Reaping the Rewards: ‘Herbaceous Sprouts’

Herbaceous Sprouts cover

In “Reaping the Rewards,” I take a look at the finished product from a crowdfunding campaign. Herbaceous Sprouts, a dice-based spin on the Herbaceous card game, was funded on Kickstarter by Pencil First Games in June 2018, delivered to backers in January this year, and is now available in stores. This review is based on my original Kickstarter Tabletop Alert, updated to reflect final component quality.

It’s time to plant herbs again! But this time, we’re all planting in a community garden, and competition is fierce for the best planting spots. Things are getting a little dicey…

What Is Herbaceous Sprouts?

Herbaceous Sprouts is a new dice-based spin on Herbaceous for 1 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It retails for $39.99 and is available from game stores and online retailers like Amazon. The game is appropriate for both adults and kids—the rules are fairly light and the theme is family-friendly.

Herbaceous Sprouts components
Herbaceous Sprouts components. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Herbaceous Sprouts Components

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • Game Board
  • 4 Wheelbarrow mats
  • 40 Tool cards
  • 30 Seed dice
  • Seed Dice bag
  • 4 Reference cards
  • Lemonade card
  • 60 Sprout tokens (15 per player color)
  • 20 Rival Sprout tokens
  • 8 Bonus Info cards
  • Gardener card (for solo mode)
  • 9 Rival cards (for solo mode)

My copy also came with the Kickstarter bonus Green Thumb mini-expansion, which consists of 4 cards plus a rules card.

Herbaceous Sprouts bonus info cards
Bonus Info cards aren’t for gameplay—they’re just lovely to look at and teach you about the herbs and flowers. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The game features artwork by Beth Sobel, and the herbs may look familiar to you if you’ve played the original Herbaceous card game. This time around, there are also three types of flowers, a community garden game board, and a refreshing glass of lemonade. It’s a lovely looking game, like its predecessor. The sprout tokens for the players have different colors and sprout shapes, which is great for color blind players. The sprout icons are also shown on the player mats for easy reference.

Herbaceous Sprouts dice
There are four colors of dice, which have different icons on them. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The dice are screen-printed with rounded corners, similar to those in Star Wars: Destiny, and they turned out pretty nicely. There are four different colored dice; each one has all five of the herbs, plus a special face: a flower, a wild herb, a glove, or a trowel.

Herbaceous Sprouts board
The board is divided into 4 garden areas, each with its own planting restrictions. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The board itself is divided into four sections. Three of them require different sets of herbs: all identical herbs, all different herbs, or different pairs of herbs—if you’ve played the Herbaceous card game, you’ll recognize these as being similar to the various containers for planting. The fourth section is for planting the three types of flowers. The planting “signs” indicate the number of herbs (or herb pairs) required to plant there, and the circled green numbers are the point values for planting a sprout there. The board is a simple bi-fold board, big enough to display everything nicely but not take up too much space. I don’t have many complaints about the component quality of Herbaceous Sprouts, but one minor comment is that the board itself seems a little muted and I wish it were just a little more vibrant.

Overall component quality is excellent, though, as I’ve come to expect from Pencil First Games. The artwork and design was pretty much finalized in the prototype so other than the actual component quality, not much has changed. The bag is now an olive green with the Herbaceous Sprouts logo printed on it, and the player wheelbarrow mats are now cardboard rather than just large cards. The cards themselves have a linen finish and are very nice.

How to Play Herbaceous Sprouts

You can download a draft of the rulebook here.

The Goal

The goal of the game is to score the most points by planting your sprouts in the community garden.

Herbaceous Sprouts setup
Starting setup for a 4-player game. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Setup

Place the game board in the center of the table, with the lemonade card next to it. Shuffle the tool cards; depending on the number of players, you will remove a number of cards from the deck. You’ll reveal a number of cards from the deck equal to one more than the number of players, and then draw dice from the bag and roll them to place on the dice spaces on the cards.

