Review: Haru Ichiban

Pip: Last night I went to see Star Trek Beyond while surfing the edges of an anxiety attack. I think I cried three times, nearly threw up once and laughed for a full minute during one sequence. I’m bringing this up because Haru Ichiban is the exact opposite of that experience.

Haru Ichiban is a game about water lilies which I picked up entirely based on the cover art at the UK Games Expo and then covertly Googled because I have a habit of finding games that look adorable and then find out that that’s where their positive qualities begin and end. Lovely box art, shame about theā€¦ everything that isn’t the box art.

Thankfully this seemed to be at least non-terrible and was designed by Bruno Cathala of Cyclades and Five Tribes fame. Cyclades! I liked Cyclades! PLEASE TAKE MY CREDIT CARD, MADAM.

Haru Ichiban turned out to be a two-player game of logic and planting. You take it in turns to place coloured water lilies on pads and push them round a pond until one player has an arrangement that will net them some points. The best way I can think to describe it is that it’s floral connect four but fancied up a bit and you can pretend you are Very Serious Gardeners Doing Grown-Up Employment Business.

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Haru Ichiban

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In Haru Ichiban, or “The Wind of Spring”, two apprentice gardeners compete to use this wind to their advantage to create harmonious patterns of their blossoms upon the lilypads.

Each gardener has eight flower buds numbered 1-8, with three of those buds being in hand at the start of a round. Sixteen lilypads are placed in the 5×5 pond, with one of them turned to its dark side.

Each gardener simultaneously chooses a reveals a bud, with the player with the lower number becoming the Little Gardener and the other becoming the Grand Gardener. In order:

The Little Gardener places one of his colored blossoms on the dark lilypad.
The Grand Gardener places one of his colored blossoms on the lilypad of his choice.
The Little Gardener moves one lilypad to an adjacent space, possibly moving other lilypads at the same time.
The Grand Gardener flips one unoccupied lilypad to its dark side.
Each gardener takes a new bud.

As soon as a gardener creates a specific pattern with blossoms of his color, he scores points: 1 point for a 2×2 square, 2 points for a horizontal or vertical row of four blossoms, 3 points for a diagonal row of four blossoms, and 5 points for a row of five blossoms. If the gardener has fewer than five points, the gardeners reset the board and start a new round with three buds of their eight; if the gardener has five or more points, the game ends and he wins!

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