Gardening Guerrilla

Illustration: Łukasz Dudasz, Grupa AutografIllustration: Łukasz Dudasz, Grupa Autograf
Designer: Michael Straeubig
Number of players: 10-125
Materials required: Plant seeds
Moderator(s): 1
Preparation time: A few days
Playing time: 2 to 6 months
Playing field: Plantable, publicly accessible spaces
Activities: Long-term strategy game, hiding, sneaking, spying, gardening
License: CC BY-NC

Guerrilla Gardening is a game for teams of 3-5 players lasting 2-6 months. The aim is to raise the plant with the longest stem.


The moderator specifies the exact playing field and playing time, and purchases seeds or seedlings appropriate for the season, and suitable for the planting sites that players might find in that area. It is recommended that the plants possess a clearly identifiable main stem, as the length of this stem is used for determining the winner of the game later.

The play area should be large enough that players can act autonomously without encountering other teams, but can also attempt to discover and observe other players. For 2 teams of players, a small industrial area is suitable. For 5 teams, a university campus; for 25, a large city center. A play area should have plenty of green spaces or patches of bare soil.


The game starts with each team choosing a name for itself (e.g. "Root Rebels", "Los Rankos", "Cactus Army", "Che Blumenara") and the moderator handing them a map of the play area, a set of rules and a fixed number of seeds.

The game then proceeds through the following stages:

A team plants any number of their seeds in one or more places ("planting spots") in the play area and documents each with a photograph, timestamp and exact location (either GPS coordinates or a mark on their map). These details must be immediately sent to the moderator, who keeps the information secret.
A planting spot should enable your plants to grow without mutual disturbance but be identifiable as one continuous location (i.e. not exceed, say, 1-2 meters in diameter).
For each team, the initial planting move must take place during the first 6 days of the game.

Moving plants
A team may relocate their own plants at any time. All plants at a particular location (planting spot) must be moved together, and to a single new location. The new location must be documented and sent to the moderator in the same way as for Planting.

Moving opponents' plants
A team may steal plants belonging to a rival team, and add them to one of their own planting spots. You do not have to move the opponents' planting spot as a whole but may select as many plants from the spot as you like. You must put all of those into one of your own existing planting spots. From then on, these plants belong to your team. This action must be documented and the moderator notified.
Destroying other teams' plants is not allowed.

The players within a team should come to an agreement on the best strategy for choosing a planting location, bearing in mind the available sunlight, the chance of being detected, etc. Should all the seeds be planted immediately, or some held in reserve? Should the plants be fed and watered, or will this risk drawing the attention of other teams? Relocating a plant may keep it safe, but may affect its growth. Talking to the plants may be helpful.

Ground rules

Players are allowed to:
  • Lead other teams astray.
  • Try to bribe other players to find out their planting locations.
  • Use super fertilizer.
Players are not allowed to:
  • Submit false planting sites to the moderator.
  • Mislead the moderator in any way.
  • Plant seeds which were not given out by the moderator.
  • Move plants outside of the playing area.
  • Travel through the playing area with a flamethrower.
  • Kidnap the moderator to learn the whereabouts of other teams' plants.
Planting sites must be accessible to all players. (For example, seeds may not be planted in an enclosed space to which only certain players have a key.)
Each game action should be carried out completely. It is not permitted to excavate and temporarily store an opposing team's plant before replanting it.

Treat all plants, including enemy plants with respect. Avoid any negative impact on plants, soil and other facilities and inhabitants in the game area.

If players are in doubt about the application of these rules, they should talk to the moderator. The moderator may move plants or exclude players, as a result of rules being broken. The decision of the moderator is final.

Game end

The game ends at the prearranged time. The players meet up with the moderator and tour the planting sites together, to determine the winner. The winner is the group who owns the plant with the longest stem (measured from the top of the root to the tip). In addition, a prize is awarded for aesthetic criteria. The moderator may award other prizes, such as for the most ecological group (using no artificial fertilizer), or the most creative guerrilla strategy.

The game moderator can, during the game, record the location of the planting locations as they change over time, and make this information available to the players after the game is over, with a discussion of strategies.
Michael Straeubig
as a game designer, develops games which link digital and real worlds (among others Tidy City, Eine gegen Eine [One Against One], Secret City). He shares his experiences at workshops and, beyond this, is active as a lecturer in the areas of storytelling, creative coding and game design at, among other institutions, Leuphana University in Lüneburg.

Illustration: Łukasz Dudasz, Grupa Autograf
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