Herbalism Review

Herbalism - Emperor S4 - $19.99

Game title: Herbalism

Game description: In ancient times, "Herbalism" was a very important medical study. China is especially famous for utilizing ancient herbs to cure diseases, and its history can date back to thousands of years. According to the legends, Shennong, or the "God Farmer," was an expert in Chinese botany and also the founder of Chinese Herbalism. In 2700 BC, Shennong completed Shennong Ben Cao Jing, or "The Classic of Herbal Medicine," which is a collection of around 365 detailed descriptions of different herbs and their usage, laying the foundation for modern Chinese medicines. In Herbalism, players take on the role of a group of novice farming pharmacists, hoping to find the cure to the pandemic that is currently plaguing the country.

Overall
3.5
  • Play (Mechanics)
  • Presentation (Art/Quality)
  • Plan (Rules)

Summary

Let’s just get this out in the open. Emperor S4 has a seriously cool theme with their game boxes. 3 different, numbered series all with the game look. I love it. It makes me want them all, which is probably the point. Herbalism is #3 in the smallest box series of games. It’s a deduction game where players are trying to figure out which combination of 2 herbs is needed to cure a disease. This is done by taking one of several different actions each turn to determine what cards the other players hold so you can use that information, along with what you’re holding, to figure out what 2 are needed.

Pros

  • Compact and quick
  • Wonderful artwork
  • Solid deduction game

Cons

  • “Basic” rules seem unnecessary
  • Printed player screens/tally sheets needed for full enjoyment
  • Pure deduction may turn off some players

Full Herbalism Review

Let’s just get this out in the open. Emperor S4 has a seriously cool theme with their game boxes. 3 different, numbered series all with the game look. I love it. It makes me want them all, which is probably the point. Herbalism is #3 in the smallest box series of games. It’s a deduction game where players are trying to figure out which combination of 2 herbs is needed to cure a disease. This is done by taking one of several different actions each turn to determine what cards the other players hold so you can use that information, along with what you’re holding, to figure out what 2 are needed.

Playing 3-4 players, Herbalism is fairly simple on the surface. There’s a deck of colored ingredient cards, each denoting how many of that color are in the deck. There’s a line of cards, each with a combination of two ingredients. Then there’s a line of action cards, the minimum of which you’ll play with is 2 for the basic game. The Cure action must always be in play, while the others: Inquiring, Feeding, Brewing, and Appealing. Each player will take their turn moving their token to a color combination card and performing one of the actions.

The 4 Actions other than Cure

This is where things get interesting. Each action helps players figure out what ingredient cards other players have. Sometimes this involves giving that player cards. Sometimes it involves that player giving cards. So while information is being passed around, so are cards. It’s important to carefully keep track of information so you know exactly what two cards are under the Cure action. One you think you know you can try to Cure the disease, with other players either Following you or holding off to guess on their own if you’re wrong. A correct guess earns a player 3 points. The players who Followed correctly will get 1. The first player to 6 points wins the game.

The 4 non-Cure actions are all fairly simple, and it’s recommended to skip the Basic rules and go right to the Normal rules. Even playing with all 4 isn’t overly tough, so more experienced gamers may want to toss them all in the mix right at the very start. Herbalism’s Advanced rules allow for much more strategy, as well as earning extra points with Prediction Tokens.

A player must move their token on each of their turns. They cannot stay on the same card. Tokens can be placed on cards with another player’s token on them.

Compact, quick, and absolutely stunning, Herbalism is a fantastic little deduction game. This may turn off some who aren’t fans of the genre, but it knows what it is and does it extremely well. Weighing in at only 26 cards and a handful of tokens, the game packs of a lot of punch in a little package. Originally published by Emperor S4, there is also a version put out by Deep Water Games that is identical and easier to find in the States.

A copy of Herbalism was provided free for review by Emperor S4

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