SNAP Review – Pollen
[Andrew] Well, Anitra, it’s spring. You know what that means. Warmer weather, flowers, and, yes, allergies.
[Anitra] But as much as we sigh when we see pollen all over the place, it’s an important part of our ecosystem, along with all of the bees, beetles, butterflies, and other insects that help spread it.
[Andrew] That’s true. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in today’s SNAP review for Pollen from AllPlay.
Pollen is a 2-4 player tile laying game by Reiner Knizia and it takes about 10-15 minutes per player. The box says it’s for ages 11 and up, but you can probably go down to about 8 years old or so; we did. Let’s talk about how it looks.
[Andrew] I cannot say enough about these gorgeous – meeples, they call them – with metallic, iridescent paint on them.
[Anitra] Bug-ples? Beeples!
[Andrew] Beeples! I cannot say enough about these gorgeous beeples with this metallic iridescent paint on them.
[Anitra] But that’s not all. The game is illustrated by Beth Sobel. And the cards and the pollinator tokens are just gorgeous. They’re full of flowers and detail and, frankly, the insects on the cards look incredibly realistic. The bumblebees look fuzzy!
[Andrew] Not only is the art fantastic, the iconography is fantastic as well. The symbols could not be more clear, and they’re placed in the corners, which makes scoring very easy to calculate.
[Anitra] There’s four colors in the game, and each one is also represented by a very distinct type of flower.
Speaking of the four colors of cards, what do they mean and what do we do with them? Let’s talk about the mechanics.
Each player starts this game with their own deck of 15 Garden Cards. Shuffle them up and each player will draw five.
Put all the pollinator tokens in the bag and draw one of them face up as the “next up” token.
Each turn you’ll PLANT, POLLINATE, and ATTRACT, before drawing a card to end your turn.
To plant, you place a garden card from your hand onto the table with a corner touching at least one of the pollinator tokens.
To pollinate, you look for any pollinator tokens that are now surrounded by four garden cards. Each pollinator token shows one or more of the three pollinators – butterflies, bees, and beetles. And you’ll score as many as show on the token.
Stars on the cards are wild and can be counted multiple times for those different pollinators. Whoever wins a pollinator gets one of these super sweet bug “meeples”. – Beeples!
After you pollinate, you attract. If there is an empty pollinator spot next to at least two garden cards of different colors, you’ll take that “next up” token and put it there. If there is more than one spot like this, you’re going to have to draw an extra token from the bag and pick where each one of those tokens goes. Then, replace the “next up” token.
End Game and Scoring
The game ends when one of the three meeple types runs out, OR the pollinator tokens run out, OR all players have run out of garden cards.
Then it’s time to score.
Scoring has three parts. Everyone sorts out their three types of scoring beeples and looks for who has the majority in each type.
If one player has the majority in two types, they automatically win! No other scoring is necessary.
Otherwise, any player who does not have any majorities? They get eliminated.
Of the players that are left, each one sets aside the meeples that gave them that majority and count up the bug meeples they have in the OTHER two types of bugs. The player with the highest count of non-majority bugs wins the game.
[Andrew] Anitra, let’s talk about what we expected from this bug-themed game, Pollen.
[Anitra] It’s beautiful nature-themed art. Beth Sobel’s name is right there on the front of the box, and you can tell [that she’s the illustrator] from the way it looks.
The cards have this unique square shape with the cutout corners, and it suggests to me that this game would be a card-laying/tile-laying kind of thing; like one of my personal favorite solo games, A Gentle Rain.
[Andrew] We also expected this game to be relatively quick and relatively relaxed. Not too intense of a game to play.
[Andrew] Let’s talk about what surprised us about this game.
[Anitra] First surprise – there’s no actual matching of the cards. These are both butterflies, but it’s not like, “Oh, I’m going to put a butterfly card next to your butterfly card!” Instead, it’s about forming around a token, and seeing who has the majority.
Along those lines, it’s less relaxing of a game than we expected.
[Andrew] Yeah, it’s not super crazy, but sometimes it gets a little bit intense, when you really want to put a tile somewhere or a card somewhere, and somebody else does it before you.
[Anitra] There’s also a lot of, “oh, I really want to put a card here, but then I’m giving up a scoring meeple to somebody else. Am I willing to do that?”
[Andrew] The game does strike a nice balance on analysis paralysis, because there just aren’t that many decisions to make. But you do run into the mental math of what you were just talking about.
[Anitra] And part of that is because the scoring itself is weird. You definitely want to get the majority in some kind of bug. But you don’t want to focus on only one bug! It’s your non-majority bugs that will win you the game; but also not having any majorities will kick you out of the game – you’ll get eliminated!
[Andrew] And that leads to our last surprise, which is wilds. Wilds in this game are really powerful. When you put a wild into a scoring area for a token, you’re able to use it for each kind of bug; and that can really shift how the scoring works for any given token.
[Anitra] Because of these decisions, and the powerfulness of the wilds, the game can go a little long, especially at four players.
[Andrew] The box says 40+ minutes; we say 15 minutes per player. And at that fourth player, that does get a little bit long.
[Anitra] So Andrew, what do you think we are going to rate Pollen by Reiner Knizia?
[Andrew] I think we’re going to rate Pollen 3½ pollinators out of 5.
And that’s Pollen, in a SNAP!
The Family Gamers received a copy of Pollen from AllPlay for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Number of Players: 2-4 (best at 3)
Age Range: 11+ (we say 8+)
Playtime: 15 minutes per player