In Cottage Garden you are, as you may have suspected, gardening!
Each player has their own little mat representing their garden plot, and each mat is populated by a few plant pots and cloches and a load of space for you to fill with flowers. You also have a score track with three orange and three blue scoring markers to keep tabs on your progress. A central board with a 3×3 grid is filled up with tetris-styled flowerbeds of various shapes, and the leftover flowerbeds are laid around the edge of the board randomly. A supply of flowerpots is kept handy.
Each player gets two cats and the game begins. On your turn you move a die (which doubles as round marker) around the edge of the board, and can take any of the flowerbeds from the row in the grid the die is adjacent to (if any row has only one or no flowerbeds in, it gets filled up from the supply before you choose). Alternatively, if you don’t like the look of them, you can take a flowerpot instead.
Then you simply add the flowerbed (or pot) to your cottage garden. The catch is that you’re trying not to cover up any of the pots and cloches on your little board, as these represent points: as soon as a garden is full up (cats can be used to cover empty spaces, as a free additional move) you score it, moving an orange cube along the orange score track the number of pots you have, and moving the blue cube up for the number of cloches.
The game continues for three rounds, and then in the ‘fourth’ round the endgame is triggered – you can keep ‘planting’ flowerbeds, but every turn you take costs you two points. You have three markers of each colour, so can move up each track a maximum of three times.
Like it says on the tin, there’s no blasters, swords, or warp factor nine here. Merely the gentle cultivation of your own little garden… but for those who like their games gentle, this is one that young ones can get their heads around and adults can also wring a lot of enjoyment from: the theme may be gardens, but it’s all about spatial awareness. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the similar Barenpark, but it’s fun. Fans who want to screw each other over a bit more may prefer the (exclusively two-player) Patchwork.
Minimal. Smart players can plan ahead by working out who will take from which row, though, so there is some small interaction of a kind.
Low. There's nothing here to make the game drag to a halt.
It's a simple task of trying to match the flowerbeds to your garden without covering up the precious pots and cloches.
The variety of garden pieces and randomised layout of them ensure the game feels fresh, and the 'gardens' are all different too. With two, each player has two gardens to plant, giving them moe flexibility.