You’ve seen my review history, and by now noticed that I either love extremely cute games or games with an intriguing IP. Judging by the art of this game you’ll immediately know that this falls into the cute games category and it also takes up just the cutest amount of space on your shelf. Don’t let looks deceive you though, this game about gardening does pack a punch!
Plantopia is a card game for 2 to 5 players that takes about thirty minutes to play. The best experience is with five players for maximum chaos and access to resources.
Plantopia comes with Plant Cards, Weather Cards, Planter Cards, Bonus Weather Cards, and Character Power cards. Each player is dealt six Plant Cards for their starting hand and five Planter Cards for their playing area, known as the Garden. Character Power cards may come with special effects that change the setup for a player and are detailed accordingly on the cards.
The gameplay alternates between the Planting Phase and the Weather Phase until one player has 4 Treevolved Plants. Treevolved Plants require a Baby Plant to be paid from one’s Garden of a specific type and minimum level, in which case the Baby Plant is discarded and then replaced by the Treevolved Plant.
During the Planting Phase, all players first draw 1 card and then choose 1 of 3 options, all carried out simultaneously amongst players: 1) Plant, 2) Grow, or 3) Draw 5 cards and discard 3. Costs to plant a card are shown in the top left of the card a player wishes to plant. Growing plants also costs that same amount, and you are limited to growing each plant 1 level this way.
During the Weather Phase, all players will choose Weather Cards to play from their hand secretly, and then reveal them at once. At this point, players can also use Bonus Weather Cards that may have been acquired throughout the game to improve their Garden. Once the Weather is established, plants will grow.
The game end is triggered when one or more players have 4 or more Treevolved Plants in their garden and will conclude at the end of that Weather Phase. Scores are based on plants in the Garden and bonus scoring from Treevolved plants.
Note that there is also a solo mode that has four different levels of difficulty if you ever wish to play Plantopia on your own, but this review will not be covering this mode.
I am happy to report that while I have a compulsion to read the entire rulebook before attempting to teach friends how to play, this game does not require that. Phases, turns, and rounds are straightforward so even relying heavily on the player aid after a speedy tutorial will help fill in learning gaps. Yet even with the player aid, the symbology glossary is minimal and it’s not obvious that more details are found within the booklet labeled for solo rules. Perhaps it’s just my neurodivergent brain but the moment I saw the book said “solo” I ignored it completely up until the moment of writing this review (oops).
It also takes a few plays to figure out card organization since some areas below the Garden can be used for designating third level plants and the lack of hand limit can result in bloat. Normally you can look around you to reverse engineer whether you have drawn a card but since this game has some asymmetry and one of the actions allows you to draw out of turn, if you’re not doing some strong housekeeping or note taking (mentally or physically), you may end up with more or fewer cards than you should.
As is with any card game, the designer can be as silly or serious as they want to be with card titles or flavor text and this game did not disappoint. All plant names were some play on words and flavor text drives the plant name home. I don’t often sleeve my cards so I’m quite pleased with the paper quality and embossed finish, which is a fun add to catch your eye in the light while waiting in between phases as well as a good vibe match with the cuteness.
One thing that I appreciate about the balance of cards in the deck is the ability to plant any card that requires a single discard since you always draw first. I have played my share of card games where a turn feels completely useless and you watch your opponent quickly build a response ahead of you. I’m glad that this game hasn’t had a moment like that so far. However, the one aspect of the game that can feel out of your control is trying to grow higher-value plants as some weather requirements on plants are hard to attain. Players can mitigate this by taking advantage of bonus weather cards, at least. You’re also gambling when upgrading to another card since getting it to grow the rest of the way is dependent on the weather (e.g. switching from baby to Treevolved trees).
In this way, the Weather phase is easily the most frustrating aspect of the game because you are betting on both a) the types of plants you are hoping to score and b) being able to work with some alignment with your opponents’ plant requirements. If at any point you miscalculated, you’ll be stuck with low-level plants for several rounds. I will give some praise to the designers for the weather being on theme with the plant type though; for example, trees need more water so the tree type cards are heavy on the rain weather type to grow.
While many aspects of this game are simultaneous, the weather phase could also drive the game to be too long because weather applies separately to each plant. We found that recounts on weather were common in terms of how many steps of growth each plant qualified for, and lots of retconning if overgrowing from miscounting. As long as everyone tries to focus on their own counts during this phase, the end game trigger is a reasonable stop time.
Plantopia is for anyone looking for a new, quick card game with a light-hearted theme and great player interaction for higher player count. Each turn feels meaningful and you do not find yourself falling behind, even if it means more housekeeping. If you have been playing more complex card games and that’s your niche, then this game would not be for you. Or, if you find yourself raging at the choices of others and cannot reconcile a world outside of your control, then this game would also not be for you. Luckily, as a last resort, you could focus on the included solo rules and still get your dose of cute without the frustration that comes with your opponents choosing the weather.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Get into the garden and work with the weather to try and grow an impressive set of plants with scoring synergy in this light card game.
• Cute and charming theme
• Easy to pick up and play
• Gameplay scales with player count
• Could get too long
• Weather phase can be frustrating
• Some iconography is unclear