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Koi Garden...Pondering Pond Builder

Traverse the garden and build your very own Koi Pond in Koi Garden. In this game you will draft cards and activate wildlife to make the most of their needs. This game will have you balancing your garden's eco system in no time.

Koi Garden a tile laying card drafting game ready to play.
Koi Garden Game.

This game caught my attention while looking through a long list of games. The reason this one stood out was due to the artwork and design of the box, I really liked the water colour artwork as it has a nice abstract look with the feel of the subject matter coming through in the detail. After looking into the game further and seeing that it worked using drafting and tile placement mechanics I was intrigued to give it a try.

First Impressions

Upon receiving the game I was pleased that the artwork I saw online lived up to the expectation I was hoping for and the information on the box is well written. In my honest opinion I do feel the artwork on the box could easily allow me to pass it by on a shelf as it does not pop out against the art of other titles but I do like the art direction on this one. The components are well made with good card board and card stock and the game is well packaged with very little space going to waste which I loved.

Game Play Overview

The gameplay of this game is reasonably easy to pick up. The game is split into several rounds depending on the player count, 9 rounds for a 2 player game, 8 rounds for 3 player game and 7 for a 4 player game. To keep track of the rounds simply count up the number of tile cards you have laid not including your Soil Card.

The game is all setup with the player area having the secret objective, starting wildlife and soil card and the Wildlife row and Pond row all set ready to play.
Game Setup

To start the game each player receives a Soil Card to build their pond out from, a starting Wildlife Card to score from on their first turn as well as a secret objective that is scored at the end. You will then shuffle the non-starting Wildlife Cards and make a deck drawing the top 4 cards off the top to reveal what Wildlife is in the garden for this game and then choose one of the tools at random, these will add special abilities in the game that you can utilise. Once these have been set up shuffle the Pond Cards and deal out one card underneath each of the Wildlife cards.

This shows an example of one of the players ponds with a variety of plots on show and different Wildlife in the pond
Example Player Pond.

On a turn you will choose a card from the pond card row and add it to your to your pond. When placing the card from the Pond Card row in to your pond you must follow the following rules; you must cover at least one space in your current pond though must always have one plot of your Soil Card visible after placement, you can only cover a maximum of 3 plots on a single Pond Card with your newly laid card and you cannot cover any Wildlife Tokens with it. After playing the card from the Pond Card row you can then score your Wildlife Card. You do this by either starting from a soil square or where the token currently is and score points by moving the Wildlife Token as described on the Wildlife Card, this could be scoring points for each plot of the same type you pass through or scoring points for simply having a certain amount of plots in your pond. Once you have scored your Wildlife Card you will then swap it with the one above the empty slot in the Pond Card row and put it next to your pond ready to score in the next round. After swapping your card you will then replenish the space in the Pond Card row with a new Pond Card ready for the next player. You will continue like this with each player taking a turn each round until the target number of rounds is met for the number of player and then the person with the highest score is the winner.

Pros and Cons

With the gameplay of this one I would describe it as easy to learn but hard to master putting it in a similar category of game to Onitama and Nimalia in my honest opinion. This is due to you having to work out which Pond Card to take to score the most in the current turn and ensure the Wildlife Card you will receive at the end of the round works in your favour for the next. Getting the balance of this can be difficult, though in my opinion it offers some interesting strategic decisions. For this reason if you like strategic games this would be one I would recommend giving a try. As much as I did enjoy how each of the Wildlife scored differently some of the Wildlife are a little confusing based on just the Wildlife Card's text due to this I would advise having the rulebook to hand to clear up any confusion. But overall this is the only real complaint I can make about the game, the packaging is environmentally friendly, the game play is smooth once you know what all the Wildlife Cards do and the game has a wide range of replayability with plenty of different Wildlife to choose from and a selection of secret objectives.

Final Verdict

Overall, I really enjoyed playing this game and I am looking forward to playing it again. The game has so much strategic depth with a vast amount of replayable option allowing it to bring hours of fun to your table. With the game only taking 15 to 30 minutes to play this makes it a perfect filler game or a quick game to play after dinner in the evening and the rules are simple enough for people to grasp so can be played both younger and older audiences.

The score we would give this game is a 8.6/10

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