Orchard: 9 Card Solitaire Game (Side Room Games, 2019)

Basic details: 1 player; 10 minutes; beat your own score solo mode

Date played: May 2, 2021 (like 8 rounds)

Gist of the game: You are a fruit tree grower planning your orchard and trying to maximize your harvest.

To set up the game, the player sets the dice and rotten fruit tokens off to the side and shuffles the 18 cards, drawing 9 of them to form the game’s deck and setting aside the remaining cards (for the next game’s deck). The player places 1 card in the center of the table and draws 2 cards as a starting hand.

On each turn, the player plays a card such that a tree on this new card overlaps one or more matching trees on card(s) already in play. If this is the first overlap, a matching die with the 1 pip up is placed on the tree. If it is the second overlap, the die is changed to the 3 face, 6 face on the third overlap, and the 10 face on the fourth overlap. If a tree is placed on a non-matching tree, a rotten fruit token is placed on the tree instead, and cannot be overlapped and replaced by any new trees. Rotten fruit tokens can be placed up to twice per game. To end the turn, the player draws another card from the deck to bring their hand back up to 2. The game ends when the player runs out of cards or cannot legally place a card.

To score, the face values of the dice are added and 3 points are subtracted for each rotten fruit. The scoring thresholds are fruit/tree puns.

Color commentary: Although technically a solo game, we played collaboratively as Team Hendriquist. I like that it can be collaborative. I meant to play it this week while I’m taking a day or two to recover from the semester before I have to get my online summer class up and ready to go, but the box caught M’s eye and it turned into a fun afternoon, just blasting out game after game. Being able to play twice in rapid succession was also nice, because sometimes resetting a game can get tedious.

I really like how puzzely this game is, and how much thinking is involved to try to make the optimal choices. I like puzzles, and I like trying to muddle through what the best choices are when none of them seem great.

This is also a fun game when you want to play something but don’t necessarily have a lot of time or energy, or even space. It’s compact both in its box and when it’s on the table, and the rules are easy enough that you can play when tired, although it will certainly be harder to play well under those conditions.

I feel like this sounds like a faint praise set of comments, but I really, really like this game, and I want to see if I can get my mom to play it, because she likes solitaire, but not really playing board games by herself, and I think this could be an interesting intersection. I feel like any time I have to travel by myself in the future, I may take this game with me.

Our scores and rating for the first 4 games:
23: Pal-tree
29: Forget-apple
36: Remark-apple
26: Satisfac-tree

Thoughts from M: This involves special recognition, so I struggled with it, but I liked it a lot. I usually like to play a game a couple of times before deciding how I feel about it, but this game had me hooked from the beginning. This is the best new game I’ve played in a while. Overall, slightly behind King of Tokyo, just because King of Tokyo is basically perfection, but definitely on par with some of my other favorite games, like Unmatched and Revolver 2.

Petra rating: 9/10

M rating: 9/10

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