may not appeal to everyone, but the mechanics work quite well. If all 50 seed tiles are used in the game, it can take a bit more than an hour to play. However, it’s very easy to get around this. Simply remove two or three seed tiles from each stack to make the game go a little quicker.
Garden Dice is an enjoyable filler game. If you are a fan of lighter dice games, you should check it out. Meridae Games did a good job with the production, and I look forward to seeing more of their products in the future.