Spirits of The Forest - a review
I always maintain that Kickstarter and having a crap memory make my life infinitely better. Or at least my post. It feels like Father Christmas definitely exists as I receive random presents through the post that I have no recollection of ordering or paying for. Admittedly, he's a bit confused these days and his presents arrive willy nilly. Last week Spirits of The Forest arrived just in time for my birthday and it felt like Thundergryph games had sent me a gift. I couldn't tell you how much the game cost as it was past me that treated me to it (or possibly Father Christmas - there's no way of ever knowing). Either way it's brilliant!
My hazy recollection of backing it consists of me seeing it on Twitter and thinking 'that's beautiful'. I remember clicking on the link, seeing the shiny gemstones and the gorgeous expansion pack and immediately clicking 'back this project'. The first thing that struck me when I unwrapped it was how stunning it is. I haven't played with the expansion pack yet as I am still mastering the base pack but the pieces are so lovely it's tempting to dive straight in. It's certainly good to know there are lots of layers to be added to the game at some point.
I have no idea what these bits do but look at them! They were lovingly crafted by fairy folk I have no doubt.
How to Win
You win by collecting the most of any set of Spirits and/or the most of any set of power sources. If at the end of the round you do not have at least one of each of the Spirits you lose 3 points and if you don't have at least one of each of the power sources you also lose 3 points.
How to Play
All of the cards are laid out and 8 favor tokens placed on top. Each turn you can collect up to two identical spirits from the outer edge of the playing area. Players can try to reserve the card they want by placing a gem on it. If another player wants that card however, they can have it if they sacrifice one of their gemstones.
It is a simple premise. You collect sets of cards and try to have more than anyone else of one particular set. But you must ensure you have one of each type too. So there is a lot of balancing to do before you even factor in your opponent(s) who are trying their damnedest to do the same and thwart your plans. Also try not to be dazzled by the art work. I have already lost games by completely ignoring the numbers on the cards (which helpfully tell you the number of spirits of that type there is in the pack) choosing instead to collect the prettiest spirits. Heads up - this is NOT a winning strategy. My favourites are the web spiders and the fruits - respectively the gothest 10 and the cutest 6!
Rather frustratingly as with so many other games, the solo rules start off by saying that it's the same as the multi player game with the following exceptions...
Now, maybe I'm incredibly lazy or slow on the uptake but I'd really just like one set of rules to read. If I'm playing a solo variant I don't necessarily want to learn the multi player version so that I can then adapt it to one player.
Having said that, the solo version is enormously satisfying and challenging. Your invisible opponent's bonus power sources in this game remain hidden until you clear 2 and then 3 lines. That combined with the random layout of tiles means that there is just enough luck to make the game unpredictable but not so much that it isn't worth strategising.
Plays 2 to 4
We have played with 2, 3 and 4 players. Pleasingly while the game is different with more players it isn't better or worse. So many games have an optimum number of players and yet this does not. The game feels faster with more players but then there is more to weigh up when you are choosing your tiles. It is easier to block someone from collecting a full set of power sources or spirits but then if you choose to do that it is harder to amass a majority. With 2 players the intensity of decision making remains and the hidden bonus tokens feel more valuable as the balance is likely much closer creating a tense game.
I can see this getting a lot of time out of its box: it's beautiful and satisfying to play; easy to learn but not so easy to master. A delicate balance of set collection and screwing over everyone else's plans! Each game is different and you are at the whims of the Spirits of The Forest so victory is never certain. Place your gems with care ... you are not alone in the forest....