Three Sisters (25th Century Games, 2022)

Three Sisters is a fantastic, crunchy roll & write from 25th Century Games. It has been my go-to lunch break game for the past month.

The premise is that you’re a gardener and each turn you plant or water an area in your garden. Using the Native American technique of planting pumpkins, which help the corn, which helps the beans, you grow and water your plants, earning bonuses as they grow in harmony together. Of course, there’s more to your yard than just the garden, you also have an orchard, an apiary, and a shed full of tools and other items that can help you be the best farmer in town.

Game play revolves around a set of dice. Depending on player count, the dice are rolled and then set out on a roundel in numerical order, same numbers clumped together. Player 1 picks a die of their choice and takes the dice number as their garden action, watering or planting in that zone, and then they also take the action where the dice was sitting on the roundel – which usually means tending to another area of the yard. Second player picks their own die and does their actions. Then they share the lowest die on the board. There are eight rounds in the game and for each round, there is another bonus action, which includes rain, which waters all of your garden, growing crops up on spot. After eight rounds, you count up your points and see who has the best garden!

But this game is all about the COMBOS! Did you just grow two pumpkins next to each other? Well, those unlock a special perennial action! Don’t forget to mark your goods on the tracker because for every five you get a free action! Did you unlock the wheelbarrow in your shed? Well don’t forget that if you use that free action as a shed action you get another good!

Yes, there is a LOT to keep track of in this game. Usually by turn three, I find myself talking to myself about what actions I have taken so far and what is still left – did I check off those goods yet from the pumpkins? Did I use that free action I just unlocked? Wait, when did I get this Hyacinth spot?

Eventually, you start to form a strategy in your head for what you’re sure will be the way to all the points. Sometimes, you double down on the shed, trying to unlock the rain barrel to gain the ability to water an extra spot in your garden – very helpful in those first few rounds to jump ahead and get more goods. Or maybe you’re planning on filling in Iris perennials track, something that can only be accomplished by growing the pumpkins in zones 1-4 and then combining it with free actions unlocked by the goods. But you have to focus! If you stray from your strategy, tempted by the easy victory points from the blackberries, you might find yourself an action short…no wait, maybe the key to it all is growing raspberries and using those goods to get the bonus actions…

This is a great game for someone who enjoys roll & write titles but is ready for the next step in complexity and strategy. The solo mode is a lot of fun, with the Farmer Edith meeple acting as a rival, stealing your plants and blocking them off your page. But it’s a lot of fun to play with a friend and compare notes at the end of the game to see where your strategies diverged. Once you learn the game, two players can get through a match in about 30 minutes.

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