Designer: Angelika Fassauer, Peter Haluszka
Artist: Not credited
KOSMOS fur Zwei Spieler series is one of my earliest obsession in the hobby. I just wanted to play and collect the entire series. Starting from Lost Cities, I quickly amassed many of the games in the series such as Odin’s Raven, Jambo, Kahuna, Caesar and Cleopatra, Time Square, Rosenkonig, etc. Many of these gems remain in my collection and some are perennial favorites. Obviously, the series continues to expand as new games flood the market. Flowerpower happens to be one of my semi-grail game in the series that sat on my wishlist for many years. This game was never printed outside of the German market and it was highly sought after back then but probably not true any longer. The glut of games and shift in gaming preferences probably made this game “obsolete”. Still, Flowerpower remained on my wishlist for nostalgic reasons even though I never actively sought out the game in the the after market.
As luck would have it, I chanced upon a copy of Flowerpower recently and I picked it up even though the owner cautioned that the game felt “aged”. I suppose I wouldn’t have cared since I am a card carrying member of the OG Guild: Orginal German game enthusiast.
The basic game play of Flowerpower is familiar and remains closely related to many modern day designs. In fact, I can see shades of the game adopted by more current games that feature polyominoes. The game itself is very simple. You draw a polyomino tile from a bag and place it on a shared grid. Pieces can be placed anywhere on your side of the board, including a central zone that is considered neutral territory. In other words, the board is split into three zones, with the larger of the two zones on opposing ends of the board and a middle neutral zone that is about half the size of the individual player zones. Once the game starts, players simply pull out a polyomino tile and play it. This continues until both players can no longer play any tiles on their side of the board. What that happens, the game ends and scores are calculated based on the patterns assembled on the individual player board.
As the title suggests, each tile features two flowers and players try to assemble flower beds of different sizes on the shared board. The goal is to build a large flower bed consisting of flowers of a similar type. Scores are tabulated based on the size of the flower beds with scores ranging from 1-4 points. You need at least 3 flowers to form a flower bed that scores 1 point and 10+ flowers to score a flower bed worth 4 points. Anything larger than that will not be particularly useful save for the tie breaker situation for flower beds that span the neutral zone.
Just like the Federation and Klingon tussling over the neutral zone, the main twist for Flowerpower comes from planting flowers in the neutral zone and fighting for control. One can place tiles in the neutral zone which will count toward the flower bed size. However, should the flower beds in the neutral zone bridge the divide and link up flower beds from opposing sides of the board, then they will be counted as a single entity with the controlling player having the larger flower bed on their side of the board. So, there is a battle for control every time the flower beds are connected. I am not quite sure how often this happens, but much of the tension from the game comes from battling for control of these gigantic flower bed. To make things a little thorny, three times during the game, you can flip any tile over and plant weeds in your opponent’s garden. This is an essential maneuver especially if both of you are fighting for control for the same flower bed that straddles the neutral zone. By blocking off your opponents growth opportunities, you have a better chance of staking a claim for the flower bed.
I totally understand why the person who sold me the game claim that the game has aged. For one thing, there are loads of polyomino games out there and many feature a puzzle-like quality where the goal is to optimize placement of pieces on a grid.Many of these games have more elaborate Tetris-like pieces but the spirit of the game remains the same. Flowerpower starts off with the same premise and keeps it really simple: score points based on groups of similar-type tiles. It’s really the neutral zone dynamics that makes the game interesting. The battle for control of flowerbeds across the divide. Without it, the game would be extremely plain vanilla.
Despite the importance of the neutral zone in providing the interaction and tension, players can absolutely opt to ignore or even actively prevent these battles. There is a chance, and quite a big one, that no flower beds will be contested across the divide. It is easy enough to place tiles for blocking placement in the neutral zone to avoid linking flower beds and I’d argue the pace is slow enough that you shouldn’t be caught unaware. So, despite this feature being the best part of the game, it may not even happen that frequently. I like the weed tiles as it keeps you on your toes. This action is particularly mean and nasty, but also necessary for the fight for control. Overall though, I am all for simplicity, but Flowerpower feels too simple, repetitive and solitary without the neutral zone battles.
Flowerpower’s board size also feels slightly too large and the types of scoring tiles (10), a few too many. At points during the game, it drags. Some of the tiles placement, particularly late in the game really do not feel consequential. I really think the game could use a little more stream lining and perhaps tightening of scoring categories. Overall, I can understand and almost agree with the comment that the game has “aged”. This means different things for different folks. For me, the game still deserves an audience but could really use some tweaks which many modern day equivalents have done. One thing I plan to do is to make the game sudden death so that if tile placement is impossible for one player, the game ends immediately rather than allowing both players to completely fill the board. Another way would be to promote neutral zone activity that encourages a larger flower bed, but I don’t have any house rules for that. I don’t think the game is bad at all, but even I have to admit this is an average entry at best.