Framed as a contest for control over a beautiful fantasy world, Groves (up on Kickstarter now!) is a mechanically simple, yet extremely satisfying worker placement/bag building hybrid. Players will gather spirits and elements to their command, and use these resources to gain power over the titular groves of Idyllon to become the Lady or Lord of the Realm!
**Prototype heads-up – Letiman Games sent us a very nice preview copy, but this doesn’t represent the finished product. Although it already looks great! Also, I stole a bunch of gifs.**
The goal of Groves is to be the player with the most Dominion at the end of the game. Dominion, that currency of victory, is earned through several mechanisms – there are grove cards which give you Dominion if you control them, as well as several mid- and end-game bonus cards which you may qualify for during the course of play.
The flow of turns in Groves is delightfully simple. Each round, players will draw three spirits from their bag. These spirits are your workers, and you will then take turns placing them in different spaces around the play area – either in your own groves, in the Tree of Idyll, or, once you have built a portal, in your opponents’ groves.
Spirits placed in groves generate resources, in the form of element tokens, crystals, or even more spirits to be added to your bag. Spirit tokens come in several colors – any spirit can be placed anywhere, but when assigning spirits to a grove, if you use the appropriate color spirit, that grove will produce bonus resources.
Spirits placed in your opponents’ groves work just like your own, with the exception that those spirits now belong to your opponent, and will be added to their bag at the end of the round. This can actually be a good thing, if you find yourself able to unload spirits that aren’t as helpful to you, but be aware that if your opponent has also built a portal, then those spirits might be coming right back to you.
The third placement option, the Tree of Idyll, has three areas to which you may assign spirits. The top allows you to purchase new groves to be added to your realm. The middle lets you draw 2 summoning bonus cards and keep one.
Jess: Summoning bonus cards stay hidden until you complete them by randomly drawing the combinations of spirits they depict. Once you do, flip it face up and add it to your scoring pile.
The bottom spot on the tree allows you to build portals. The first time you assign a worker, you get the base of your portal. The second time you assign a worker there, you complete your portal. As we mentioned, that portal will let you send spirits to an opponent’s grove (you’ll need one portal per opponent), but it also gives you one Dominion, as well as adding a Wraith to your bag.
Andrew: Now wraiths are interesting. Unlike other spirits, which get cleared off at the end of every round, wraiths stay where they are put. The only spirit who can displace a wraith are the white (otherwise completely generic) spirits, and when they are used that way, they don’t provide any of the grove benefit – the entire action is spent just getting that wraith off your grove.
Jess: Of course, the downside of having someone send a Wraith through their portal to your board is that it jams up one of your groves and makes you waste a placement getting it clear. On the other hand, that wraith then goes into your bag and, if you have a portal, can be sent right back to your opponent’s realm.
The game ends once the groves stack is depleted, and players then count up their Dominion and a winner is declared.
Andrew: Bottom line – I really liked Groves. It is an unfussy game that packs a lot of fun into some very simple mechanisms. Each piece feels clever for its contribution to the overall experience, and its presentation, even in prototype form, is great.
Jess: I agree on all counts – this one’s a winner. We really liked it at 2 players, but it expands very well, and it even has some really cool solo options. I think thatGroves really hits the sweet spot between these two simple, great mechanisms, and forms a really fun experience from them!
(Gameosity received a prototype copy for this preview, with the right to request a finished copy later. We were not otherwise compensated)