A Gentle Rain Board Game Review

Previously, I already mentioned about a game that can be a relaxing experience in one of my reviews. Sometimes it can be a subjective thing because it depends on how the players take it.

Most of the time, it’s possible that the game is just too simple or easy. There is not much to think about when making a decision in the game. That still might be relaxing for players who are used to more complex ones but not really for non-gamers.

The game itself or the designer didn’t even make that promise that their game can deliver such a thing. It’s just somehow, some players might think that way.

This next game, A Gentle Rain is a bit different. On the title, it says, “A Contemplative Solo or Cooperative Game to Clear your Mind”.  It continues on the back by claiming to be a meditative game.

So, what is this A Gentle Rain game? How do we play the game? How does it deliver the meditative experience?

Those are probably just a few questions that came to mind after hearing about the game. Well, in this article, I’m going to share with you my A Gentle Rain Review based on my experience on playing the game and what I can find from the internet.

Hope this helps. Is A Gentle Rain really a meditative and relaxing game?

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Overview

Game’s Title: A Gentle Rain
Genre: Tile Laying, Solo Only Game
Designer: Kevin Wilson
Artist: Chris Bilheimer
Publisher: Mondo Games
Number of Players: 1
Playtime: 15 minutes
Official Website: A Gentle Rain (mondoshop.com)

Release Year: 2021
Price: US$22

Contents:
1 Rulesheet
28 Lake Tiles
8 Blossom Tokens

About A Gentle Rain Game

The game of A Gentle Rain is basically just a tile laying or tile placement game. As the theme, the game is about a rain on a lake, full of flowers.

We have a stack of 28 face down Lake tiles. Each turn, we draw one and try to connect it with the previously placed tile.

On four edges of each almost square tile, we can see half of flower with different colors. We are trying to connect the next tile by completing those flowers with the same type.

If we manage to create a grid of 2 x 2 connected tiles, a flower will blossom at the center of the connected flowers. We place one of the 8 blossom tokens there that share the same type of flowers as shown by the connected tiles.

We keep doing it until we have placed all 8 Blossoms tokens before the lake tiles run out.

What makes A Gentle Rain game unique is it tries to offer a game as a meditative experience. We can see that from how they write the instruction or the rulebook. There is still a goal and challenge that we need to accomplish but the game itself is very simple. It doesn’t matter whether we win or lose.

A Gentle Rain was meant to be a game for single player. However, there is a suggestion to play it with other players.

A Gentle Rain is designed by Kevin Wilson, who is known for designing thematic dungeon crawler games like Descent or Arkham Horror. Those games are the exact opposite from this one that is mostly abstract puzzle.

The game itself comes in a very small box. Some might consider buying it as a gift.

This next video is the promotional video by Mondo News, as the publisher about A Gentle Rain game.

Components

As I said before, the game comes in a very small package. The overall size of the box is 10.3 x 6.8 x 6.3 cm.

Unlike typical board game boxes, this one has most of the information on the lid. The title is at the top side of the lid facing up while 3 sides of the lid is just background art. One side on the back actually shows the game component where regular board game will print them on the base box.

The bottom part only shows barcode and a little bit of info about the publisher. Honestly, this box design is a bit weird to me. It uses the template of regular board game box design but this one has more depth.

If we put the box on a shelf and show the title, the lid will not be at the top. Maybe that is the way we are supposed to store this game. I can see that if we store the game horizontally with the lid at the top, the size is small enough that we can pick it with our hand.

The problem with that is, instead of picking, we will be just lifting the lid. That’s because the weight of the component will hold the base. It’s not meant to be stored in a deep book shelve but more like on our working table.

The background art shows the dark blue lake with a couple of colorful flowers or lotuses, flower leaves or lilies and some ripples from the rain drop. The letter A from the title is printed on a droplet. Somehow, I cannot easily tell it from a far.

Inside the box, there is a built-in insert with 2 parts. One for the tiles and the other for the tokens. It seems that the box itself is made of cardboard just like the tiles. So, it’s very sturdy but the divider of the insert seems to be just a thicker paper.

The base box itself has 2 finger holes on its side to make it easier for us to lift the tiles. Even though, with just these simple components, we can just turn the box upside down and drop the component to our hand easily.

With that built-in divider, the rule sheet must stay at the top. No option to put it at the bottom.

Rule Sheet

Maybe this is the most interesting part of this product. Compared to regular rulebook from any board games, this rule sheet doesn’t look like one. The size of the sheet is 5.8 x 9.35 cm which is the size of the box footprint. Or about 17.3 x 9.35 when it is opened with 3 folded parts.

If the game is trying to offer a meditative experience, this rule is like a guide for guided meditation.

It starts with “Take a deep breath and relax…” on the first page. That is the first thing we see, when we lift the lid, assuming we fold the sheet correctly.

On the second page, it continues with “…hoping to see a rare and beautiful sight.”

That next part with what is meant to be the introduction to the game.  This explains what we are trying to do as a player in this game and a bit about the theme and setting.

Then, there are 6 sections. Here is what they are.

One. GET COMFORTABLE. This part actually suggests a setup for the mood. Like a change to loosen clothing, turn on some relaxing music and even have a tea. It also suggests doing a bit of physical stretching, do deep breathing in just a small paragraph.

Two. NOW BEGIN. This part is actually how we set up the game. The list of components can be found on the lid of the box. Basically, just collect the blossom tokens, shuffle the tiles and put them face down. Then, we can draw one from the top of the tile stack and reveal as the starting tile.

