Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon is the next game from award-winning designer Bruno Cathala and published by IELLO. In this 2-4 player drafting and tile placement game, you will be planting magnificent gardens in the harsh desert competing to become the Royal Gardener.
“Legend has it that a long time ago, in a starless night, the Queen’s Gardener fell of exhaustion in the middle of the desert. He cried for hours – how could he grow anything in such an arid wasteland? One of his tears, however, passed through the sand to reach the other world. Goddess Ishtar, moved by the man’s despair, collected his tear and sent it back to the surface, transforming it in a surging and inexhaustible water source.
Eternally grateful, the Gardener swore to do his best to create the most magnificent gardens of these lands….”
|Player Count||2 – 4 players|
|Play Time||45 mins|
PLEASE NOTE I have been playing a pre-production prototype of the game so some of the physical components and artwork are unfinished in my photos and video! However I have also included some artwork and images provided by the publisher.
In Ishtar you will compete to grow the largest Gardens, plant the most magnificent Trees and take control of the life giving Fountains. All while collecting precious Gems and improving on your Skills as a gardener.
Players take turns in clockwise order until the end game condition is met. On their turn, each player performs the following actions in order:
- Choose a Vegetation Tile from the Carpet Board
- Place a Vegetation Tile on the Terrain Board and collect Gems if available
- Take a Special Action if applicable
- and finally Plant a Tree if you can afford one and choose to do so.
The desert is comprised of modular Terrain Boards, featuring Sacred Tablets, Gem filled rock spaces and the highly coveted Fountains from which your gardens will grow and thrive!
The fountains are not shown in the current visuals but they will be beautifully detailed 3D models!
Gardens are created with Vegetation Tiles, adding Grass Spaces and Flowerbeds to the barren landscape, whilst also allowing you to collect precious Gems from the rocky terrain below. Vegetation Tiles must be connected to a Fountain or previously placed Tile in order to facilitate irrigation and Sacred Tablets must remain untouched.
Vegetation Tiles are drafted from the Carpet Board and you may choose to pay Gems to open up more options of Tiles available to you. When you place a Tile on the Terrain Board (following the placement rules) you are able to collect any Gems your new Tile covers!
Some Vegetation Tiles have icons on them depicting Special Actions. If the Tile you placed has one of these icons, you may choose to take that Special Action.
- The Assistant icon allows you to immediately place one of your available Assistants on the Assistant icon on that Tile, giving you control of that Flowerbed, which then allows you to score points for all the flowers at the end of the game!
- The Skill icon lets you unlock one of the Skills on your Player Board, by paying any two Gems to cover that Skill for a one off bonus.
- The Wild icon can be used as either an Assistant icon or a Skill icon!
The various Skills available on your Player Board can help you score points and achieve various strategies in the game. The bottom row of Skills allow you to trade Gems, place Blooming Tokens, retrieve Assistants from the Carpet Board and reserve Tree Cards or Vegetation Tiles.
The upper row of Skills, once unlocked, will score you points at the end of the game. You can score points for any unused Assistants and Gems, as well as Trees or Sacred Tablets adjacent to Flowerbeds that you control with your Assistants.
You may then plant a glorious Tree by choosing from one of the five available and paying its cost in Gems. The Tree token should then be placed on any available Grass space in a Garden. Keep the Tree Card face down in front of you to score it’s points at the end of the game!
The game ends when two piles of Vegetation Tiles are depleted on the Carpet Board. Players get one more turn up the the first player and then it’s on to scoring!
You will score points for the following:
- All Tree Cards you successfully planted
- Score one point for every single Flower in the Flowerbeds controlled by your Assistant
- You will score points for every fountain you control (White = 7 / Red = 5 / Purple = 3)
- Finally you score points for any unlocked Skills on the upper level of your Player Board.
How to Play
I really enjoyed my time getting to play Ishtar, although it’s a light game it has surprising depth. Every time we played, a different strategy won the game whether it was going all-in on unlocking those top level Skills, planting the most Trees or having the largest Flowerbeds or a mixture of all those things! Each game feels slightly different and you need to be able to adapt your strategies quickly to keep up.
Ishtar is a game of competing for control and this becomes much more apparent as a three-four player game. In a two player game you have a little more room and it feels less confrontational, you can easily go about your own business without really getting in each other’s way, if that is how you prefer to play. At three or four players, the space seems to close up more and you are competing for space and control much more! Personally I found both experiences were enjoyable and I would happily continue playing the game at any player count.
As previously mentioned I have been playing a prototype of the game so some of the components and artwork are incomplete. BUT the artwork and components that are complete are wonderful, I am especially in love with the tree illustrations! The artist is Biboun, whose style you may recognise from Dice Forge and many other IELLO games. This beautiful art, mixed with the high production quality IELLO is known for, makes Ishtar a game I can’t wait to play again in it’s finished form!
Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon is due for release by IELLO at Essen Spiel 2019.