Game: Tiny Trees
Designer: Michael Perce
Players: 2-4 players
Playtime: 30 Minutes
Play Type: Set Collection
You are but small tree spirit, but you hope to become the Demigod of Trees. The only way to prove you are fit to take the position? By growing the strongest and most creative tree, and gaining the favor of the God of Growth. However, be careful because if your tree is not structurally sound and the wind blows it over, you will be out of the race. Do you have what it takes to be the next Demigod?
Tiny Trees follows a simple turn order for players. Each round a player will take either a branchlet or a flower and grow it on their tree. Branchlets extend the tree further, while a flower creates the end of a branchlet, turning it instead into a branch. A branch scores points at the end of the game. Additional branch lets cannot be added onto the flower.
Players take turn scavenging and growing their tree until either two piles of the branchlets are emptied, or the flower pile and a branchlets stack have been depleted. Then players will go into the scoring phase of the game.
Scoring can happen in three different formats, and players can mix and match which scoring goals they want to use to differentiate the strategic level of the game. Let’s first talk about how to score. There are three ways, branches, life forms and blessings.
- Branches: Branches are created when a flower is put onto a branchlet. The shortest path back to the trunk makes up a branch. On a branch, there can be up to three types of branchlets: Laurel, Cherry Blossom and Maple. The player will count the types of branchlets and score points for the most common branchlet on their branch. If two types of branchlets are tied, they still only score once. You get one point per the most common branchlet present.
- Lifeforms: There are three types of lifeforms you may find on your tree, birds, mushrooms and beetles. Players do not need to make branches to score points for lifeforms, they just need to have the lifeforms on their tree. When scoring players will count how many of each type of lifeform they have. Then they will earn favor points for each type, and get the sum of the three types to learn how many lifeform points they received. Here is the chart for scoring lifeforms:
- 1 Lifeform…1 Point
- 2 Lifeforms…2 Points
- 3 Lifeforms…4 Points
- 4 Lifeforms…6 Points
- 5 Lifeforms…9 Points
- 6 Lifeforms…12 Points
- Blessings: During the beginning of the game, players will choose two blessings that will provide a modifier to the rules. If players manage to meet the requirements on the card, they will receive a benefit. Benefits include additional favor, taking another persons turn or even removing flowers from another player’s tree.
Scoring can be modified to fit individual player’s play style. For players seeking to enjoy the creative process of building the tree, it is suggested to just score branches. If players seek to have a balance between creativity and strategy, it is suggested to score branches and lifeforms. Finally if players want a strategic game play experience, play with all three types of scoring.
**Note: I received a review copy of this game, components are subject to change**
The components in Tiny Trees are both incredibly eye catching but also lead the game to be somewhat frustrating. The game comes with a total of 70 interconnecting pieces to build trees with, and an additional 8 blessing cards. In the base game, the 70 interconnecting pieces are made of the same card stock found in playing cards.
When players first open the box, they will need to cut on the dotted lines of the 70 cards before they can play the game. It is something players should be aware of, because if they planned to be able to play the game out of the box, and do not have scissors on them they will not be able to play. It was a process that took me personally about a half hour to complete, but was not too big of an inconvenience as the directions were easy to follow and it was simple to do. However, it did take longer to cut the hexes than it did to play the game.
When playing the game, the card stock pieces quickly become a serious frustration as they do not always hold their shape properly. Frequently the Tree branchlets or the tree trunk would collapse on themselves. You can see an example of this in the picture above. Throughout the game, this aspect was so frustrating because it could quickly take a functioning tree to a nightmare of flopping sadness. By the end of the game we were terrified to try and score it because we were afraid that one wrong touch would collapse our trees completely.
Additionally beyond the struggle of the pieces staying together in the way I would like them to, the card stock is also not likely going to hold up to wear and tear of game play. Players have to put the pieces together and it leads to cards wearing down over time. If a person gets the regular edition of the game, I do not believe it will hold up to multiple plays over a long period of time.
There is good news though. Tiny Trees will also be releasing a laser cut deluxe edition in their Kickstarter. The thicker cardboard will solve the issues of collapsing and make the components completely functional. I would not consider buying the regular version of the game, but I definitely would get the deluxe edition. It makes that much of a difference in this case.
Beyond the quality of the components themselves, I do want to compliment the illustrations. Tiny Trees has a beautiful and whimsical art style. The demigods on the blessing cards are adorable, and the details on the trees themselves make it so that each tree will be unique.
The components are the star of this show. The table presence of this game is remarkable, and will ensure that people want to know what you are playing. It looks beautiful on the table, especially as trees are completed.
- Great Table Presence
- Family Friendly
- Simple Yet Engaging Mechanics
- Variety of Play-styles
- Whimsical Art
- Player Interaction with Blessing Cards
- Regular Components Lead to Frustrating Gameplay
- Wear and Tear Likely in Regular Edition
- Can Be Difficult to Score
- Deluxe Edition Expensive
Tiny Trees is a mechanically very strong game, with a wonderful table presence. The majority of my concerns for this game are fixed by purchasing the deluxe laser cut edition of the game. When the components are better quality this game will be a fun and strategic filler game. Each decision will have an impact on end of game scoring, and different players can develop different goals in each game. It is interesting to see the differences between players who go straight for having many high scoring branches and those players who try to get as many life forms as possible. I love that the game can be customized to an individual table’s play style. Players will feel good about seeing their creation when it is completed.
The rules in this game are simple enough that they can be taught to a child as young as six or seven, though the box suggests the game for children eight and older. The only thing children may need help with would be scoring. Scoring can be difficult due to the different ways to score (which could be simplified by selecting limited rule sets), and also because as the game begins to build it can be difficult to see each of the branches clearly. I suggest keeping a mental note of each of the lifeforms placed as players continue. This will make the end of game scoring much easier. Children will also be engaged by the wonderful artwork, and the 3-D nature of the game.
Players will spend the game having to balance their goals with what branchlets are available, and trying to decide when is the right time to place a flower. If they get overzealous their tree may fall. If their tree falls twice they are out of the game, so players do need to have some dexterity and balancing skills as well as the set collection. There is also some player interaction with some of the blessing cards. This allows players to pay attention not only to what is happening with their trees but with their opponents as well. When playing without blessings there will be no player interaction though. The light strategy mixed with the creative capabilities makes this game a unique filler.
However, the game is a very light filler game. In order for the game to be functional, players must get the deluxe edition, as the game is NOT functional as the regular edition. The deluxe edition is going for 80$ on the current Kickstarter campaign. Personally, the game play is not supportive of spending 80$. The game while fun, is simple and very similar to the much cheaper Kodama. That price point takes it from being a reasonable filler game, to a game that would need to frequently hit the table to be worth it, and I just don’t see that happening for me.
That being said, I could see it becoming a good gateway game to bring new gamers into the hobby because it is short, eye catching and easy to play. Additionally, if you liked games like Kodama: The Tree Spirits or Photosynthesis you may enjoy this game, as it is similar in theme and table presence. Once again though, I can only suggest this game if you choose to get the deluxe edition with the laser cut hexagons, as the regular edition leads to a great deal of frustration intermixed in your tree building experience. Want to know more? You can check their Kickstarter page here.