By Ali Kane
THBG Grants Manager

While the weather is dreary and your favorite botanic garden is closed, don’t miss the opportunity to stay connected to nature! These nature-inspired board games will keep you busy all afternoon. Thank you to the Commonheart (a weekly Worcester-based board meet-up), That’s Entertainment (with locations in Worcester and Fitchburg), and BoardGameGeek communities for these great recommendations. 

Everdell 

Publisher: Starling Games (2018) 

Recommended Age: 13+
Length of Play: 40 – 80 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Architects or Paladins of the West Kingdom, Wingspan, Dinosaur Island, Tapestry, Roll Player 

Everdell is a card-based strategy game that the entire family love. Players are tasked with sending their animal workers throughout the forest to gather resources like twigs and berries to construct buildings and attract critters to their woodland city with the goal of building the most prosperous city. Taking place over three seasons, players will get a feel for the game by the third round and want to experiment with new strategies over multiple games. The beautiful artwork and creative Ever Tree gameboard make this a high-quality magical game ready for your next game night.  

Wingspan 

Publisher: Stonemaier Games (2019) 

Recommended Age: 10+
Length of Play: 40 – 70 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Quacks of Quedlinburg, Architects of the West Kingdom, Raiders of the North Sea, Azul, Everdell, Terraforming Mars, Gizmos, Welcome To… 

In this card-driven engine builder, bird enthusiasts seek to discover birds and attract the best species to your wildlife preserve. Create an ideal habitat by gaining food and laying eggs. The cards introduce you to hundreds of birds from around the world and the abilities are based on real-life habits and behaviors. The theme is woven into the rules so well, making it easy to get the hang of and explain to new players. The beautiful artwork and conservationist theme make this game a great nature getaway in a market saturated by fantasy, horror, and sci-fi games – and may inspire you to take up birdwatching as a hobby. 

Photosynthesis 

Publisher: Blue Orange Games (2017) 

Recommended Age: 10+
Length of Play: 30-60 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Santorini, Queendomino, Sagrada, Bunny Kingdom, Century: Spice Road, Azul 

Take your trees through their life cycle, from seedling to full bloom to decomposition, in this strategy game for two to four players. Using the mechanic of sunlight, your forest thrives based on light points which can be used to buy, plant, grow, and harvest trees. As a tree goes through its life cycle, points are accumulated based on the value of the soil the tree was rooted in. The game is easy to pick up because of how well the science of photosynthesis inspires the rules.  

Arboretum 

Publisher: Z-Man Games (2015), republished by Renegade Game Studio (2018) 

Recommended Age: 8+
Length of Play: 30  min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Fox in the Forest, Jaipur, Biblios, Castes of Mad King Ludwig, Azul, Century: Red Spice 

In this fast paced card game, players create sets of trees to create the most beautiful arboretum. While the game appears simple at first, multiple plays reveal a highly strategic and addictive game for the entire family. Card suits are replaced with species such as Blue Spruce, Cherry Blossom, Dogwood, and Willow, so you can curate the arboretum of your dreams. 

Morels 

Publisher: Two Lantern Games (2012) 

Recommended Age: 10+
Length of Play: 30 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Jaipur, Patchwork, Blueprint, Akrotiri, Agricola, Castles of Burgundy, Lost Cities, Jambo 

Explore the old-growth forests and compete against a partner to forage for mushrooms. Two different decks represent the different mushrooms that can be collected in the day or night time. You much decide whether to sell or cook your mushrooms into order to gain points. Particular combinations of fungi and specialized foraging or cooking supplies earn players bonuses. However, limits to the number of cards you can hold and poisonous mushrooms can set you back. The simplicity of a card-based game and the storybook imagery make this a great addition to your library.  

Herbaceous Sprouts 

Publisher: Pencil First Games (2019) 

Recommended Age: 8+
Length of Play: 30 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Sunset over Water, Fleet, Fantastic Factories, Wreck Raiders 

Herbaceous Sprouts is a Kickstarter-funded remix of the 2017 card game which adds dice rolling to the game. Players take turns being Lead Gardener of a community garden, who is responsible for choosing cards for tools and seeds. Cards dictate special dice to roll which help you plant your containers and plots. The first person to see a sprout in four garden beds earns the glass of lemonade card for a job well done and extra points. At the end of the game, the players with the most flowers and sets of herbs win. This game is simple, easy to learn, and quick to play for family members of all ages. 

Evolution: Climate 

Publisher: North Star Games (2016) 

Recommended Age: 12+
Length of Play: 60 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Evolution, Pandemic, Scythe, Lords of Waterdeep, Cosmic Encounter, Mission: Red 

Evolution: Climate is a standalone game, sequel to Evolution, which was featured in the scientific journal Nature. Players act as unique species and acquire adaptation cards to protect them from predators and climate change, including the Ice Age. As your species evolves to survive through the millennia, witness how temperature, precipitation, and vegetation have impacted animal survival. The game features vibrant, watercolor cards and a four-inch tall sauropod player marker. Evolution: Climate is a beautiful game with great replayability for players familiar or new to the series.  

Root 

Publisher: Leder Games (2018) 

Recommended Age: 1+
Length of Play: 60 – 90 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Scythe, Brass: Birmingham, Inis, Rising Sun, Terraforming Mars, Through the Ages 

In a fairy tale forest where animals are king, the nefarious Marquise de Cat has taken control in this strategy game. Factions of woodland creatures form alliances, produce resources, and muster troops to protect their home. Reviewers admit there is a steep learning curve with this game, but it is well-loved in the community, so many tutorials exist online to help you out. The player-driven story and diverse roles create an interactive and replayable game. Plus, the whimsical art, including adorable meeples, is sure to make this next on your board game wish list.  

Agricola 

Publisher: Lookout Games (2007) 

Recommended Age: 12+
Length of Play: 30 – 150 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: Puerto Rico, Power Grid, Terra Mystica, Le Havre, Caylus, El Grande 

Agricola is a turn-based strategy game where players take actions to support their farm. In the beginning, each farm consists of a house and two family members which perform tasks such as harvest field, feeding the family, and caring for animals. Resources such as wood, reed, clay, sheep, and cattle are gathered through these actions, helping you to expand your farm. Growing crops is one way to earn points on your farm, requiring you to plow, sow, and harvest vegetables and grains. Agricola can be a difficult game for players new to complex board games with multiple economic systems. However, once you get accustomed to the mechanics, it can be played over and over so you can try new strategies to build a better farm. 

Takenoko 

Publisher: Bombyx (2011) 

Recommended Age: 8+
Length of Play: 45 min 

You will like this game if you like playing: TokaidoKingdominoQueendomino, Santorini, Dice Forge, Celestia 

In this game, your quest as gardener is to grow a garden to feed an adorable panda. This basic strategy game is quick to learn because of an easy-to-read player board which reminds you how you can care for your bamboo. Tiles of garden and bamboo pieces leads the design of your garden to score points and a die determines the weather conditions that impact how your garden grows. This simple, charming game is great for families and instills a love for gardening, as well as understanding of how plants, animals, and weather interact. An online version of Takenoko is available for free on Board Game Arena, so you can play with your friends while social distancing!