Review: Three Sisters
Manage your backyard garden of corn, beans, and pumpkins.
Designed by Ben Pinchback and Matt Riddle and published by 25th Century Games
👤 1-4 players
🧩 Roll-and-Write, Rondel, Action Selection
⚖️ Medium (For Gamers)
Three Sisters is a strategic roll-and-write game about backyard farming. Three Sisters is named after an indigenous agricultural technique still widely used today in which three different crops — in this case, pumpkins, corn, and beans — are planted close together. Corn provides a lattice for beans to climb, the beans bring nitrogen from the air into the soil, and the squash provides a natural mulch ground cover to reduce weeds and keep pests away. (from the publisher)
In Three Sisters you have your own player sheets that represent your own bakyard farm. These sheets have multiple areas:
Your garden of course! This is were you will be planting your crops, there are three different crops in the game: pumpkins, corn and beans. Harvested pumpkins will provide you with goods and bonus perennials. Each harvested Corn and Bean crop will provide VP's, 3 and 1 respectively. Your garden is divided into 6 numbered zones.
In this area you will plant you perennials, which will provide you with various benefits. If you collect 6 of a single type, you will gain even more VP's!
In Three Sisters you can also manage your own Apiary. Once you've filled your main hive, you can start filling up three separate sections (Wax, Honey, Split Hive) that will provide you with goods, VP's, fruit, plant actions and/or water actions.
Besides the crops used in the Three Sisters technique you can also plant your own fruit. There are 4 types of fruits you can plant: apples can provide 3VP each, peaches provide extra water actions, blackberries provide 2 VP each and raspberries primarily provide goods.
The Shed might be one of the most important areas! Here you can gain upgrades to your farming abilities, bonuses and VP's. These upgrades can really help you with your strategy so do not underestimate this area. I recommend looking over these options to see which particular option will help your strategy!
During the game you will be able to gain goods. For each good you gain you cross of a box in the goods area. For each 5 goods you'll gain a bonus action that you can use in the Perennials, Apiary, Fruit or Shed areas. The amount of goods also determines which actions you can take during a Farmer's Market event.
Compost is used to +1/-1 a die when using it for a water or plant action. This way you can change the die value to match the garden section you want to use the water or plant action on.
Three Sisters is played over 8 rounds, with each round players performing 3 phases: Planning Phase, Gardening Phase and the Event Phase.
During the planning Phase the current first player rolls all the dice and places them onto the game board in ascending order grouping dice with the same value. Once the dice are on the game board, they are associated with a certain action space on the rondel. The available action spaces are different each round.
During the Gardening Phase each player will pick a die from the action rondel and performs a Garden Action and the Rondel Action. The Garden Action can be one of two: plant up to two crops in the garden zone matching the die value or water all the crops in the garden zone matching the die value. The Rondel Action can be one of 5 actions based on the location of the chosen die: Shed Time lets you cross of a box in your Shed; Gain 1 Compost and 4 Goods; Apiary or Fruit lets you cross of a box in their respective areas; Farmer's Market lets you take bonus actions based on the number of Goods you have; Plant or Water lets you take an additional Garden Action in the die values Garden zone. After all players have chosen a die, each player also gets to take a Garden Action and Rondel Action using the lowest valued die left on the Action Rondel.
Each round is associated with an Event as noted on the Round Tracker, and during the Event Phase this event is resolved. There are three events in the game: Shed lets you cross of a box in your Shed, Rain waters all zones in your Garden and the Farmer's Market lets all players take actions based on their number of Goods.
After 8 rounds you compare final scores and the player with the most VP's is declared the winner!
I really like the fact that Roll-and-Write games are getting more complex. Three Sisters is a good example of this, a Roll-and-Write with the complexity and depth of a full blown (euro)game. Having played Fleet: The Dice Game from the same designers Three Sisters feels really familiar. The action chaining, bonus actions and abilities that can be unlocked are all concepts that were also there in Fleet: The Dice Game. Three Sisters adds to this experience with a new concept of growing crops that happens in a very innovatie way and therefor I think both deserve a spot in my collection.
👍 Advanced Roll-and-Write with plenty of depth
👍 Rules and Iconography are clear and concise
👍 Innovative action selection mechanism with the Action rondel that I haven't seen before in a Roll-and-Write
👍 Ramp-up in bonuses gives a satisfying feeling. Ending the game in the 8th round by chaining together a bunch of bonuses is an absolute joy.
👍 The available Shed abilities help determine a different strategy each time you play.
➖ Bonuses can sometimes be a bit hard to track, especially during a Rain event were you have to cross off a lot of boxes.
➖ The artwork on the player sheets is bit busy, and icons sometime blend in with the background. I've had various occasions were I missed a Perennial bonus action.
🎨 Artwork & Design: 7/10
🎲 Gameplay & Innovation: 7/10
📖 Rules: 9/10
♻️ Replay value: 8/10
😀 Fun: 8/10
Looking for alternatives or similar games? Have a look at Fleet: The Dice Game from the same designers.