A to Z Gaming: Herbaceous

We potted herbs from communal and private gardens in Herbaceous, the next game in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Herbaceous
Players: 1-4
Time: 15-20 Minutes
Designers: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, Keith Matejka
Artists: Benjamin Shulman, Beth Sobel
Publisher:  Pencil First Games


Herbaceous is quick card game where players each have four planters that they can pot plants from their own garden and the public garden, following the rules of the pot. The person with the best pots at the end of the game wins.

The game is set up with each player receiving four “pots,” a marker showing where their private garden is, and a player helper card. The deck of herbs (minus a number of cards based on the player count) is shuffled and placed in the middle of the table, and the bonus card placed nearby.

On their turn, players can first pot herbs (which I’ll describe below). Then they draw a card from the herb deck, which will show one of ten different herbs. Seven of the herbs are “common” and three are “unique.” In all cases, the player must decide whether to place that herb in their own private garden or in a public garden in the center of the table. Then they draw a second card and place it in the garden where they didn’t place the first card.

During the potting phase, players can take herbs from their personal garden and from the public garden and place them under the pot they are planting in. Each pot has a different rule for what can go in it: one takes single herbs of different types, one takes herbs of only one type, one takes pairs of different types, and one simply takes three herbs of any type. The glass jar – the one that takes three of any type – is the only place that unique herbs can be potted. Once a pot has been used, you can’t add more plants to it.

There is also a bonus card that can be claimed by whoever first pots one of each of the unique herbs in their glass jar. The bonus card gives five points at the end of the game.

The game ends once the entire deck of herb cards has been played and each player has had the chance to pot all of their plants. At that point, players count up their points for each herb and the possible bonus card, and whoever has the most points, wins.

We also played with the mini-expansion this time, which has you add a couple of spice cards to the second half of the herb deck. When one of the spices comes up, it is an event that everyone can do, if they are able. For example, we had a card that allowed us to add an additional herb to one of our pots, following the pot’s normal potting rules. This event card does not count as one of that player’s drawn and played cards that turn.

I picked this up when it was on Kickstarter, because I had watched Rahdo’s play-through and it looked interesting. The theme caught my eye, since it’s different from so many games out there, and the mechanic sounded simple to explain but with some good decisions to make.

I quite like this as a short, filler game. The theme is calming and the art beautify. The gameplay is fairly simple, but sometimes it is agonizing to decide where to put the first card you draw on your turn or to decide when to plant. Do you plant now or press your luck to see if you can get one more herb type into your pot?

How is it as a 2-player game? Herbaceous is okay as a 2-player game, but is definitely better with more players. The higher player count creates harder decisions about when to pot and how much to press your luck.

How about the art and component quality? The art is beautiful on these cards. The components – well, they’re just a deck of cards, which are decent quality.

Will this stay in my collection? Absolutely. It’s a small(-ish)-box card game with a unique theme, beautiful art, and serves as a great filler between longer games or as a quick game when you just need to play something.

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