Have you ever gone out hunting for mushrooms? I know I haven't, but I know people who do. I think the fun part here is just going out and spending time in the woods. Of course, there maybe a science to it, but I am just ignorant on the subject. It is something that I would like to try sometime that seems like it would be a good time. Until then, I have a brand new card game on the subject to keep me entertained.
Morels is a new card game from first time publisher Two Lantern Games, and first time designer by Brent Povis. It is a 2-player game that uses hand management and set collection mechanics and takes 30-45 minutes to play. The game components consist of 92 cards (84 daytime and 8 night time), along with 2 frying pan tokens and several forging stick tokens (in early versions you get actual mini-frying pans and sticks, which can still be ordered at an additional fee). The theme of the game is that you are out forging for mushrooms that you will then cook to score points, or sell to gain information for the locals. Each player starts the game with a hand of three cards, and has a had limit of 8 cards. There are eight cards in the middle of the table that represent that path that you are on. The two cards at the end of the path represent your current location, and the cards further down the line represent items that are further down your walking path.
On your turn, you can do one of five different actions. These include picking up a card (you can pick up either of the cards at your feet, or pay one forging stick for each spot that is further down the line, and pick up one of those cards). You can pick up the 1-4 cards that are currently in the decay pile (the last four cards to be discarded, you must take them all). You can sell 2 like mushrooms and receive the amount of forging sticks on each card. You can lay down a frying pan card. Finally, you can cook 3 like mushrooms for points (you will also need a frying pan, either already played, or one from your hand that you may play with the mushrooms. Cooking the mushrooms scores you points. After you do your action, you take the card that is furthest in the line and put it into the decay pile. If the decay pile already has four cards, you discard these and start a new pile. The path is then refreshed to eight cards. This continues until there are no cards left on the path (the deck runs out), and the players count up their points, and the one with the most points is the winner.
The deck does not consist solely of mushrooms. There are baskets that expand your hand limit by 2 cards, and cider and butter that give you bonus points when you play them with a batch of mushrooms. There are also moon cards that allow you to take the top card from the night deck. These cards give you 2 like mushrooms on one card. Then, there are frying pan cards that help you cook more mushrooms. Finally, there is the Destroying Angel card. If you collect this card, you must discard down to 4 cards (if you have a basket, you can put 2 cards in your basket) and then you must remain at a hand limit of 4 cards for the number of turns equal to the number of mushroom batches you have cooked. This of course will not be good for you, so if you must take one, do it early, before it as a large affect on you.
Components & Value
Morels comes with some nice components. It comes in a Kosmos 2-player size box (Lost Cities sized), which is great for me. I hate games that take up a ton of space. The artwork is very beautiful and fits the theme of the game well. I also like the tokens used for the frying pans and the forging sticks. The cards are nice, but they are a little flemsy. They are functional though. I would suggest just getting some card sleeves, and you should be good to go (Mrs. GwT will tease me for this, but it's for the good of the game). I like the option to be able to get some upgraded components if I desire. Mini-frying pans and forging sticks sound like they would enhance the game play experience. Morels runs at a price of $24.95. The price is right on target with the play experience and the components. It also lines up with games of a similar nature.
I have found that I really enjoy Morels. The game is fast moving and there are lots of difficult decisions. Your hand limit of 8 cards makes it difficult to continually pick up the best cards. The fact that a card is always being put into the decay and could be paired with a Destroying Angel card. Then, you have decide if you want to save your mushrooms for points, or throw sell them for forging sticks to get the best 'shrooms before your opponent. The decision making drives the game, as you always have multiple options, and it's difficult to make the right call, and hope you can still do the second and third thing you wanted to accomplish on your next turns.
The game play also reminds me of Lost Cities. The game plays quickly, and has little player interaction. As with Lost Cities, you can take the card that your opponent was wanting, thus throwing off their game. If you enjoy the game play of Lost Cities, but desire a little more theme and difficult decision making, I think Morels maybe a winner for you. However, if you want a lot of back and forth direct conflict, it's not going to be found in Morels.
Overall, we enjoyed Morels. I think it plays really well for casual gamers. I do not think it's a good fit for non-gamers, as some of the mechanics and cards can get confusing. This is especially true with the special cards, i.e. the night cards, Destroying Angel, Cider, Butter, etc. However, for those familiar with modern games, this one shouldn't offer too much trouble. Morel is a wonderful little card game. I think that Brent and Two Lanterns Games is off on the right foot with this one. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one to be nominated and possibly win some awards in the coming months.
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