WBG Score: 6.5
Player Count: 2-5
Published by: Helvetiq
Helvetiq make the most awesome small boxes of delight! Some of my favourite card games come in these tiny packages. Punching well above their weight, and always with such gorgeous art. One game that I had previously missed from 2017 was Forest. But thankfully, the good people at Coiledspring have sent it through for review so I was able to catch up. Let's see how it plays.
OK, this is going to be a long one. Settle in. Shuffle the deck. Deal three cards to each player.
You are now ready to play!
How to Play
I hope you are still with me. That was a brutal set up! But in seriousness, this is what this little boxes from Helvetiq are all about. Once, everyone has their cards, decide on a first player and then in turn, each player will play a card face up into a communal play area as above. Then redraw to three cards. This will continue until the deck runs out at which point the game ends.
Each card in the game features various magical forest creatures such as gnomes, frogs, owls, and fairies. If the total number of any single creature on the table reaches seven or more, then a trigger occurs. In one version of the game, players aim to avoid collecting cards by never reaching seven creatures. In the other version, players compete against each other to collect cards by strategically placing cards on the table that get the total number of any creature type to seven or more.
As you place your card down, you can do so either end of the current tableau. Laying it either horizontally or vertically based on the art. Although this has no effect on the game. It is a simple matter of, has your card tipped the scales over seven or not on one particular character.
If your card does tip the scales, then you must take every card with this particular critter shown on it. You will place these cards into a face down pile in front of you for end game scoring. This will either be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on which version of the rules you are playing. It will either be a case of trying to avoid this, or looking to achieve this. And both versions of the game feel very different. When the deck is finished, the person with the most cards either wins or loses! One final rule that I don't play, has any remaining cards on the table go the the last player who collected cards. This seems to add too much of an unfair swing. I simply take this rule out.
Furthermore, there exists an intriguing variant that I relish playing, wherein you are given an additional five points upon successfully amassing a set of seven cards for each of the four distinct characters. This particular gameplay mechanic not only engenders a palpable sense of tension but also introduces a rewarding final element of set collection that I find particularly engaging.
Is It Fun?
When it becomes your turn, you are either looking to get a certain group of creatures to total seven or more, or avoid that at all costs. Some cards will have more creatures on than others. Some cards have nothing on at them at all, except trees. Depending on the variant you are playing, you will either be counting up what is on the table so far and then trying to get to seven, or seeing if it is possible to lay any of your cards that would avoid this. Ideally getting to six in as many as possible, to make the turn of the next player harder.
This creates a very simple, but lovely tension. Some other reviewers have suggested this is too simplistic for it to be considered a good game. It has been suggested that there is no meaningful choices and it is too luck based. Whilst this is partially true, you do have three cards to choose from. For me, there can be a lot of fun in which card you play. Yes, it is a simply choice. And one you don't have full control over. But it is a choice that has created plenty of laughter, cries of joy, and mock accusations from other players as you leave them with no good choices of their own.
When this happens to you though, when you are the one left with no good choices, it can be annoying. When playing the version where you are looking to avoid collecting cards, being forced to collect cards, can be frustrating. Especially when there is nothing you can do about it. But this is the game. And all players are in the same boat. Your tree tableau will build until it eventually has to pop. If it pops on you, that's a shame. But it is unlikely it will be you next time. You cannot take this game too seriously. It only takes five minutes to play. You are never that invested in it that losing the game will ruin your day.
I would recommend this game to people who enjoy short games that require minimal thinking, and create some funny, take-that style moments. This is a game for people who want something with a small footprint, minimal strategy, but high levels of cuteness!
One thing I really loved about the game is the artwork of the cards. The illustrations are beautifully drawn and have a whimsical, almost storybook-like quality to them. The cards are also of high quality, with a nice weight and texture that makes them easy to handle and shuffle, despite the awkward shape.
My family find this game enjoyable. We don't take it too seriously, and have played it a lot across both formats, My son (Ten) much prefers the version where you are looking to avoid getting to seven. My daughter (Seven) on the other hand has a preference for the version where you collect as many as you can. This seems to be because they are just better at this version themselves. And the results speak for themselves. over the last 12 games, my daughter won three out of four where we played the most cards win. And my son won five out of eight games where we played the least cards win. Perhaps there is some strategy after all?