Q&Play: Thyme to Talk Herbaceous

The Inquisitive Meeple reviews and then talks with designer, Stephen Finn, about Herbaceous. 

Welcome to the first edition of my new feature, Q&Play. The idea behind it is to give a meeple-sized (read: mini) review (The Play) and pair it with a meeple-sized interview (The Q) which will be around 8 questions or less – all in the same article. Giving you the reader, both thoughts on the gameplay and a look at the story behind the game, in the same article that can all be read during a coffee or lunch break. Each article will also open with a “Rundown” section that will give you brief general info about gameplay. Just enough so that readers unfamiliar with the game,  can follow along with both the review and the interview. I hope you enjoy this new format -and I do indeed have a few more planned for the near future.

The rundown

Herbaceous is card game, designed by Stephen Finn, in which you get to play as herb collectors. Using both a private garden and community one you are trying to fill 4 different pots that have different set collection requirements to the best of your ability. Each container not only has different set collection goals, but also different scores depending on how many herbs you can pack in. The game ends when all players have filled their pots (or all players can no longer play).

The play

When you first read the rules of Herbaceous you might be tempted to say, “huh that’s it?” – it is beyond simple and easy to quickly judge that it there might not be much to this game. However, once played, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised. I don’t think there has been a game yet in our limited plays thus far, where we have not play a second time immediately after. Designed by Steve Finn and published by Pencil First Games, it may be the best game either has to offered up to this point in time (at least from the games I have experience from either one) . There is not much I can say about Herbaceous’ gameplay, as the game is exactly what it seems to be – a very simple filler that could be taught to just about anyone – even to family members that may can handle something on the level of Uno. It’s easy to teach, takes very little effort to learn and the gameplay runs extremely smooth. It’s also a game that easily can be played to cap off a hard day where you don’t want to play something to taxing on the brain or to play as a coffee break game, where you can play and chat with others. In the end, Herbaceous can remind us all, both new gamers to the hobby, and seasoned ones, that there is beauty and fun to be had in simplicity.

The Qs

Note: Unlike this above review, this interview was done before the game came out and while it was still on Kickstarter. Originally published on The Inquisitive Meeple in August of 2016, this is just part of the interview. If you like to read the full interview, it can be found by clicking here. Since this time Steve Finn under Dr Finn Games has had 10 successful Kickstarters (not 9 has stated below) and has his 11th on Kickstarter right now – Cosmic Run: Rapid Fire (click here to be taken to the Kickstarter). 

What is the story behind the game’s creation and did it always have an herb collecting theme to it?

Steve: Interestingly, my friend Ed Baraf sent me pictures of the herb cards, which his friend, Beth Sobel, had drawn. He basically asked, “Could you make a game with these?” This is the kind of question that I love and cannot say no to. So, it’s always been an herb game.

What do you feel having both a personal garden and a community garden brings to the gameplay that wouldn’t be there if only one was used in the game?

Steve: The community garden is necessary because it creates the whole tension of the game.  Since players can take from the community garden, suspense is created as the garden grows…who will harvest the herbs first? By having your own personal garden, tension is created (as in Biblios), when you are drawing cards and deciding what to do with them, i.e., whether to keep it or put it in the community garden. Remember, you have to put one card in the private garden and one in the community garden each turn.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in designing Herbaceous?

Steve: This was a very easy game to design, so I’m not sure I learned any big lessons. I do think having super nice art is much more valuable as a way to draw attention to the game, so I may wish to put more resources into artwork for future games. I’ve almost always designed games around the mechanics, as I am personally a lot more interested in the mechanics of a game than the art. However, I am beginning to see that you need both great art and solid mechanics.

When you step back and look at the finished product, what makes you the most proud that you designed Herbaceous?

Steve: I’m proud that I was able to complete the challenge of designing an interesting and fun game that appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike with the beautiful artwork provided.

I have to ask – with this talk of herb gardening – does Dr. Finn have a green thumb?

Steve: Not at all. I did make a raised garden bed for my wife to do some gardening, but that’s the extent of it for me.

As we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to add?

Steve: I’d like to point out that Dr. Finn’s Games has now had 9 successful Kickstarter campaigns. All but one was been completed on time and the one late was only by a month or so. If readers of this article are not familiar with my games, I request that they go to my webpage www.doctorfinns.com to check them out, read reviews, and watch videos. All of my games have quite high average ratings on www.boardgamegeek.com. Many reviewers point out that my games appeal to both gamers and non-gamers alike. As I am an independent game designer and publisher, I really rely on word-of-mouth to increase the reach of my audience. So I request, that you please tell others about Dr. Finn’s Games.

The last word

Thanks to Steve Finn for taking time out to do that original interview. For those interested in a copy of Herbaceous, it is currently out now and can be found in gaming stores. If you prefer to find it online – you can do so at both Amazon and Cool Stuff Inc. Until next time, thanks for reading and stay inquisitive… 


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