THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
With winter approaching, we’ve been keeping our eyes open for something to fill the long, dark evenings ahead – apart from poring over seed catalogues, that is!
We were excited when we came across Plotalot, a game which challenges players to grow veg and get the best harvest from their plot. A game about GYO? We’re in! We caught up with Plotalot’s designer Gemma Newton for a virtual cuppa to discuss all things gardening, gaming and getting inspired by grow-your-own.
A growing passion
Gemma explained that she got into board gaming in her early mid-twenties. Being quite shy growing up, she found that having a game to focus on in social situations made meeting people easier. The gaming bug bit deep, and eventually she felt inspired to create something reflecting her own interests that she could play with friends and with family.
“I got into growing edibles a few years ago when we moved to a new home,” says Gemma. “In the garden there was a derelict veg patch, and I started dreaming of tucking into all the fresh, nutritious and bountiful produce I would be growing. I always wanted to grow cabbages, so that was one of the first crops I planted.
“One day I noticed some beautiful white caterpillars fluttering around in the garden. ‘How lovely,’ I thought, pleased that wildlife was visiting my patch. Not two weeks later, every cabbage plant was reduced to a skeleton. That was a hard lesson, quickly learned – I decided I needed a polytunnel to protect my edibles.”
Gemma’s growing has gone from strength to strength since those early days. You’ll now find cucumbers, tomatoes, sweetcorn, beetroot, cabbage, carrots, peas, borlotti beans and more gracing her plot – although artichoke success eludes her. And growing has become slightly more of a challenge since she and her husband welcomed their new puppy into their garden.
Plotalot actually started as a game based on teaching children about food and nutrition, which was originally Gemma’s background. “It was my mum who steered my thinking more towards a game based on growing veg. I grew up on our family’s farm, and with my new passion for growing veg, it seemed so perfect and everything just slotted into place.”
Joy and despair
In the game, players have limited growing space and have to decide whether they want a large yield of space-efficient crops like carrots; fewer, bigger crops like pumpkins; or a mix of both. Or will they go for the most precious, tricky-to-grow crop of all, the fabulous artichoke?
To add the element of chance, there are blue cards, which are positive – like the polytunnel card. Red cards are hazards, which you can unleash against an opponent’s plot, like the aphid attack. The game can turn in an instant, which makes for entertaining play.
In fact, gameplay differs massively depending on the company you keep – your fellow players can take over your plot or wipe out your crops. “I tried to make the game capture some of the joy and despair of growing edibles,” says Gemma. And haven’t we all experienced that ‘sudden-death’ feeling in the veg patch, when suddenly you realise that every tomato plant has blight, or every cabbage has caterpillars?
My happy place
At just 20-40 minutes for a game, the little ones will stay interested, helped by the gorgeous artwork of the cards. “I wanted the game to appeal to all ages, and I often hear that three generations are playing together, all appreciating it at their own level. To help add across-the-board appeal, I worked with Miriam Hull, an excellent children’s illustrator who has given the game its distinctive look,” says Gemma.
“I was keen to include the creatures which help and hinder our efforts as veg growers. There are cards to represent moles, aphids, hedgehogs, bees and ladybirds, to name just a few. The local wildlife is a big part of any plot – it’s their home, too. I also wanted to showcase the beautiful veg that you can grow at home, to inspire people to get growing. Even in a small space like a balcony or patio, you can enjoy wonderful home-grown produce.
“I think the artwork definitely captures something of how I feel about my little patch. It’s my happy place! In fact, I find that gardening and gaming have a similar benefit when it comes to mental health. With both, you’re completely absorbed in a different world and focused on the task at hand – a break from your day-to-day worries. You can just be yourself.”
From veg-plot inspiration via a Kickstarter fundraiser which raised more than four times its target, Plotalot has been shipped to over 27 countries and is available to buy from several retailers across the UK. Gemma’s been careful with the game’s design and sourcing. Manufactured in the UK, the game materials are FSC accredited and packaging is free from single-use plastics. Gemma also carbon offsets her business activities with tree planting via Ecologi.
We think Plotalot sounds like a fun way to capture that veg patch passion, until it’s time to get planting once again. We have a copy of the game up for grabs, together with a bundle of planting tools to help get your growing of to a flying start in 2022.
Thanks to Gemma Newton for talking to us about Plotalot and providing a prize. Images © Gemma Newton
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED
Win a copy of Plotalot to play with friends and family, plus our planting ruler, paper pot maker, cell tray trowels, and a beautiful seed packet storage tin, with space for even the biggest pea and bean packets. Together it's a bundle worth £84!
How to enter
To win, all you need to do is leave a comment on this blog. Scroll to the bottom of this page to comment (your email address won't be published). You could tell us which edibles you like to want to grow in 2022, for example. You’ll also need to be a subscriber to our monthly email newsletter to be a winner, so if you're not already signed up, fill in your email address in the grey band right at the bottom of this page. It’s easy to unsubscribe at any time if you don’t enjoy our monthly updates.
The small print
Plotalot prize draw, 2021