Today we're going to do an advance review of Best Treehouse Ever, a game from two of our favorite folks in the gaming industry: Jason Kotarski, the Big Wig over at Green Couch Games, and Scott Almes, designer of the Tiny Epic series.
Best Treehouse Ever is a card-drafting filler game for 2-4 players that plays in that sweet spot of about 20 minutes, which is exactly the comfy spot that Kotarski wants each of his pub's games to sit in on that big Green Couch.
So is Best Treehouse Ever the best filler ever? Let's climb up and take a look-see!
A pile of cards! The main play deck is made up of cards in six different colors, and each color represents a type of room you can add to your treehouse (educational rooms, water rooms, food rooms, etc.). Players will also start with a Tree card, because it's obviously impossible to build a treehouse without a tree! This card has a tree illustrated along with three circle spaces on the ground below it (we'll talk about those in a few).
There are Scoring cards (one in each of the six colors), as well as score tokens (in the shape of cards) which either give a bonus to a room type for scoring, or cancel out all points for a room type--there are two of each of these.
There are also a few cards that act as a score track and a few matching tokens/cubes for score keeping and balance-tracking.
Each player gets a Starting Tree and a balance marker that goes in the center circle on your tree's card. The six scoring cards are laid out, and then six cards are dealt to each player and you're ready to roll!
This is a straight-up drafting game: You look at the six cards dealt to you and then choose which of them to add to your treehouse. There are a few rules to keep in mind when adding to your treehouse: If you're playing a room color you've already played, it must be placed adjacent to a previously placed room of that same color. When you play a room to your tree you also move the balance marker one space in the direction of the room you just played. If you can't move it in that direction, or you can't place a room because of adjacency rules, you can't play the room and just discard it.
Jeremiah--This is really easy to teach; my boys LOVE it, and my wife even had a good time with it. The Balance Marker mechanism can sometimes be really easy to overlook as you're trying to select cards to add to your treehouse--and my wife didn't like it at all, she thinks it's too constricting.
Firestone--I was constantly having to check everyone's treehouses in our first game. "You can't put that there. Did you move your marker? You've already played that color." But after that first game, everyone got it, and the need to check dropped. My wife and kids also LOVED it--mostly the kids.
Play continues in the same way--picking a card, playing it, and passing the rest of the hand to your left--until there are two cards left in the hand you're handed. You then play one last card (for a total of 5 for the round) and discard the last one.
Then you score your treehouse! Players take turns choosing one of the scoring tokens, and then in reverse order placing those tokens on the scoring cards--causing certain colors to not score at all this round, while others score double!
If a scoring card doesn't have a token on it, each player scores 1 VP for each room of that color in their treehouse. If it has a X2 marker, each player gets 2 VP for rooms of that color. And if they have the X token on them... well you get it.
Jeremiah--The score tokens really can swing the game one way or another--the blocking tokens especially. My boys haven't quite figured that out and they always go for the bonus tokens hoping to boost those five rooms they've got and then get crushed when that color gets blocked.
Firestone--Yeah, there's a little bit of take that. My wife lost our first game because my oldest blocked her out of her dominant color on scoring in the final round. That reverse turn order is brutal.
You play three rounds, scoring each one the same way, and then there's one final scoring round in which players score points for each color that they have the most of.
Once all the scoring is done, whoever has the most points wins!
Jeremiah--The artwork really pops off the cards for this one, and then theme is great fun. We've had a lot of fun describing how cool our treehouse is with water slides that lead to hot tubs etc.
Firestone--Yes! The artwork is super cute--including the board game room where the kids are playing this game! My kids were having so much fun "discovering" cards during our first game as they got a new hand. "Whoa!!!!" was heard many times. I thought, "Oh, well that won't happen in subsequent games now that they know what's there." Nope. Still happened. And once they'd scampered off to bed, I could still hear them talking about surfing simulators and crow's nests as they got their PJs on. Needless to say, Best Treehouse Ever was a HIT.
Jeremiah--The scoring tokens seem a little swingy, or not swingy enough. The rules as they are now state that the person with the most points gets to choose a scoring token first, which seems to give them an advantage even though they get placed in reverse order of drawing. Although it's safe to say my kids flawed strategy may be breaking this mechanic for me.
Firestone--In a game this light I'm fine with that catch-up mechanism. Though it does seem a big advantage for the person in the fourth seat, who might be in 2nd place and is now sitting pretty. You don't really want to be in the lead until the very end, because you will get wrecked by other players.
Jeremiah's Final Verdict--Best Treehouse Ever is a nice little step up from Sushi Go: lots of drafting, with some nice scoring strategy thrown in. It's got a great learning curve, streamlined mechanics, and it packs a lot of fun into a great theme! I'm a big fan!
Firestone's Final Verdict--As the kids get older and family time gets crunched, short and fun filler games become more and more valuable. Best Treehouse Ever fits the bill. I have no idea how much longer my kids will love this game. But they do so love it. So I do, too.
Check out the game yourself right here! And thanks for reading!
Theology of Games would like to thank Green Couch Games for providing preview copies of Best Treehouse Ever. This in no way affected our opinions of the game.