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TABLETOP TYCOON & STARLING GAMES
present the Signature Edition of FLOURISH - a most Pleasurable Board Game for 1-7 Players

FLOURISH comes from the imagination of James A Wilson & Clarissa A Wilson.

I have said this before but just in case you don't know, I have painful arthritis in my thumbs and forefinger, and so making the Follies and all the constructions, pressing out all the pieces and assembling them, took me just over 2 hours. It shouldn't take that long but I do advise you to take great care when pushing the top flower into position as there is a weak spot on the bottom of the Flower circle which could easily bend and crease.

This is not a complaint or a criticism of the design, once assembled the Follies are strong enough to stay that way and never have to be deconstructed, it is just a warning to be extra careful so you aren't annoyed with yourself, as I am with myself - I bent the first one I put together. I was extra careful after that.

An immediate comparison with the excellent game series of EVERDELL is made when first viewing FLOURISH. This is due to several similarities. Visually it looks as if it belongs to the Everdell range. It is designed by James A Wilson who also designed Everdell. It is published by STARLING GAMES who also publish Everdell, with a Signature Edition that has a myriad classy, quality, components.

However, anyone expecting another Everdell will be, not disappointed, but perhaps dismayed, that in this case the components are more than the whole. The perceived mental promise of an Everdell extension does not materialise and it is imperative that should you have this perception you should swallow it deep inside and instead look on this game on its own merits not with pre-determined fore-thoughts.

Instead of Everdell revisited you get a game where the other players can either assist or hinder, depending on your choice of cooperative or competitive play, as you strive to create a beautifully structured garden, using a system that introduces a mixture of several game mechanics carefully woven into one of beneficial simplicity.

The components are constructed from die-cut cards. These include the Walls that separate the players (unnecessary but visually appealing) and the scoreboards, one for each player comprising of three wheels that must be positioned correctly - they look identical at first glance but are each individual, marked surreptitiously with nigh-invisible 1, 10 and 100 identifications.

The creative slotter buildings, called Follies, are characteristically contrasting, with each topped by one of the five flowers around which the game revolves. These Follies are not in the basic game, they are in the FRIENDS & FOLLIES and 'Signature Edition' along with 'Friends' cards which are comparable to Missions or Tasks in other games. The 'Friends & Follies' extension has two variants on the game that can be added separately or simultaneously, this is part of the Signature Edition.

The Basic game is okay without the Friends & Follies pieces, but these additions, especially the Follies, take it from 'okay' through 'good' to 'resplendent'. For once we were not particularly impressed with the cooperative version, it's 'okay' but far more enjoyable and edgy once the competitiveness takes hold. We played the Basic game twice before moving onto the Friends & Follies variants versions and have no intentions of going back to it.

Both basic and Follies games are played over 4 rounds and each requires the players to build their own garden from cards received. Each round the players play a card into their garden and pass two to other players, one each to their left & right neighbours - passing them across the dividing walls. They then take the two cards from their neighbours and one from the top of the deck to bring their hand back to six cards. The round continues until all players have positioned three cards in a row in their own gardens. 

During each full round players may place a Folly onto a card just played when they both have the same symbol. Experience during play has determined, for us at least, that placing Follies on the edge of a row generally offers more chances of Bonus point scoring. There is a scoring at the end of each full round.

Once three rows have been completed and scored the players have five cards left in their hands - they do not take a sixth from the deck - of which three must be played into their garden, adjacent to any of the edge cards in the 3x3 garden grid. There is then a final round scoring.

The Base game rule's booklet, a three page fold-out, clearly explains the setup and game-play, making it one of the most compact rules systems for and major boxed game. There are also rules for 2-player and Solo games, plus a Garden Show variation whereby 7 point Ribbons are awarded to the players who have the most Flower symbols by type. To complete the variants there is a Compost modification where the idea is to move through the deck of cards quicker than usual.

  

In the Signature Edition box there are a few die-cut card pieces that make up the lower box insert; a separate glossy sheet shows how this is constructed and how to put the components safely within the rooms constructed. I do not know if this is in every box, probably not, but it is a very useful assistant.

The Solo game pits you against a canny Scot of the clan McGregor. His (or Her) cards are all randomly placed. I tried playing solo and did not enjoy it at all. I play some games, mostly Facebook Colour-Matching or Word games, solo, but most solo variants, even on games like Flourish, which I enjoy, are not my cup of coffee (I don't drink tea). 

 

So far we haven't found any set way to play for the win, but there are, if you are lucky with the draw, ways to prevent other players from scoring well. Obviously look at what your neighbours are planting in their garden.
Try not to give neighbours cards with scoring possibilities in the round - these are cards with scoring equations on their top edge - nearly all cards have an end of game scoring in their bottom right corner.

In the photo above you can see the 3x3 grid and the 3 add-on cards.
Only one Folly can be placed on a card, but not using your Follies in your garden is itself a folly, as it costs you negative 5 points for each one not  placed.

To be fair, the Follies are little more than Bonus score markers, but they do make the game eye-catching, a beauty to behold. Each flower has its own specific building and each player begins the game with one of every Flower type.

 

If both of your neighbours play this way - they are not allowed to converse with each other but it is pretty easy to see this action - then you are going to find it difficult to win. In the last game I played my neighbours didn't give me one scoring card throughout the play, I had no choice from the cards in my hand, to reciprocate, and had to hand over cards I didn't really want to.

Our overall opinion is that FLOURISH is a good sister game to EVERDELL without quite reaching the remarkable heights its sibling made. Anyone wanting another Everdell will, as I said previously, not find it here. What they will find is a good, family and gamer, strategy game, with some luck and skillful playing possibilities. It has now become a regular visitor to the Games Gazette table.

FLOURISH is a good game in its own right, and indeed it is open for similar type expansions to Everdell so I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future they appear on Kickstarter. Starling Games have already received a great reputation amongst gamers for the quality, playability and visual appeal of their games.

When Flourish went to Kickstarter they required $15,000 to make it viable. At $39.00 plus postage for the Signature Edition it is one of the least expensive board games available, with so many components, from any publisher. They closed out on Kickstarter at $165,493 (with late pledges still available) and delivery was estimated (and to my knowledge, achieved) for March 2021.

One of Starling Games nice quirks is to supply a photogenic card for the winner of each game to pose with. The young lady below was delighted to win the last game we played and has ensured we are constantly reminded - we need to play another game very soon.

Benefits: Toys for Tots
Tabletop Tycoon will donate a game to Toys for Tots for each game sold through this campaign. To date, they have raised enough as a company to donate over 55,000 games to kids. This campaign will help give even more! 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021