Thanks to Pencil First Games for providing a review copt of this game.
Herbaceous was a game that came out in 2017. Now, there’s a super portable edition called
Herbaceous Pocket Edition is a smaller version of Herbaceous, which wasn’t that huge to begin with. The game was designed by Eduardo Baraf and Steve Finn, with a solo mode by Keith Matejka and art by Beth Sobel. Your goal is to score points by planting different herbs and then potting them.
The game comes with 63 herb cards in 7 types, 9 cards each. There are also three special herbs with point values, and there are three of each of these for a total of 72 herbs that all get shuffled together. With a 2 player game, you’ll remove 24 at the start of the game, and with 3, you’ll remove 12. Each player takes four container cards, and a marker to indicate their private garden.
On your turn, you first Pot, then you Plant. Potting doesn’t make any sense until you have some plants, so I’ll start with Planting. For this phase, you’ll first draw a card from the deck and decide whether to plant it in your private garden (an area right in front of you), or in the community garden (an area in the center of the table). After planting that herb, you’ll draw a second card and plant it where you didn’t plant the first one. So, if the first one went in your private garden, the second one must go in the community garden. And vice versa.
OK, now Potting. Remember, this must be done before Planting on your turn. You can take any combination of herbs from the community and your own private garden (you may not take from anyone else’s private garden). Then you put them in any of your four containers. Each one has rules for how it works:
- Large Pot: This one will take 1-7 identical herbs, and will score 2-22 points depending on how many were placed there.
- Wooden Planter: This one will take 1-7 different herbs, and will score 2-14 points.
- Small Pots: This one will take 1-6 pairs of different herbs, and will score 4-18 points.
- Glass Jars: This one will take 1-3 herbs of any type, and will score 2-6 points. Additionally, if you place any of the special herbs (the ones with numbers) in the glass jars, they will score the points listed on the card. If you are first to play 1-2-3 in the glass jars, you get the Herb Biscuit, which is worth an additional five points.
It’s important to note that each container can only be used once in a game. So once you’ve Potted there, you can’t add to the container or Pot there again.
You’ll continue Potting and Planting until the deck has run out. From then on, you’ll continue Potting until no one can Pot any more. The game ends, and the player with the highest score wins.
Herbaceous Pocket Edition is pretty much identical to the original, as far as I can tell. The big difference is that the cards are much smaller. The herb cards have no information on them other than the art and occasionally the point values. The containers are the only in-game things with any written information on them, and they’re not too hard to read. The rules have some pretty tiny text, which may cause a problem for some people with low vision. Personally, I prefer bigger cards because it’s really hard to shuffle the small ones, but these are pretty good quality and are like this for portability.
Thematically, this is the only game I know of that is about garden herbs. Oh sure, some of the herbs (like saffron or tarragon) pop up in other games, but those games are usually about spices, not the growing of the herbs. So that makes this a pretty unique theme, and it’s cool to be able to learn what they are from their pictures. What they do is another thing entirely, but that’s not this game.
The game is basically a set collection game, where you’re trying to make the right sets to fit in your jars. There’s a good amount of luck in what gets drawn when, and what gets taken out of the game when setting up for fewer than four players. But the strategy comes from figuring out what to put in each garden, and when to pot.
It was a pretty interesting design decision to have players draw a card, plant it, then draw another and plant it in the other place. I have a feeling most designers would have had you draw two cards, and decide where each one goes. By splitting it up, you add a push your luck element to it, and more importantly, probably take away about 90% of the AP factor. AP (aka Analysis Paralysis) is basically when someone takes forever to make a decision for fear of not making the “right” choice. With only one card and another to come, your decision basically boils down to whether you need to make sure you lock it down or not. If you had two cards at once, the decision becomes which card do you need more, versus what do your opponents need, and it could quickly spiral into a “clearly I can’t drink the wine in front of me” situation. Even simple decisions can sometimes stop a game dead in its tracks.
The game overall is very simple to learn and play. It’s also very portable, and the copy I got was sent as a part of a promotion Pencil First is doing about seeing the game out and about. With that in mind, here’s a few pictures I took of the game out in the wild:
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I really like Herbaceous. It’s a pretty strategic game as you try to decide when to pot what, and a good amount of luck as you try to get the cards you need. It plays quickly, and the pocket edition especially is very portable and can be taken out anywhere. If you haven’t checked this one out yet, I would suggest it.
Thanks again to Pencil First Games for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!