Only Gamers Allowed! – Best Treehouse Ever Preview
Scott Almes is becoming known for his Tiny Epic games and his other “small box but big game” designs. Now he’s designed Best Treehouse Ever. Does this stack up to Scott’s other games, or should we just leaf it alone?
This is a different game than the others that Scott has designed, at least the games of his I’ve played. Best Treehouse Ever is a reverse pyramid game, where you start with your tree trunk, then add two rooms to your treehouse, then three above that, and so on, until you end up with a child’s dream design like this:
The gameplay of Best Treehouse Ever is quite simple. Players will draft cards around the table and add rooms one at a time to their designs. Once a type of card has been added to a treehouse, all future cards of that color must be attached to cards of that color. For example, the brown Pizza Parlor in the above treehouse had to go next to the earlier-played Hot Dog Stand. This means once you build around a color with other colors, you can’t build any more rooms of that type. The yellow Library in the above treehouse is the only Education room in the treehouse. In the event that a player can’t or doesn’t want to play the card they draft to their treehouse, it can be discarded. For each of three rounds, players will add up to five rooms to their plans.
Players must also be careful to balance their treehouse. Once a card is played to the left or right of the center line, the next card that isn’t directly above the middle must be played to the other side of the treehouse. This helps prevent perfect planning and adds a little more strategy to this light game.
At the end of each round, players will select one of two Game Changer cards for scoring purposes. Players will choose between two doubling cards and two cancelling cards. The person with the highest score goes first for selecting from the four cards, then selection continues clockwise. The last player who selects a card is the first to apply their card to one of the six types of rooms and then continues counter-clockwise back to the player in first place.
When selecting cards, getting a doubling card can be useful for grabbing points, but it can also result in another player cancelling the points from your best group of rooms. Unfortunately, this is a point where the game can feel cruel and sometimes there are few to no real choices for the later players. With only two of each type of card, the third player may not have much choice and the fourth player never does. I didn’t experience this every time when playing this game, but it has occurred enough that I feel it should be noted. After all modifying cards are played, scores are tallied for the rooms currently in each player’s treehouse.
There is also a more family friendly scoring variant where each player selects a color that scores that round. This way everyone gains and no one is blocked from scoring their largest color grouping. I feel that this is more fitting for this game and will likely push to use this scoring method in my plays.
The game is short – usually about 20 minutes in my experience. The rules are simple to learn and the game moves quickly. There are choices, but the worst thing that can happen in the game is to have a color blocked off early, which isn’t that punitive. My only concern is that while I enjoy Best Treehouse Ever, it doesn’t feel like a “gamer’s game.” It’s light, quick, and fun, but that may not be a great fit for every group out there. I feel it’s great for the first or last game of the night or while waiting for another group to finish. I also see it being a huge hit with families.
If you think Best Treehouse Ever looks interesting, check out their Kickstarter. There are files to print out and try the game now so you can really see what your friends and family think of the game. I really enjoyed it and feel it would be a welcome addition to any gaming family!