Three. KEEP GOING. This is the gameplay part. Since the game is basically just continuing how we get the starting tile, we keep doing so. It’s just we need to connect the subsequent tiles with the tiles that we have placed previously by completing the flower with the same color on one of the edges.

This also explains that if we can place a tile, it is mandatory. Otherwise, we have to discard it and draw another one.

Four. KEEP GROWING. This is actually just repeating the previous section. Maybe it’s more about the relaxing purpose by repeating the same thing. Right below this section they put an illustration of how the game will look like when it was set up and played a couple of turns.

Five. KEEP BLOSSOMING. This part explains how we use the Blossom tokens and how we can end the game and win. We have to create a 2 x 2 grid of connected tiles. Then, we have to place one of the blossom tokens in the middle of that grid.

We can only choose the token with the same flower as the one surrounding that center of the grid. If all of the flowers have been placed previously, then no blossom opens after all. Right below this section, they put another illustration showing how the blossoming part works.

Between this section and the next, there is one page that says, “YOU HAVE COME TO THE LAKE…”. I thought this was meant to be after we have finished the game. Maybe we can interpret it differently.

Six. UNTIL IT ENDS. This is like the section for end game trigger and how the scoring works. It’s either we run out of all blossom tokens first or the Lake tiles first.

For the score of the former, we get one point per leftover tiles plus 8, from 1 point per played blossom token. While for the latter, we only count the played blossom tokens which is less than 8 points.

This section ends with a reminder that we don’t need to worry about losing the game, back to the meditative idea. We can just play the game again and consider more about the journey to find the lake not the destination.

The rule sheet continues with a section that says BRING A FRIEND. So, this is a suggestion to turn this game for solo player into cooperative experience with one other player. Basically, both players take turns doing the same way.

The section also ends with another reminder that we are not supposed to care about losing the game. It suggests being grateful to have a company of a friend while enjoying the game.

There is a small CREDITS section for people involved in the development, including producer and playtesters.

What makes it interesting is that it says that the game is created by Kevin Wilson but designed by Chris Bilheimer. Maybe this is just different choice of words for designer and artist.

Well, the game itself is really that simple. On the forum, there is not that many questions asking about the rules. If it wasn’t for the attempt to make the rule as a guided meditation, it could have been shorter than it is. So, the rule itself is doing a good job explaining the game.

Somebody actually pointed out that the rule didn’t use the word “win” or “lose” as I may have said above. More like the blossom of certain flowers just didn’t happen. The game doesn’t want the player to focus on those things which can be intimidating for some people.

That same person also made a good point. That the idea of focusing on winning and score immediately is like looking at the destination, or in this case, the lake.

If we do that, we will start making strategy, the best optimum way to place all of those blossom tokens, making sure that we can do that before the tile runs out. In that case, we are ignoring the journey, just trying to skip to the end.

I’ll admit that this is a nice attempt to offer a different experience using a game. However, I personally, didn’t get that idea by just reading the rule. The fact that I need to read other people’s opinion or article of why they did it that way means probably there is a room for improvement.

Another player said that he even has recommendation of song that he would listen to while playing this game. They could also explain how to do proper deep breathing or so for more details about setting the mood.

So, I can see that somebody can make a more elaborate guide for meditation that includes this game. But it’s like asking too much for a small game that tried to be different.

Sadly, the publisher doesn’t share any digital file for this instruction guide on the forum or on their website. Actually, some said that the publisher probably won’t produce the game again.

My question is, if somebody get only the rule to play the game without that meditation element, does it still have the same impact to the player?

Blossom Tokens

These are the 8 wooden disc or circular tokens, each with a unique lotus flower depicted on it. They come in a plastic zip lock bag with its own compartment on the box.

All of them have the same size, which is about 2.5 cm in diameter and 0.7 cm thickness. These are bigger than typical wooden disc that they usually use in other board games. The generic ones that I have found is about 1.5 cm in diameter and 0.4 cm thickness.

If somehow we lose any of them, and try to create the replacement ourselves, maybe we can use double of those generic disc. I think the smaller one works as we have to place the token in holes between tiles. The bigger one won’t fit and the smaller one, while not perfect, it doesn’t matter with the game.

In this game, they are just markers. The size doesn’t exactly change the game. Actually, we can still play the game without these tokens. We just need to make notes and keep track of which of 8 colors has been placed.

The flowers are printed only on one side. So, during setup, we will do a bit of flipping the tokens. I wish both sides of the disc have the art to make it easier. Maybe that saves the cost a bit. With how we use these tokens in the game, it doesn’t matter if both sides have art.

I don’t know the exact variety of these lotus flowers in real life that becomes the inspiration. Somebody asked this and it seems only the artist knows which. We can only tell them apart by color and the 8 different colors are: white, black, pink, purple, blue, green, orange and yellow.

I have a feeling that they are not really based on specific flower. If we look closely, they have pairs with the same shape but different colors. The white looks similar to black, blue with the purple, pink and yellow, and lastly, orange and green.

If I recall correctly, there was a criticism that the art on these tokens doesn’t match with the art on the tiles. Personally, I don’t mind, as I only look at the color. But it may bother some people considering the meditative idea that this game is trying to deliver.

In meditation, usually, we are encouraged to be mindful with our physical surroundings, trying to notice even small details. Maybe it is intentional to make them look different.

