Game: Grove

Release Year: 2021

Publisher: Side Room Games

Designer: Mark Tuck

Player Count: 1 player (with a multiplayer variant that requires additional copies of the game for every player involved)

Play Time: About 10 minutes

Rules Complexity: Very simple

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In board gaming, there are two common ideas I often disagree with: that a game needs lots of strategic variety to be replayable, and that a game needs to have lots of content to deliver a satisfactory bang-for-your-buck experience.

Grove is shining proof that neither statement is necessarily true.

Grove is what you might call a microgame—a game that comes packaged in a tiny box, consists of few components, and has a tiny rulebook. Yet, while most microgames admittedly feel shallow and empty, every once in a while you come across one that's greater than the sum of its parts.

Here's everything you need to know about Grove, my personal experiences with it, and whether it's a game worth adding to your own collection.

This review is based on a review copy of Grove provided by Side Room Games. I played the game 15 times before penning this review and my thoughts and opinions are solely my own.


Grove is comprised of 18 Grove cards and 15 Fruit dice, plus a Squirrel token and a Wheelbarrow token that may or may not come into play.

Each Grove card is a 3x2 grid that has some combination of Orange, Lemon, and Lime trees, and there's always at least one of each tree type. Every Grove card also has an empty space called a Glade, which counts as no tree.

The Fruit dice come in 3 sets of 5, with each set corresponding to Orange, Lemon, and Lime Trees. Apart from color, each Fruit die is exactly the same with die faces numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10.

The goal of Grove is to play Grove cards on top of each other and overlap similar trees together. Doing so increases the yield of each overlapped tree, which is tracked using the Fruit dice of each tree's respective color.

These two Grove cards can overlap because the two Orange trees, one Lime tree, and one Lemon tree are oriented in the same way. This is actually a really good play!

A game of Grove is played using only 9 of the 18 Grove cards, randomly chosen. The first card of the Grove deck starts the grove, then you draw two to your hand. From then on, you play one of the two Grove cards in your hand, then draw from the Grove deck to replenish your hand.

Once all cards of the Grove deck have been played, the values on all Fruit dice in the grove are added together to form your final score. (If you don't like beat-your-high-score games, see the "Recipe Challenge" variant towards the end of this review.)

Normally, trees of different types can't be overlapped. However, if you're willing to take a penalty, you can do so once during a game.

When a tree is overlapped by a different tree type, the Fruit die on that tree is lost and replaced by the Squirrel token. Not only does the Squirrel score negative points at the end, but the Squirrel itself can't be overlapped by anything anymore.

The empty space on every card is called a Glade and it's essentially wild: it can be used to overlap any tree, but you don't gain any yield on the tree it overlaps.

On the other hand, any tree can be overlapped by a Glade (empty space) at any time, but that tree's Fruit die won't increase its yield. Furthermore, any Fruit die on a Glade at the end of the game won't score. To ensure it scores, a Fruit die on a Glade needs to be overlapped by another tree before the game ends.

Lastly, when a Fruit die with a value of 10 has its yield increased, it gets replaced by the Wheelbarrow token, which is worth 15 points. There's only one Wheelbarrow token, so this can only happen once per game.

Setup and Table Footprint

One of Grove's biggest selling points is its fast setup and tiny table footprint.

From box to table, you can be playing Grove in under a minute. All you have to do is shuffle the Grove cards, set aside 9 of them, and you're ready! It's hard to think of another card game or dice game that sets up this quickly.

This is the end result for an actual game I played, and that's my Samsung Galaxy S21 for reference. It really doesn't take up much space at all!

And since most of the game involves overlapping just 9 cards, the final grove is usually pretty small. I frequently play on a laptop desk and never feel cramped. You could easily play this on a similarly sized surface (e.g., TV dinner tray or side table).

In fact, I'd say Grove is even compact enough to play on an airplane. The only caveat is that you'd need to be careful with the dice and make sure you don't accidentally knock them off. But space-wise, it shouldn't be an issue at all.

Learning Curve

I don't have much to say about this point: Grove is about as simple as it gets when it comes to puzzle-style solo games with cards and dice.

The rulebook is small enough to fit in a wallet and only has eight pages of instructions, which isn't much at all. If you read the "Overview" section above, you already fully know how to play this game.

Anyone—even non-gamers—can learn how to play Grove within minutes.

Game Experience

Decision Space

Grove's is a deceptively simple. While every game is no more than a series of eight decisions, the factors that go into each decision create interesting tension.