Herbaceous Sprouts player setup
Each player gets their sprouts, a wheelbarrow mat, and two random dice from the bag. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Each player takes a wheelbarrow mat and the sprouts of their color, and two random dice from the bag. Roll the dice and place them in your wheelbarrow.

Gameplay

Players will take turns being the Lead Gardener, who takes the first turn during the round. Each round, the Lead Gardener will first prepare the tool shed: draw cards equal to the number of players plus one and place them face-up next to the board. Most cards have spaces on them for dice—draw dice from the bag, roll them, and place them on the cards.

Then, in turn order, each player will take a tool card, use tools, and then plant seeds.

When you take a card, you also take all of the seed dice on the card and place them into your wheelbarrow. If you have more than 7 dice, you must discard down, returning extra dice to the bag.

Herbaceous Sprouts tool cards
Each tool has a different effect. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Then, you may use the tools shown on your card, plus tools on your dice. The wheelbarrow mats list the different effects of tool cards:

  • Glove: Re-roll one die
  • Bag: Draw a die from the bag and roll it
  • Parcel: Turn a die to another face
  • Trowel: Plant a flower seed
  • Watering Can: Discard two identical herbs to plant 1 flower of any type
  • Pot: This card may be saved and used later as a seed

In addition to the tool cards, some dice have tools also. The yellow dice have trowels, which are used just like the trowel card. The red dice have gloves, which let you re-roll the glove and any number of dice in your wheelbarrow.

After using tools, discard your tool card (unless it has a pot on it). Tool cards may not be saved to use later.

Herbaceous Sprouts player area
This player has collected some dice, plus two pots containing rosemary and a peony. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Then, you may plant in any number of gardens by discarding seed dice from your wheelbarrow and placing your sprouts on the corresponding locations. Flowers may only be planted using tools, but the herbs are planted simply by having the correct combination of dice. The white sign on the garden spots shows how many seeds you need to plant there, and the green circle is the point value for planting in that space.

If you are the first player to plant at least one sprout in each of the four garden areas, you take the Lemonade card, which is worth 2 extra points.

Herbaceous Sprouts board
The garden is filling up with sprouts! Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Finally, once every player has had a turn, you clean up: discard any dice on the remaining tool card (back into the dice bag), and discard that tool card. In a 2- or 3-player game, you also look at the little banner at the bottom of the remaining card, and place a rival sprout token on the corresponding space, if it’s free. (In a 4-player game, you only use the rival sprouts in the advanced game.)

Then, Lead Gardener passes to the next player clockwise, and another round begins.

Game End

The game ends after all of the cards in the deck are used up. Add up all of your points in the garden, plus the Lemonade card. You also score points for dice left in your wheelbarrow and unused pots on cards: 1 point per flower, 2 points for each set of 3 different herbs, and 1 point for each pair of the same herb. (Note that each die and card may only be included in one scoring set.)

The highest score wins! Ties go to the player with the most sprout tokens in the garden, followed by the most sprout tokens in the flower garden area.

Herbaceous Sprouts solo game setup
Setup for a solo game. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Solo Game

The solo rules were designed by Keith Matejka (Roll Player).

For the solo game, you’ll need the double-sided gardener card and the rival cards. Set up the game for a 2-player game. Shuffle the rival cards to form a stack, and place the gardener card with the Master Gardener side face-up.

You will alternate between being Master Gardener and Assistant Gardener, flipping over the gardener card each time.

Herbaceous Sprouts solo game
The rival will compete with you for spaces on the board. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

On the Master Gardener turn, you draw one extra die from the bag and add it to your wheelbarrow, and then take your turn as usual, selecting one of the three available cards. The rival will then plant sprouts corresponding to both of the remaining cards. The cards are then discarded and refilled.

Herbaceous Sprouts solo cards
The gardener card and rival cards are used for solo play. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

On the Assistant Gardener turn, you flip over a rival card, which will indicate which of the three tool cards the rival will “choose.” The rival discards that card, and plants a sprout according to the banner on that card. You keep the rival card as a pot, and then take your turn as usual. The last tool card is discarded without effect.

