What is this game about?
Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden, designed by Todd Sanders, is a game about growing the perfect vegetable garden. Success will net you both a blue ribbon and the heart of the lovely Eudora Brassica! What makes this premise especially interesting is that you do not only grow vegetables—you are one. And so are the irritating neighbors who sneak into your garden and steal from it every time you go on holiday! The most striking aspect of the game is its art, which was inspired by the images on vintage seed packets.
Mechanically, Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden is simple. Each turn, you draft one of three vegetable cards and place it in your garden. At the end of the game, you will score based on the point values of your vegetables. You'll also get bonuses for managing to get your vegetables into specific arrangements. But there are a few touches of added complexity that make your choices more interesting. The vegetables you choose may require you to pay bees or receive bees from your beehive, adding a bit of economic balance to the proceedings. Also, the cards you leave behind will help to determine how many neighbor tokens you overturn. This is important because the neighbor with the most tokens when you go on holiday is the one who will come and steal from your garden (and each neighbor has individualized theft priorities). However, if the neighbors all tie for tokens, they get wrapped up in conversation with each other—and then leave your precious vegetables alone!
How does it play solo?
This game is technically for 1–2 players, but it's really a solo game and is best that way.
Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden is a very good light game. It's all about beating your own score, and sometimes you won't draw the right cards to score high. But there are score ranges to help you gauge how well you did, and since it is such a short game (10–15 min.), a bad score isn't a problem. Just shuffle up those veggie cards and play again! Trying to arrange your garden just so, only to have your plans foiled by an obnoxious neighbor, is a good blend of fun and frustrating. I have played Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden a lot and consistently had a good time.
Mechanically, I might not call Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden thematic. It doesn't feel like planting vegetables, although it's fun to try to arrange the cards well. And yet the theme is delightful. It's the flavor text of this game that really sells it. The way the rulebook is written really gets you into Mr. Cabbagehead's quiet, pastoral life—a life that is filled with decorous love and genteel rage. The rulebook describes "The Neighbour Phase, when it is determined which of Mr. Cabbagehead’s Tedious Neighbours interferes with his quest for perfection." The neighbors have names like "Lord Carrotbody," and one of them, Horace Savoy-Brassica, "is jealous of Mr. Cabbagehead and his award-winning garden (not to mention annoyed at Mr. Cabbagehead’s romancing of his half-sister Eudora, President of the Garden Club)." Text like that, combined with the quirky seed packet art, adds so much charm to a game that might have been just a mathematical exercise.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. If you're looking for a quick, light game with a quirky theme, Mr. Cabbagehead's Garden is a great choice.
Overall Rating: 4 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.