When Fairway was a kid, he lived at a place with a great big woods in the backyard. There were plenty of places to build what he thought would be the Best Tree House Ever. It turns out that’s actually a really hard thing to do. Well, as luck would have it, Scott Almes and Green Couch Games have made it a lot easier. Today, Fairway reviews a Kickstarted game: Best Tree House Ever.
Best Tree House Ever is a two- to four-player, card game in which players attempt to play cards from their hand to construct the highest scoring tree house. I backed this game on Kickstarter.
Initial Impressions ^
- Right out of the box, just building tree houses is pretty great. Who needs a game when you can marvel at your dream tree house by just setting out a few cards.
- The art is almost too perfect. While cartoonish, each unique tree house room is full of some amazing details. This alone makes building tree houses interesting.
- The game implements some really neat game mechanics that will keep even seasoned game players interested including the balance/sway rules and the game changers.
- The Sushi Go!-like card drafting mechanism will be familiar to a lot of players.
- There are a few annoying things about the components: the box is way too small, especially with the stuff that shipped outside the box. There are lots of fidgety card bits: three cards make the scoring track, there are color scoring cards, game changer cards, objectives, bird houses, etc. This makes for somewhat messy setup and cleanup.
Game play ^
A game of The Best Tree House Ever is played over three rounds of Sushi Go!-like card drafting. Over those three rounds, each player is trying to draft cards to construct the highest scoring tree house.
To start, you’re given a tree trunk and a balance token which is placed on the center. You’re then dealt an initial hand of tree house cards. These tree house cards represent a room. The rooms are color-coded to indicate which one of a five types of cards it represents, such as food, water, and education rooms.
On your turn, you will select one card from your hand to play onto your tree and you’ll pass the rest of the cards clockwise to the next player. You’ll continue this way until all but one of the cards remains — you’ll discard the last card.
When you play a room card onto your tree, you must follow some basic rules. First, except for the first room of a color, you must always play room cards so that they “touch” a room of the same color. Second, your new room must be played touching at least one of the previously-played cards (or trunk). And, any single room card only supports two new rooms on top of it. Third, you cannot play a new room if it would cause your tree to sway too far out of center, which is tracked using a balance token. Finally, you cannot play a card above a sixth level (including the base).
Once everyone has placed the rooms for the round, the round ends and players now score their tree houses. Here in lies the most complicated portion of the game. At it’s most basic, players score a point for each of a color. However, before scoring, players take turns placing “Game Changers” which make certain colors worth no points and others worth double points. In other words, if one player has a long chain of brown food cards, another player might set the “score” for brown to “zero” and the player will get no points.
But once all the points are tallied, a new round begins: game changers are reset, a new hand of cards is dealt, and play continues. At the end of the third round, players will also collect bonus points for having the most of a particular color. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!
On the green ^
This game is fantastic alternative to games like Sushi Go!
Art. The art is great. The cartoony style and attention to detail make for an immersive experience. There’s a huge number of unique rooms filled with some very imaginative ideas.
The way the cards create a real tree as the tree house expands is also a very nice touch.
Game play. If you ignore the game changers and the complex scoring, the game is easy to pick up. Teaching the game to someone who has played Sushi Go! or other pass-the-hand, card-drafting games is really simple.
Play time. The game is also pretty quick. You can easily do all three rounds within twenty minutes. Most players don’t spend a lot of time picking cards since the color-coded selection makes it easy to recognize what to play. Although, it is easy to get distracted by picking the cards you just “want” in your tree house.
Acorn balance markers. These are really cute. Love them.
Easily adjusted difficulty. Everything about this game makes it easily playable with the youngest game players. Everything except the game changers. There’s a very easy fix though: just don’t play with them. We got the game when my daughter was four. We just ignore the game changer scoring and instead reward double points to the player with the most of a color and otherwise one point per room.
Where it comes up short ^
Fidgety bits. I don’t know if anyone else would care, but there seems to be a lot of cards that are used for tracking.: scoring cards, game changer cards, three-card scoring track, etc. They’re somewhat annoying to sort and set up, and they consume a decent amount of table space. If you’re playing with kids, it’s almost impossible to avoid jostling.
The box is too tight. It’s pretty amazing it fits at all. But considering that the cards shift and you need to get them in two perfect piles to fit the acorns and markers, it’s just a bit much. It makes clean up necessarily difficult. That said, the box is nice and sturdy.
In the hole ^
The Best Tree House Ever is a neat little game full of imaginative tree house rooms. Simply building the tree houses is fun in and of itself, the fact that there’s a competitive game in the box is just a bonus. The basic game is also easily playable with young gamers and is a welcome change of pace if you’re tired of Sushi Go! I’m not sure this game is breaking new ground, but with a cute theme and easy game play, it is definitely worth a look for a family of gamers.