What flowers are they exactly, doesn’t matter to the game. But the different colors does matter, as there is a management to it as part of the challenge.  In this game, we have to create a grid of tiles with 2 x 2 size.

Then, in the middle of that 2 x 2 grid, we have to place one of these tokens with the matching flower color as depicted by the tiles that form the grid. The goal is to place all of these tokens in the tableau.

At the start of the game, we can just choose any of these tokens. However, towards the end of the game, with less options with the tokens, we will try to control more of where to place the tile. We will try to increase the possibilities, hopefully that the remaining tokens can be placed in subsequent turns.

At some points near the end of the game, we may have multiple choices as where to put the next tiles. While early in the game, we just make connection but towards the end, we will start to evaluate.

Lake Tiles

These are the last component of A Gentle Rain game. The game comes with 28 almost square tiles cropped by a quarter of circle shape on each four corners. One side will show the lake with 4 half-flowers on each edge while the other side only has an abstract pattern, that probably resembles another lotus.

I already mentioned that the flower art on the token is different than the art on the tile. The one on the tile looks like they are generated or created by computer while the token itself has more imprecision as being done manually. We can still tell the colors which matters the most in this game.

The full square size is about 6 cm with the cropped corner that is meant to fit the blossoms token and 2 mm thickness. From what I understand, all of the tiles have unique combinations of 4 different flowers or colors. Maybe there are other tiles with the same set of colors but the position between those 4 colors is different and this matters to the gameplay.

In any session of this game, we will be using all 28 tiles. Each turn, we draw one from a face down stack of these tiles and place the tile face up. But we are trying to finish the game before we run out of those tiles.

So, having the same back side is necessary because the random order of the tile will give different experience from game to game. It becomes the replay value. From my copy, one of the tile got a small torn on the printing of the back side.

I guess in a way, it kind of informs me what the next tile is, after repeated plays. But I don’t think it will change the game, make it easier, or lose its value just because I know. At most, instead of making decision for one tile placement at a time, I will do 2 in just that turn. It may not even happen or help me much.

Somehow, on the forum, somebody had the same exact issue. I assume this is a production error that happened to multiple copies. The designer said that we can try contact the publisher to get a replacement, but I don’t think we need.

With 28 tiles that shows 4 half-flower each, there will be 112 half-flowers. Divided equally by 8 different colors of flowers, each color will have the same 14 edges.

That is one small information that players can easily tell and remember that can help them achieve the goal in this game. Is it necessary to know? I don’t think so. At this point, I’ve played this game almost 50 times without knowing that detail.

Only a few times of those plays where I couldn’t complete the goal. Most of the wins only left me like more or less 5 tiles. Maybe by knowing that information can help finish the game faster, consistently? Again, that is now what I’m looking from this game.

Even if it is helpful, there are other things we need and can do in this game, that are in our control to help us achieve that goal. It is by strategically place the tile to increase the chances. That is more important than just counting the flowers.

In this game, we want to place all 8 Blossoms tokens among the Lake Tiles. The way we do it is by creating a grid of 2 x 2 Lake tiles connected to each other. By doing so, the grid will have a hole in the middle where we can place one of the blossom tokens with the matching colors as the flowers next to that hole.

There will always be 4 flowers next to that hole with up to 4 different variants. So, to complete a 2 x 2 grid, we will always try to make an L-shape of 3 tiles first, hoping that we can find the 4th one that can fit in that last space.

The challenge is that it is possible that we chose wrong tiles to create the L-shape and the final space has 2 edges of the same colors. In this case, it is impossible to complete the grid and therefore, placing the token. All tiles will have 4 all different colors on 4 edges. So, having even just 2 is already eliminate the possibilities of completing it.

We want to avoid that, especially early in the game. However, it may not be a bad idea towards the end. It doesn’t matter if it is the last Blossom token to be placed.

Even after a couple of turns, we probably have more than one position to place the next tile. This is another thing that we need to do that can help us achieve the objective. We need to make enough possibilities.

It is not just creating a lot of L-shapes. We also need to find varieties on the connecting colors of those L-shape.

If we have like 2 or 3 L-shapes but all of them have the same combination like all white and black as the connecting parts, then, it is not diversified enough. In that case, if one tile doesn’t work on one L-shape, it won’t work on the other L-shape with the same combination.

It’s not always about having 2 different sets of colors. Even just switching the position of the same color is already a diversification. In this game, we will often find an L-shape with the same connecting colors as the next tile but not in the right position.

Actually, maybe it is a bad strategy to go straight into making an L-shape right from the start or the plus sign as if it has 4 L-shapes. If we cannot place the next tile anywhere on the tableau, then we have to discard it. Each discarded tile means losing a point.

It’s not like we lose the game if the next tile won’t fit in either of those L-shapes, but we are not being efficient enough. For me, it’s not that we always need to complete a grid, maybe just making sure that we have space for enough different colors. A space of a straight line where we can connect just one edge of the next tile instead of 2.

So, it’s not just trying to place the token as soon as possible but rather find some balance. Take time to evaluate and possibly wait by making more opportunity than just close the 2 x 2 grid.

It’s probably not much, but there is still a game there. There are things to consider before taking action that can help us win the game or achieve the goal.

Creating a U-shape is definitely a bad idea. It is possible to fill the gap if we are lucky to find the exact tile with 3 matching edges.

