Here we will take a look at the 10 top tree and plant board games based on popularity. This is a series to take a look at a specific board game mechanic or category and out of every game ever released in the space, what are the most popular as of right now, the middle of 2021. We will give some information on each title, as well as, some insight into why it might have landed at its particular spot on the list.
Games that fall into the tree / plant / gardening category are exactly what you expect they are, games that having things growing in them. Since it is a category and a broad thing that is very accessible, the games that fall on the list span a wide array of types of games and intensity levels.
#10 | Tang Garden
Tang Garden taps into trees and plants incredibly well, having players design and landscape a garden with majestic vistas gazed upon by some classy individuals. Not only is it as soothing as nature, but this set collection and tile placement game is a bit on the heavier medium side but still great for all gamers. This title came out not too long ago, but it had a buzzy launch and it has been going strong since.
Players will progressively build a garden by creating the landscape, placing the scenery and projecting their vision through vertical panoramas. During the construction, noblemen will visit the garden to admire the surroundings and the way the natural elements coexist in the most breathtaking scenery humankind has ever laid their eyes upon.
#09 | Renature
Renature is dominos meets nature creation so it is a perfect fit for this list. A very recent release, coming out in 2020, this one has gained great word of mouth and has gained popularity. Designed by Michael Kiesling and Wolfgang Kramer, the game has quite the pedigree. Typically when people talk about it, they always speak to its ease, deep strategy and nice balanced gameplay.
On your turn, place one of the three dominoes in your hand on two brook spaces of the valley board. A domino side must be adjacent to the same animal. If you border a free space of a brown area, you can decide what to place on that space, with different plants yielding different points. After placing the plant, you score points for it and every plant piece that is already in this brown area and has the same or a lower value.
#08 | Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama
Kokoro is a roll and write game in the Kodama universe, where trees are soothing and creatures are slightly mystical. Again you are working with the forest guardians, but here they have asked you to restore the paths to the ancient temples. This has not taken off as a huge title in the genre, despite being out a few years, but it is still a good take. Especially if you like the route drawing games like #Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition.
Each player has a forest map to draw their paths and turns are simultaneous so the game plays quickly. Connecting your sanctuaries to offerings will gain you favor. Choose wisely because you never know exactly when the sanctuary will score. And you shouldn't be too greedy, if a sanctuary is not connected to more offerings than your previous sanctuary, you lose points.
#07 | Kodama: The Tree Spirits
Kodama takes the idea of the tree branch and turned it into an incredibly satisfying strategy card game. We do not think to much that tree limbs sprout from their larger trunk counterparts and split off in different directions. Well, that is the whole backdrop for a great set collection game. Publisher Indie & Boards and cards more recently introduced #Kodama 3D which takes the original and adds that real building dexterity, but it can get in the way and is just not as streamlined as the original.
Over three growing seasons, you must cultivate trees with the right mix of flowers, insects, and branch arrangements to make your Kodama as happy as possible. Grow your tree by placing cards in smart arrangements, being careful to leave room for future growth. At the end of each season, one "Kodama" will award you points for how well your tree suits its needs.
#06 | Herbaceous
If you are looking for beautiful tree and plant elements, this one may be for you. Herbaceous is a push your luck and set collection game that has you plant an assortment of flavorful herbs in your garden. The game originally launched as a successful Kickstarter, grabbing $60k from 2,208 backers.
On your turn, you draw a herb, then decide to either keep it in your personal collection or put in into the communal pile. If kept, the next card goes to the communal pile; if placed in the communal pile, the next card goes in your personal collection. At the start of your turn, you can decide to use a container. If so, you assemble cards from personal and communal spaces, group them, then turn them all over. You have then "collected" those and can't use the container again.
#05 | Cottage Garden
The polydomino craze has blown up a bit in the past few years ( #Barenpark, #Tiny Towns, #ShipShape) but Cottage Garden, originally released in 2016 has been one that has hit its stride. It is not quite #Patchwork but it is a really solid title. The game is fitting for this list and fitting for any home.
Players select various polyomino tiles of flower beds from a central market grid, depending on the location of the "gardener", then place them on one of their two personal garden boards. Different element clusters equal different points. Whenever a garden is finished, you receive a new one to complete. After the gardener completes their fifth lap around the market, the game enters its last round. The most points at the end of the game wins.
#04 | Morels
Morels is about walking through the forest gathering mushrooms and it came out in 2012, yet it is still incredibly popular. That should tell you so much about the game and its gameplay. The components are great and the mix of drafting, set collection and hand management has been held up as a gold example. This is very light so players of all types have picked this one up.
The woods are old-growth, dappled with sunlight. Delicious mushrooms beckon from every grove and hollow. Morels may be the most sought-after in these woods, but there are many tasty and valuable varieties awaiting the savvy collector. Bring a basket if you think it's your lucky day. Forage at night and you will be all alone when you stumble upon a bonanza.
#03 | Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis did something you thought might not be possible, it took one of the most basic scientific processes of botany and made it strategic and fun. For a list about trees, it is great to see a game with some of the best trees you can find on it. Not only is the production gorgeous, but the game does a great job of blending engine building and an interesting light puzzle.
You and players need to place trees on a grid. Sun rotates around the grid giving out light points if your tree is hit, but beware, trees cast shade and can block others depending on where the sun is for that turn. You then take those sun points to plant seeds and grow them into small then medium and finally large trees. It is a medium on the intensity scale and very unique in how the puzzle works. And so on theme, a fantastic game about trees.
#02 | Arboretum
Arboretum is as smooth and as calming and the majestic tree itself. This is a very light card game that originally came out in 2015 but has held on to its popularity because out of all the more lightweight card games, this one has some of the best gameplay and it is just so aesthetically pleasing.
Players start with a hand of seven cards. On each turn, a player draws two cards (from the deck or one or more of the discard piles), lays a card on the table as part of her arboretum, then discards a card to her personal discard pile. When the deck is exhausted, players compare the cards that remain in their hands to determine who can score each color.
#01 | Takenoko
Takenoko is a very popular title so it makes sense that it sits atop the list of the top tree and plant board games. Growing these wonderful stalks of bamboo takes that right amount of management and it takes the right magical interaction with the farmer and an adorable panda. Nature is a big part of this one and it is paired with a great game.
Players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.