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Subject: Oldie but goldie: A very neat blend of strategy and luck rss

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Guido Gloor
Switzerland
Ostermundigen
Bern
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I got this in an Essen math trade, figuring it could be something I could maybe play with my wife - alongside quite a few other games where I had the same thought.

Now, recently I managed to give away a couple of games I don't think I'll play in the next years, and this one survived the purge easily. Not even a thought of giving it away. Why is that?

Well, for one, we actually played it, and second, we both really like it, too.

Now, a tiny bit of context: My wife doesn't like complex games too much. She plays them occasionally to humor me, but she doesn't really enjoy them. She'd much rather unwind and relax in the evening, and play something that doesn't require full attention. Me, on the other hand, I love complex games, I don't mind if they take hours, and I love it when my actions matter and it's not just blind luck that determines the outcome of a game. And, we both love theme in our games (though we'll occasionally also play abstracts).

Onwards to a tiny bit of a gameplay overview. The game is asymmetrical and for two players. One player takes the humans (hunters and woodcutters) that try to make the forest their own, while the other side plays the animals of the forest (foxes and bears) that try to survive and eat (the latter including unsuspecting humans). Additionally, there are neutral pieces (ducks and pheasant), and trees. All of those are represented by tiles that are shuffled pre-game and then placed face-down on the board. This means that neither player knows what is where before the game starts.

The players then alternate to either uncover a tile, or move one of their own or a neutral tile. When a tile moves on top of a tile it can beat, the player gets the beaten piece and will receive points for it at game end. And, the different tiles can move differently; hunters can shoot everything except trees as far as they want, but only in one direction - where the gun points. Woodcutters only move one, but are the only ones that can beat trees. Bears also only move one, and can kill all humans. Foxes move as far as they want and can (b)eat ducks and pheasants. And, everything that's beaten gives points.

The emergent gameplay is intriguing. It's really quite a simple system, but the trees that block movement together with the different capabilities of the tiles can make for great strategic opportunities. The hunters remind of rooks in Chess, while the bears are closer to kings in that they have to be well-protected but are really strong up close, and give lots of points. There's also plenty of "om nom nom" moments when bears eat up a well-guarded position from an unguarded angle

Unlucky or lucky moments happen regularly, but aren't really something to get worked up about because an individual game only takes 15-20 minutes - so after some bad early luck, it's not like you have to live with it for hours and hours, but it'll be over soon and you can get a fresh start with hopefully better luck in the revenge round.

The result is a game that rewards good strategy (when to uncover which tiles, how to use the figures in play) as well as lucky draws (getting a bear just when you need it, having all hunters look into the right or wrong directions), and is the perfect blend of both for a couple exactly like my wife and me are.

Because I'd still prefer a meatier game myself, I only give it a BGG rating of 7.5 - right in the middle between "Very good game. I like to play. Probably I'll suggest it and will never turn down a game." and "Good game, usually willing to play."
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Pedro Pereira
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Pico de Regalados
Vila Verde
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This is a game that deserves ongoing attention and easily one of the best Kosmos 2-player games. I really like it too and fully agree with your review. Nice one.
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Carlos Abrunhosa
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I also agree with you, this one, Kahuna and Rosenkönig are games i must buy/get sometime in my life!
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