How To Play: Arboretum – Setup, rule summary and strategy

This guide dives into Arboretum, covering essential strategies from hand management and path planning to keen opponent observation. You'll learn game setup, the importance of rare species, and tactics for blocking others. The conclusion ties it all together, highlighting the joy of strategic gameplay for victory.

Hey friends, ready to get your brain tangled in the beautiful, yet challenging world of Arboretum? Today, I’ve got the ultimate guide that’ll not only walk you through the game rules but also arm you with the best strategies to beat your friends. Spoiler alert: it’s not all about having the greenest thumb! Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned planter, this guide’s got something for you.


What’s in the box

  • 80 Tree cards (10 different species, 8 of each)
  • 1 Rulebook
  • 1 Scorepad

How To Play Arboretum: Rules Summary


  1. Place all 80 Tree cards on the table. Make sure to shuffle them well.
  2. Deal each player seven cards. Keep your cards secret from your opponents.
  3. Form a draw pile with the remaining cards and leave space for a discard pile.


  1. On your turn, draw two cards from either the draw pile or any player’s discard pile. You can mix your choice.
  2. Play one card from your hand into your arboretum.
  3. Discard one card faceup next to the draw pile to form your personal discard pile.
  4. End your turn by ensuring you have seven cards in hand.

Remember, the goal is to create paths of trees in your arboretum. Paths must start and end with the same species, and cards in the path must ascend in numerical order.


  1. After the last card is drawn, players get one more turn before the game ends.
  2. Score paths in your arboretum. Only the player holding the highest value of a tree species in their hand can score paths of that species.
  3. The player with the highest score wins.

Special Rules & Conditions

  1. You cannot score a path if you don’t have the highest sum of the path’s tree species in your hand.
  2. Paths must be at least two cards long.
  3. A card can belong to multiple paths.

Playing Arboretum is all about strategy, remembering what cards have been played, and keeping an eye on your opponents. It’s a delicate balance between holding onto cards to score and discarding cards that help your opponents less.

Best Arboretum Strategies

The Ultimate Hand Management Guide for Arboretum Victory

Winning Arboretum isn’t just about planting trees; it’s about smart hand management. Let’s break it down.

Know What to Keep

  1. Hold onto rare species. These are your gold.
  2. Watch the discard pile like a hawk. It tells you what others might be up to.
  3. Balance between holding cards for points and for path options.

When to Discard

  1. Discard common trees if you see others collecting them. It’s a sneaky way to block.
  2. Throw away cards that won’t fit your current strategy.

Playing the Long Game

  1. Adapt your strategy based on your hand. Flexibility wins games.
  2. Plan your path early, but be ready to pivot based on what you draw.

Mastering the Maze: Path Planning in Arboretum

Winning at Arboretum isn’t just about holding the right cards; it’s also about laying them down strategically. Let’s walk through the essentials of path planning.

Start with the End in Mind

Before you lay your first card, envision your ideal path. Transition smoothly from planning to execution to adapt as the game unfolds.

Flexibility is Key

Paths can twist and turn. If an opponent blocks your route, be ready to pivot. Use what’s in your hand to guide your next steps.

Keep an Eye on the Prize

As you build your path, remember the end goal. Shortest routes aren’t always the most scoring, so plan paths that maximize points.

Block and Tackle

Blocking opponents’ paths can be as crucial as building yours. Watch the board closely and place your cards to disrupt their plans.

Mastering Opponent Observation in Arboretum

Winning at Arboretum isn’t just about your own garden; it’s also about keeping a sharp eye on your opponents. Effective opponent observation can turn the tide of the game in your favor. Here’s how:

1. Recognize the Sought-After Species

  1. Pay close attention to what trees your opponents are collecting. This can give you insight into which species they might be scoring for.

2. Monitor the Discard Pile

  1. Watching what others discard is crucial. If they’re getting rid of certain species, they might not be valuable to them, but they could be to you.

3. Anticipate Their Moves

  1. Try to predict your opponent’s next move based on the cards they have in hand and their garden layout. It might influence your own decisions on what to play or discard.

4. Block Strategically

  1. Once you know what your opponent is aiming for, consider ways to block their paths or hold onto cards they might need to complete their arboretum.

## Unlocking the Secrets of the Arboretum
In wrapping up, mastering Arboretum isn’t just about luck; it’s about careful planning, smart hand management, and a keen eye on your opponents. Remember, every tree you plant tells a story, and with the right strategy, you can ensure it’s a tale of victory. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned gardener in the world of Arboretum, the key is to stay adaptive, observant, and always two steps ahead of the competition. Go ahead, lay down those pathways, make tough choices on what to keep or discard, and most importantly, enjoy the beautiful garden you create. Happy gaming!

Want to know what we think of Arboretum? Read our detailed review of Arboretum here

Jamie in his proper element: With all of his board games
Jamie Hopkins

With years of dice-rolling, card-flipping, and strategic planning under my belt, I've transformed my passion into expertise. I thrive on dissecting the mechanics and social dynamics of board games, sharing insights from countless game nights with friends. I dive deep into gameplay mechanics, while emphasizing the social joys of gaming. While I appreciate themes and visuals, it's the strategy and camaraderie that truly capture my heart.