Herbaceous or Is This Game Named After Herb?

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You know how every-so-often there’s a new fad in board and card games? I don’t mean like, people freaking out over new mechanisms. I mean themes. A few years ago, it was dungeon crawlers and orcs and all that high fantasy stuff, then it was zombies (some people still refuse to let that one go; please let it go). But more recently, something has come to my attention – gardening and cooking-themed games have been becoming a thing. I don’t mean the Sushi Go! kind of cooking game either. I mean the kind of cooking game that uses artisanal ingredients and focuses on herbs and hipster living. I mean the kind of game that looks like it was taken right out of the Great British Bake-Off. Is this the world we live in now? Where we’re planting organic fruits and vegetables to produce our own specialty chilis and sauces to impress the other flannel-wearing, Animal Collective-listening people we call friends? While we sip on our kombucha, as we water our kale garden?

I digress. The game Herb (capital H) and I played today was Herbaceous (heh). You are each trying to collect herbs from your own private herb garden and the communal garden, because you’re all stinking hippies. And now I’m imagining a garden, planted with multiples of Herb’s head yelling at nothing. The game has a lot of push-your-luck elements. You’re basically trying to wait it out and get all the good herbs before your opponent gets them. I’m not going to explain the rules too in-depth, because they’re somewhere on the internet. What I am going to say is that the game has very high replay value.

After you set up the game as instructed by the rulebook, there are 2 things you can do on your turn. Pot Herbs, you do this by taking herbs from your garden and the community garden to score one of your pots (you can only score a pot once). And Plant: Draw a card from the deck and place this card in your garden (only accessible to you) or put it in the community garden (available to everyone). When you plant you must put 1 card in both your garden and the community garden.

Simple enough. The trick here now is to play chicken with your opponent until one of you gives in and collects all the cards needed to fulfill a pot. There are four different pots, each with different requirements – one for all different unique kinds of herbs, one for all herbs that are the same, one for unique pairs of herbs and a glass jar, in which you can stick up to three herbs into. There are some special herbs that have numbers (extra points) on them, which can only be placed into the glass jar. If you happen to be the first person to have a one-pointer, a two-pointer, and a three-pointer collected into the glass jar, you also get a herb biscuit (worth five points at the end). So from my one paragraph explanation of the game, you must be thinking: gee, that sounds really easy. It’s not that easy. There is strategy and thinking involved and if you’re like Herb (capital H) and I, a bit of bloodshed as well.

Now I don’t know if this was intentional, but the box smells like wet soil. When we first opened the box, I thought Herb (capital H) had brought with him a potted plant. The artwork is also beautiful. Again, it’s like we opening up a gorgeous cookbook that has the nostalgia of 60’s artwork. While Herb (capital H) got mad at reading the rules, (like he always does), the game plays at a deceivingly fast pace. It’s easy to pick up and would make a great addition in between longer games, or if you’d like to bring it to a bar that serves only locally brewed IPAs.

Have you played it? Sound off in the comments.

  • Publisher: Dr. Finn’s Games, Pencil First Games, LLC
  • Year Published: 2017
  • Designer: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, Keith Matejka
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Banana Chan is a larp writer, videographer, host on the informative YouTube show, Talk with Board Game Designer, board game reviewer and full-time Shadowrunner. Subscribe to my Youtube channel!