For starters, you're looking at the two Grove cards in your hand and turning them every which way to find all the possible ways to overlap trees. The more trees you can overlap with a single play, the more points you can usually earn.

On the surface, this pattern-finding gameplay feels like something you can brute force—and that's true, you absolutely can. It's trivial to test your two Grove cards against the board to find the "best fit" overlapping options.

But a few additional elements prevent Grove from being a mindless, straightforward exercise that can be brute forced to victory.

Some trees are more valuable than others. All of the Orange, Lemon, and Lime trees have either 1 or 2 yield on them, and this determines how much they increase their respective Fruit dice when overlapped.

The middle Lime and Lemon trees have 2 yield each, so they're worth more if you overlap them.

Suppose you have a Grove card that can be played in two ways:

  • The first way would overlap an Orange die, a Lemon die, and a Lime die with a gain of 1 yield to each die. Net gain of 3 points.
  • The second way would overlap two Lime dice with a net gain of 2 yield to each die. Net gain of 4 points.

So, you aren't just lookin for ways to overlap the most trees, but you're also looking for the right combinations of trees that would yield the most points.

Trees are only valuable if they're overlapped. At the end of the game, only Fruit dice are scored, which means you need to overlap a tree to get any value out of it. A tree that remains uncovered does nothing for you.

So, if you overlap a Lemon die of value 4 with a Lemon tree that has 2 Lemons, that Lemon die increases to 6 for a net gain of 2 points. But if you have an uncovered Lemon tree with 2 Lemons and you overlap it with another Lemon tree with 2 Lemons, the newly resulting Lemon die gives you a net gain of 4 points.

In some cases, you might actually want to play a Grove card that overlaps fewer trees if many of them are uncovered, which could net more points.

The jump from 6 yield to 10 yield is massive. When overlapping trees, you're often only increasing each tree's yield by 1 or 2 per card played. But once a Fruit die reaches 6 yield, the next overlapping tree bumps it up to 10 yield. That's a net gain of 4 points, and that's huge compared to what you normally get.

So, Grove isn't just about overlapping as many cards as you can, but maneuvering yourself to overlap the same spots multiple times in an attempt to boost the individual yields of certain trees to 10.

If you can consistently get your trees to yield 10 (with a basket) or 15 (with a Wheelbarrow), then you're well on your way towards mastering Grove.

The jump from 10 to 15 is even bigger. Once you've got a tree to 10 yield, you really want to get one more overlap so you can promote that Fruit die to a Wheelbarrow token, which yields a whopping 15 points for that single tree.

Figuring out how to cultivate your grove in a way that secures a 15-pointer—even if it means sacrificing a few points elsewhere—is often key to scoring big.

The Glades give you more options, but they're risky. When looking for ways to overlap your Grove cards, the Glades (empty spaces) sometimes let you make flexible placements as long as you're okay with the downsides.

If you overlap an uncovered tree with a Glade, you're essentially wiping that tree from existence, which prevents you from potentially scoring it later. But if the Glade lets you overlap several other trees, the loss might be worth it.

I used this card to bump my Lemon tree's yield up from 5 to 10. The Glade caused me to lose the Lime die, but it was only yielding 2 so it was worth it for a net gain of 3 points.

More importantly, Glades can overlap trees that already have Fruit dice on them. Doing this doesn't erase the die that's overlapped, but the die won't be scorable until you overlap it again with a properly matching tree.

I've made use of Glades many times to score well, but the risk is definitely real. I've lost lots of dice with values of 4, 5, or even 6 because I thought I'd be able to recover them later but the right Grove cards never came out. In that sense, Glades feel like a minor push-your-luck element where you bet on future recovery.

The Squirrel introduces another push-your-luck aspect. When you're overlapping cards, sometimes you end up in a position where 2, 3, or 4 trees might fit together but there's one mismatched tree that's in the way.

Well, that's when the Squirrel comes in handy! You get to benefit from an imperfect Grove card that increases yield across several trees, but you'll lose points at the end of the game. The penalty is equal to 1 point for the Squirrel plus 1 point for every Fruit die adjacent to the Squirrel at the end. (So, between 1 and 5 points.)

When you want to overlap two trees of different types, the result is a Squirrel that's worth negative points at the end of the game. You can only do this once!

Not only that, but the tree with the Squirrel can no longer be overlapped. This is actually a pretty big deal because it locks you out from expanding a large chunk of your grove, so most of the trees near the Squirrel probably won't grow anymore.