One thing that I notice is, maybe it will be more helpful if we can have the same color adjacent to each other, not pointing to the same tile or corner. As a result, when we complete the grid, we may have less variety for the token with the matching color but most of the time, having 3 options is enough. We don’t always need to make 4.

On the forum, somebody shared a list of color distribution in all 28 tiles. From that data, we can see that, in general each color pairing in clockwise order on the tile appears twice.

I think that was the intention but another user pointed out a possible printing error had been made. As a result, some pairings have 3 while the others have only one. Swapping the 2 error tiles will fix the color distribution.

I know about that color distribution data while writing this article. Most of my plays were before that. I keep asking myself that maybe I should know something while playing the game, especially if I know that I’m about to fail in completing the game.

Honestly, I was surprised that each color pairing only shows up mostly twice. It feels like it happens more than that.

For me, that curiosity is more like an itch that I cannot scratch. The data did.

While I appreciate that somebody shared and helped me with that, I’m not sure if it is necessary to know in order to play the game better. I mean, the data becomes matter if we can keep track about which tile that have come out during the game.

There is no way we can do that towards the end of the game. If we want to keep track, it has to be done right away. When the tableau already has like half of the tiles, looking at the tile to keep track will be confusing, at least for me. We need to do it after each draw.

Even if we do keep track, that only matters at the end. That is because we don’t know the order of the tile. We can take advantage for maybe the last few tiles but up to that point, we don’t even know how the tableau will develop, which direction it will extend.

Combined with which tokens that we will place early or later only a brilliant mind will be able to actually control the outcome and score the highest. I’m certainly not that person and I don’t care.

The only thing I care is just finding all of the tokens even by depleting all of the tiles. Most people also shouldn’t, because that’s not the intention of this game.

Knowing that data certainly helps but the effort is not just worth the benefit. It will only make us like a robot where the only thing that matters is being as efficient as they can.

The problem that I have with this form of almost square tiles is the shuffling. It’s hard, for me, to shuffle these. I can only put them face down and pick them randomly.

I think this shuffling issue matters because this is a short game that people usually will play multiple times in a row. If we don’t shuffle the tiles well and just stacking them from tiles next to each other, the game will be easier in the next session. It’s possible that we will create the same connection with the same tile.

While it’s still not a guarantee that we can do better but for me, it kind of loses the spark. If they are shuffled well, I feel like I have to scan the entire edges for almost every tile. Without proper shuffling, it’s like half of the game is completing a grid every turn.

Another issue is the table space, just like any tile laying games. We don’t know how the tableau will grow. Eventually we will hit the edge of the table. The problem with that is it can affect our decision. Instead of keep pushing to that direction, consciously or unconsciously we will try to place them somewhere else.

Alternatively, we can try to move the tableau to the center of the table before placing the next tile. Actually, if we do it every turn, it’s less of a problem later. Luckily the tiles are rather small so easier to move.

On the other hand, with the slightly bigger tokens than the holes, we cannot just push one side of the tableau and hoping that it will move the entire tableau without ruining it.

From most of my plays, the shape can be long, even between width and length. Usually, the long side will have like 9 or 10 tiles while the short one will have between 5 to 8.

That means a table with 60 x 60 cm as the size is probably enough to play this game. Just be prepared to move things around and probably rotate the tiles a bit.

That is it with all of the components from a game of A Gentle Rain. Now we can learn how to play the game using those components.

How to Play

A Gentle Rain is a game for a single player. However, the rule suggests that we can play this with one more player as a cooperative game.

Somebody even tried to play this even with 4 players. Maybe with multiple copies of this game, that will not be an issue.

The rulebook has a suggestion of how to turn a play session of A Gentle Rain into a meditative exercise. However, in this section, I will only mention the rules for the game itself.

This next video is a tutorial for how to play A Gentle Rain by Boardgame Ninja channel.

Setup

1st. Place all of the BLOSSOM TOKENS on the table face up within the player’s reach.

2nd. Shuffle all of the LAKE TILES and put them face down into a single stack. Then, draw 1 tile from the top of the pile and put it on the table face up. This will be the starting tile.

We should also leave a space for DISCARD PILE. This is if we cannot play the next tile on the table by following the rule.

That’s the setup and we are ready to play A Gentle Rain.

Gameplay

The gameplay is very simple. On each turn, the player draws one Lake tile from the face down stack and connect it with the previous Lake tiles that have already been placed on the table previously.

To connect the tile, the flower on the edge of 2 or more tiles must match. That will complete a flower or even more with just 1 tile placement.

If we can place the tile by following the rule, it is MANDATORY. Otherwise, if we cannot place the tile, we put the tile to the discard pile and begin a new turn by drawing another tile.

Everytime we manage to complete a square of 4 connecting tiles or 2 x 2 grid, with a hole in the middle, a blossom opens between those tiles. What that means is, we look at the four flowers touching that intersection and choose one.

Then, we take the matching Blossom token and put the token in the middle of that square or 2 x 2 grid. If all blossoms with the matching color of the surrounding four flowers have already been placed, then, no blossoms open for that time.

That is all of the gameplay. For multiplayer game, the rule suggests players taking turns placing a tile until the end game is triggered.

End of the Game and Scoring

We keep doing this until all Blossom Tokens have been placed or we have run out of all Lake Tiles from the face down stack. That triggers the end of the game and we can proceed to scoring.

The score is equal to the number of unplayed tiles left in the face down stack plus 8. 8 is because 1 point for every Blossom token that we have placed among the tiles.

