Puzzle gardens and claim the largest area in Ishtar Gardens of Babylon


Ishtar is one of the goddesses of ancient Mesopotamia. For the Babylonians, she was the goddess of fertility. Exactly what the desert soil needs in this game. Your goal is to turn the desert into a fertile garden.

You do this by placing puzzle pieces with garden parts and claim as much of the fertile area as possible.

The game board consists of separate components, giving you a different challenge every time. You always put down as many components as there are players + 2 extra.

Then comes the big set-up of the game. That’s a bit tricky, which is probably why there is a separate sheet with ‘setting up the game’. In the desert, you place three different coloured stones at the indicated spots. There is also a fountain in each area. Then there is the collection board for the puzzle pieces. That board also varies in structure each time (cleverly done by the makers!). You put the tree cards in a pile and turn five of them face-up. Finally, each player gets a player board, a starting diamond and two gardeners. And then you can finally get started! Who said gardening was a relaxing chore 😅

Let’s start!

In your turn, you go through 5 steps. Not every step is possible every time, so you might play a bit faster some times than others. When you have finished, the player next to you takes his turn and goes through those 5 steps again.

1. Choose puzzle pieces garden from the collection board

You put the watering can next to one of the shapes. You may then take the top piece. The player next to you moves the watering can one step, but may move the watering can more steps if she hands in a diamond for each extra step.

2. Place the puzzle piece in the desert

You place the puzzle piece in the desert. Any diamonds you cover with it may be placed on your own player board. By the way, each puzzle piece has one or more flower beds and ‘normal’ pieces of grass on it. As a real gardener, you are of course all about the flower beds. And also in the game, you get points for the largest contiguous area of flower beds. Of course, you can’t just place any piece of the puzzle; you have to fulfill certain conditions. You can find those conditions in the game rules on p. 6.

3. Collect diamonds

Because you can use them to perform special actions on your player board. Pay attention to which colour diamond you need, because it can give you extra points.

4. Perform the special action

If you have placed a puzzle piece with an icon, you may perform a special action. The special actions are explained on your player board. You have to learn to read the symboles, but then it is self-explanatory. For example, one of the special actions is that you may take a third gardener. This means an extra turn.

5. Plant a tree

What’s a garden without a tree? We also want to plant trees in the Gardens of Babylon. You have turned over 5 cards with trees at the beginning of the game. Each tree costs a combination of diamonds. If you can afford it, turn in the diamonds and take the tree card. Then you may place a tree in the game board on a piece of grass. Cards with trees are extra points.


This game is puzzling for yourself while keeping an eye on your opponent. I once had a situation where I had put together a nice piece of garden that was then claimed by one of my fellow players. Bummer!!!

So you have to pay attention to a lot, you have to think steps ahead, you have to see which puzzle pieces are still available, which actions you want to activate on your player board. So: yes, quite a challenge. But in a fun way. That your brain is nice and busy. What helps is that the game looks gorgeous. Especially when the desert is transformed into a green oasis, you can admire your work with satisfaction.

Want more inspiration for beautiful, fun, funny and original games? Then check out the complete A-Z for the holidays here. You still have plenty of time to buy gifts that will impress soon! If you buy through a link in this review, you will also support Pen & Pion!

General information on Ishtar Gardens of Babylon

  • number of players: 2 – 4
  • time: 45 minutes
  • from: 14+
  • price: around € 44,00 (Ducht price, update fall 2023)

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