Review: Tang Garden – more than just a bunch of trees
Many gardens are just a few meters below the windows, where many colors and flowers are overflowing. It is not at all easy to design them so that they look nice. But at the opposite pole are the huge imperial gardens, which are magnificent and extensive. But at the same time, more space also means a much bigger challenge to design such a garden so that its appearance really takes your breath away.
And the classic task of garden design will fall on the shoulders of players who show interest in the game of Tang Garden. It is published by Thundergryph Games and its authors are Francesco Testini and Pierluca Zizzi. The game was illustrated by Mateusz Mizak and the result is aimed at the players on the wings of the distributor company Esdevium Games.
The game arrives at its destination in a massive white box, the lid of which is controlled by an illustration of a gazebo in a beautiful, colorful environment. Even this little picture will tune you into the wave of the atmosphere of the Far East gardens. This time it is specifically the garden of the Tang Dynasty, as you will learn from the rules (and the name). There are a lot of cardboard components waiting for the player, but also a great game plan. He places the player on the table and places the starting plate in the middle. So small is the garden, which should grow unprecedentedly under the hands of the participants. He then places sets of the remaining building pieces in the corners of the map, divided by type and mixed individually. He then turns the top card so that it is visible to everyone.
Each of the participants transforms into one of the characters, which he gets randomly together with the corresponding figure. To do this, he gets his board with three scales, the starting squares of which he marks with colored cubes and one of which he improves on the basis of the symbol of his character. He then creates a shuffled pile of the remaining cards and reveals the top two cards as a bid. The background boards have two dimensions, from which players sort out four random smaller ones directly attached to the sides of the game board. This creates an environment. The rest of the boards remain in randomly arranged piles next to the game board. Players then place round scenery tokens in the shape of a diamond on the square squares of the plan itself. Near everything, they prepare decoration cards and the aesthetic equipment itself (trees, pavilions, bridges, flowers or fish).
Individual players take turns, and since there is no time for any hesitation, they usually start it with the main action. It is called building a garden and the player must choose one of the four visible boards (in the corners of the plan) and attach it to the already built part. It is therefore clear that each construction starts from the middle, where the players placed the starting plate in preparation. But the connection itself also has rules, because the terrains in the pictures must follow each other.
However, the placement itself will bring a reward for the player who placed the tile. Points are waiting for the player for each type of terrain that the new piece managed to connect. Shifting on the scale is a reward for closing some of the terrain areas, whether it is water, rocky or grassy. And if the new edge moves around the path, the player gets extra coins.
An exception to all these rules are special pieces of the garden, which function as a joker and can be selected and placed anywhere. The graphics seemingly follow all the possibilities, but above all they will bring their coins again some coins.
In the event that a player covers one of the scenery tokens they placed on the board with his new piece of the map, he must immediately add one of the large boards. These create the surroundings of the whole garden. There is always a choice of two revealed boards of a specific size and can be connected to any place around the perimeter of a large game board.
Instead of this one whole action, however, the player can choose to place a decoration. So he gets the cards from the deck. Of all the cards obtained, he can choose only one, with the help of which he decorates the garden, takes the corresponding cardboard decoration from the supply and places it on the plan. The location is determined by the type of card. Then the player receives a possible immediate reward.
But the main financial allocation for the decoration is waiting at the end of the game. Before that, however, the player can try one of the free actions as part of his turn. If they have enough influence from their scales, then they can try to influence one of the advisors. He takes his card and a piece from the menu and then places one character (new or original) on the game board in the place he wishes. Rotation is also important because the piece will bring points based on the scenery it sees.
With the help of a lantern token, you can influence the strength of your actions once per round. The game ends when one of the four piles of garden tiles is picked up or when only three scenery tokens remain on the map. It’s time to score, where players earn coins for the icon sets on the decoration cards and also for the decorations that their placed pieces see. The player with the most coins in the total becomes the winner.
Tang Garden is another laying of tiles, but according to the rules it looks more complicated than it really is. Players have the same choice at all times. But no one forces them to connect a new piece to the garden in a given round. Instead, they can pounce on valuable decorations.
There are many ways to earn coins and benefits. At the same time, the heart of the game beats the simple heart of Carcassonne and its interconnection of three terrains. This time, everything is enriched with a good dose of tactics, because chance only controls the drawing of decoration cards. And even here (if you time the move well) you choose from a solid sample that can be worked with well.
But what Tang Garden tries to differentiate in the first place is the visual. Therefore, the authors chose the theme of Japanese gardens well, which provides a really great background. The game looks great thanks to the colorful graphics and, above all, a lot of cardboard components. In addition, it should be emphasized that the game even offers an audio track that is written specifically for your experience and that we recommend.
Although you may get lost in the guide at a glance, once you learn the game, you can easily pass it on to beginners. They will appreciate it, because although it offers simple mechanisms, it will not take place after a number of games. There are plenty of strategies and opportunities hidden in the depths that can be discovered further and further. And that’s usually a sign of games that stay on the shelf for a long time.
The most advanced way of planning in the game is to put the pieces and place them on the plan. Here, players must not only imagine well what the character sees at a given moment, but must have a clear vision of what they could do next with that part of the garden. It is clear that the opponents interfere with each other’s ideas, but the figures can be moved later thanks to the lanterns. So you don’t have to worry about it being irreversible.
There is also a really interesting element related to the figures, ie the surrounding boards of the scenery. These serve at the same time an aesthetic impression, but also a functional logic, because they complement what the characters placed by the players see. Everything in the game makes sense, although in the end it slips in the same way to try to create the right areas, add decorations and get coins.
In addition, the individual moves are fast because not much happens in them. In two or three participants, the game really excels. At four, the wait for the move is a drop longer, but that’s what is expected.
There is one small complaint about the processing. Thanks to the large number of components, the preparation and cleaning of the game may take an unnecessarily long time for its content. At the same time, the whole game fits easily within sixty minutes. And then there’s the clarity of some of the icons and the differentiation of the pieces, but these are basically the little things with regard to the experience.
The overall impression of Tang Garden is therefore more than positive. The game does not have the most accessible rules, but in reality it is easy to understand and remember. It offers really rich possibilities and surprising depth that you would not even look for in the beginning. Tang Garden is such a slightly more challenging game, but it will easily open its arms to beginners as well. And precisely because of this duality, we rank it quite high and it is one of the pleasant surprises of recent months.
Review: Tang Garden – more than just a bunch of trees
Tang Garden is a game in which almost everyone finds their liking. But it is not only about its beautiful visual side, but also about the theme of the construction of the garden and its connection with the real building of the map. As a result, players collect sets and attach patterns to the map, but due to the playing time and the number of options, they don't even think so. The long preparation is especially annoying for an hour's playing time. But you will love to do it here, because it is only the way to an excellent experience, which is Tang Garden.