This strategy board game is a
favourite among the Milken
Brownies of Milkengrad in Southern
Sarvonia. Young and old alike enjoy the
mental stimulation and compete to win special little point tokens from each
other. Having lots of “points” is a considered a sign of intelligence, as the
game requires a good deal of skill and tactical planning to win.
History. The Four Flower Game is thought to originate from when the Milken Brownies were tending to the Artapherana Trees, the trees that were planted on a hill in the centre of what would become Milkengrad. The tale goes that they invented it to pass the time in the evenings and to teach the younger Brownies about the different types of flowers and what seasons they bloom in. In truth, no-one really knows who invented it or when, it has been part of their culture for so long.
As the Milken ceased to be simply gardeners, and spread out into homes all over the city, they took the game with them as a fond reminder of their past. They are very aware that their tribe’s culture is a mesh of several different influences, and this game represents something uniquely Milken. Despite this feeling, the game has spread to the other inhabitants of Milkengrad, and then via traders and other visitors all over Mid-Santharia. However, it is only really common among the Milken Brownies in Milkengrad.
Equipment. As for equipment to play the Four Flowers Game, here's what you need:
Two sets of playing pieces, one for each player. Most Milken Brownies will own their own set of pieces, often beautifully carved and much treasured.
A four-sided die, each side representing one season. These are normally carved like the tokens, and are almost as precious to the players.
Space to mark out the board, and something to mark it out with. Some Brownies have pre-made boards, carved from wood or painted onto material, but it’s more common to simply mark the board out on whatever is handy, as the tokens can be carried around in a small pouch.
Point tokens. These are smaller than the main playing pieces and can be of any material with any design at all, although they are always beautifully decorated with intricate carvings and repeating patterns. Due to their tiny size this makes them extremely hard to produce, and very expensive. When the game is finished, the winner takes one point from the loser. They are mainly used among serious Milken players who play many games against a variety of opponents, and having lots of them is the mark of a skilled player. As the game requires a lot of logic and tactical movement, the points have also become a sign of intelligence. Point tokens are also traditionally given as a reward to students who have performed well in their studies, although each set of playing pieces usually comes with a couple to start the Brownie off.
|Picture description. Diagram of the Four Flowers Game, sketch by Rookie, illustration by Talia.|
Each player places their four flower tokens in the garden area nearest them
(the orangey areas on the board depicted), and their four weed tokens on any of
the squares on the first row (green on our example). The order is completely up
to the player.
To determine who will go first, both players roll the dice. Earliest season wins and goes first. The player can begin with any token.
Rules. The aim of the game is to get all your flower pieces from the garden area nearest you to the one at the other side of the board. Players take turns to move their tokens. The pieces have to move in specific ways (see below), and each has a maximum number of squares they can move. They can move fewer squares than this if the player so desires, but only one piece can be moved per move. Unless mentioned otherwise in the token’s movement instructions, pieces can move in any direction and can even change direction during their move, as long as they don’t go back on themselves or jump over other pieces.
There are four flower pieces, each one of which represents a certain season:
The Cerubell Flower is the spring flower. It can move one square per move in any direction; diagonally, horizontally or vertically.
The Sunflower is famous for brightening a summer garden. This piece can move up to three squares per turn, but only diagonally.
The Evening Princess’s scent fills the autumn nights. It can move up to two squares in any direction but it must change direction during the turn, it cannot just move in a straight line.
The Dragonbells Bush may not flower in winter, but its beautiful heart-shaped leaves are the star of the garden in the colder months. This token can move two squares in any direction, or three if it jumps another token during its movement.
The players also get four weed tokens each, all of which are
the same and can move in the same way.
Weeds can move up to four squares per turn, although only vertically or horizontally, not diagonally.
If your token ends its move on the same square as one of your opponent’s tokens, you can attempt to kill off their plant. Killing off a flower token will send it back to its starting square, whilst killing a weed will remove it from the board entirely. The defending player (the one whose token has just been landed on) throws the season dice. If the season is the one in which their flower is in bloom, they kill off the attacker’s plant, and it is either returned to its starting place or removed from the board accordingly. If not, then the attacking plant wins, and the defender’s token is killed. Weeds have no favourite season, so if the defending plant is a weed then there is no need to throw the dice, as the attacker automatically wins. The same is true if both tokens are the same type of plant.
Variations. The game described here is the traditional version, which probably accounts for it being the most popular one too. It can be simplified if necessary by removing the season die, and making all the flowers simply “flower” tokens. However, serious Milken players often introduce extra rules, playing with extra pieces which can be substituted for “weed” tokens. Like the weed tokens, these do not need to get to any particular place on the board in order to win the game, and, if killed, they will be removed from the board permanently.
The Corbie can move any number of squares in any direction in a straight line, but can only be used once every three turns. It attacks flowers in the same way as other pieces, but it cannot attack weeds, nor flowers if a weed token is within three squares of them. Flower tokens cannot kill it, but weed tokens can. Using the corbie forces the player to think about moving their pieces in formation, rather than concentrating on individual tokens.
The Worm loosens the soil around your flower’s roots, making it easier for them to grow a great root system quickly. If the worm is in an adjacent square to a flower token, that flower is safe from plant attack, although not from crows. The worm itself can only be killed by corbies, and can only move one square per turn in any direction.
You can also play with safe squares. You mark a certain number of squares on which the pieces are safe from attack. These are more commonly known as “fertilised” squares.
Myth/Lore. As mentioned before, the point tokens that are taken as prizes from the loser of this game have become so synonymous with intelligence that they are also given as prizes for scholarly achievement. This has lead to the phrase “to get Brownie Points”, common among all Milkengradians; meaning “to get credit for doing good work”.