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Arboretum Card Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

Arboretum Card Game: Rules and Instructions for How to Play

Objective of Arboretum

The objective of Arboretum is to place trees into your arboretum in order to score more points than the other players.

Setup for Arboretum 

  • Depending on how many players are playing the game, you may have to remove some of the cards from the deck.
    • 4 players – use all of the cards (use 80 cards)
    • 3 players – remove two of the species/colors of cards (use 64 cards)
    • 2 players – remove four of the species/colors of cards (use 48 cards)
  • The player that most recently watered a plant is the starting player for the game.
  • The player to the right of the start player becomes the dealer. They will shuffle all of the cards.
  • The dealer deals seven cards face-down to each player. Players can look at their own cards, but should not show them to the other players.
  • The rest of the deck is placed face down on the table to form the draw pile.

Playing Arboretum 

Starting with the first player and moving clockwise throughout the game, each player will take their turn. On your turn you will take three different actions:

  1. Draw 2 cards
  2. Play 1 card to your arboretum
  3. Discard 1 card

Draw 2 Cards

To begin your turn you will add two cards to your hand. You can take cards from two different sources.

Hand in Arboretum
To begin this turn the current player had these seven cards in their hand. They likely will want to take cards that work well with the cards already in their hand.

You can take the top card from the draw pile.

Draw A Card
The current player has decided to draw the top card from the draw pile.

Otherwise you can take the top card from any players’ face up discard pile. This includes taking the top card from your own discard pile.

Drawing A Card from a Players Discard Pile in Arboretum
The current player likes this Maple five card discarded by another player. They will use one of their two draws to add the card to their own hand.

Since you will draw two cards, you can choose to take two cards from the same source or from different sources. If you choose to draw a card from the draw pile for your first card, you can look at it before you choose your second card.

Play 1 Card to Your Arboretum 

After drawing the two cards, you will choose one of your cards to add to your arboretum. You can play one of the cards that you just drew, or you can play one of the cards that were already in your hand.

You will play the card face up in front of you. The first card can be played anywhere as it will start your arboretum.

Playing A Card in Arboretum
For their first card this player has decided to play their Maple four card.

After you place your first card, you need to play each future card next to one that you already placed. The card must be placed next to at least one of your other cards either horizontally or vertically.

Playing a Card
For their second card this player played the Maple five card to the right of the Maple four card. For their third card this player played the Tulip Poplar six above the Maple five.

Discard 1 Card

After playing your card, you will choose one card from your hand to discard. This card will be placed face up in your discard pile. You may discard one of the cards that you just added to your hand this turn. You should make sure your discard pile is visible to all of the other players at all times. After discarding the card, you should have seven cards left in your hand.

Discarding A Card
To end their turn this player has decided to discard the Cassia four card. They add the card to their own personal discard pile.

End of Game

The game ends when there are no more cards left in the draw pile. The player that drew the last card gets to finish their current turn. The game then ends and proceeds to scoring.

Determining Who Can Score Each Species

To determine who gets to score each species/color, the dealer will take the scorepad. They will read off one species at a time.

Scorepad for Arboretum
To determine who gets to score each species, you will go down the list on this scorepad to see who has the highest total in their hand for each species.

You and all of the other players will reveal all of the cards in your hand that match the current species. Players will add up the values of each of their cards for the species. Whomever has the highest total will get to score one path using that species. None of the other players may score a path of that species. If there is a tie for the highest total, all of the tied players will get to score one path for the species.

Determining Who Gets to Score a Path Arboretum
Two players kept Maple cards in their hand. The top player’s cards total ten, while the bottom player’s total six. As the top player has a higher total, they will get to score a Maple path.


There are a couple of exceptions to determining who can score each species.

If a player has the eight of the species in their hand and another player has the one of the species in their hand, the eight’s value is reduced to zero when determining who gets to score the species.

Determining Who Gets to Score a Path
Three players kept cards in their hand for the Cassia species. The player on the left has the highest total (15) so they would normally get to score the species. The middle player kept the one card in their hand though making the eight card worth zero. Therefore the middle and right player have the highest total at seven, so both of them get to score the species.

You may earn the right to score a species that you can’t score any points from. You can use this to prevent another player from scoring points from the species.

Should none of the players have a card for one of the species in their hand, all of the players will have the right to score one path using the species.

After determining who can score a species, you will move onto the next species on the list.

Scoring A Path

After determining which species you can score, you will determine which path for each species that you want to score. You can only score one path for each species you have the right to score.

Choosing a Path

While placing cards into your arboretum you are trying to create paths that will score you points. Paths consist of cards that are connected orthogonally (horizontally and vertically). You must follow two rules when creating a path.

The first and last card in the path must match the species that you are currently scoring. Any cards between the first and last can be any species.

Additionally as you move from card to card in your chosen path, the values on the cards must grow in value. The card values do not need to be consecutive. Basically you can skip numbers, but each must be higher than the previous number in the path.

Scoring the Path

After determining which path you want to score, you will score points from it as follows:

  • 1 point for each card in the path.
  • 1 additional point for each card in the path if the path is at least four cards long and all of the cards are the same species.
  • 1 additional point if the first card in the path is a 1
  • 2 additional points if the path ends with an 8

When scoring paths you can use the same card for several different paths.

Scoring in Arboretum
This player has completed their Arboretum. Depending on whether they had a high enough total in their hand, here are some possible paths that they could score. For the Oak cards they could start at the Oak two, move right, up, right, up, and up. This path will score them eight points (6 cards + ends in the eight card). For the Maple cards they would start with the Maple three. They would then move up, right, up, and right. The player would score ten points from the path (5 cards + 5 additional points since each card in the path was the same species). Finally for the Jacaranda they would start at the three card. They would move down, right, right. This path would score four points (4 cards).

Winning Arboretum 

Each player will score one path for each of the species that they have the right to score. You will keep track of the points you earn from each species on the scorepad.

The player that scores the most total points wins Arboretum.

If there is a tie, the tied player with the most species types/colors in their arboretum wins.

Should the game still be a tie, each player will plant a tree. The tied player whose tree is taller in five years wins the game. 

Components for Arboretum

Year: 2015 | Publisher: Renegade Game Studios, Z-Man Games | Designer: Dan Cassar | Artist: Philippe Guérin, Chris Quilliams, Beth Sobel

Genres: Card, Set Collection, Tile Placement

Ages: 8+ | Number of Players: 2-4 | Length of Game: 30 minutes

Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Moderate | Luck: Light-Moderate

Components: 80 cards (8 cards of ten different suits), scorepad, instructions

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