Publisher: Arcane Wonders
Designer: Adam McIver
Playtime: 45 Minutes
Build a beautiful panorama (Or four) in Four Gardens, a hand management and set collecting game with a gorgeous pagoda at the center of the table. Seriously, it’s so pretty.
A Brief How To Play
To set up Four Gardens, stack pagoda segments randomly and place them on a circular platform, with players facing different sides. Distribute one planning tile and four scoring markers to each player, with one scoring marker on the 3 space of each god’s track. Shuffle landscape cards, deal five to each player with the groundwork side up, and place the remaining landscape cards face up near the scoreboard.
Players get three actions on their turn. They can lay the groundwork, and play one card face up from their hand into their garden with the groundwork side showing, with no cost, allowing them to start or add to a panorama in any order, but not allowing multiple sets of the same panorama in their garden. The “Rotate and Collect” action allows players to discard a card with the pagoda symbol, rotate the pagoda 90 degrees, and collect resources according to the tower’s side for their planning tile. The final action allows players to reallocate their resources amongst their groundwork and planning tiles as they see fit.
Pacing and Interactivity
Four Gardens excels in the pacing department, offering a snappy and engaging experience. Turns are quick, and once you grasp the actions and their effects, gameplay flows seamlessly. With three actions per turn, players can swiftly make decisions without overthinking. The game’s duration, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour, strikes a sweet spot, and the scaling of panoramas based on player count ensures it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Even with four players, waiting for your turn remains engaging, avoiding the zoning out that heavier games often induce.
While Four Gardens is a gem in terms of pacing, it leans heavily into negative player interaction. The moments of any interaction are few, but they usually involve messing up another player’s plan. Scoring really well in one way allows for the scoring player to push down the trackers of everyone else in, potentially locking a tracker at 0 for the rest of the game. Even rotating the Pagoda can be detrimental since it can foil someone else’s plan, making them use their turn inefficently. For those who prefer games with minimal negative interactions, Four Gardens might not be their cup of tea. This game provides numerous opportunities for players to thwart each other’s plans, and this strong negative interaction is a defining feature. Anyone who likes mean games like Root will enjoy what Four Gardens has to offer.
Four Gardens offers solid replayability despite having a consistent win condition. The deck size and different line-ups for cards ensure that each game feels fresh. Additionally, the variety of resources and the pagoda mechanic introduce variability, preventing you from employing the same strategy in every playthrough. While the ultimate goal remains constant, the paths to achieving it can differ, keeping the game engaging across multiple sessions.
Theme and Components
In the realm of components, Four Gardens shines. The insert receives high praise for its functionality, and the tower element adds a unique and visually appealing dimension to the game. The art is simply gorgeous, contributing to the game’s overall aesthetic appeal. While the cards themselves are merely “fine,” they do their job effectively. Everything on the table, from the tower to the cards, exudes quality and adds to the game’s charm. Four Gardens is one of those rare titles that can serve as an eye-catching centerpiece without relying on gimmicks. Thematically, the game’s mechanics align well with its planning and building theme, enhancing the overall experience.
Four Gardens Is Great For Fans Of…
Those who like collecting sets and making pretty things will like Four Gardens. It feels a lot like games like Canvas or Momiji, but it’s a little meaner. That extra bit of negative interaction gives Four Gardens its own spot on the shelf, while the pagoda demands to take its rightful place on the table.
Four Gardens is gorgeous, and it's also fun, making it a lovely game to dive into.
Pacing and Interaction
Theme and Components