So, if the game ends before all of the Blossom tokens have been placed, then the score is just 1 point per opened blossom.

That is it with how to play a game of A Gentle Rain.

My Experience & Thoughts

There was a point in my life when I feel like I was overwhelmed by a lot of things that happened to me. Doing everything feels exhausting, especially for playing board game, even if we already know how to play the game.

Some may say that I should have just rest instead of playing games. I tried but the situation didn’t get better. Since I thought I just want to keep going, I started looking for just simpler and smaller games.

I heard about a game that can be a relaxing game. Usually, that term means just easy game, almost like an activity.  But then, somebody pointed out A Gentle Rain. What they said was that not only it gives a meditative experience, but it is also highly regarded by serious gamers. Based on that, I gave it a try.

While this game does give a bit of relaxing or meditative feel but I may have different definition of what constitutes as relaxing or meditative. For example, the rule suggests about not caring so much about winning or scoring.

Other people might interpret that as don’t think about it too much, just place the next tile anywhere we can. Thinking about it just makes us stress out or something like that which defeat the purpose of being a meditative game.

I kind of disagree with that. Since there is a goal there, I think we still need to try to do well, which means finding a bit of strategy instead of just anywhere. For me, if that defeats the purpose, then maybe the game itself fail to deliver that.

I agree if they say that we shouldn’t focus on the score. Like trying to get the highest score possible. I think the highest possible one should be around 20 points or so. Do not try to focus on that and if we fail we feel bad. That is not the point of this game.

But at the same time, because the game itself has that aspect, then I can see some people will be tempted to do so. Maybe their are used to be challenged and compete like they need to do it even if nobody is forcing them.

I guess, whether someone wants this game to be a meditative is more like their choice. The game can offer only so far, and the player has to consciously choose not to engage in that challenge further.

Personally, I still feel bad if I fail to place all of the tokens. I don’t care the score but the possibility to fail still kind of gives me anxiety a bit. There will be times when I already placed like half of all tiles and I only placed like 1 or 2 tokens.

The anxiety still comes, even if maybe I still can complete all of them. Is that mean I should not care at all about even placing those tokens? If that so, will I still care about the game at all in that case?

Maybe this is just me. Other people may feel differently.

So, for me, if I have another game like this, I will still try to do well. If having at least just a small anxiety means it’s not meditative, then I think the game fails to do so.

What’s good about A Gentle Rain is that there is not much build up tension other than the timer from the remaining tiles. Actually, if we have successfully placed a token, we won’t care about it at all and focus on the remaining.

Other games might not have this experience. Like in a resource management, engine building game, it’s like there is a right order to complete the objective. If we complete this objective first, it will give an ongoing power that will be very beneficial for the rest of the game.

And if we choose a wrong one, it will keep haunting us for the rest of the game. We will blame ourselves for that poor decision we made earlier. There are games like that and A Gentle Rain is the exact opposite.

More like just complete one token and done, move on to the next. Of course, there is a chance that the tile placement might prevent us from placing another one next to it. Maybe we didn’t realize we are placing the same color of flowers in that L-shape. That can also haunt us for the rest of the game.

For me, if I know the better strategy about it and can avoid being in that situation, then it makes me more relax. The choice is more obvious. So, in a way, it kind of needs to know how to do it well.

Another thing is that if we can diversify the edges, that earlier issue might not be a big deal. Which is another strategy that someone might want to know.

The objective is also not something that can be taken back by the game mechanism. Like in other games, we can build an army to fulfill an objective but the opponent can take down our army. Then, we kind of need to protect or make it more powerful or fail the objective.

A Gentle Rain doesn’t have that aspect. They are just like small task, feels like baby steps which is just one at a time. It’s more like tactical and dealing with the situation as we draw the next tile, rather than having a bigger overall strategy.

If there is one thing that needs to be removed is the idea of scoring. Again, while it’s up to the player not to engage in that challenge, it doesn’t mean the game should give players the idea. I already saw people who compare the scores while it can be just success or fail.

Let those players find their own idea if they can come out with a scoring system. By having it in the rulebook, it’s kind of tempting. Other games can have like tie breaker system or just say to share the victory.

The scoring means that there is something that players can try to achieve more than just finishing the game. They will try and may succeed but also fail more and be miserable.

For me, if this game really wants to be meditative, removing that part is a better choice.

The relaxing part that I have experienced is more from the physical, tactile aspect. Everytime I place the tile, I always try to place it neatly. This actually slows me down, maybe not that significantly. But instead of immediately moving to the next tile, I kind of take time to enjoy the result a bit, the sense of growing or progression.

We can see that the Lake is growing. Maybe the imprecise token size hurts a bit but I think that’s okay. The fact that we will notice it should be the idea of being mindful which is essential in meditation. We notice things instead of just assuming that everything is perfect.

It’s just shows that we don’t need everything to be perfect. We can accept some imperfection which is nowadays kind of rare when everything is automated.

As a game, I already mentioned above that there are still things to consider when placing the tile. We have choices and the choices can matter. It’s not just trying to connect but we need to balance it with keeping opportunities open or even try to create one.

Of course, we cannot compare this to Gloomhaven or any big box complex games. It’s not every trying to pretend. The designer was just trying to offer something different from what can be a game.

We don’t always need another complex game and challenge ourselves to finish the game. Sometimes, like my life, there is a point I need something simpler, easier like A Gentle Rain, which is more like a comfort game at this point.

