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Tabletop Game Review: “Ohanami”

There has been a shift in the weather for our Evil Genius Family. 2020 has brought about a change in our expectations and interests. We are still lovers of LEGO, devourers of digital gaming, and ever-grateful for our graphic novels. Yet, when it comes to our geeky passions, I will be the first to admit we seem to be a little… subdued. The games we have loved the most in 2020 have held a calming influence over us. With its beauty and elegance, Ohanami has risen to the top of these games and is likely to stay there into the new year. 

What is Ohanami?

Ohanami is simply the most elegant card game I have seen in a while. The art is clean and classic. The layout straight-forward. The mechanic a smooth transition around the table. Our energetic 7-year-old daughter EG Zaltu has fallen under the spell and will peacefully play this game over and over again. That is magic in itself. 

Ohanami is a card game for two to four players. Each player is growing three personal gardens through card drafting across three rounds. Each garden is depicted as a column and each player may only add to their column at the top or bottom. The cards are numbered from 1 to 120, and can only be placed in numerical order from top to bottom. 

How to Play Ohanami

To set-up, the game, each player is dealt 10 cards. There are three rounds to each game, with the average game lasting around 20-minutes. Make sure each player has enough space to lay out their cards in front of them. 

The cards are numbered 1 to 120, with designs from one of four categories: Water, Grass, Stone, and Blossom. These categories are part of both strategy and scoring but they do not hamper the gameplay itself. Instead, the gardens are dictated by the numbers. Players can build up to three gardens, in numerical order from bottom to top. 

To begin, each player chooses two cards from their hand and places them facedown in front of them. They then pass the remaining cards to the player on the left (for subsequent rounds, alternate which side you pass to). Once everyone has selected their two cards, players can reveal their selection and choose to use both, discard both, or use one and discard one. Players can use them in the same garden or across two gardens. 

After each player has allocated their two selected cards, they pick up the hand passed to them and repeat the drafting process again. Once all cards have been drafted, the round finishes. Intermittent scoring begins. 

How Does Your Garden Grow

Like any garden, you need to put a little thought into how you plant it. The rules for your garden are simple: It must be in numerical order, and you can only add cards at the top or the bottom; never in the middle. It also differs from my real-life garden with one simple rule: Once a card is planted in your garden, forever there it will stay.

There are three rounds to each game, and the gardens remain the same in active play across all three rounds. At any time, you may have up to three gardens in play but never any more (space is at a premium). Any card, no matter the colour, can start a new garden. To add to an existing garden, the card must be higher than the highest or lower than the lowest. It doesn’t have to be sequential either. You may have gaps between numbers, and EG Sinister won a game with a jump from 43 to 74. I wouldn’t recommend this strategy but clearly, the gaming and gardening gods favoured him that day. 

For each round, different cards are counted to the score. In the first round, only Water cards are counted. In the second round, both Water and Grass are counted (though differently to each other). In the third and final round, all cards are counted and weighted differently. This is where different strategies can work for different players. 

You can follow the scoring guide and focus on the categories which score best for each round. Or you could gradually build up the higher-scoring cards and take out all of the cherry blossoms in one big gush of wind. To be honest, I haven’t figured out my winning strategy yet but I have learnt the importance of balancing out my gardens and allowing them to ‘overlap’ in their sequencing. 

Ohanami Blossoms

Ohanami is really as straightforward as that. As I mentioned before, the 7-year-old loves it. She has picked up on number sequencing with ease and has already memorised the scoring values across each round. She’s a game shark and I advise against anyone thinking they can take her on.

Surprisingly, 14-year-old Sinister needed a game to wrap his head around the ‘three gardens’ concept. His brain was busy tracking the numerical sequencing but struggled with the overlapping of top and bottom cards. He still kicked my butt and won the game but it was interesting to hear him talk through his gameplay and review of the game. 

There is definitely the potential to involve more strategy as you play the game. The complexity is solely within the hands of the players. This is one of the reasons why I consider Ohanami to be an elegant game: there are no tricks or procedures to play out. You can play the game to your own expectations and nothing else. 

The artwork itself is simply quite beautiful, in a minimalist watercolour style I would love to feature on my wall. There is a growth in the artwork as you move further along with the numbers; something that reflects in my own ideas of gardening: the natural progression of time. 

Bonus points for the packaging. I love the idea of the scoring detailed along the outer edges of the box. Makes it very easy to keep track of the scores (if you don’t have your own EG Zaltu at hand). The only thing I would wish for is a little more depth in the box: the cards tend to push the lid up a little bit. This game can only be stored lying down or otherwise will have the cards fall out on the shelf. Although, in saying that, a quick rubber band around the box and it is instantly added to our travel-games collection. 

Overall, we love this game. It is the most peaceful game we have received in 2020, something I am sure everyone needs right now. For a game that usually lasts around 20mins, we have gained many hours of play. It is one of the few games to genuinely cross the age divide and appeal to all members of our family. 

EG Mum score: 4 and a half out of 5 Cherry Blossoms floating in my tea

I received a copy of Ohanami from Panadasaurus for the purpose of review. No money has been exchanged and all views are my own. 

Ohanami is currently available direct from Pandasaurus for USD$14.95. Until 11 Dec 2020, they also have a number of Game Bundles and special deals worth checking out. If you are looking for “stocking stuffers”, holiday travel games, or small gifts in December, Ohanami is the perfect peaceful end to an otherwise tumultuous year. 

Categories: General Evil Genius

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Evil Genius Mum

Evil Genius Mum
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