The Alwaysgreen Garden is a new game from Splattered Ink Games that places you in the role of competing chefs at the legendary Acorn Inn. The game mixes worker placement and resource management to create this magical setting. The modular board is where players will harvest resources and get help from a crew of forest creatures.
Each player gets a kitchen board that will hold the items they harvest and lay out their recipe cards. In Alwaysgreen Garden, players will role dice to see what grows in the forest floor. Ingredients include fruits, veggies, mushrooms, and grains & nuts. Each player controls a gnome token called a “Dobber”. Players move on their turn and get an opportunity to harvest the ingredients from the quadrant of the board they move into.
A Little Help from My Friends
This forest has some incredibly helpful animals that are standing by just waiting to lend a hand. Each one has a perk and can be used on a player’s turn to either pick up new cards, grow crops, get new recipes or harvest a single item from an adjacent space. I really love how Alwaysgreen Garden gives players a solid list of options, but it’s up to them to decide in what order to execute them. This creates a puzzle for players to solve to get the most out of a single turn.
The goal of the game is to fulfill 4 recipe cards that each get turned in to their appropriate forest friend. Darryl Jones did a great job of connecting each of these recipes to the characters in the game. Lilly the squirrel is going to request bread recipes, while Clover the turtle has fruit salads on his mind.
Each recipe has to be turned in to the appropriate forest creature along with all the ingredients it requires. When you complete a recipe associated with a specific character, you can now use that character’s die instead of one of the basic dice that the players normally roll. Since each player board has a basket that can only hold 10 ingredients, working on all 3 recipes at one time isn’t such a wise move.
The game does a great job of limiting resources enough that you have to work for them but it never seems to get frustrating. I think this is what makes Alwaysgreen Garden a good fit for parents and kids. When playing with the kids, no one felt like it was impossible to get the resources they needed from the board.
The game includes a deck of technique cards which can be very useful. Each player gets 3 of these at the beginning of the game. These can upgrade a finished recipe to add more value to it or give the player an action that can give them more resources. Chaining these together at the end of a turn can be so satisfying.
The Elephant in the Room
I can’t talk about Alwaygreen Garden without addressing the elephant in the room. His name is Ollie and he’s literally hanging out in a treehouse. How did he get there? Why is he hanging out with chipmunks?
Ollie is your go-to animal when you want to get tools to help you on your turn. Players can harvest wood from the board, then turn in this wood to Ollie. There are always 4 tools available that can give your dobber an additional movement, help you harvest more resources, or even shift the location of your forest friends. These tools come in handy when trying to get the right engine going during a player’s turn.
Alwaysgreen Garden is a beautiful game. I was really impressed with the artwork and the creativity that went into this project. The designer Darryl Jones has shared that his kids help him with his game creations. You can tell that a lot of time and imagination went into creating this game.
Both Erin and I absolutely loved the game. We used the 2-player variant that adds a ghost chef that made the game just slightly more difficult. Our kids really enjoyed our playthrough, and it seems like the strategy clicked for our 14-year-old a little more than our 11-year-old. I think that for younger players (under 10), having someone guide them in their first couple games could prevent them from getting frustrated.
Alwaysgreen Garden has a theme and style that is appealing to all ages. The gameplay feels like a puzzle that invites you back again and again to cook up another great dish. This is what we found so impressive about the game. I could easily bring this game to the table during a game night with adults because there is a depth to the gameplay.
If this game sounds like it belongs on your game shelf, head over to the Kickstarter campaign for Alwaysgreen Garden. This project is being funded now through July 26, 2019.
Splattered Ink Games provided us with a prototype copy of Alwaysgreen Garden prior to the Kickstarter campaign. This in no way influenced our opinion of the game. Previews are a glimpse into an upcoming game with the pros and cons that we experienced prior to production of the game.