Haru Ichiban – fun little two player game out of nowhere!

Don’t know where this one came from, but it was fun!

You will hear a lot of Board Gamers talk about ‘The Cult of the New’.  This can be used to describe people buying/playing only the new ‘hotness’, or at least newly published games.

While I definitely have a wish list of releases that stretch to 2020, I like to think I look for games that are fun and don’t care when they are released.

So last night Alpal showed me a game from a designer I enjoy that has gone under my radar for four years.  That’s quite an accomplishment.

Bruno Cathala’s Haru Ichiban is a fun, light and quick two-player abstract game that can be surprisingly deep.  Essentially it’s a game of sliding puzzles, where you try and make a shape out of your coloured flowers.

Gameplay is simple.  Each player has eight flowers, each with a number on its base between 1-8.  Each round, you have up to three flowers, and you select which number you want to play.  The highest number becomes the Grand Gardener, with the lower number the Little Gardener.

Then you proceed to play as follows:

  • The Little Gardener places their flower on the dark lilypad.
  • The Grand Gardener places their flower on the lilypad of their choice.
  • The Little Gardener moves one lilypad to an adjacent space, possibly moving other lilypads at the same time.
  • The Grand Gardener flips one unoccupied lilypad to its dark side.
  • Each gardener takes a new flower.
An elegantly simple board for an elegantly simple game

This continues until players are out of flowers, or players form a shape with their flowers.  These shapes are fairly simple – a 2×2 square, a 4 flower line, or a five flower line (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal).

Once one of these shapes is achieved, the player will score 1, 2, 3, or 5 points depending on the pattern, until someone gets 5 points total and is declared the winner.

Simple, isn’t it?  But it’s not as simple as it initially looks.  You can play to mess with the other player, but that just weakens your position in the long run.  The timing for when to be the Grand or Little Gardner is everything, but a player cannot dominate the board.  There is a true ebb and flow to playing this game properly, I just haven’t quite found it yet.

Hopefully, I can talk Alpal into a few more games, and a formal review will be coming soon.  Until then, if you enjoy light abstract strategy games like Onitama or Patchwork, definitely give Haru Ichiban a look if you see it around 🙂

Until next time,

Want to send to someone that may enjoy this?