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Arboretum Card Game: Rules and How to Play?

Have you ever dreamt about designing your own botanical garden? The Arboretum card game allows you to try it out risk-free in the comfort of your home. Moreover, you can also challenge your friends and see who does better. Let’s learn how to play this game.

With Arboretum, the original card game by Renegade Game Studios, you’ll find yourself immersed in a delightful strategic card game that revolves around planting and combining trees.

Similar to games like Life on Farm or the Ecologies card game, Arboretum offers a unique experience combining planning, tactics, and aesthetical flair.

Just don’t forget that it’s also a highly competitive game; your goal is to collect as many points as possible.

What You’ll Need to Play Arboretum Card Game?

Arboretum is a unique game that needs to be played with the original dedicated game set. This set includes:

  • 80 unique cards with beautiful graphics
  • 1 scorepad
  • 1 rule sheet

Besides that, you will also need at least one friend willing to join you. The Arboretum card game is suitable for 2 to 10 players, and the minimum recommended age is 8 due to the game’s relative complexity.


Before you start playing, take a look at the unique playing cards in this set. The deck contains 80 cards in ten different colors.

Each color represents a different species of tree (the oak, the cherry blossom, the dogwood, etc.), with cards numbered from 1 to 8.

One of the players takes on the role of the dealer, shuffling the cards and handing out 7 pieces to each player. This is the number everyone starts with.

Each player also gets a colorful card stand where they can conveniently store their cards without revealing them to their opponents.

The dealer places the rest of the cards on the table as a down-facing draw deck.

How to Play Arboretum Card Game? Rules and Gameplay

How to Play Arboretum Card Game Rules and Gameplay

The players in this game aim to create a mesmerizing path lined by meticulously chosen colorful trees of various species.

The players take turns in a clockwise direction. When a player is on a turn, they:

  • Draw two cards either from the central draw deck or from any of the individual discard piles belonging to them or their opponents. (see end of the round)
  • Next, the player picks one of their tree cards and places it face-up in front of them in the arboretum. The cards have to be horizontally or vertically adjacent.
  • Finally, the player discards one of their cards face-up into their personal discard pile somewhere on the side.

That basically comprises the entire game. Players continue taking turns and adding more and more beautiful trees to the arboretum until the deck simply runs out.

Then comes the most important part of the game – scoring.


So far, the game looks pretty simple, right? Well, here’s when the Arboretum gets complicated.

Each tree species can only be scored by one player. This is determined based on the cards still left in the players’ hands (or card stand) when the game ends.

The player with the highest number of cards matching the tree species still in their hand is allowed to score this species. In case of a tie, both players score.

Here are the scoring rules:

  • The player scores for a path of trees in their arboretum that begins and ends with the species they are scoring for.
  • In this context, a path is an orthogonally adjacent chain of tree cards determined by the player (you can search and choose the most valuable).
  • A path must also ascent in value from start to finish (i.e., 1 – 8).
  • The trees in the middle can be of any species, but the first and last cards of the path must always match.
  • Every counting card in the path is worth 1 point.
  • If the card contains at least 4 cards and only contains the same species, every card is worth 2 points.
  • You get 1 extra point for starting with a value of 1 card and 2 extra points for ending with a value of 8 card.
  • One of the most intricate rules says that if you place an 8-value card in the arboretum while someone else has a 1-value card of the same species in their hand, the 8-value card is eliminated from the scoring (= worthless).

Players continue scoring paths one by one, species by species until they all know their scores. The person with the highest score wins the game.

How to Win Arboretum?

When I first met with the Arboretum card game at my friend’s house, I thought it was a super-easy game that worked more like a relaxing meditation than a competitive challenge. I must admit, I was even worried it would be pretty dull.

However, I was completely wrong! Arboretum is easy only when you have no idea what you’re doing.

Once you realize how much tactics, planning, and logical thinking it takes to actually score in the game, you’ll find Arboretum much more complex.

So, how is it even possible to win this game? You can try various strategies, but none of them are a guaranteed path to victory.

  • Choose the tree species you want to score for right at the beginning of the game and don’t lose focus.
  • While you want to build a path of the selected trees as valuable as possible, you must also keep enough cards of the species in your hand to score for it.
  • Since the most valuable cards (8) are vulnerable due to the elimination rule, players usually focus on the middle-value cards more when planning their paths.
  • Whenever you discard a card, remember that your opponents may take it. Try understanding their gameplay patterns and desires. Avoid helping them beat you.
  • Considering the above-mentioned, sometimes it can be advantageous to bluff and pretend you’re building a line you don’t care about to confuse your opponents. However, this works best with a lower number of players.

As you get more familiar with the game, you will certainly come up with your own strategies – and maybe even some exciting house rules. Once you’re ready to try on some other nice strategic games, I suggest you learn how to play the Deer in the Headlights game or the Bang card game.

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