Three Sisters, on Kickstarter now, is a new roll & write and the latest game from Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle, two of our favorite designers behind such staples of our collection as Morocco, Fleet, and Piepmatz. Three Sisters isn’t the dynamic designer duo’s first foray into the genre of Roll & Write games, but have they managed to create another game destined to become part of our permanent collection? Find out as we plant, water, and harvest our way through this Kickstarter preview of Three Sisters!
We received a prototype of Three Sisters for this preview, with the right to request a finished copy. We weren’t otherwise compensated.
In Three Sisters, you’ll be spending the summer developing your garden by planting corn, beans, and pumpkins, the titular trio of crops that have a natural synergy when planted in the same fields. Over the course of the game, you’ll be selecting dice from a turn tracker and using those dice to tend to your fields, as well as take advantage of bonus actions which will help you in your horticultural endeavors. At the end of the game, it’ll be the gardener who’s amassed the biggest point pile who will be declared winner!
Each round, the lead player rolls the dice and assigns them to the action rondel. On your turn, you’ll claim one of the dice and take a gardening action, which will either be to plant in a zone (marking off the first box for up to two plants) or you’ll water a zone, which marks off the next-highest blank in all plants that have been previously planted in that zone.
Once you’ve gardened, you’ll also take the rondel action of the space where you took the die from. These actions will let you do extra gardening, mark off items in your shed, get bonuses from the Farmer’s Market, and tend to your flowers, perennials, apiary, and fruit trees. Finally, after all players have taken their actions, all players will take an additional action based on the movement of Farmer Edith, a helpful neighbor who wanders around the roundel every round.
At the end of each round, the Event phase triggers, and all players will benefit from either rain, the Farmer’s Market, or bonus shed actions. Planning ahead to take advantage of these actions is a great way of getting the most out of every round.
Much like their previous roll & write, Fleet: The Dice Game, Three Sisters delivers roll & write gameplay that is thinkier than many games in the genre (as evidenced by the double-wide sheet you’ll be working with). Instead of just being focused on how best to allocate a given action, you’ll really want to think in terms of chains in order to maximize your per-turn actions.
For example, taking the watering action might let you completely grow a pumpkin, which, in turn, will add goods to your goods track. Every five goods you get gives you a bonus action, which you might use to mark off the first space in your Tulip track, which gives you the ability to mark off a fruit, and if that fruit was, say, your second Peach, then you get a free Watering action, which you might use to…
Building out your shed is another great way to multiply the effect of your actions – completed shed projects give a plethora of simultaneous bonuses, extra functionality, and just great big gobs of points. But of course, time spent on your shed is time not spent gardening, or harvesting fruit, or tending to your bees. Did we mention the bees?
On the whole, Three Sisters is an excellent game. The mechanisms are quite simple – each turn, all you’re really doing is picking which die you’re going to take. However, the nature of the game is such that this tiny decision-point has the potential to cascade out into a snarl of actions, bonuses, and points. And it’s there that once could also be critical of Three Sisters. Simply put, there’s a lot to keep track of, and the calculus of how best to spend a given turn can become a real ordeal, especially late in the game when you’ve managed to get some shed bonuses that have compounding effects on other action choices or end-game scoring options.
For some, it may be a few too many things to keep track of, but only because every option is appealing in some way. At every turn in Three Sisters are actions you want to take, but you’ll inevitably get to take far fewer than you’d like. However, as we said, that’s where the chains of bonuses shine, and there’s no denying the utter satisfaction we experienced when check leads to check leads to check leads to check…
We wholeheartedly recommend Three Sisters if you’re in the mood for a more strategic roll & write experience with a theme that remains tranquil and beautiful – art from Marlies Barends & Beth Sobel make it a delight to stare at. The Three Sisters Kickstarter is running now and you should definitely head on over and check it out!