Filler Games · Reviews

Review of Topiary

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Game: Topiary

Designer: Danny Devine

Published: Renegade Game Studios, Fever Games

Players: 2-4 players

Playtime: 15-30 Minutes

Play Type: Abstract Strategy

Synopsis:

It is a bright and sunny day, and a new topiary garden has opened up in town. You plan on visiting the garden, but know it will be crowded on a day like today. You will have to place your visitors carefully to get the best view of the garden, and rearrange the garden so that nothing blocks the spectacular view.

Game Play:

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Set up in Topiary is pretty simple. First players will each take a set of visitors in their color, checking to see how many they get based on how many players there are. Then players shuffle the sculpture tiles and create a 5X5 grid in the center of the table, turning the center tile face up. Then deal 3 sculptures from the deck to each player, returning all other sculptures to the box. Set the scoreboard and scoring markers aside, as they will not be used for the time being.

Turns are very simple in Topiary. There are two steps players may do each turn. First, players MUST position a visitor. They do this by placing a visitor so that it has line of sight done a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row.  Only one visitor may be placed on each line of sight. Then the player has the option to rearrange a sculpture by picking up one of the face down tiles in the sight line they picked, and they may then replace it from one in their hand, returning it back to the grid face up. Play continues like this until all players have placed all of their visitors.

Scoring is the most involved part of Topiary. Players will first check all of their line of sight rows and score the points written on the tile for the sculptures they can see. Larger sculptures (determined by the higher numbers) will block line of sight of lower numbers. Then players get points for type bonuses. If a player can see two or more of the same type of tree in a line of sight they can an additional point. Players can gain a type bonus for multiple types of trees in one row. Finally players reveal the card types in their hand. Players will score the face value of their tiles, if they can see at least one of that kind of tree from their lines of sight.

The person with the most points at the end of the three scoring categories is the winner.

Components:

Topiary comes with 40 sculpture tiles, 32 wooden meeples, and a scoreboard with 4 colored score markers.  Everything about the game is quality, with all pieces being vibrant and sturdy. I was especially impressed with the meeples chosen for Topiary. They come in four different colors, but also in four distinct shapes. One of the shapes also depicts a meeple in a wheelchair. This focus on accessibility made my heart warm as a special education teacher who could potentially use this in a classroom. More functionally, the different shaped meeples also make the game colorblind accessible. The different shapes are also represented on the score tracker, ensuring that the game is completely accessible.

Overview:

Positives:

Easy to Teach

  • Easy to Teach
  • Colorblind Friendly
  • Great Artwork
  • Simple Yet Thinky
  • Easy to Play, Hard to Master

Negatives:

  • Some Take That Elements
  • Tiles are Loose Inside Box

Topiary is a deceptively simple abstract game. New players will feel comfortable with their turns quickly, as there are only two steps to them. However, as players go on to master the game it becomes very thinky. Players not only have to consider how they place tiles in their current line of sight, but also how it effects their other line of sights, and how other players might in turn change their line of sights in reaction to the move. Every move will count in this game, which is something that I very much enjoy. Players who are planners like me, will also find enjoyment, as there is some variability based on the facedown tiles, but because of the tiles in hand, players to have the capability to plan ahead.

Players who do not enjoy “take that” may become frustrated with Topiary, because there is the potential for players to purposely mess with one another’s scoring by placing sculptures in their line of sight. While I believe that this adds to the strategy and overall enjoyment of the game, some people may not enjoy that.

If you enjoy abstract games like Azul or Photosynthesis, I would suggest Topiary as well. It has a very similar feel to Photosynthesis in many ways, but it is quicker to set up and easier to explain to new gamers. As a teacher who is concerned with making all of my students feel welcomed, I may include this game in my classroom library due to its focus on colorblind accessibility and depicting meeples who are physically disabled. While that might not mean very much to everyone, knowing how it would effect some of my students makes me happy they included that small detail.

Overall Topiary is a quick thinky game. Despite the fact that the game is a filler game, it provides players with the feeling that they are playing a much more substantial game because of the thought that goes on throughout the game. It makes a great opening game for a game night, or a great quick after dinner game.

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