We were sent Three Sisters to review by 25th Century Games. This game is a unique addition to the roll-and-write genre. The theme mainly revolves around farming corn, bean, and pumpkins (the Three Sisters technique where each plant helps the others grow).
To begin the game you first roll the dice (the number of dice changes depending on player count.) The Farmer Edith meeple is placed on the rondel track on the space with the golden pushpin to begin. The dice are rolled and are then placed along the track in ascending numerical order beginning at the same space as Farmer Edith. Any like numbers go in the same space following ascending order (i.e if you roll 3,3,4,5,6 the two 3s will start with Farmer Edith.) The farmer moves each round in the same way. The farmer makes it easier to remember placement.
The first player chooses which die they want, and the number of pips on the die determine where they will plant OR water on the garden paper. If the die has two pips, they’ll plant or water section 2. Planting consists of marking the bottom most space of a plant, and you can plant twice for this action. Beans cannot be planted until the corn already has two marks. Watering consists of marking the box above any plants that have previously been planted. Pumpkins grant no points but whenever two adjacent ones are completed, a Perennial track can have a mark filled out.
The second part of the player turn is doing the action listed on the space where the die was taken from. There are many choices.
– Plant or Water: You essentially repeat the first action of your turn by planting or watering the section in the garden.
– Shed Time: The shed items you cross off can give extra abilities, extra points at end game, etc. Once all spots of a shed item are marked off. Seed Spreader was both of our go to since filling out for Shed Time marks allowed for the planting of 3 crops instead of 2. New Tractor gave 18 end game points for 6 marks but this proved very hard to achieve.
– 1 Compost and 4 Goods: In the compost section, a dot would be marked and in the Goods section 4 Goods would be marked out. The more Goods one has, the more benefits in the Farmers Market. Compost can be traded for die changes (cross out one Compost and you can change a 5 die to a 4 or 6 for example).
– Apiary or Fruit: The fruit section allows you to either gain end game points and/or goods depending on which track you select. The apiary gives you similar bonuses but on a track that starts out singular and branches off. If you choose to complete Split Hive for example and cross out all boxes required, you’ll get to Plant or Water two times as the final bonus on that track.
– Farmer’s Market: This is where the goods really come in handy. The number of goods you have will determine what actions you can take. The first time or two that one has a Farmer’s Market action they’ll likely have between 4-19 goods which means they can mark something on a Perennials track and gain one compost. The higher amount of goods one gains, the better the Farmer’s Market benefits.
After everyone has done their rondel track action, look at the rondel track to see what die with the lowest number of pips remains. All players will take another turn of Watering or Planting and then take the action under this die.
After this the round is over. There is a white round tracker at the bottom of the board that tells you what action you and the rest of the players can take at each round’s end. For example, in round 1 everyone gets an additional shed action at the end of the round. The most unique end of round actions are the Rain actions, which are not part of the normal round track and are very important to winning. Rain let’s you water every single section for every single planted crop. It is strategic to keep track of which end of rounds include the Rain action and plant many crops beforehand accordingly. We found ourselves scrambling to plant as many things during the rounds that ended in rain.
At the end of the 8th round after the final Rain action, the game ends and points are scored. Point scoring can be a little lengthy and takes a good amount of focus. The final score is made up of Garden, Perennials, Apiary, Fruit, and Shed points. Players go through these individually and see which ones have the ribbon icons completed and count them up. You have to maneuver around the two sheets and make sure you count all points. This is usually the part where we’d find we missed some adjacent pumpkin plants and fill out a few Perennials we’d earned without realizing. Then, whoever has the highest score wins. The scoring process felt a little long and overly complicated for a roll and write.
Overall this game was very fun as there are many individual choices to make. It took a few tries to really figure out some favorite strategies. The farming theme was also very charming and immersive.
Language Barrier Playability: The rules are very language heavy and complex so there is a language barrier. It would be very difficult to play without language involved. The rondel actions would have to be reminded every time and each player would have to go in order as opposed to simply selecting your own die and doing what you are allowed to do.
Replayability: Very replayable. There are plenty of sheets and each game brings more strategic opportunities.
Artwork: The color scheme of oranges and greens really gives a Fall farming season theme to the game. The farmer figurine and the design of the gardens were very nice and thematic.
Quality: The dice are very well made and brightly colored. The Farmer Edith meeple token is cute and sturdy. The scoring sheets provided with the game were slightly blurry and the ink seemed rather bleak. The quality of the paper seemed poor compared to the rest of the components. The boxes and the layout of each sheet is confusing and the text is small and can be difficult to read if not at reading height.
Strategy: There are many ways to strategize but the most important thing is time management. The rounds go faster than one might think. If you don’t have enough crops planted in time for certain watering events it will hurt your score down the road. It is also important to choose which goals you want to focus on because some take a longer time to achieve but can produce a good amount of points for end game.
Instruction Manual: The instruction manual was honestly confusing for us. The rules are explained in a confusing order and unclear in the examples that are given. The scoring sheets (as mentioned above) are very difficult to read. There are too many things going on with the scoring sheets. Boxes and circles do not seem consistent when adjacent to actions. Sometimes boxes are immediate actions that are marked when your bonus is used and other times they are simply marked to make progress on that particular scoring track. We had to watch a video on how to play that helped tremendously.
Organization: Everything fits into the box well. The box is also smaller than many of our game boxes so it is easier to transport. The box is also much bigger than it needs to be compared to the components.