Review: Four Gardens

In Four Gardens you are going to collect sets of landscape cards. You have to pay for these with resources you get by turning the mysterious pagoda.


Arcane Wonders




Game explanation

Long ago, in a beautiful Eastern kingdom, a queen built a mysterious pagoda to satisfy the gods. However, the queen fell ill and started a competition to find her successor. The gods will choose the heir to the throne who has built the most beautiful garden around the pagoda.

You set up the game by assembling the pagoda and placing the scoreboard next to it. Next, you receive 5 landscape cards. The stack of remaining landscape cards is placed next to the pagoda along with 3 open landscape cards. When this is done, you can begin!

In Four Gardens, you're going to collect points by collecting sets of landscape cards and building them. Each completed set forms a panorama of a garden. You must take 3 actions in your turn and therefore play 3 cards. You can always choose a combination of 4 different actions which are explained below.

Laying groundwork: To make panoramas, you must first lay groundwork. You do this by placing a card in front of you. Now you can start collecting the resources depicted on it, but you need to play other cards for this. Once you have collected all of these resources, you may turn over the card. You may only have 3 groundwork cards active and you may never play the same card. 

Turning the pagoda: In order to collect goods you may start turning the pagoda a quarter turn. The pagoda consists of 4 rotatable layers. If you turn the bottom layer, the rest turns with it. However, if you turn the top layer, that is also the only layer that turns. You may play a card to turn the pagoda. The card indicates which layer of the pagoda you may turn and whether you may start collecting from the top down or bottom up. You only have room for 4 resources in your supply at the beginning. This means that you may take the first four resources from the top or bottom.

Taking a resource of your choice: This symbol can be on a card instead of the pagoda. If you discard this card you may take 1 resource of your choice.

Moving resources: To move resources from your supply onto your groundwork card, you must perform this action. You may discard any card to perform this action. Instead of placing resources on your card, you may also discard them, when you no longer need them for example.

The game is ultimately about making the panoramas, as each card is part of a panorama. There is a god symbol of a certain color on each card. If you turn over a card and build that part of the garden, you may move your score marker 1 forward on the score track in that color. If you are on the rightmost space (10) of the track, other players will move backwards by 1 space instead. If you complete a panorama, you get all the god bonuses for the included cards again. You also get a separate bonus; you can choose between additional supply, taking resources or victory points.

The game ends when 1 of the players has completed 10 groundwork cards. You then add up the number of points on the scoring tracks, along with any bonus points. The one with the most points has made the best impression on the gods and will be the successor to the queen.

Our thoughts

Four Gardens surprised us time after time, from opening the box to playing the game. Four Gardens' box is filled with a handy inlay and beautiful game components. The large pagoda, the cards with incredibly beautiful artwork, and the wooden tokens all took us by surprise. We don't understand why people don't talk more about how beautiful this game is! As far as we are concerned, Four Gardens may certainly be mentioned in the same list as games like Everdell and Meadow. By the way, the box of Four Gardens is not only filled with beautiful game components, but also with a very fun and tactical family game! 

While playing Four Gardens, we found out that the game may have simple mechanisms, but it is definitely not easy to play! Four Gardens brought us in analysis paralysis. You immediately know what to do, but it is still quite difficult to make the right choice. You know that you have to turn the pagoda to collect water and stone, because you need them for your groundwork card, but how are you going to turn the pagoda? Clockwise? Counter clockwise? For us, Four Gardens was a real brainburner. We like the game more because of this! The tactics and challenge that Four Gardens offers are real pluses.

We are very excited about Four Gardens. It is the perfect game to play when you have inexperienced players over but want some challenge in your game. Four Gardens can entertain and make everyone think. Therefore, it's suitable to play with different types of companies. In addition, the beautiful pagoda will persuade everyone to try the game at least once. 

The only thing we question is the replayability. Four Gardens has a lot to offer as a game, but we miss extra goal cards or other additions that make each game different. The principle and the purpose of the game is the same every time. Of course, each game you have other cards and the pagoda is slightly different, but the game itself does not change much. If you play Four Gardens often you might get bored with the game. Hopefully there will be a nice expansion that adds something new, because we definitely want to keep this beautiful game in our collection!

Playing with 2 players

Four gardens actually plays very well with 2 players. Your turn comes quickly and you can also see what your opponent is doing. You can, for example, turn the pagoda in such a way that your opponent cannot get the goods he needs. With multiple players, this is of course also possible for the person left of you. Turns can take quite a long time, because you have to look carefully which card you should use for the pagoda and which goods you get for it, so with 4 people it might take a bit too long.

 Pros and cons

+ Beautiful panoramas and pagoda
Nice inlay that even fits the pagoda
+ Brainburner

Low replayability
- Turns can be long, depending on the players

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This game has been kindly gifted to us for review purposes by Arcane Wonders.