Is it perfect as a meditation tool? Maybe not. But it can, and it is up to the players whether to engage in that challenge or just enjoy the experience that it can provide.

Session Reports and Pictures

Usually, I share a session report of playing a game on BGG. Here are the links of each session for this game.

I also put turn-by-turn pictures of a session and unboxing pictures for every game on my collection that anybody can find on my Instagram. For this game, search for #AGentleRainAtHomeOfMark on IG for all of the sessions.

January 2023 session and more pictures of that session on IG.

December 2022 session and more pictures of that session on IG.
November 2022 session and more pictures of that session on IG.
October 2022 session and more pictures of that session on IG.

Summary

A Gentle Rain is a simple tile laying game for mostly single player but there is a suggestion for 2-player cooperative variant. What makes this game unique is that it tried to offer a relaxing or meditative experience, not just a game.

The game itself is about walking along the lake under a rain to find 8 different lotus flowers. We do that by drawing 1 tile and connect it to the previous tile. If we can create a square with 4 connected tiles, we may place 1 of the 8 Blossom tokens in the middle of that square.

Each tile is an almost square tile with cropped corners so that if there are 4 connected tiles to form a square, there is a circle in the middle where we can put a Blossom token in it. On the edges of each tile, we will find 4 half flowers with 4 different colors.

We can only connect the next tile with the previous ones if we can complete the flower, shown on the edges. When a circle is formed by the 4 connected tiles, we will see up to 4 different flowers. From those, we can choose a token with the matching color with one of those flowers.

So, the main strategy to create that empty circle is to form an L-shape first and hopefully we can find the right fourth tile. Obviously, we want to avoid having the same colors on the 2 hands of the L-shape pointing to that one corner.

None of the 28 tiles will have 2 edges with the same color. We keep doing this until either all of the blossom tokens have been placed or we run out of tiles first.

The challenge is that there is no guarantee that the next tile can match any of the L-shape we have created. In that case, we can only try to expand the overall tiles, possibly with just 1 connecting edge.

If we cannot place the tile by following the rule, we have to discard that tile which is essentially losing a point. While all of the tiles have 4 different flowers on 4 edges, when it becomes part of the tableau, there is a chance that some colors might not be available.

This is also the thing we want to avoid or we have to discard the tile. So, there is much more to consider in this small game with tiny package. We cannot just close the grid and place the token as fast as possible but we also need to keep the balance by having multiple colors available to connect.

There is also some resource management. We have to choose which tokens to put first and how we can place the tile so the remaining tokens can be placed.

Of course, it is not comparable to other board games with big box and a lot more components. But maybe people should consider playing this as a tool for that meditative or relaxing experience.

The relaxing experience starts from the rulebook which was written like a guide in guided meditation. They will suggest taking a deep breath, play a relaxing music or wear a comfortable shirt before start playing the game.

From the game design itself, I think it helps by using a small objective as mechanism. After we have placed any of the Blossom tokens, we will just forget about it and focus on the other remaining tokens.

There is no build up tension because it’s one and done. While other games might give on-going abilities or produce more resources as in engine building game. A Gentle Rain immediately disengages player from overthinking about their previous decision.

With the abstract and repetitive form of square and circles, it kind of prevents the player from trying to memorize things. While we are trying to find the right color or pair of colors, I find that we won’t exactly memorize the right position of the same pair of colors.

What will happen is that the main experience is about scanning. We take a tile and circle around the edges of the tableau until we can find a place to connect the tile. After we find one or more available spot, we then have to evaluate whether it’s a good idea to place that tile there.

Like a lot of tile laying game, we will also try to place the tile neatly so it will create a good-looking tableau. That actually slow things down as we want to fix it instead of rushing just to place the next tile.

Some may argue that the incorrect size of the tokens which can be bigger than the hole created by the 4 tiles. However, in my opinion, that imperfect product makes us aware.

That is the point of mindfulness which is essential in meditation. We notice things that are not right or different than expected. If they are perfect, maybe we won’t care that much. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s by design or just a coincidence.

So, for me personally, the relaxing part is there but it depends on how people will accept it. Different people may have different threshold and some may not find it enough. Some even not care about the relaxing part and only look for games and how they can achieve certain goals or scores.

If player choose to engage in the competition and they become miserable when they fail, it’s on the player themselves. The game can only provide so much as a tool to help us and the rest is up to us whether we want to make it work.

I personally think that maybe they can remove that scoring idea and just say whether we succeed or fail with the objective because it’s leaning towards that competitiveness. They should just let the creative mind of certain players to turn this meditative tool into a game that they can compete one.

Overall, I really enjoy playing A Gentle Rain. I don’t always want to play heavy and complex game. Sometimes I need a relaxing one like this. With simple ruleset and small package, I can see that this can be a perfect gift for even non gamers.

More Similar Games

There are many tabletop games out there whether a board or card game that might share some similarities with A Gentle Rain. Some people may look for those similarities that they enjoy. It can be the mechanism or even just the same theme or setting.

Usually, a board game will have a lot of elements. It is kind of difficult find another game where everything is similar. Which is why, in this section, I try to break them into things that I enjoy from the game and point out games that share the same experience.

These next games are just some games that I have tried, played and written a review for them, up to this point.  Check out the link to each article to find out more and also check this Complete list for more games.

Scanning for Options – Tile Laying Games

For me, there are two parts of experience that I got from playing A Gentle Rain. The first one is the scanning for available options, more specifically where we should place the next tile. We are trying to find where we can connect one of the flowers of the next tile to the existing tiles.