At the end of the game, add up your score and compare it to the rival’s. You must beat the rival’s score to win, and your rank is determined by how many points you get more than the rival.

Herbaceous Sprouts Green Thumb Mini-expansion
The Green Thumb mini-expansion was a Kickstarter exclusive, not included in the retail edition. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Green Thumb Mini-Expansion

For Kickstarter backers, there’s also a mini-expansion included. During setup, you will remove 3 cards at random from the deck, and shuffle in 3 of the 4 Green Thumb cards. These cards are worth points at the end of the game, and the higher valued cards will require you to discard dice from your wheelbarrow (if any).

Team Play Variant

One new variant added in the final game is a team play variant for 4 players. Teammates sit across from each other.

When you select a tool card and taken the dice, you must give either a die or the card to your teammate (who doesn’t use it until their turn).

At the end of the game, total up the points from both players on the team to figure out your team score—highest total wins.

For advanced team play, there are two options, which can be used separately or combined:

  • Your team’s score is equal to the lower of the two teammates.
  • No table talk—you cannot discuss moves and strategy with your teammate.

GeekDad Approved 2019Herbaceous Sprouts is GeekDad Approved!

Why You Should Play Herbaceous Sprouts

I really enjoyed the Herbaceous card game, enough to give it our GeekDad Approved seal, and after playing Herbaceous Sprouts and seeing the finished version, I’m happy to award it our GeekDad Approved seal as well. The artwork is lovely, the game is simple and quick to learn and play, and the theme is refreshing. Herbaceous Sprouts retains the charm of the original, but with dice. Let’s be honest: that right there may make or break the game for you. Those who love dice games will be thrilled with this new take on it, and those who can’t stand dice games probably won’t care for it. I think I prefer the dice game just a little, but the card game is less expensive and more compact, so it travels really well.

The similarities (aside from the theme) are that, when planting herbs, you need to collect particular sets in order to plant them: all identical, all different, and different pairs. You also have to decide between planting as soon as you’ve collected a valid set, or waiting to try to build a bigger set for more points. One key difference, though, is that in Herbaceous other players may take the herbs themselves (from the community area) before you’re able to plant them, while in Herbaceous Sprouts nobody can take your herbs but they can take your planting spot. If you’re trying to get that coveted 6-of-a-kind spot, you might lose your chance to plant in the 5-of-a-kind space if the dice don’t work out as planned.

I like the different dice, and the way that you can use various tools to manipulate dice, so that it’s not all luck-based. Also, because the dice are drafted from the tool shed, you can see what other players have and what they’ll be able to take, which informs your decisions. If you’re playing with the rival sprouts, it can become particularly important to consider which card will be left at the end. If you’re late in the turn order, you might be able to let the rival take a slot that you see an opponent working toward.

The lemonade bonus is only worth 2 points, but I’ve had a few games come down to a 1-point difference, so the lemonade matters. The trick, though, is that if you’re planting in all four garden areas, chances are you haven’t planted as many herbs at a time, so you’re getting fewer points per herb. It’s a tough balance, racing for the lemonade but still managing to get to some of the higher-scoring spots before they’re gone.

I can attest that Herbaceous Sprouts works well with both young and old players. It’s definitely more of a casual game and not heavy strategy, but there are enough meaningful decisions to keep it engaging for most players—and it’s a short enough game that even if you’re bored you probably won’t mind playing it. Just about everyone I played it with enjoyed it.

The solo variant is a nice way to play the game if you don’t have a partner, and it does a pretty nice job of creating the feel of the 2-player. Every other turn, you get to choose a card first, but your rival will plant sprouts based on what you leave behind. On the alternate turns, the rival goes first and removes a card (and plants a sprout). It’s not just about which dice and tool card you take, but whether you leave behind something that allows your rival to score a lot, and it can make for some challenging choices. I’ve been able to beat the rival, but I haven’t gotten a very high rank yet!

I think Pencil First Games has another winner on its hands with Herbaceous Sprouts. If you enjoy dice games and you like the gardening theme, it’s worth a closer look.


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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

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