After a year filled with games that promised big things, I was delighted to play a game that is smaller in scope—a game about making lines of trees.
The Tree Lined Avenue is much simpler than it initially appears—games where you have to do multiplication to determine your final score are often a bit threatening—but when you get into it, it becomes a calming process of laying out cards, claiming “avenues,” and trying to wrangle yourself into a good scoring position.
At the beginning of the game, you lay out preset cards plus one random one, in a diagonal that forms the basis of what will eventually become a 6 card by 6 card finished playing space (when the 36th card is placed, the game ends). There are also little animal tiles that are placed around the periphery of the board.
On their turn, players may place one of their gardeners on a card with no other gardeners on it to claim the card. They then can hoover up two unclaimed animals from the row and/or column in which the gardener was placed. Then, after having optionally placed a gardener, a player must choose a tree card from a display. All of the tree cards are the five types of trees, wild cards, or trees that count as two trees for scoring. The card a player chooses determines their turn order for the next round, and the cards are weighted, so slightly more powerful cards will cause a player to be later in turn order. After having selected and placed a card in the shared playing space, a player may activate any special actions on the card (move their gardener, draw a project card, cycle the available cards for the next round, snag an additional animal tile). Then, a player’s turn is over.
This continues until the grid is full, points are totaled, and the game is over. Each placed gardener scores the row and the column it is placed in. The player determines the rank of a row/column by finding the highest number of a tree type placed in it, and multiplying that by their gardener plus the number of animal tiles on their gardener. Players also have project cards that score additional points for having certain animal types with their gardeners and different “features” in rows and columns.
And that’s about it. My usual thing is to try and make a larger connection whenever I review a game, but this game is small in scope, and I don’t say that to belittle it. Because gardeners cannot be moved once they’re placed (unless players get cards with that as an additional action), there are pacing questions to consider as you play, and the game allows for fun opportunities to mess with your opponents’ neatly organized avenues. But it’s not extreme nor cruel. The game feels almost meditative, and while that might not seem like much, many games promising to do the same thing with larger boxes and more components often fail to do so.
The Tree Lined Avenue is small, but that’s nice.