When the connection is just one, maybe it is very easy. But when we try to complete the 2 x2 grid from an L-shape, then we have to consider the second color to connect. The challenge is that we need not just the right pair of color but the right position of those 2 colors.

Maybe because the color is so small and rather blend in with the entire tableau, somehow my mind refuses to remember at all. I have a feeling of a pair of colors that I need but I don’t know for sure which position. Because of that, what I do is then just scanning the entire tableau until I can find where I can place them.

I will start by trying to complete any of the L-shapes first, before considering just making a single connection. In my opinion, this scanning part is possible because of the tile laying aspect. The color connection is printed on the tile and we can just take the tile and just try.

On top of that, we will see a beautiful tableau we have built at the end of the game.

One of the games that I’ve played with that experience is Café. This is a card game with melding and splaying mechanism. Each card has a 2 x 3 grid. On each turn we have to lay one card to the overall tableau by overlapping two spaces of the existing grid.

Since we can always rotate the card and place it in different orientation from the overall tableau, we will have a lot of possible ways to play that one card. Just like A Gentle Rain, early in the game, the option is more obvious, but we will have more later.

Another card game with that mechanism is Circle the Wagons. This one is designed for 2 but there is a solo variant by using the expansion. We will still have that experience as we play in our own tableau. The interaction with the other player is just from drafting.

In this one, the card has a 2 x2 grid and when placing the card, we cannot rotate the card 90 or 270 degrees. It must be either 180 or 0 degrees. However, in this one, we don’t need to overlap anything. We can place the card as long as it is at least adjacent to the previously placed card.

Just like A Gentle Rain, in both of these games, we are still trying to connect the same icons or colors, so they are adjacent to each other. There are various scoring conditions in Circle the Wagons that require us to place the icon in specific position.

For more complex game, there are games where we can stack the tiles and build upwards. By having that idea, we can even get more options as how we can place those tiles.

A smaller one with that idea is Ankh’or. In this one, it uses also almost square tiles. There is no restriction in this one for where we can place the next tile except if we want to go on higher layer.

We are still trying to connect tiles with the same color or icons but the connection is not limited to orthogonally adjacent. A tile above four connected tiles at the bottom counts as being adjacent.

A bigger one with tile stacking ideas is Miyabi.  Compared to games that I have mentioned, this one has more restrictions to place the tile. While placing the next tile doesn’t have to be adjacent to the previous one or connect them at all, the restriction is from the row and column.

Each column can only be occupied by objects printed on the tile once every round. The object itself can only occupy the corresponding row for that specific object.

We can still rotate the tiles to fit in the grid or empty space so each tile may have more than one option for the same spot. The many possible options we can try is from the available tiles at the start of each round.

We will find more interesting options when we start building upwards. For that, we have to lay tiles at the bottom first as foundation before we can stack another one on top.

Another one that uses dice instead of tiles where we can build a construct and lay them in specific spot is Tumble Town. I guess, this is a bit minor in this category.

In this one, we have to build a building using dice with the right color, amount and value. After we have built that, we can lay that building in a specific spot in our city or street to get the most points. We can still rotate or mirror the building but not upside down to match with the requirement.

Usually, we will have a lot of options at the start of the game because the street is empty. But we have to consider any building from subsequent turns.

Keeping Options Open

The second part of experience in A Gentle Rain is about keeping the next option open. After we have found all of the possible spots, we need to choose one.

While the next tile can connect with the existing one, it is possible that it may prevent future placement next to it. Maybe it creates another L-shape but with the same color pointing to that corner, which is impossible to place any tile.

Another consideration why we may not place the tile in that position even though the tiles can connect is the color on the other end. Maybe the other part of the tableau already has that one color while we may need the other.

We don’t know what the color on the next tile so we need to have enough options available most of the time. If we fail to have the option and thus fail to place the tile, we will lose a point, essentially.

In A Gentle Rain, this aspect also happens when choosing the Blossom token after completing a 2 x 2 grid. We may choose a color from up to 4 options but we can see the other possible placement for some of those colors.

For games with this experience, I already mentioned Miyabi. In this game, since we want to place the tile on higher layer, we have to make a wide enough foundation. The tile on the higher layer might be restricted in certain column or rows and with unexpected shape.

If that tile is not going to be the highest, then it will be another foundation for an even higher layer. So, we cannot just lay a tile in the middle a hill because it will get in the way of placing any subsequent tile.

Besides that, I have a couple of Roll and Write games with this experience of trying to keep the options open. The first one is The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game.

This is a game about expanding a territory from a Castle. The Castle is surrounded by hexes with different colors and each color might require specific numbers to be explored.

Each turn, we will roll 2 dice that shows color and 2 dice that show pips or value on the faces. If we want to explore an adjacent hex, we need to choose dice with the same color as the hexes and pick the number that works for that color.

Everytime we expand the territory, it will open to new hexes we can explore later. The challenge is, since we don’t know what color or number the dice will give, it’s better to diversify by expanding in multiple directions until we can use any color, at least.

That is probably not enough as the number might not work but the idea is to open to more possibilities, minimize the randomness. There are also limited ways we can change either the color or the number.

A similar game like that is Kingdomino Duel, which is for 2 players only. To expand a territory in this one, each turn, we will draft 2 dice and we need to create a domino tile using those 2 faces.

