- For ages 8 and up
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 30 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Risk vs. Reward
- Visuospatial Skills
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Build your dream treehouse
- Gamer Geek mixed!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
German-born theoretical physicist and father of the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein, said “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” I remember running around the house with my brothers playing epic games where we built huge forts out of pillows and later climbed trees to create castles in the sky. In this game, players can flex their imagination muscle to create an epic treehouse, but make sure you maintain a semblance of order and balance.
Best Treehouse Ever, designed by Scott Almes and published by Green Couch Games, is comprised of 72 Treehouse Room cards, 4 Starting Tree cards, 8 Player tokens, 3 Scoretrack cards, 6 Score cards, 4 Game Changer cards, and 6 Bonus cards. The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card. Artist Adam P. McIver has captured the creative imagination that comes from the minds of children with color and whimsy, making each card fun to look at. The artwork reminds me of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, bringing a smile to my otherwise stoic face.
Let’s Go Outside and Play!
To set up the game, first give each player a Starting Tree card and two Player tokens of the same color. One token will be the Scoring marker and the other will be the Balance marker. More on these in a moment. Any Starting Tree cards and tokens not used should be returned to the game box.
Second, have each player place their Starting Tree card in front of them with their Balance marker on the center circle found on the bottom of their Starting Tree card. The tree is in perfect balance.
Third, place the Scoringtrack cards off to one side of the game playing area and have each player place their Scoring markers next to it.
Fourth, take the Scoring cards and Game Changer cards and place them face-up in the middle of the game playing area.
Fifth, shuffle the Treehouse Room cards and place them face down in the middle of the game playing area. This is the Treehouse Room draw deck for the duration of the game.
That’s it for game set up. Let’s build the best treehouse in the world!
Fort Tree (No Non-Geeks Allowed!)
Best Treehouse Ever is played in rounds and turns for a total of three rounds. Each round in the game represents one week of activity, giving players less than a month to create something exceptional (or roughly 30 minutes of real-time). A single round of game play is broken into three specific phases which are summarized here.
Phase One: What’s the Deal?
Each player is dealt 6 Treehouse Room cards. The player should look at their cards, but keep them hidden from their opponents. A Room card’s most important feature is the colored box. This is used to determine where a player can and cannot build on their treehouse. The second most important feature is the icon. For example, the below red-boxed Room card has the icon of a basketball, indicating it’s of a certain room type. These icons are only used if playing with the Bonus cards, but also have the benefit of providing those who are color blind the ability to match card colors using the icons as a guide.
Phase Two: Let’s Build It!
After reviewing their hand, each player selects one Treehouse Room card and places it face-down in front of them. After all players have placed their selected card, all cards are revealed simultaneously.
A player’s treehouse is built using the Treehouse Room cards, one card at a time, by adding them to the player’s Starting Tree card, and then building up and out. There are, of course, rules to how one should build the best treehouse ever.
- Each Treehouse Room card must be “supported” by two other Treehouse Room cards below it, with the one exception being those Treehouse Room cards that are placed on the far left and right edges of a row, which only need one Treehouse Room card to support it. Think of this as like building a pyramid in reverse, with the Starting Tree card being the top of the pyramid, but in this case, is the base. Using these rules, a player could only place two Treehouse Room cards on their Starting Tree card, and then three Treehouse Room cards on top of that, followed by four and so on with each level holding exactly one more Treehouse Room card than the previous. Treehouse Room cards on the far left and right are considered on the “edge”.
- Treehouse Room cards of the same color must touch each other. The first instance of a color can be built wherever the player likes (using the build rules), but any subsequent Treehouse Room card that shares the same color of a previously played Treehouse Room card must be placed so it’s touching a matching color. This means that players must group similar colored Treehouse Room cards. It also means a player who is not paying attention to their cards could accidentally stop themselves from building additional Treehouse Room cards on their tree.
- A player cannot build anymore than a total of five levels on their Starting Tree card. This means, not counting the Starting Tree card, a player cannot play anymore than 20 Treehouse Room cards.
- Treehouse Room cards can only be played to the side of the players treehouse where the Balance maker (on their Starting Tree card) can be moved to. As a player builds up, they must also consider how they are building out. If there are more cards on the left side of the player’s Starting Tree card, the Balance marker is shifted to the left balance position and vice versa if there are more cards on the right side. If the player’s Balance marker is currently on the left side, the player must build to the right to bring balance back to their tree. Treehouse Room cards built on the center line do not influence the overall balance. That is to say, it does not shift the Balance marker.
A player can optionally elect to not place the card they selected, which will happen if the cards they have available to them will not currently work with their treehouse build. These cards, once revealed, are discarded instead of being added to the treehouse structure.
After placing (or discarding) the revealed Treehouse Room card, any cards left in the player’s hand are passed face-down to the opponent on the player’s left. Players now have a new hand of cards, but fewer cards to pick from. This phase of the game continues until players have had a chance to select and play five cards, leaving one card in the hand that will not be selected this round.
Phase Three: Scoring Your Work of Art
After all but one card is played in the hands, the players now score their treehouse. The oldest player in the first round selects one of the available Game Changer cards. The player with the most points will select the first Game Changer card in all subsequent rounds. Then the next player in turn order sequence selects a Game Changer card and so on until all players have selected and taken a Game Changer card.
