The Other Game
I’ve played the game all of once. Sorry, The Game. Steffen Benndorf’s The Game. No, not Wolfgang Warsch’s The Mind. The Game.
Except now we’re talking about Ohanami, Benndorf’s attempt to make The Game into a competitive game rather than a cooperative game. Is it an improvement? Well, its title is more searchable, I’ll tell you that much.
So what is Ohanami about? As with The Game and The Mind, the answer is pretty much “stacking cards in sequence.” You have three “gardens,” each of which consists of a pile of cards. A card can only be added to a garden if its number is higher than the pile’s highest number or lower than its—
Look, you know what “stack cards in sequence” means. Let’s skip to the good stuff.
Good stuff the first: this is a drafting game. Just as everybody has three gardens to tend, the seeds for your garden are taken two at a time from a hand of ten cards. That hand is then passed, at which point its recipient also takes two cards, and—
Yes, I’m aware you understand what “drafting” entails. But it’s important to set the tone here, because everything in Ohanami quickly revolves back to the hands of cards being passed around the table. When you take those two cards, you can either add them to your gardens or discard them out of the game. Sometimes you’re leaping up in number, sometimes you manage to find a perfect sequence, and other times you pull junk. And these leaps, sprints, and face-down discards can be observed by everybody at the table. That means drafting what you want, but also sometimes drafting what somebody else wants. Taking risks, in other words. Playing mean. Hate-drafting.
But hold on, because all these little drafts soon amount to something much bigger. And it’s all thanks to their colors.
Colors in Ohanami aren’t there for decoration. Oh no. They’re there because not every color scores every round. On the first round, you’re only chasing blue cards. Planted safely in your garden, they’re worth three points apiece. That value remains steady through the next two rounds, but wait for it, because soon green gets in on the fun. From the second round onward, they’re worth four points. That’s one more than blues are worth. By the time the third round saunters by, grays are worth seven and pinks are worth whatever the hell they want to be worth. Well, not whatever the hell. They’re worth a hell of a lot if you’ve packed your garden with pinks, and piddly-all if you haven’t.
Do you see? Study those values. Study them. Now — do you see?
That’s right. Some slight extra depth to the drafting. Some preference to which numbers to grab. Some possibility of taking a number that will pay out better even though it might preclude other cards later. Some risk-and-reward valuations. Which, when paired with the demands of your gardens, imbues Ohanami with more to think about than you may have assumed. Don’t go overboard by mistaking this for seven-dimensional chess; it’s a drafting game about stacking cards in sequence. But Benndorf knows what he’s doing. He’s sidestepping the pitfalls of games like The Game and The Mind by providing enough space for good moves and bad moves.
Flubbed runs. Broken sprints. Putzy drafts. Or cards that will deny an opponent something they desperately need while also ladening your column of the scoring sheet with ever-plumper integers.
Simple. Relaxing. A little thinkier than it first seems. That’s what I can say for Ohanami. It’s the meat in my personal preference sandwich of games about stacking numbers in sequence, directly beneath The Mind and directly above The Game. I hold no grudges against stacking numbers in sequence, and might even seek out such unburdened pleasures from time to time. But when I’m hankering for a way to fill fifteen minutes, this isn’t the box I’ll be reaching for.
A complimentary copy was provided.