Mastering Arboretum: The Art of the Tree Path – Rules, Strategy & Play Tips


Arboretum is a strategic card game that’s all about building beautiful paths of trees in a garden. It’s a mix of planning and a bit of luck. The game was created by Dan Cassar and first hit the shelves in 2015. It quickly became a favorite for its elegant design and deep strategy and when I check BGG rankings right now it’s definitely up there among the best.

The idea is simple: you collect and place cards to create paths of trees in your garden. But don’t be fooled, it’s not as easy as it sounds. You need to outthink your opponents and keep an eye on which trees are worth more. It’s like a peaceful walk in the park, but with a competitive twist.

Quick Tip for Arboretum

Always keep an eye on your opponents’ gardens and hands. It’s not just about building your own path, but also about stopping others from scoring.

Rules for playing Arboretum

Alright, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: the rules. Arboretum is played with a deck of cards that represent ten different species of trees. Each species has cards numbered from 1 to 8. Here’s how you play:

  1. Each player starts with a hand of seven cards.
  2. On your turn, you draw two cards. You can take them from the deck or from any discard pile.
  3. Next, you play one card into your arboretum. This is how you build your paths.
  4. Then, you discard one card face up in front of you. This is important because these cards can be picked up by other players.
  5. The game ends when the deck runs out. Now, it’s time to score. You only score for paths that start and end with the same species of tree.
  6. But here’s the catch: you can only score for a species if you have the highest total value of that species in your hand at the end of the game.

Scoring can be a bit tricky, but you’ll get the hang of it. You get points for the trees in your path, with extra points for longer paths and for paths that include the 1 or 8 of the species. The player with the most points wins!

Equipment and Setup for Arboretum

For Arboretum, you need the game’s specific deck of cards. Each card shows a lovely illustration of a tree species. If you don’t have the game, you could try making your own with index cards, but it’s not the same. To set up:

  1. Shuffle the deck and deal seven cards to each player.
  2. Place the deck in the center of the table.
  3. Create a discard pile for each player next to the deck.
  4. Decide who goes first. Some like to pick the person who last watered a plant!

Now you’re ready to start building your arboretum!

How to Play Arboretum and Game Mechanics

The game is all about creating paths of trees. Here’s a breakdown of the game phases:

  1. Draw Cards: Take two cards from either the deck or any discard pile.
  2. Play a Card: Add a card to your arboretum, making sure at least one edge touches another card.
  3. Discard a Card: Choose a card to discard. This ends your turn.
  4. End of the Game: The game ends when the deck is empty. Then, it’s time to score!

How to Win at Arboretum

Winning at Arboretum is about strategy. You need to balance between building your own paths and keeping cards that stop others from scoring. Here are some tips:

  1. Don’t just focus on one species. Spread out to keep your options open.
  2. Remember, the cards in your hand are crucial for scoring. Keep high numbers of the trees you’re growing.
  3. Watch what others are discarding. It can give you a clue about what they’re holding.
  4. Blocking can be as important as building. Sometimes it’s worth it to keep a card just so others can’t have it.

It’s a delicate balance, but with practice, you’ll get better at making the right choices.

Best Strategies for playing Arboretum game

Overall, one of the best strategies in Arboretum is to strike a balance between building a high-scoring path and denying your opponents the opportunity to do the same. It’s essential to keep an eye on which tree species your opponents are collecting and consider holding onto cards they might need, even if it means sacrificing your own path temporarily.

Scoring in Arboretum is unique as you can only score a path of a particular species if you have the highest total value of that species in your hand at the end of the game, so hand management becomes critical. Planning ahead is also key; you need to think about the layout of your arboretum, ensuring that paths can be extended in future turns.

Be adaptable to the ever-changing game state, as the draw and discard piles can significantly alter your strategic choices. By combining careful observation, tactical card retention, strategic layout planning, and adaptability, you’ll enhance your chances of cultivating the winning arboretum.

Now, for the juicy stuff: the best strategies summed up. Here’s what I recommend you should aim for:

  1. Start with diverse species to keep your opponents guessing.
  2. Plan your paths. Think ahead to make sure you can keep adding to them.
  3. Keep an eye on the discard piles. They’re a goldmine for building your paths.
  4. Remember, sometimes the best move is to discard a card that doesn’t help you but could help someone else a lot.

And don’t forget about sneaky tactics. Sometimes you can pretend to go for one species while really collecting another. It’s all fair in love and Arboretum!


Here are some common scenarios:

  1. Good Scenario: You have a long path of one species and the highest cards of that species in hand. You’re in a strong position to score big.
  2. Bad Scenario: You’ve focused too much on one species and now your opponents are blocking you. Try to diversify and keep them guessing.

To turn things around, always have a backup plan and don’t be afraid to change your strategy mid-game.

Frequently Asked Questions about playing Arboretum game

Here are some common questions:

Q: Can I move cards once they’re in my arboretum?
A: No, once a card is played, it stays put.

Q: What happens if two players tie for the highest value of a species in hand?
A: Neither player scores for that species.

Q: Can I score multiple paths of the same species?
A: Yes, as long as they start and end with that species and you have the highest value in hand.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  1. Pay attention to the game flow. The pace can change, and you need to adapt.
  2. Communication is key. Talk to other players to understand their strategies.
  3. Practice makes perfect. The more you play, the better you’ll understand the subtleties of the game.

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