Design by Bevan Clatworthy | Published by Tinkerbot Games
1-4 Players | 45-60 min
Haunticulture is the “spiritual” follow-up to the game Ghostel by Tinkerbot Games. In Ghostel, you were a ghost working to rid a hotel of it’s pesky human guests. Now that that nonsense is behind you, it’s time for ghosts to do what ghosts do best: tend to the garden. Unfortunately you’re a ghost and ghosts can’t pick up a yard rake or shovel – fortunately there is help! In Haunticulture, you take the role of a ghost assembling a crew of zombies, skeletons and ghouls capable of bringing your gardening vision to life.
Haunticultue plays 1-4 players and takes place over 4 rounds each consisting of 3 phases: The Gardner Phase, Planting Phase and Tidy Up Phase. Players gain points based on pre-determined garden patterns and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Each player begins with an identical deck of 6 monster cards. The cards feature various zombies, skeletons and ghouls each with their own abilities and strenghts. Each player also choses one of two dealt “Secret Task” cards communicating an exclusive end-game objective for that player.
Depending on the player count, a grid with space to play monster cards is laid out (4×3 for 5 players, 3×3 for 2-3 player) and then outlined on the left and right, top and bottom with greenhouse cards. Plant and garden ornament tiles are then placed on each of these greenhouse cards. Players also receive their own 5×5 garden board. The game also features a bag full of extra garden & ornament tiles for later use, an additional deck of special monster cards each with more powerful abilities and a pile of gold tokens used to purchase additional monster cards.
During the gardening phase, players take turns placing a monster inside the grid, essentially bidding on the chance to choose specific garden tiles. The monster cards may have special abilities take effect such as gaining a coin or rummaging through the tile bag for an additional tile for later use in your garden. Each monster card has a specific number value that determines how effective that monster is at gardening. One the grid has been completely filled. The player with the highest combine monster card value in a given row or column gets the opportunity to chose which of the tiles on that sections 2 greenhouse cards they wish to draft. The player with the second most value gains the additional tile while any additional players in that specific row or column gain a gold coin. This continues until all tiles have been drafted.
Players may choose to hire a new monster with special abilities during their turn in place of playing a card in the grid. These special monster cards take the place of a current card in the players deck and provide the player with a stronger monster or additional opportunities to snatch an extra plant and ornament tile.
During the planting phase each player takes the plant and ornament tokens they’ve accumulated during the gardening phase and prepares to plant them on their personal board. Points are scored based on specific patterns played on their gardening board. There are nine unique garden and ornament tiles each with their own unique scoring pattern. Tiles such as the moonflower gain more points when planted in diagonal lines where pumpkins gain more value when planted in rectangular rows. Snapper weeds cause you to lose points while ornament tiles such as urns act as multipliers.
Finally, during the tidy up phase the board is restocked, players gather their monster crew and the next round begins.
Haunticulture also features an AI deck for 2 player games as well as solo variant.
Haunticulture does a great job of blending two separate, unique puzzles into one, accessible, engaging and enjoyable family game.
The first puzzle is about drafting the tiles necessary to make your garden work, but at the heart it’s a bidding war with room to trump your opponent, steal tiles and manipulate your return. Even when you feel you’ve shored up your victory in a specific row or column, there is always room for someone to sneak in and change things up. Purchasing and playing the upgraded monster cards can real cause trouble for your opponents.
The second puzzle is about set collection as well as arranging your tiles in an organized fashion to maximize the set goals as well as your end game strategies.
The theme is ripe for the Halloween crowd. I enjoyed the idea of zombies and skeletons trying their darnedest to cultivate a neglected garden.
The components are fine (the version I played was a prototype). I would love for the plant and ornament tiles and garden boards to be a little larger, artwork to be a little brighter and graphics slightly more stylized… but I’m nit picking at this point. I think everything is in place to make Haunticulture a really fun Halloween-themed game that appeals to gateway gamers looking for something a little different.
Overall the game really worked for me and my family.
Haunticulture comes to Kickstarter October 22, 2020. Click HERE to check it out.