Monday, October 29, 2012

Game Central Station: Flowerpower

This is an article from my now nearly-defunct gaming website... and putting Flowerpower on my top 100 games list reminded me that I hadn't ported the information over to the blog. So - now I have. 

The decidedly cheesy cover to this Kosmos 2-player game makes you go "ewwww"... but underneath this bizarre exterior is a nifty tile-laying game that offers some interesting choices & fast-paced gameplay.

This is as good a point as any for my disclaimer: I may like this game simply because I've won 25 of the 28 games I've played of it. (I don't think so, but I'm pretty sure that fact at least influences my feelings.) I will say that this game could be dismissed as "luck of the draw", but my win/loss record seems to indicate otherwise. (Note: this paragraph was written back in 2004... my winning percentage is not quite as high now - though still quite good.)

This is evidently a first "published" design for Angelika Fassauer & Peter Haluszka... Luding only lists flowerpower and their new game from Klee, Trick Track Troll, which was just shown at Nuremberg in 2002.

Below are two sections: the first talks about the misprint in the game (which is important to know about!); the second is my take on flowerpower strategy (which you can take or leave as you see fit!)

The One Problem With Flowerpower

Each flower (there are 10 different flower/"suits" in flowerpower) appears 20 times in the "deck". (I'm still not sure what to call a bag full of tiles... sigh.) Anyway, each flower has 18 tiles (it's paired with every other flower twice) and a double tile of it's own "suit".

Every flower, that is, except the poor red 5-petal (on a dark background), which does not have a double. (This is due to a misprint which has been confirmed by Kosmos, the compnay that published the game.) Instead, there is an extra tile with the white/purple(?) combination.
This does not drastically affect gameplay - but you should note that it's silly to set yourself up for a move that requires the double 5-petal red flower. You should also tell your opponent about this mistake in the tile set, because it's the right thing to do.

NOTE: Within 24 hours of publishing this page, I got an e-mail from Emma Crew, who just received a new copy of flowerpower from Germany: "After reading what you said about the misprint, I opened up my copy, freshly arrived from Adam Spielt, and sorted/examined all of the flower tiles. My set includes 2 of each mixed flower tile, and 1 of every double (including the carnations/pinks--ok, I'm a girl *and* a gardener, I recognize the kinds of flowers). So it looks like there's been another printing that fixed the problem, something you might want to keep in mind if you're playing using an unfamiliar set. I'm just imagining a game 'HA-HA she needs the nonexistent tile to finish that bed and win, what a fool..D'OH where did THAT come from?'" So, you need to check - the first printings were messed-up... but the new ones aren't. (How's that for a conclusion?)

Flowerpower Strategy

Loath though I am to give away my secrets, here's the general gist of what I do.

1. My first tile is played in the center of my garden two spaces away from the neutral zone.

2. My second tile goes to the left or right of my garden in the open if it doesn't match the first tile. If it does match, it is placed next to the 1st tile with the new flower pointing toward the neutral zone. (This makes it easier to build into the neutral zone later & use it as a scoring area.)

3. I concentrate on two things:
  • making flower beds of 3 flowers
  • using the neutral zone as much as possible
Don't waste your time/tile draws making your garden pretty... 2 three-flower beds are as good as 1 six-flower bed and are both easier to build and harder for your opponent to block with a weed.

4. I play aggressively ONLY when a tile doesn't help me or is only marginal. I do not use tiles that help me to hurt the other player - again, this is a "waste not, want not" kind of game!

5. I play weeds to use up 3-4 spaces in my opponent's garden... therefore, I usually don't play weeds until the mid or late game. Timing is everything here - an appropriately placed weed will use his own flowers to gum up his plans by directly blocking some growth and indirectly blocking other growth. The main functions of a weed are to chew up good options for the other player and to stop him from building a 10+ flower bed.

6. When in doubt with a "useless" tile (if there's not a REALLY good place to weed), I play it in the neutral zone along the edge where my opponent has already placed flowers. It eats up neutral zone space with non-matching flowers and prevents him from using the neutral zone to score.

7. I try not to forget the magic numbers: 3 flowers = 1 point, 6 flowers = 2 points, 10 flowers = 4 points. When you forget the magic numbers, you end up building beds of 4-5 flowers, wasting plays, space & potential points.

8. This is not usually a card counting game, but you MUST count double flower tokens... once they've been played, it's MUCH easier to block an opponent from turning three-flower beds into six-flower beds. You can place a weed so as to leave them room to play (3 empty spaces) but not enough room to complete the bed they want.

9. There are 10 empty spaces on the board when all the tiles are played (it's happened twice to me in 21 games). You need to weed/eat up the neutral zone in such a way as to leave 8+ of those empty spaces in the neutral and/or opponents garden. Doing this, however, is secondary to scoring yourself.

10. Finally, if it starts to feel close, work on getting one flowerbed to 10+ flowers... it's not so much for the points it scores as it is the tie-breaker. In case of a tie in points, the largest single flower bed wins... and, yes, I've managed to win one game this way!

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