Mr. Cabbagehead’s Pleasant Garden
I know a thing or two about pesky neighbors. So when Mr. Cabbagehead goes on holiday and Horace Savoy-Brassica from down the lane swipes an armful of prize-winning radishes right out of his garden, I can empathize. In fact, I empathize so fully that I may have even uttered some of the same phrases that saw use in my house when my neighbor petitioned to have speed bumps installed on our street. Phrases that include such words as “tarnation” and “sasquatch.” Apologies for the foul language.
Unless you have a far keener eye than mine, you could be forgiven for not recognizing Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden Game as yet another solo print-and-play title from the industrious Todd Sanders. At first blush, Mr. Cabbagehead’s is a far cry from the grim heroism of Todd’s Shadows Upon Lassadar series or the grease and gears of Aether Captains. There are no self-sacrificing heroes here, nor cannon-decked airships, nor much of anything at all. Rather, you’ve just got a Cabbagehead who’s got a soft spot for Eudora Brassica, a garden to tend, and some tiresome neighbors who can’t wait to snack on your veggies. In a way, it’s pastoral life at its best and worst both at once.
Where Mr. Cabbagehead’s starts to look more typically Todd Sanders is in its dedication to fast and silky gameplay — and honestly, this is Sanders in his best form, providing a smooth-as-butter (on a cob of corn, naturally) experience that provides an absolutely delightful ten minutes. Even more impressively, its tender tale of a smitten Cabbagehead dovetails perfectly with the actual act of planting a garden. To say that this is the best Sanders game I’ve played thus far would merely scratch the tip of what makes this so good.
So here’s the deal: come harvest-time, Mr. Cabbagehead hopes to impress his squash, Eudora Brassica, the head of the Blue Ribbon Garden Club, with the size, temperament, variety, consistency, and arrangement of his garden. Yes, dear Eudora sounds a bit difficult to impress. Alas, the heart of romaine wants what the heart of romaine wants.
The first impediment is that Mr. Cabbagehead must actually plant the garden. To this end, every round gives you a simple choice between three veggies, and all you have to do is select one, choose where in your garden plot you will plant it, and there you go. There’s some very minor resource management wherein you have a finite supply of bees for pollinating your produce. The first veggie always costs a bee while the third will give you one, so there’s the slightest tinge of gentlemanly annoyance whenever your long-awaited pumpkin is the first card revealed that day.
The real annoyance is your neighbors, and this adds a dash of uncertainty and strategy to the goings-on around veggie town. Of the two vegetables you chose not to plant, one will force you to draw a number of tokens, representing your neighbors coming around, peeking over the fence, making disparaging comments about this or that. Worse yet, when Mr. Cabbagehead decides to take a well-deserved holiday, your neighbors fully intend to nab some of your hard-grown plants and cannibalize them — how ill-mannered! — leaving a gaping hole in your well-tended patch.
The trick here is that you can make an effort to wrap up your worst neighbors in tedious conversation by making sure they have the same number of tokens when it’s time to go on vacation. This can be as tough as a raw turnip in winter, but by carefully picking your vegetables so as to draw a quantity of tokens that might even out the playing field, you stand a chance of your neighbors wasting each other’s time rather than yours. There’s a lot of luck involved, so you’re never able to entirely avoid your neighbors’ clutching hands (stems? vines? stalks?).
Ultimately, there’s plenty of luck involved in Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden Game, from the veggie draws to the attentions of your neighbors, but in such a brisk game it never feels intrusive. This is the sort of thing you play for score, a classic solitaire game in that regard, and when a bad run means a flubbed ten minutes, it’s an easy thing to just shuffle the deck and give it another shot. The last thing Todd Sanders wants to do here is waste your time.
Ultimately, Eudora Brassica grades your garden on a broad range of criteria. Principally plots of matching vegetables are your biggest earner, but there are also layout bonuses to consider, such as having the same veggie at the corners or a garden that includes at least one of everything. My highest score is 102 out of a top rating that starts at 111 — which, no, didn’t need to be included in this review, but I just wanted someone to know how incredible I am at gardening.
For a free card game, Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden Game captures the pleasant humdrum of country life, the joy of watching something take shape, and the irritation of putting up with all these specimens we call neighbors, and it does it in a slim ten minutes. This is Todd Sanders at his absolute charming best.
You can grab the game files over here, for the low low cost of some quality time with your printer and a pair of scissors.