*Note: This review uses prototype components.
I find myself enamored with the theme of running a small flower shop. The little aspects of dealing with stock and the perishable goods that will only last so long. Take into account lmited space and what could be considered a quaint little occupation suddenly is bursting with puzzles to piece together and problems to solve. Even more so, I am completely drawn into the theme of presenting aesthetically pleasing window displays and filling orders and taking a miniscule counterfeit version of pride in the “work” that I do in the most recent Doctor Finn game “The Little Flower Shop”.
Designed by Stephen Finn and art by Sarah Wry and Sebastian Koziner is a card based drafting game. Each player is dealt a hand of seven cards. They then must select one card and when everyone else has done so, reveal it and add it to either their shop, their storage, which can only hold a maximum of four cards, their til, but only if it’s money, their store display, if they have the appropriate vase, or the trash if they have nowhere else to go with it. The game is played over the course of three rounds, during this time, players attempt to create the highest scoring flower shop. The potential cards that can be in a hand consist of vases, flowers, salary cards or orders. On their turn, a player takes their hand, and pick one card to keep. They then place the rest of the hand on the appropriate side of their player mat to be picked up by another player at the start of the next round. Play continues until all cards have been depleted from the rotating hands then another hand of seven cards is dealt. Vase cards can be placed on the player board either along the bottom or from the suspended surfaces in the window. Flowers can be placed inside these vases as long as the picture on the front matches the arrangement. White lillies shown on vases can be filled with any flower as a wild. Hanging baskets can be purchased if they are drawn. Once the dollar amount is paid to the bank, players may place up to three hanging baskets in their display. Salary cards can be taken and immediately added to the players register. Order cards can be taken and fulfilled at any time to earn money. At the end of the three rounds, every card in your storage, as well as any empty vases in your shop are sent to your trash. Each filled vase and hanging basket is worth a certain amount of points and every $5 in your til is worth 1 point. For every two cards in your trash at the end of the game you get -1 point. The most points wins.
Broadly speaking, this is a pretty standard set collection/drafting game. I mean that in the best way possible. The mechanisms are familiar and easy to grasp, but as is the case with all the best drafting games, the decisions can be tough. It’s not as simple as trying to get the most of one type of card to complete sets either, the matches, for the most part, must be very specific. You can’t just toss any bouquet of flowers into any vase. Also, determining which flowers to sell for an order, if any, is a difficult one because you’re selling off potential points for money. Managing the storage space is tricky as well, but again, in a good way. It could be a little frustrating to get all the order cards only in the last round due to the way the cards were shuffled, but there’s no mitigating that in the rules.
And that’s the first problem, The dispersion of the types of cards can make for some feast or famine rounds. It’s hard to plan for the future with only cards being able to go into storage. I wouldn’t change that number, but it can make for some uninteresting decisions if you know exactly what you need and you’re just waiting turn after turn for it to show up. It’s not a common occurrence, but it can be annoying when it happens. Like I said, this is pretty standard for a drafting game. You pick up a hand and you take one card and pass it on. There’s a rule that allows you to buy a new card for the final card of the round, but nothing really earth shatteringly new. And if you’re ok with that you’re going to be just fine, especially if you like this genre of game. Another small gripe I have is I wish that the order cards had some variety. As it stands, every order card in the game plays the same way. It would be nice to be able to have different types of order cards that let you do different things like sell hanging baskets.
All of that aside, this is a game that I really liked for a number of reasons. First off, the art is quaint, beautiful and evocative of one of my favorite musical films. There’s something to be said for themes that make you feel like you’re doing something… different. And for someone that currently works in IT, arranging flowers in my own little shop is just that. That thematic element is all that much more accentuated by the fact that you need careful planning to optimize your shop display. You’re not just getting cards and slapping them down on the table, you have to carefully choose cards and manage them in your shop and it works really well. Balancing between getting the cards you need and keeping your eye on other players displays is pivotal and necessary.
I also want to point out that Doctor Finn has created a variant for this game that makes it not only playable, but really fun for two players. Rather than having the standard dummy players, you can have the flavor of a traditional drafting game. This is done with a simple rules change. After selecting a card for your shop, players each draw a card from the deck and then discard a card from the hand before passing it on. It’s such a small change that makes gameplay much more elegant than having a dummy player. You get brand new information every turn and the decisions on what to keep and what to toss are difficult and fun.
The little Flower Shop is not a grand production of flashy pieces or idea, but it’s a solid, beautiful little game that improves on a tried and true mechanism that’s shown to be enjoyable and compelling. Doctor Finn has once again shown his skill in crafting a little game that can and should be enjoyed by a great number of people.
- The order cards could have offered a wider variety of strategy.
- There’s really only one right path to victory, offering little exploration.
- The game is beautiful.
- As always, Dr. Finn manages to throw in some really unique twists on the drafting genre of games.
- The gameplay is thematic and fun, mixing a number of great ideas and putting them to great use.