I don’t have too many garden themed games in my collection, despite being an avid gardener. The one that probably gets the most tabletop time is a roll and write, Harvest Dice, from way back in 2017. The game is super simple, yet we still enjoy playing it.
Well, I’m ready to break out my green thumb again as a gardening-themed roll and write with a lot more depth has made its way to BGQ HQ. Three Sisters is a game published by 25th Century Games and designed by the team of Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle. If you like checking boxes and lots of combos, this one might be a game for you. Let’s find out!
While the overall gameplay of Three Sisters isn’t that complicated, there are a lot of things going on. On a player’s turn, they choose one of the available dice from the central board to draft. The chosen die has two benefits. First, they can plant or water in the field on their sheet that matches the die number. To plant, they mark off two boxes in columns without any markings. To water, they add a box to every column in that field that already has one. The goal is to fill columns all the way to the top to earn victory points.
The other benefit of the die is being able to take the action from the space the die was drafted from. These will give you ways to fill in other areas of your sheets. Each set of sheets has a number of different areas that will give you plenty of ways to score points. For example, you can head to the Apiary and its split tracks, or maybe the fruit trees that give a few bonuses in addition to victory points. Then there is the shed and compost pile. The shed has a ton of different tracks, most of which give you a special ability. The compost earns you the ability to change the face of a drafted die.
Finally, after all players have drafted a die, every player gets to take an action with the lowest value die remaining (both the garden and the board action). Then all players take the end of round action. After 8 rounds, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.
Despite being a yearly gardener for years, I never knew that Three Sisters actually refers to a specific variety of vegetables. Corn, beans, and squash (pumpkins in this game) are historically three crops that complement each other in the garden as well as nutritionally. I originally thought this game was about three sisters in a family of gardens that had a rivalry with each other. TIL.
Despite my utter mistake on the theme of the game, I actually liked it a lot. I’m a pretty big fan of comboing roll and writes (Hadrian’s Wall, Super Mega Lucky Box, That’s So Clever), so I was actively seeking out a copy of this game to try once I heard about it. There is just something so satisfying about checking off a box and using that to check off another, and another, and another. Many of the different areas in Three Sisters will let you move around your two sheets, earning you bonus marks.
For example, fill in the second box in your apiary, and you get a free action in the fruit tree section. You can use that to mark off some raspberries, which will earn you goods. Every five goods gets you a bonus action. So you can take that 5th good and mark off something in your perennial garden, perhaps your Daffodils that will give you a shed action, which lets you complete your Mason Jars which earns you goods every time you harvest a blueberry. All this from one check box (theoretically).
If that was somewhat hard to follow (especially without a visual example), it’s understandable. And that’s one of the harder parts of Three Sisters. Sometimes you’ll be hitting multiple combos in a turn, so you’ll need to try and keep track of everything. For example, when rain happens at the end of a round, you water every one of your garden plots. This could help you finish off a variety of crops, meaning you might be bouncing around the board checking things off here and there. If you don’t keep careful track, you could definitely miss something.
The production of the game also doesn’t help that much in that regard. The sheets are a tad small for everything going on, and could have definitely used an embiggen. My other issue is that in the garden area, there is not really any difference in the corn and bean crops, other than the number of boxes. It would have been a lot easier to explain the game to newcomers if they could quickly look at the sheet and see ok, corn is here, beans are here. As it is, it takes a bit of extra explanation on why one set of boxes is shorter than the other.
But other than those minor gripes, Three Sisters is a pretty great game. It’s one of those games you could call complex, but not complicated. Learning the core gameplay loop is pretty easy, but understanding what all the areas do is where the challenge comes from. Other than another player drafting the die you had your eye on, the player interaction is fairly minimal. Like many roll and writes, you’ll each be doing your own thing trying to score the most points.
Three Sisters is another great offering from Pinchback and Riddle that will definitely appeal to those gamers that love the combo aspect of roll and writes. In a genre that has absolutely no shortage of offerings, this one stands out as a worthy addition to your game library. Once you get over the learning curve, it plays quickly with minimal downtime. Plus, with only 16 actions in the game, you’ll never be able to check off all the boxes. This means there are plenty of paths to victory (or defeat), helping give Three Sisters decent replay value as you’ll want to try each of the areas in different games.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A fun roll and write game that will have you comboing all over the board.
• Lots of Combos
• Good replay value
• Many paths to victory
• Illustration could have been better
• Sheets are a little small