ARBORETUM is a great little abstract card game, designed by Dan Cassar and published by Z-Man Games. There are a combination of game-play ideas that make this game special. I considered it important to ensure these aspects of the game were maintained when designing the solitaire variant.
Most importantly, the trickiness of the game comes from balancing a hand of trees that contains high pip values against building paths of those trees that can score well – i.e. the value of the cards left in your hand at the end of the game should still be significant.
Secondly, you need to adjust your strategy as you see the cards you were banking on disappearing into someone’s discard pile (because you can’t afford to keep digging for them!) i.e. we need the game to continue to tick down through the deck and punish play that persists with drawing from the discard pile.
Finally, the game makes it tough trying to figure out which cards to keep and which to discard – need, need, need, opponent needs, need – i.e. the cards you discard need to have significance in the solo game.
With those factors in mind, and keen to keep the solo rules very simple with minimal changes to the multi-player rules, I bring you a satisfying solo variant that I hope continues to capture the spirit of the game.
Create a deck that uses 6 colours, as per the 2-player game. Deal yourself a hand of 7 cards and then deal 1 card face-up to create a discard pile.
How to Play
As per the regular rules, on your turn you will:
(1) Draw 2 cards, one after the other, with cards being drawn from the face-down deck or from the top of the face-up discard pile (notice there is only one discard pile in the solo game).
(2) Play a card from your hand into your arboretum.
(3) Discard a card, except the discarded card does not go to the discard pile. Instead, it goes into a face-up tableaux that represents a dummy player’s hand. We call that dummy player “Q”.
Q only has hand cards, made up entirely of your discards, and it is with these cards that Q will challenge you to the right to score paths during the scoring phase.
(4) At the end of your turn, deal 2 cards from the draw pile into the discard pile. Then your turns begins again.
The game ends when you must draw a card from the draw pile and the draw pile is empty.
When it comes to scoring the paths in your arboretum, you only gain the right to score a path if the value of the cards in your hand matching that colour is equal to or exceeds the value of those cards held by Q. i.e. follow the regular rules, with Q’s hand acting like another player’s.
The aim is beat your best score. Here are some targets to beat:
0-17 : Tree Hugger
18-24 : Gardener
25-29 : Ground Crew
30-39 : Woodland Steward
40+ : Arboriculturist
If you have any feedback from playtesting these rules, or to share your high-scores, you can tweet me @rickyroyalbod.