Orchard review – a swift nine-card puzzle

Shortly after we wrote our review for Black Sonata, I found out about Side Room Games’ plan to open another Kickstarter, this time for BoardGameGeek favourite Orchard, a nine-card solitaire game with only cards, dice, and two cubes. Owing to how we feel about Black Sonata, we decided to check this Print & Play game out. In this Orchard review, we’ll go through the basic mechanics of the game, the PNP resources’ quality, and each of our POVs on how it plays.

Disclaimer: Hey, Meepling is currently offering Orchard for pre-order locally in the Philippines at the Kickstarter price while the Kickstarter is active. While we pride ourselves with making honest reviews regardless of affiliation, do keep this in mind while you read our thoughts on this game.

Orchard, by Mark Tuck, has a pretty solid history already, even though having only been released in 2018: it won multiple categories (including Best Overall Game) in the 2018 BoardGameGeek 9-Card Nanogame Print & Play Design Contest. It was also the BoardGameGeek Golden Geek Winner for Best Print & Play Game of 2018. I’d always enjoyed the experience of making and playing PNPs and this was pretty much enough endorsement for me to want to try it out.

This tile-laying game has the player grow and manage the titular Orchard, trying to maximize their harvest. A multiplayer option is also available, that requires another copy of the game.

Orchard play through summary

In the regular, solitaire game, the player shuffles their nine cards1 and picks the first card as their starting “orchard”, and two more to form their hand. A set of fifteen dice form a pool for their harvest of apples, plums, and pears (five of each fruit).

Players then choose a card from their hand to play on top of their current orchard. Playing a card requires that the new card overlap their current orchard either horizontally or vertically, with the underlying fruit matching the fruit placed on top of it. If the top fruit does not match the bottom fruit, a “rotten cube” may be placed, at a maximum of two times per game. Cards cannot be placed on top of rotten fruit.

If the player successfully places a fruit on top of a matching fruit, they are able to harvest from that plant. The first time they overlap, a die with the “1” side facing up is placed on the plant, signifying that they can harvest from that plant. The second time, the die is turned to the “3” side facing up, signifying an increased yield for that plant.

Orchard Print & Play quality

The PNP is pretty straightforward, and the assets are well-done. There is a single-page rules sheet and two pages that contain the 18 cards for the game, designed to be printed back-to-back (for a total of 9 cards and 18 card faces). An optional card back sheet is also provided in case you’d rather print the 18 cards as separate cards.

Printing is straightforward, and the backs and fronts matched up well, though due to the nature of how the cards are laid out, it was difficult to see the cutting lines once you’ve cut the cards in one direction. There are faint lines in the card art that should help, but it was difficult to find once the guiding line was gone. My cards therefore have slight differences in sizes, but these don’t affect gameplay as much since shuffling is only done once at game start (and there are only a few cards to shuffle, anyway).

Players should provide their own dice, of which one will need 15 six-sided dice: 5 apples, 5 plums, and 5 pears. Ideally you have differing colors for them for each, but I didn’t have with my own copy, and it wasn’t too difficult. Two markers are also needed for rotten fruits, but I used a peso coin when I played, haha. What rotten fruit??

Her POV

I’m really liking this game for what it is. It’s simple, it’s light, and it’s quick, but engrossing in just the right amount. It’s the type of game that, after one round, is super easy to go just one more. At first, I wondered if it was going to be too simplistic, but I think it has the right balance of simplicity and puzzle-y goodness. I also like the “mechanic” of upping the dice value–it feels pretty satisfying after scoring!

Owing to my d6s being in my TRPG “box”, I’ve ended up adding my PNP cards into the vault as well. You know, for those instances when people take so long to get the game started…;)

I can’t wait for this amazing little game to be professionally produced!

His POV

It has been a while since a game frustrated me the way that Orchard has, since this game required me to be efficient in the placement of my “trees” for maximum yield. The need to set my score higher than my last2 pushes me to keep playing, and since the game plays so quickly, I get to play at least five more games till my needs are partially satisfied.

So, yes, I really like this game, despite the leading intro. I can’t wait to play the fully produced game once it comes out!

Orchard review verdict

Disclaimer: Hey, Meepling is currently offering Orchard for pre-order locally in the Philippines at the Kickstarter price while the Kickstarter is active. While we pride ourselves with making honest reviews regardless of affiliation, do keep this in mind while you read our thoughts on this game.

Orchard has a lot going for it in the solitaire game category–a light footprint and quick play that’s satisfying and engrossing at the same time.

The PNP is well done and easy to set up, but the Kickstarter is proving to be super exciting, with unlocked custom rotten fruit tokens, engraved dice, and possibly plastic cards for that ultra durability bonus. Check out the Kickstarter, or if you’re in the Philippines, we’re offering local pre-orders too!

Check out these playthroughs and reviews too:

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. As it is possible to print the game as 18 cards instead of the nine back-to-back cards, players still play with nine cards, just setting the other nine aside for a second game. Which you will want to play. For sure.
2. and Angela’s

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