To be completely honest with you, Herbaceous is a word that rarely, if ever, makes its way into my conversations. And this from an avid gardener and cook. But hey, it’s definitely a thing and I remember when this game landed on Kickstarter last year. It immediately intrigued me with its theme (very unique) and beautiful artwork (Benjamin Shulman and Beth Sobel). Herbaceous funded and has since made its way to our tabletop, so let’s get cooking (see what I did there) and see if Herbaceous will grow on you (OK, I’ll stop).
Herbaceous is a press your luck, set collection game for 1-4 players that takes about 20 minutes to play. Herbaceous plays best with 3-4 players.
Herbaceous is as simple and accessible as it comes. If it takes you more than a minute or two to explain the rules, chances are you trying to teach the wrong game.
On a player’s turn, they take two steps:
Step 1: Pot Herbs (optional)
Each player has 4 pots in which to plant herbs. Each pot holds a specific combination of cards (pairs, different herbs, identical herbs, any 3) and can only be used once per game. If a player wishes to use a pot, they collect all the appropriate herbs from their personal garden and/or community garden and place them in the appropriate pot.
Step 2: Plant
Draw one card and place it face up in either your personal garden or the community garden. Then draw a second card and place it in the location not selected for your first card.
Turns will go by in this manner until all the cards in the draw deck have been planted. Each player gets one more turn and points are tallied to determine the winner.
So the first thing you will notice is that Herbaceous is a light game. In fact, quite a few turns will simply have you drawing two cards and deciding where they will go. While some gamers will probably turn up their nose at such a light offering, I found Herbaceous decidedly enjoyable. Not ever game needs to be a 2 hour, strategic brain burner.
And that’s one of the reasons I enjoy Herbaceous. It’s a game I can pull out when I want something that’s quick, easy to teach, and fun. And even though its such a light game, I was pleasantly surprised with the game play. I was a tad skeptical after reading the rules, but I found that there are actually decisions to be made in this card game.
At its heart, Herbaceous is a press-your-luck game. You can only use each pot once, and then it’s done for the game. That means you need to decide if the 5 identical herbs are enough to grab, or if you want to wait and try to get just a few more. Since the scoring works on a sliding scale, even one extra herb can make a difference.
Of course, if you hesitate, an opponent can destroy your well laid plans. I have even seen my fair share of hate drafting in Herbaceous. A player took fewer points in a pot just to deny another player’s obvious plans. However, that’s also the rarity. Herbaceous is a calm, casual game and usually plays that way.
If there is one place that Herbaceous is lacking, it has to be with variety. This isn’t a game you are going to play multiple times in a row. Herbaceous can start to feel “samey” after a few games, so it’s probably going to sit on your shelf a bit longer between plays than I’d like.
However, I will say that the copy I received included 3 “expansion” cards. These are unique herbs that gave a special actions to all players when revealed. I really would like to see more of these cards as they helped keep the game interesting. Herbaceous is a game that would absolutely benefit from an expansion.
I enjoyed Herbaceous and enjoyed it for what it is. Despite my original fears that the rules were just too light, it wasn’t the case. Herbaceous is a tense, push your luck card game that can be played within 15-20 minutes, even at the higher player count. And it’s those same light rules that help make it a perfect family game. In fact, you you’ll be seeing it in an upcoming Parental Guidance column.
Everyone needs light or filler games in their collection, and that’s why I’m keeping Herbaceous in my game library. I found a lot to enjoy with this beautifully illustrated card game and I really hope publisher Pencil First Games is working on an expansion, as some more variety could definitely help this get to the table more often.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A beautifully illustrated, light set collection game that plays quickly and offers some great push-your-luck moments.
• Could use some more variety
• Doesn’t play the best with 2