Vadoran Gardens First Impressions

Vadoran Gardens First Impressions

It's a shame that Vadoran Gardens may not get the Kickstarter spotlight it so rightly deserves. They say that great things come in small packages and the first of City of Games' small box games is testament that to have a fun game you don't need 500 miniatures and a box that can be used as a raft during flooding. For reasons that make perfect financial sense, Vadoran Gardens is an add on in the current City of Kings second print run Kickstarter, but I believe it deserves to shine on its own.

Vadoran Gardens is like Kingdomino but cranked up a few notches. It's based around a simple tile matching system and can be played in a short period of time, but the options available and the level of strategy are two or three levels above that of the blockbuster domino game. If you found Kingdomino too light but liked the concept, then you need to try Vadoran gardens.

You are making your way to a serene temple, through the beautiful and varied gardens, choosing your path and trying to have the most interesting journey possible. To do this you will be selecting a tile from a limited pool and then placing these tiles, end on end to form a path. You get some leeway on how the next tile is placed but there are restrictions, such as being unable to deviate more than three squares up and down and, of course, matching the pattern to those already in play. At first these restriction can feel overly, well restrictive, but these restrictions bring that ultimate of game ingredients, the meaningful decision.

vadoran gardens card laying

Just like that other domino game that I have already name-checked too much, you will have some limited knowledge of what cards are about to be available. In theory, therefore, you can plan ahead a little to pull off the most spectacular of gardens. Of course fate, and your opponents, will be doing everything in their power to try and make your beautiful horticultural travels turn into a visit to the bin store at the back of a block of flats and there is another layer of strategy here in that old chestnut of choosing between taking a tile that benefits you or denying your opponent of a tile they desperately want.

You will be rewarded throughout the game by not only creating large paths of the same terrain but also by filling your path with interesting things. These could be flowers, relics or the cute furry animals that adorns Vadoran Gardens' beautiful artwork. It's these little features that are going to catapult your score but can be difficult to pull off, especially if your opponents are keeping a careful eye on what tiles you are placing.

vadoran gardens tile laying animation


Just like the temple gardens that the tiles are representing, Vadoran Gardens is a beautiful game, the artwork throughout is vibrant, colourful and full of little details, and because you are building a path as you play, the end result is always something attractive to behold.

And so our journey here today is about to come to an end and it is time for me to look back over the path I have chosen and reflect on what I have seen and learnt. I can say hand on heart that I really want to play Vadoran Gardens again, and although I have mentioned 'that other domino game' quite a bit in this review I must say that I do not own, and now I probably never will, because Vadoran Gardens, although still straightforward and quick to play, introduces a couple of simple concepts that make for a thinkier and more rewarding experience.

Vadoran Gardens is on Kickstarter now.

This review is based on a preview copy of the game, played at a game convention with the designer.
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