Game Changer cards alter the default Scoring card’s rules. By default, each Room card of a certain color will give the player one point.
A Game Changer card will either increase the default point value to two or reduce the default value to zero. They are placed on top of the Score cards. The number of Game Changer cards used and played with depends on the number of players in the game.
In reverse order (meaning the last player to select a Game Changer card goes first), each player places their Game Changer card on top of a Scoring card that does not already have a Game Changer card on top of it.
Each player now scores their treehouse using the Scoring cards (with Game Changer modifiers). Scores are tracked by moving the Scoring markers on the Scoretrack cards.
This completes the round.
Next Round and Ending the Game
The second and third rounds of the game are played exactly like the first, with new Treehouse Room cards being dealt for each player to select from. All Game Changer cards are removed and set aside to be used at the end of the next round.
After the third and final round of the game is completed and scored as normal, each players determines who has the majority of a specific color. If a player has more Treehouse Room cards of a specific color built (i.e. “in play”) than their opponents, they collect the Scoring card for that room color, adding it to their total score.
The player with the most points wins the game. Ties are broken by determining which players has the most of a certain color, compared by the second most and so on until the tie is broken.
When playing with three or two players, the rules for scoring and changing the default scoring rules are slightly different. The game play itself it largely the same as noted above for a four-player game, however.
If playing with younger or inexperienced geeks, consider removing the Game Changer cards from play. Instead, have each player select one Scoring card at the end of the round. The selected Scoring cards are then used to determine the points scored for all players, with any Scoring cards not selected being ignored.
On the other hand, if you are playing with experienced geeks and looking for a bigger challenge, introduce the Bonus cards. Each player is dealt a Bonus card, face-down, at the start of the game. The Bonus cards give players additional bonus points if they can match the icon configuration noted on their Bonus card by the end of the game.
To learn more about Best Treehouse Ever, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks had a lot of fun with this game, both playing it and discussing how they would build the “perfect treehouse”. In fact, a few of the Child Geeks were inspired to go find paper and colors to design their own treehouse. According to one Child Geek, “The game is easy to understand and easy to play, but you need to pay attention to how many cards you have of different colors if you want to win.” The game is easy to teach and very casual when it comes to game play, but as the Child Geek mentioned, you really need to pay attention to your cards in your treehouse. You also need to pay close attention to what your opponents are building, too. This was not lost on one of our older Child Geeks who said, “It is important what you build, but more important what your enemies build.” I don’t think “enemy” is the right term here, but the point is well made. When all the treehouses were built, the Child Geeks voted to approve the game.
The Parent Geeks found Best Treehouse Ever to be light, casual, and most importantly, fun with both their peers and with their family. According to one Parent Geek, “The game is fast to set up and stays on the table just long enough to be both entertaining and fun. It’s a great mix of strategy and set collecting, with a fun visual element that makes me want to always inspect other people’s treehouses to see what wonders they built.” Another Parent Geek said, “Easy game to teach the kids, yet complex and deep enough to keep adults engaged. A great mix of set collecting, drafting, and creativity!” The Parent Geeks preferred to use the Bonus cards when playing with adults, but always played the basic game with the family. Basic or not, the Parent Geeks all agreed that Best Treehouse Ever was pretty much the best game they had played in the last couple of weeks, giving it their endorsement.
The Gamer Geeks found Best Treehouse Ever to be well designed and fun, but not as deep as they would like. As one Gamer Geek put it, “The game plays great, but is a bit too casual for me. I’d play it as a filler and with family and friends in a heartbeat, but I don’t know if I could endorse it as an elitist game.” This comment started something of a debate (as the Gamer Geeks are opt to do) regarding the definition of “elitist”. Another Gamer Geek took a different approach and said, “I consider myself an elitist and a big fan of board games. I have played games that take days to complete with thick game manuals and games that take less than five minutes with rules that are written on the back of a playing card. In all cases, I find games that entertain me to be a game worth playing, and this game is well-worth my time.” When all the votes were counted, the Gamer Geeks gave Best Treehouse Ever a mixed endorsement.
The majority of gamers I have spoken to agree that Best Treehouse Ever is a simplified re-implementation of Alhambra: The Card Game and by extension, Alhambra. All three games use colored game component placement (cards or tiles) with card drafting and set collecting game mechanics. What sets Best Treehouse Ever apart is its ease of play. It’s streamlined without being overly simplified. This makes the game much more accessible and the game concept more concrete since a player can easily visually connect with what they are building. “The game makes perfect sense”, is what one player told me and that makes the game all the more easy to grasp.
I like the game very much and agree with all our groups. Best Treehouse Ever is causal, but not necessarily light. It’s strategic without being overly deep. It strikes a nice balance that makes the game both approachable and enjoyable, while at the same time challenging and rewarding. I have played it both as a filler with gaming elitists and as a casual game to entertain friends over a cup of coffee. In every situation I have played the game, it has been enjoyed.
Do try Best Treehouse Ever when time allows. While the game is most certainly not the best game ever created, it really is a joy to play. And in the end, I think that is what matters most.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.