What's Eric Playing? #231: Pumpkin Patch - Bad Seeds
Full disclosure: A preview copy of Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds was provided by Brouhaha Games. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter (and some already have!), should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
As of writing, this review won’t be published until I’m basically at the tail end of my Kickstarter season, which is a weird feeling. May was a big month of Kickstarters and such, and June had many (but not a ton). July should be … less so, given that we’re firmly into con season by then. Either way, Halloween isn’t too far away, so let’s take a look at a spooky pumpkin game.
In Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds, you are competing to make contributions to a super-spooky pumpkin patch (I think the publisher referred to it as a ghastly garden, which I appreciate, alliteratively). You’ll also have to fight off some crows that seem to have gotten into something because one of them has two heads and they both seem mean. Will you be able to grow some gourds? Or will your dreams of a perfect pumpkin patch get squashed?
So, setting up is a cinch. Take the cards:
Pull out three 1’s, two 2’s, and one 3. Set those aside to form the Compost Pile, with the 1’s on top.
Now, place a 3 in the center of the play area, with 1’s above, below, and to the left and right of it. That’s your starting play area.
Place one of the Crows on the left and right 1’s:
In a two-player game, each player will control one Crow. In a three-player game, players may choose whichever Crow they’d like on a given turn.
Once you’ve done all that, set out the score card and place the scoring tokens on it:
Give each player three cards and you should be ready to play!
The game of Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds is pretty simple. When an 8 is played, the game ends, and the player with the most points wins. Getting there takes a bit of time, but there are two major rules you should know:
- You may only play a card on top of another card if it is 1 greater than the previous card. You may play a 7 on a 6, but not on a 5 or 3. You cannot play a 4 on a 5.
- You may not play a card on or move a plot with a Crow on it. The Crows are aggressive like that.
- All plots must be orthogonally adjacent to other plots. This just means you can’t create gaps or place new plots that are only diagonally adjacent to each other. You also can’t move plots away that would leave a gap, unless there’s a connection between all other plots a different way.
Beyond that, on your turn you must play a card from your hand, or you may play the top card of the Compost pile. You may play anywhere you want, following the above rules. The only way to begin a new plot is to place a 1 (Seedling), which will also earn you two points. If you cannot play a card, you must reveal and then discard your hand instead of playing anything. One thing of note — generally, odd pumpkins are “white” and even pumpkins are “orange”, save for the 1’s, which are neither.
Once you’ve placed a card, you must move a Crow. In a two-player game, you’ll move your Crow, but in a three-player game just choose one and move it.
After doing that, you may discard any cards you’d like from your hand and draw back up to three cards.
Play continues until one player plays an 8 card. When that happens, tally the scores, and the player with the most points wins!
PLAYER COUNT DIFFERENCES
The major difference at higher player counts is just crow control, in that the crows will be moving a fair bit more at three than at two, since you can only move your crow at two players. There’s also a slightly unfortunate case where two players each get the 8 and the third player cannot, which just ends up making them into a kingmaker (assuming all players have similar scores). That strikes me as a bit odd, so I’d probably be a bit more likely to play this at two than three.
- Watch for opportunities. You should be hawkish with the board, looking for places where your opponents have given you an opportunity to drop a card and score a lot. Your bare minimum points per turn should be 2 (playing a Seedling). If you do worse than that, I’d probably call that a bad turn. Not necessarily bad strategy; sometimes you just get unlucky.
- It’s probably worth keeping a 7 or an 8, but not both. You don’t want to risk junking up your hand and then having to skip a turn and discard. The scoring is pretty tight in this game, from my experience, so the opportunity cost of losing a turn is pretty aggressive.
- If your hand is already pretty playable, use up the Compost pile instead. This gives you the benefit of good position while also gradually complicating your opponents’ turns, especially if their cards aren’t as useful in the moment as yours. The best thing you can do is force your opponents to lose a turn or discard high-value cards so that they can play.
- Block 6’s in really good positions with the Crow. You do not want a player to place a 7 in the middle of 8 cards and score 8 points with that. You should just keep a Crow on a 6 with good placement until you’re sure all the 7s are gone. Naturally, you should block the 7’s, too, if you’re worried about someone ending the game without you being in the lead.
- If there’s an open 7 and you can win with an 8, slam the 8 on there. I mean, it wins you the game. The best strategy advice I can tell you is that you should try to win the game.
- Using a 5 to move a 2 or a 3 around is a solid maneuver. 5’s let you move a card and then re-score it, so you can move a 2 (score 1 per connected Orange) or a 3 (score 1 per connected White) into a large block of connected pieces and get a bunch of points. This can also work for a 4 (1 per sequential pumpkin) but it requires a lot of work to get that set up correctly.
PROS, MEHS, AND CONS
- The art is great. I mean, I would be lying to you if I said it was anything other than gourdgeous. Heh.
- The theme is also pretty fun? Who doesn’t want to play a game about planting spooky pumpkins? Preferably with some mellow backing music. Just that specific song. For hours.
- Plays pretty fast. It’s a pretty light game. I don’t know if I’d quite call it a microgame (too many cards for that designation, I think), but it’s pretty close to that category.
- Easy enough to learn. There’s not much complexity on the rules side of the game, which is nice.
- Low-complexity setup. You can pretty much just get it straight to the table and play it. It’s not quite as simple to set up as NMBR 9, but it’s still a fairly straightforward process.
- Solid pumpkin wordplay. If they had any more, then they’d have to call the game Punpkin Patch.
- Could use some scoring cubes. Once the scoring tokens make a full lap around, there’s kind of … no easy way to keep track of how many cycles you’ve made. A simple cube or token would be nice (or an expanded scoring track). Hopefully one or the other makes it into the Kickstarter.
- The 6 doesn’t really … do anything at three players. It tells you to switch Crows, but you … don’t need to? EDIT: I had an old version of the 6. The new version lets you move any crow, as an action, and at the end of your turn you’ll move your crow (or any crow, at 3p) as normal. That’s more useful, but rather than omit the Meh, I’ll leave it as an edit for y’all.
- At three players, one player can often feel stuck. I mentioned it a bit earlier, but if the scores are close and all the cards have been drawn, whichever players have the 8’s are the ones with the best shots of winning, since they can end the game on their terms. The third player either has to try and get the scores far enough apart that they will still win on an 8 or essentially choose which player they’d like to win. Neither is a particularly fun prospect. Hopefully, though, that doesn’t happen particularly often.
- It may not see a ton of play outside of Halloween, with your groups. It’s pretty Halloween-themed, so you may not see a lot of interest in it outside of that time of the year. It’s a good game (and fun!), don’t get me wrong; this is more just a word of caution. It’s the same reason I don’t play Widow’s Walk as much as I used to; just a time-of-year thing.
OVERALL: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds is a pretty solid and pretty fast game! I really appreciate the art and the theme, even though Halloween isn’t normally my particular jam. I do like pumpkins a lot, generically, so it helps. It’s a nice abstract that’s on the smaller and lighter end and may be a great thing to take with you while you’re traveling or if you want to bust out a quick game on the beach or something. It’s also simple enough to appeal to less experienced gamers while still making gameplay interesting with the blocking for more experienced gamers. If you’re looking for a fun and short little abstract, Pumpkin Patch: Bad Seeds might just be the game for you!