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The Meeple Guild: Master Gardener offers something a bit different

The objective of New Kingdom: Gardeners is to be the Gardener with the most fruit in their garden when the Master Gardener card is drawn.
The new offering from designer Jack Dunbar.

YORKTON - It never hurts to head to the gaming table to try something a bit different from the normal game you might reach for.

New Kingdom Gardeners would be that for this writer.

So we’ll turn to the designer for a bit about the game.

“The Master Gardener is coming soon to choose a new Head Gardener for his new kingdom. You and your fellow gardeners are working hard planting seeds, pruning thorns, and hiring workers to produce the most fruit to earn this honour. Will you be the head gardener in the master's new kingdom?”

Designer Jack Dunbar told The Meeple Guild at it’s core New Kingdom: Gardeners is a biblically-inspired game that invites players to compete with one another by outdoing each other in kindness. The player interactions are positive. As you play you may not even feel that you are competing but cooperating against natural challenges that try to drag you down. Many people say the game ends just as it's getting really good which generally leads to playing again!”

The game development was a long-term passion.

“My friend is a teacher and several years ago as I was changing jobs I had some time off and he challenged me to try to combine two of my passions to create something,” he explained via email. “I love the Bible and being a Christian is a very important part of my life. I have a Master's degree in Theology and love games, so I figured well I might as well create a biblically-inspired game.

“It quickly became an all-consuming project for me.”

The result is a one-to-four player tableau-building game designed for ages 10-plus which you can expect to play in 30-60 minutes or less.

The objective of New Kingdom: Gardeners is to be the Gardener with the most fruit in their garden when the Master Gardener card is drawn from the main draw pile.

Players know the Master Gardener is in the bottom 10 cards of the deck but not exactly where.

Again from the designer, “to gather fruit players play fruit and worker cards throughout the game into a tableau called a "garden" and prune (remove) thorn cards from their garden or from others' gardens for additional points.

“Building sets or teams of workers furthers the amount of fruit a player can earn throughout the game. Workers as well as player roles known as "gardeners" have special abilities that can be activated by components called 'doves' which are placed each turn.”

It's all pretty straight forward, so the learning curve is not excessive to get this one to the table.

So what was Dunbar trying to achieve with the game?  

“I wanted to bring the evocative images and characters of the biblical story to life along with its rich life lessons in a way that invites people to engage with them without forcing them to think or believe anything,” offered Dunbar. “Many people find this game to be fun and thought-provoking, a balance I've decided I want all of my games to try to strike.”

Interestingly, Dunbar tips his hat to artist Melissa Murakami when  asked about the best element of the game.   

“On an emotional side I'm very proud of the art,” he related. “Melissa really captured characters Christians like myself know and love or deeply admire.

“Those of other faiths can appreciate them all the same without knowing the names because of her whimsical yet relatable style of animation.

“Technically, the two-row tableau system or the "creep" mechanic is something I believe is innovative. Many people say that mechanically this is what sets the game apart.”

The Christian roots also came up as Dunbar related what the game offers that others don’t?

“I think the feeling of both satisfying competition and positive player interactions is rare,” he said. “I occasionally received criticism for creating a faith-based game that involves competition.

“I believe, however, that healthy competition is part of what makes life fun, and in my mind it is the thing that leads to the greatest progress.”