Thursday, June 18, 2020

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Kickstarter Preview of The Whatnot Cabinet by Pencil First Games
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Title: The Whatnot Cabinet
Designed by: Steve Finn
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Year Published: 2021
MSRP: $??
1-4p | 20-30 min | 8+
Kickstarter Link: The Whatnot Cabinet
Kickstarter Price: $39

Disclaimer: This review is for a prototype version of the game.  Art and components may not be final and are subject to change.

Back in 2017 I was fortunate enough to review A game called Herbaceous by the board game design supergroup of Steve Finn on design, Eduardo Baraf on development and publishing, Beth Sobel on art, and Keith Matejka on solo gameplay.  I absolutely loved the game. And since then have been equally impressed with their other games: Herbaceous Sprouts and Sunset Over Water.  All three games are excellent, relaxing filler games that play in about 30 minutes.  When I heard about The Whatnot Cabinet by the same dynamite team, I was very excited.  I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Whatnot Cabinet while it is still on Kickstarter, but let's see if it holds up to this team's other games.

Blooms are the game's highlights and features.  Elements that are exceptional.
  • Fast, simple gameplay.
  • Good player interaction.
  • Puzzly moments.
  • Fun solo play.
Buds are interesting parts of the game I would like to explore more. 
  • The Fascination Pack mini-expansion adds more variety.
  • The game plays great at all player counts I've tried, I look forward to trying at the other player counts.
Thorns are a game's shortcomings and any issues I feel are noteworthy.
  • Turns can sometimes feel a bit limiting when bad luck won't get you the tiles you need.
  • There are limited ways to mitigate bad luck.
  • Ran out of tiles in a two-player game.
Final Thoughts:
I really like The Whatnot Cabinet, however, I do feel it had one flaw.  My biggest concern was with the amount of luck in the game and an inability to mitigate it occasionally.  It is pretty easy to get yourself in a situation where one tile is the difference between a bunch of points or none and if that tile doesn't come up when you can get it, you're out of luck.  There are several ways that tiles in the "ouutdoors" (the publicly available tiles in the game) can be cleared and replaced, which is fine for when you are digging for that desired tile, but when someone else does that and dumps your tile before you ever have a chance to acquire it, that can be frustrating.  Additionally, at the end of every round the "outdoors" is refreshed, so tiles can be discarded before you ever have an opportunity to acquire them.

I'd love to see a way to get discarded tiles back, or at the very least, only have the "outdoors" refill every round instead of getting wiped completely.

On a somewhat related note,  we used the actions to refresh the "outdoors" so often in one two-player game that we ran out of tiles before the end of the game.  I'm not sure if that's a common occurrence, but maybe returning discarded tiles to the bag each round could help with both of these issues.

Overall though,  I really liked The Whatnot Cabinet.  It fits in perfectly with the other relaxing themes this team has released.  The puzzle the game presents is engrossing, the artwork is gorgeous, and the game plays a lot faster than you expect.  I especially liked the solo game.  It plays fast, presents an interesting challenge, and is quick and simple to set up and take down, all attributes I look for in solo games.  Steve Finn, Eduardo Baraf, Beth Sobel, and Keith Matejka have knocked out of the park again with this design.

The Whatnot Cabinet earns a Bloom from me.  It's a perfect addition to this team's game catalog.  If you enjoy any of those other games, or any of Steve Finn's other games, then you'll love The Whatnot Cabinet.  Check it out now, on Kickstarter, for only the next week!

Buds, Blooms, and Thorns Rating:
Bloom!  This game is great and worth
adding to your collection!  It should be
on just about every gamer's shelf. 


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GJJ Games Reviews are independent, unpaid reviews of games I, George Jaros, have played with my family and friends.  Some of these games I own, some are owned by friends, some are borrowed, and some were provided by a publisher or designer for my honest feedback and evaluation.  I make every attempt to be both honest and constructively critical in my reviews, and they are all my opinions.  There are four types of reviews on GJJ Games: Full Reviews feature critical reviews based on a rubric and games receive a rating from 0 to 100.  Quick Reviews and Kickstarter Previews are either shorter reviews of published games or detailed preview reviews of crowdfunding games that will receive a rating from 0 to 10 based on my impressions of the game.  Buds, Blooms,and Thorns reviews are shorter reviews of either published or upcoming games that highlight three aspects of a game: Buds are parts of a game I look forward to exploring more, Blooms are outstanding features of a game, and Thorns are shortcomings of a game.  Each BBT review game will receive an overall rating of Thorn, Bud, or Bloom.

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