Review: Mystery Garden Board Game for Toddlers

Four game tiles picturing a smiling pig, knight tents, a yellow gate and a windmill.

Four of 48 tiles depicting items from the Mystery Garden.

Mystery Garden by Ravensburger is an intriguing little question-and-answer hunt-and-deduction board game.

Components:

  • An 11-inch-square game board is elaborately illustrated with a medieval garden scene stuffed with objects, people and animals — geese, a knight, pumpkins, a princess, deer, and so on. A few fable icons are included too, such as Humpty Dumpty, a gingerbread house and a crowned frog sitting in a pond.
  • 48 square cardboard picture tiles depict close-up views of specific objects, people or animals found on the game board.
  • One wooden pawn.

Photo of the Mystery Garden game board depicting a medieval garden filled with activity.

The 11-inch-square game board packs a lot of detail in a small space. The board is composed of three folded pieces that fit together like a puzzle.

As with all Ravensburger products, the quality of the components is top notch.

Gameplay:

Mystery Garden is for 2 to 6 players with an estimated game time of 15 minutes, so in other words, count on 30 minutes.

One player acts as a Secret Keeper (my term for the job), picking up a picture tile and looking at it without anyone else seeing its contents.

The other players then, one at a time, ask a question about the secret object depicted on the tile, with the intent of identifying the object. Every question must be phrased so it can be answered with a YES or NO response.

For example:

  1. Is it an animal? NO!
  2. Is it a plant? YES!
  3. Is it a flower? YES!
  4. Is it this flower (pointing to one on the board)? YES! You win!

In some cases, there are multiple versions of an object on the board, stretching out the questioning process further.

With every question asked, the Secret Keeper moves the pawn along a 15-rock path on the board.

If the secret object is identified, that player wins the tile. If the Secret Keeper’s pawn reaches the fifteenth spot on the rock path—at the doors of a castle—he or she keeps the tile.

The process then starts over with a new Secret Keeper. The game ends when a player has won three secret tiles.

Age Appropriateness:

The game is rated for 4-year-olds, and unfortunately that is a fair assessment. My 3-year-old daughter doesn’t grasp the questioning process yet.

Our game goes something like this:

  • Dad: “Is it an animal?”
  • Daughter: “Yes, it’s a horse!”
  • Dad: (smacks his forehead)

AJ’s Variation #1 for a Too-Young Player

Guide your child in looking for a tile’s object on the game board, as a sort of Where’s Waldo? activity.

Unofficial Variation #2:

You act as a permanent Secret Keeper, revealing hints about a secret object one at a time, guiding your child in finding it on the game board. The pawn is not used.

For example:

  1. I am holding a plant and it smells really good. Find it in the picture.
  2. My plant is pink. Do you know where it is?
  3. This good smelling plant sits in a yellow pot. Can you find it?
  4. The plant is in this section of the board (pointing to one corner of the board).
  5. Yes, it is a flower! You guessed it!

Why I Like the Game:

I first saw Mystery Garden on Ravensburger’s web site with the tagline, “Guess the object seen in the garden.” So when I saw a photo of the game components I thought, “Kids probably look at a tile and then try to find it on the game board. The game will be useless once kids memorize the board.”

Of course, the real rules are much more involved. At most, kids will become adept at asking questions, quickly pegging the secret item as a human, plant, animal or object.

I bought the game at a garage sale, still in its shrinkwrap, for 50 cents. I don’t know what the previous owner was thinking, but this is precisely the type of toy that drives me nuts sitting unused on a shelf as I wait for my daughter to mature because I want to play it now.

Comments

One Response to “Review: Mystery Garden Board Game for Toddlers”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I want this.
    I mean, I think my daughter will like this. ;-)

    August 6th, 2007 at 7:17 pm