Review - Herbaceous

Posted by Rob Kalajian in review

Herbaceous Designers: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, Keith Matejka
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Year: 2017
MSRP: $24.99
Players: 1-4
Play Time: 15-20 minutes
Ages: 8+
Rules Available Online: Yes
BGG: Herbaceous

Prelude

Herbaceous is a card game about potting herbs.

Seriously.

It raised $59,032 from 2,208 on Kickstarter last year. Its goal was $6,500.

What did Eduardo Baraf of Pencil First Games land here when he teamed up with Steve Finn to bring Herbaceous to market?

Something green.

Play

The goal of Herbaceous is to score the post points by potting various herbs in your containers. Each player has a set of 4 different Container Cards and a Garden Marker. These are used to set up their play space. The 72 Herb Cards are then shuffled to form a draw deck, a certain amount of Herbs are removed from the deck depending on the number of players, and the Herb Biscuit card is set off to the side. Once this is done, the game is ready to play.

Each turn players may pot Herbs, then must plant new ones. The only exception to this is that Herbs cannot be potted on the first round.

Let’s cover planting first. To do this a player draws an Herb Card from the deck and decides to play it either to their Private Garden behind their Garden Marker or to the Common Garden in the center of the table. They then draw another Herb Card and plant in the garden they didn’t plant the first one.

It’s that simple.

Potting Herbs is the way you’re going to score points in Herbaceous. At the start of their turn, a player may pot Herbs in one of their 4 containers. Once a container has been potted it cannot be added to. It’s out of the game until scoring.

The 4 pots are as follows:

  • Large Pot - Holds 1-7 cards of identical Herbs.
  • Wooden Planter - Holds 1-7 different Herbs.
  • Small Pots - Holds 1-6 different pairs of Herbs for a total of 12 cards.
  • Glass Jar - Any 3 Herbs. This is the only container that can hold Special Herbs (Herbs marked with a 1, 2, or 3 on their card)

The game ends when no player can pot any more Herbs. They’ve either filled all their Containers or can’t make a valid potting. Points are then scored via the rules on the pots. Extra points are scored for Special Herbs in the Glass Jar and the Herb Biscuit is earned by the player who pots a 1, 2, and 3 in the Glass Jar for an additional 5 points. Players also score 1 point for every unpotted card in their Private Garden.

Pieces

Herbaceous comes in a wonderfully colorful and sturdy box. The card stock is pretty standard fare and the cardboard Garden Markers, while not super chunky, are thick enough to feel sturdy.

Where Herbaceous really shines is Beth Sobel’s lovely artwork. Every card features full-card, vivid paintings of various herbs, pots, and, of course, the biscuit. The game is a visual treat, for sure.

Herbaceous Just look at that art!

Perspective

At first glance, Herbaceous looks like it’d be a bit boring. Who’s really that interested in potting herbs? As soon as start to play it all falls into place and you realize how beautiful and really elegant a game it is. The rulebook is crystal clear, the rules simple to teach and learn, and the gameplay offers just enough to be interesting while not being bogged down with complicated exceptions/fiddly bits.

Herbaceous is a wonderfully light filler game that is just an overall satisfying experience to play. The beautiful artwork gives the game an approachable first-impression while the play really hooks you in. I can see the game replacing a few of our homes staple filler games.

A copy of Herbaceous will run you $25. While it may seem a bit on the higher side for a filler, it’s well worth the price. Pencil First Games has a real winner on their hands with this one, and it’s a game no collection should be without.

A copy of Herbaceous was provided free for review by Pencil First Games.

Rob Kalajian

Father of 4. Husband to 1. Overall Geek. Rob is the owner of A Pawn's Perspective and an Editor over at Purple Pawn. During the day he's a Senior Web Developer for an ad agency in Avon, CT. In his free time...he has no free time. Games. Toys. Books. Scouting.