One book to rule them all: week May 1 - 7
Botany is a game about hunting for live plant specimens all around the world. On your way you will need funds, crew, various helpers (including pets), overcome events and create wonderous displays to become the best plant hunter. A combination of curious theme choice, graphic design and art pleasing to my eye determined this is the one to explore.
The solo mode pits you up against an AI called Lady Abigail Inglesby, a brilliant botanist. Game ends when either of you reach 12 reputation. Then calculate scores to determine the winner.
At setup, you receive estate mat, character card and 2 expedition cards providing unique abilities, wardian case, botanical press card and 4 specimen cards (abilities can modify hand size). Abigail starts with a fixed hand size of 5 specimen cards, no coins or expedition cards and she doesn't use events. You are the first player.
pay 1 coin from expedition fund (mandatory) - inability to pay is penalized and you have to move back to estate
draw and resolve event card - skill check (d6 roll + abilities) and its resolution
move up to 3 spaces - acquire specimens for each location you pass through provided you have the card in hand; put either in wardian case (max 3) or botanical press card (no limit); with full wardian case, you can switch cards for new one, pressing the other or not collect it
draw specimen cards - refill hand
collect income - based on reputation (up to 3 coins) to estate mat
buy - max 1 purchase per turn (based on location either from expedition fund or estate fund); either 1/3 displayed expedition cards, or garden feature (requirement is met) in estate
In your estate deposit live specimens (face up), collect income (move to expedition fund), gain reputation (every 3 specimens, +1 reputation), deposit pressed specimens (face down, worth 1 point each). In the multiplayer game, you may sabotage other players with poisonous specimens, but it's unclear if you can poison Abigail. You may exchange any number of specimen cards in hand and replace one expedition card on display.
Abigail always moves exactly 3 spaces choosing the shortest path to the specimen(s) in her hand. Poisonous specimens always go in the botanical press and anything else in wardian case. If it’s full, she returns to her estate. Her first purchase is another wardian case and an orangery (garden feature, 2 points, +1 reputation). Every other purchase is a conservatory card (garden feature, 3 points, +1 reputation).
My thoughts are revealed
I found some minor “flaws”. Chapter titles use “victorian style” font, very hard to read at first glance. Some things aren't clearly stated like poisonous effects in solo. Otherwise the rules are very clear with redundancy making it easy to reference. They provide a history snippet about plant hunters (from an Irish-American novelist, 1866), which inspired the game. Regarding historical accuracy, they say some events and cards in the game were influenced by real stories. FAQ is also included.
I like the graphic design, but I also greatly appreciate spaces for the various decks on the main board and estate mat. The rules and cards are quite simple to understand and reference, although there’s more text on cards than I’d like. The art also helps with immersion. Really nice combination of simplicity and elegance with engaging gameplay and unique theme.
I'm not a fan of dice resolution and AI, which can introduce swinginess, however AI seems to have steady point gain (the estate is fixed and you can see its hand). Variety stems from different abilities (character + expedition cards) and other card randomness. There’s also no difficulty setting. Based on this, it’s not for me, but I learned about plant hunters (never heard about it before).
Botany has launched on Kickstarter and the campaign will run for 29 more days. Apart from the game there are some expansions and metal coins to be had.