The Squirrel is all about timing. If you use it too early, you likely aren't maximizing your yield gains and you're probably locking yourself out from potential growths. But if you use it too late, the Squirrel might consume a large Fruit die, forcing you to lose a bunch of points that you cultivated.

All in all, Grove is a puzzle game that blends pattern-finding with value judgments with touches of push-your-luck, resulting in an experience that's thinky but not one that's stressful or prone to analysis paralysis.

It's a tactical game, not a strategic one. You're at the mercy of the two Grove cards in your hand and the makeup of the Grove deck, and you're doing the best you can with every card draw. You can't really plan your future moves, although you can leave yourself opportunities in case the right card does come along.

Luck Factor

There's a bit of luck in Grove, but I wouldn't call it a lucky game.

At first glance, you might think the dice play a role in its luckiness, but the Fruit dice in Grove aren't used like traditional dice. They're essentially trackers that show how many trees and their fruits have been overlapped.

The luck in Grove is all in the cards:

  • The 9 Grove cards used from the total set of 18 cards
  • The order of the Grove cards as they're drawn
  • The 2 Recipes that are randomly selected (in Recipe Challenge mode)

In other words, you don't know which cards are in play during any particular game and you don't know how the next drawn card is going to fit into your current grove setup (or if it can fit at all).

Sometimes you draw a card that's perfect, allowing for a fruitful overlap of many trees without losing any points. As you get better at Grove, you'll learn how to set up these opportunities.

But I think there's more than enough room in the decision space to accommodate this, allowing you more than enough options to make strong, tactical decisions that consistently lead towards higher scores.

Indeed, the Grove cards and Recipes are delicately balanced and finely tuned. No matter which Grove cards you have in hand or which Recipes you're playing with, it rarely feels like you're backed into a corner—and when you do find yourself in such a situation, you can tell that you did it to yourself.

Fun Factor

I find that Grove is a meditative, relaxing sort of game. If you're looking for an experience that's bombastic and high in energy, this isn't it.

But not every game needs to be like that, of course. Sometimes you just want a quick, quiet, and tranquil session where you can focus on a compelling puzzle and get into the flow, hoping to maximize your few actions as well as you can.


Grove is a game of steady progression. You start with a bare grove and slowly add to it card by card, building up the yields of your trees and watching as your grove becomes fruitful with points. There are few setbacks and no downtime.

Every card played opens up your space for potential actions, and later turns are usually when you're able to make big moves (e.g., multi-tree overlaps, boosting dice to 10-pointers, promoting a die to Wheelbarrow). The tension steadily rises with an upward game arc that's gradual yet compelling.

It takes about 10 minutes to play, give or take a minute, with little to no deviation. When you're done, it's an additional 15 to 30 seconds to count up your Fruit dice and any Recipe bonuses (in Recipe Challenge mode).


Despite the small number of components, Grove is a slightly fiddly game when it comes to manual manipulation of pieces.

The most annoying part—which, to be fair, is just a minor annoyance—is having to lift off the Fruit dice when overlapping cards. It's something you'll get used to after a few games, but even so it's a nuisance that might turn you away if you're looking for a clean microgame that's more about cardplay than dice handling.

What's annoying is that the dice aren't immune to errors. If you accidentally turn a die face to the wrong value or accidentally knock the table and dislodge a bunch of dice, it can mess up the whole session. (But given how short Grove is, it's not the end of the world and you can easily start over.)


As of this writing, Grove is the most replayable game in my collection, and it all comes down to four simple but important reasons:

Simple, satisfying puzzle. Grove brings me back to the golden days of hyper-casual mobile games that focused on streamlined mechanisms, minimal investment, and addictive gameplay. That's what you have here in Grove's turn-to-turn decisions that are so satisfying to run through because they strike the perfect balance between being puzzly, breezy, and engaging.

Variations with Recipe Challenge mode. More on this mode down below, but suffice it to say that the Recipes in Grove are the salt and spice that bring everything together and elevate the enjoyment by shifting the emphasis away from a mundane beat-your-high-score approach to one where you have a unique target every game.

Quick setup, play time, and cleanup. Grove is a game I can play on a whim. Whether I need a short break from work, or I'm waiting for my friend to pick me up, or I want to wind down before bed, it's an easy game to bust out. I can set up, play, and clean up within 15 minutes. It's no wonder how it gets played so often.

To be clear, Grove isn't a deep game with tons of strategic complexity. That's not the reason why I keep coming back to it. If Spirit Island and Viticulture are meatier experiences akin to a steak dinner, then Grove is a bag of gummy bears—and I freakin' love gummy bears!


