Arborea Boardgame Review

In the world of Arborea, the lands have been decimated, and it is up to you and the other Patron Spirits (players) to heal the land and bring new creatures to the healed lands. Each Patron Spirit will be trying to use the resources from the regenerated lands to build their own personal ecosystem, creating the perfect habitat for these creatures to live out their lives. Send your Villagers on pilgrimages through the blighted lands to tend to them, regenerate each biome, and draw the creatures back to the forests, meadows, rivers, and other biomes.


In Arborea, each turn you will send your villagers on a pilgrimage, or advance a pilgrimage forward through a biome. When you advance a pilgrimage track, all villagers on that track move forward, no matter which player they belong to. After moving a track forward, all villagers have the choice to hop off of the track into the biome if they would like, or continue on their journey. After you have placed a villager or advanced a track, you may activate up to two of your villagers that have moved off of a track, sending them through the biome to collect resources and activate effects, and possibly receive the boons of the Sage in that biome (if you have given them gifts already.) After activating workers, you may have the resource to complete one of your ecosystem cards, building out your own habitat for creatures to live in, and then if you have attracted any creatures in your movement through a biome, you can place them into your ecosystem. At the end of your turn, if any of your villagers are still on a pilgrimage path, everyone on those paths moves forward again, once again allowing anyone who wants, to jump off into either biome attached to that path.
Gameplay continues like this until a certain amount of creatures have been attracted to trigger the end of the game, then each player takes two more turns to put the finishing touches on their ecosystems. Points are rewarded throughout the game for regenerating biomes (producing resources, but then not using them that turn), each creature has it's own specific way of scoring but most prefer a certain terrain type on your ecosystem cards, and then there are end of season (game) goals for doing a wide variety of things.


It would be a crime to not first mention the look of this game. With bright colors everywhere throughout the biomes, the pieces, and the cards at first glance the board borders on overwhelming. Once you get playing though, you realize the actual game design is very clean and efficient. What your options are on your turn is always very clear, there are only a few different icons for things you'll activate through the biomes, and the game keeps itself moving at a decent pace. With the pilgrimage paths constantly moving, you never feel like you have to press the game forward yourself, and you have decisions to make even when it's not your turn. This movement style keeps everyone involved at the beginning and end of each player's turn, but lets the active player have their own moment during the activation phase without everyone else intruding then as well. The ways to get points in the game are all clearly laid out in front of you, and you can choose a direction from the very start of the game if you'd like to, or try to dabble in a few different areas. I love games that offer the freedom to do what you want, but also give you a direction so you're not just doing things and hoping they work out.

Arborea is a very unique worker placement game where your workers don't do immediate actions, but you must put them out, and then wait for the right time to activate them. The end-game timer also feels unique in that it's not a set amount of rounds or turns that you play, but a set number of times doing a specific action (attracting creatures). It's a game that felt intimidating to look at at first, but that was comforting to slip into the rhythm of, and by the end of the game felt like it moved with a life of its own. We played at 3 players and this might be a good player count to learn the game at, but I would love to try this with more (up to 5) and see how the tracks move with so many working for similar goals. Looking forward to playing this again. If you want to play Arborea yourself, come check it out in our library!

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