Just like in domino game, we can only place the next tile by placing the tile adjacent to existing tile where the same icons are next to each other. If we cannot find that connection, we are basically do nothing while the opponent can keep going.

There are 6 different icons in this game. We are trying to create a group of spaces with the same icon as large as possible. So, we cannot just focus on just one type because we don’t know which type of icon we get to draw next.

This next roll and write game is a bit different, not about expanding a territory as the previous 2, called Riverside. Riverside is about running a tour on a cruise that will run in a river, surrounded by villages.

Each village will have a different type of attractions and we are trying to invite passengers of the cruise to go on an excursion in one of those villages. We can only have 3 excursions for each type of attractions. Any subsequent excursions must generate higher points than previously and we cannot override the previous one.

The score can be higher by having more tickets multiplied by the value of the village. While we can just keep scoring with the same low value village by having just one ticket more for every excursion, it will close the possibility to score higher later.

The challenge is, if we wait, and when the opportunity to score higher comes, we might have other options to score from excursion of different type. We still have to work on getting more tickets while waiting for the opportunity.

So, we want to keep the options open until we know for sure that the cruise won’t get pass another village with that attraction or if we cannot score higher due to not enough ticket.

Small Goals – Sense of Progression

Maybe there are many ways that A Gentle Rain can give a relaxing experience. For me, one of them is because of the small, short-term goals by placing each Blossom tokens. Of course, the bigger goal is to place all of them but this is not interconnecting goals where completing the first one can affect significantly on the subsequent goal.

This will not give any bonus or one time ability by completing each goal so that we need to plan which to complete first. I feel like when completing a goal in A Gentle Rain, it’s done and we can focus on the next task. Sometimes we can  work on multiple objectives. We can switch from one goal without finishing to another one and go back to finish the previous one depending on the randomness.

This kind of game will still give a sense of progression. Multiple goals might become its own achievement. On one play we probably can only complete one or two, but in the next game, we can get more.

These next games that I will mention can offer similar experience, even though they might not be as relaxing as A Gentle Rain due to more complex aspects.

I already mentioned The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game. While trying to expand the territory and diversify the color, we also need to complete a group of hexes with the same color. The number of hexes can be different for each group but we can complete them as early as we can to get the most bonus or later with less bonus.

The Card Game version of this game can also give that experience. In the card game, we have to collect a set of three with the same color. There are several types or colors of buildings and we can work on multiple sets at once. While we might not complete all of them at the same time, we still can try to finish them later.

Another game with similar idea is Aerion. This is about building 6 ships and each ship requires 3 resources: a blueprint, a material and a crew. There is no order of which ships we want to complete first. However, there is a limit of only 2 workspaces.

Each of them can only be used to complete one set of ship before moving on to the other. The thing is that each ship shares either the same material or the crew with other ships. So, there is a chance to switch from working on one to another, even if it is not as flexible.

A solo only game with this feature is Finished!. This is a game where we have to sort the card with numbers from 1 to 48 in ascending order by going through the deck in limited times.

We won’t shuffle the deck but using each card power, we can manipulate the order. Everytime we find the next lowest number we take the card off the circulation and we can work on the next.

For 2-player only games, Jaipur and Mandala, in my opinion have this experience. In these 2, both players will have like multiple small “battles”. Once in a while, scoring will happen by trading cards in Jaipur or completing 6 different colors in Mandala. We get the points and move on to start another battle until the end game is triggered.

A tile laying game with this midgame scoring is Streets. Everytime a street is closed; the scoring happens and whoever invested in that street will get points. Then, we continue or start on a different street.

For more complex 2-player only games, Seastead and Targi can give similar experience. Both of them are about completing 12 buildings but the former is at the sea while the latter is at the desert.

For a totally different theme, we can find similar experience from Quests of Valeria. This is about recruiting adventurers to complete a number of quests. Each quest requires different set of resources, presented by the adventurers.

We might not work on multiple specific quests at once but most of them share the same types of resources just by the different amount for each. The quest itself might not stay available for long, so we need to be prepared to switch.

Another city building game with this experience is Walking in Burano. This is a game about building 5 colorful houses each with 3 floors. Each turn, we have to draft up to 3 cards for 3 different floors.

The houses can only have the same color for all floors and the same color houses cannot be adjacent to each other or we will suffer some penalties.

While we can work on 5 houses at once but we can only build each from the ground floor going up. So, for the color which we get the top floor first, we need to use the scaffolding for temporary placement.

Final Words

That is all I can share with you about A Gentle Rain, a tile laying meditative game. While I like playing games but there will be times when I cannot dedicate time and energy to learn and play complex games. Sometimes I need games that can make me relax while I still have a choice and make decision like this one.

I may have missed something that I should have discussed regarding the game. Please don’t hesitate to point that out and share what you know related to this game and I will update this article.

I keep saying that these tabletop games can be a good way to spend some time without looking at the screen of our gadget. If we do have someone close, that we can play with, there are other games where we can play cooperatively or competitively but with a lot of player interaction.

The game can be very fast or like a filler type or it can take hours to play. Some games can also be played in solitaire mode and they are still more engaging than other entertainment activity. Some may say, it’s like a workout for the gray matter of our brain.

So, what is your experience on playing this game? If you know other games similar or even better than this, please do share via the comment section below. I would love to learn and play that game, assuming I can get a copy.

This article is just my notes about what I can find from the internet. Hopefully this can help anybody who reads it.

Thanks for reading.

 

Mark M.

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