Recipe Challenge

If you aren't interested in the beat-your-high-score nature of Grove's standard gameplay, don't worry! The built-in Recipe Challenge variant plays just like the regular game, except it gives you a win-loss condition in the form of a target score that you need to beat.

On the back of every Grove card is a unique Recipe, which includes a difficulty score and a special bonus scoring opportunity.

Every Grove card has a different Recipe card on its backside.

In the Recipe Challenge variant, you still play with a randomized Grove deck of 9 cards, but you also draw 2 extra random Grove cards and flip them to their Recipe sides to form your Recipe Challenge for the game. The difficulty scores of both Recipe cards are added together to form your Target Score.

At the end of the game, you score your Fruit dice per usual and also add any bonus points earned through the Recipe cards. If your final score meets or exceeds the combined Target Score, you win! Otherwise, you lose.

The Recipe cards don't change the core gameplay, but they do encourage you to think differently and make certain decisions that you normally wouldn't make.

The Recipe Challenge is my preferred way to play Grove. It adds just enough variation in how you choose to overlap Grove cards while also providing that satisfying climactic moment where you tally up your score and check if you win.

As of writing this review, I have a ~55% win rate with Recipe Challenges and it's fun to keep playing to see if I can improve that win rate.

Multiplayer Mode

While Grove is technically a solo game, it can actually be played in a competitive multiplayer format if you're willing to buy a separate copy of the game for everyone who wants to play. This multiplayer mode is possible because every Grove card is marked with a unique number.

For this mode, one player is the leader and they play as normal. However, the starting Grove card and every drawn Grove card must be announced by its number so that every other player can draw the same exact card.

In this way, everyone is basically playing the exact same game with the exact same cards in the exact same order, which makes it fun to compare scores at the end. (You can also play the Recipe Challenge in this way.)

I think it's a great option for couples to play Grove together as a nice way to relax after dinner, but if you're going to play with 3 or more players, you're probably better off getting a fuller multiplayer solitaire board game experience instead.

Production Quality

Honestly, the production for Grove surprised me! Knowing that it was a tiny little microgame from an indie publisher, I was expecting something cheap. But this one definitely falls into the "inexpensive but not cheaply made" category.

The art is inviting and the color palette is pleasant. The colors used for Oranges, Lemons, and Limes are easy on the eyes, both for the dice and the cards. The artwork on the cards is nothing to write home about but just as easy on the eyes, and the graphic design and font choices feel high-quality and professional.

The Grove cards are plastic, thick, and durable. I had no idea these cards would be plastic, which was a pleasant surprise given how often they're shuffled and handled. Slightly thicker than normal playing cards, the cards in Grove are clearly made to last and they feel good to manipulate.

The custom dice are great but could be better. The dice in Grove are plastic and have a nice size (neither too small nor too big) and fit the game's theme. My only issue is that the pips look like they're imperfectly printed. Upon closer inspection, I realized the pips are actually supposed to be citrus fruits—a nice idea, but could've been executed better. At a glance, the pips are somewhat ugly.

The Squirrel and Wheelbarrow tokens are a nice touch. From what I can tell, the Squirrel and Wheelbarrow tokens are made of a lightweight wood. They're cut to a custom shape and screen-printed on one side. My only complaint is that I wish they were screen-printed on both sides!

The box size is perfectly compact. I love how tiny the box is, making Grove one of the few truly pocket-sized microgames that can literally fit in your pocket. The cards, dice, and rulebook fit snugly with little wasted space, and I love that they went with a sliding deck box design instead of, say, a tuck box. (Yuck!)

The Bottom Line


Recommended Score Guide
  1. Engaging puzzle gameplay that's meditative and relaxing
  2. Highly replayable with both beat-your-high-score and beat-target-score modes
  3. Setup and cleanup take less than a minute, easy to play on a whim
  4. Durable cards, pleasing dice, and inviting artwork
  1. Small quirks in production that make it feel like an indie game

At the end of the day, Grove feels like the hyper-casual mobile game equivalent for board games—and there's a good reason why hyper-casual mobile games are so popular. They're simple, they're fast, they're satisfying.

I'm so glad to have Grove because this is the kind of microgame I've been searching for. It's so easy to pull out and play whenever I have 15 minutes to kill, yet delivers an engaging enough puzzle where I feel like I've accomplished something.

If you've never played a solo game before, Grove is a fantastic first experience because it's affordable and replayable. (Learn more about why solo board gaming is awesome!) It's one of the best microgames I've ever played and I don't foresee this ever leaving my personal collection.

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