There’s this addictive computer game readers might have heard of that originated in Russia: Tetris. This block-packing insanity-inducer has on and off inspired similar board games. With the release of Patchwork a couple of years ago, Uwe Rosenberg seems to be taking a designer’s journey through competitive block-laying games. Either he’s trying to exorcise some demons or people really dig this stuff. One recent game design therapy that helps purge Mr. Rosenberg of his block addiction is Cottage Garden. It’s a follow-up to Patchwork that brings a four-player arena to competitive garden making.
In general, players in Cottage Garden are scoring points when completing grids by placing tiles. On each turn, players will place multi-block tiles of flower designs onto one of two garden grid boards. Each garden grid has spaces which include flower pots or plant covers, which are worth points. By placing tiles that avoid overlapping the pots or plant covers, players can score for those items when the garden grid is eventually completely filled in.
To track score, each player in Cottage Garden has a scoring track; one for Flower Pots, one for Plant Covers. Players receive bonus Cat tiles to place along with a normal tile placement if they reach a certain space on the score track. Cats aid in completing the grids by filling in errant 1×1 spaces on the grid. This can also be done with free Flower Pot tiles, but cats are faster since they don’t require a full action to be placed.
The time limitation in the game comes from the shared board from which players take block tiles. A marker is moved around the board and incremented by one for each lap. Once the fifth lap is complete, the game enters the final round of play. Players continue to play to complete any garden grids but will lose some points as they take their turns.
In terms of digital conversion, Cottage Garden, at best, is fine. The haptic response is adequate but at times inaccurate. The tutorial is comprehensive, but really uninteresting. The art and graphics are pretty standard with minor animations to entertain the user. The sound as well is adequate providing nice lilting classical music, something akin to a minuet. Overall, everything is just ok.
One of the most appreciated things about the app is the ability to see all player boards at a glance. Even though they appear in miniature at the bottom of the screen, there are no transitions to secondary screens to see other boards. It isn’t something that will work for every game, but some thought about player considerations was definitely applied here.
Gamers who feel they need to graduate from the gorgeous production of the Patchwork app might be a bit disappointed. Even though this title borrows heavily from the Patchwork implementation, it still feels as though something is missing. Cottage Garden is a much more straightforward implementation without any of the flourishes that really helped bring affection to Patchwork on iOS.
One thing that is appreciated is the AI. Even on an easy mode, the decisions made by the computer should cause players to perk up and really take stock of their skills. The ability of the app to select tiles for coverage and even make moves that will lose points in the end game but still win was evident.
Players might, however, feel more wealth of reward from the Internet matches available. Depending on how fast players take their turns, games can be really slow. It’s one of those games that’s not so enjoyable online as downtime can be an issue.
Players who absolutely love Cottage Garden won’t be terribly disappointed with this release. They won’t be terribly overjoyed either. The developer Digidiced is familiar with the territory and Cottage Garden comes in a line of a series of other releases which share a similar level of quality. Overall there’s nothing out of place, but also nothing truly exceptional or notable. For those who are bigger fans of Patchwork, there’s little here to really pull gamers away from that title.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A par-for-the-course release which fails to include any bells or whistles to make garden tile-laying exceptional.
• Haptic tile selection issues
• Uninspired implementation