Selwyn Ward
United Kingdom
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
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This is a new game from Thundergryph, due to launch on Kickstarter on 2 January 2018. There’s some background nonsense about sprites and nature, but, make no mistake, Spirits of the Forest is essentially an abstract strategy game.

It’s a jolly good game too, not least because it has an elegant simplicity that makes it easy to learn and play, and it plays in around 15–20 minutes. It’s only after you’ve played it through a couple of times that you appreciate the subtlety of the strategies involved in winning the ‘best’ tiles to collect the spirit icons needed for the ‘set collection’ end-game scoring.

In Spirits of the Forest, the 48 tiles are shuffled and laid out at random in a grid made up of four rows of 12 tiles. Bonus tokens are placed face down on eight of the cards. On their turns, players take from either end of the grid (ie: from any of the eight end tiles) a tile with two icons on it or up to two tiles of the same colour that each has on it only one icon. Players lay out their collected tiles in sets (sorted by colour), so opponents can see each other’s tiles, though not what bonus tokens their opponents have collected. There will be complaints that the colours of the tiles are not all distinctive enough. However, the colours are just one way of distinguishing the tiles: each colour corresponds to a different ‘spirit’ icon, so colour-blind players or those straining to play in low light can focus on the icons rather than struggling with the tints. You can judge for yourself by viewing the 360 photo of the game on Board's Eye View at www.facebook.com/boardseye.

Players start the game with two gemstones (three in a two-player game). As a second action each turn, players have the option of placing one of their gems on a tile on the grid in order to ‘reserve’ it. If they take that tile on a subsequent turn, they regain their gemstone. An opponent can still take the ‘reserved tile’, returning the gemstone to its owner, but only at the cost of permanent loss of one of their own gemstones. It is the positioning of gemstones that give this game its strategic edge as players use them initially to prevent an opponent from benefitting from an advantageous pick (typically one that will yield a bonus token) and weighing up when to time their go-for-broke sacrifice of gemstones in order to nab a highly beneficial 'reserved' tile…

The game comes down to set collection in the end. There are nine different ‘spirit’ symbols (one or two on each colour tile) and there are three ‘power’ symbols that appear across the tiles of all colours. At the end of the game, only the player with the largest number of each icon will score for it, scoring for the number of icons he has: so if I end the game with four ‘dewdrop’ icons and my opponent has three, I score four points for that icon and my opponent scores none. When bonus tokens are revealed, these may boost the number of icons a player has. Players lose three points for any icon they don’t have, so the final stages of a three- or four-player game can be quite cutthroat!

The woodland theme of Spirits of the Forest may be mere veneer but, to the publishers’ credit, Thundergryph have endorsed the theme by pledging to plant a tree for every game they sell in 2018! And tho’ this is an abstract game, the forest motif does contribute to its appeal. Set it up and this game will attract the interest of passers by. They’ll watch you play a couple of turns and they’ll feel ready and eager to jump in and play themselves. That in itself is a good sign. If, despite this, you still find yourself without an opponent, however, the rules offer a playable solitaire game as a variant.
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Bill Bennett
United States
Newton
Iowa
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Why did the painter paint the wall for free? Because it was on the house.
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Poins wrote:
This is a new game from Thundergryph, due to launch on Kickstarter on 2 January 2018.


Though not entirely new, as it appears to be a straight up reimplementation of Richelieu.
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Brad103
United States
Skaneateles
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Nice review!

I enjoy how simple this game is to teach and play, but also how 'thinky' it can be. You can fall into some AP with this game, but just the right amount. I've played this a few times with 2-4 players on Tabletopia, and have enjoyed the gameplay (even with never winning ).

The solo variant is nice as well. Briefly.. all but the end tiles are hidden, and for each tile you take the 'opponent' takes the opposite tile. You win by having a majority (or tie) in each of the Spirits, then calculate score. Another twist is that the opponent reveals 2 hidden bonus tiles during the game. It seems simple, but quite tough to win, let alone get a high score!
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Andy Parsons
United Kingdom
CHELMSFORD
Essex
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Bilben04 wrote:
Poins wrote:
This is a new game from Thundergryph, due to launch on Kickstarter on 2 January 2018.


Though not entirely new, as it appears to be a straight up reimplementation of Richelieu.


Richelieu was in turn a reimplimentation of Kardinal & König: Das Kartenspiel, a set collection game for 3-5 players.
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Kirk Beiser
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How would you rate the game at different player numbers?

This looks like a game that plays best at 3-4 with 2 also being good. I played 2 solo games on Tabletopia and was unimpressed. It was fine (and not too easy) but I definitely wouldn't buy for its solo play. I will probably give it another crack or two (solo) and try to get a few friends in on a game.

Regardless I have backed it (retail version) and really look forward to playing with 3-4 players.
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Pieter Schutz
Netherlands
De Meern
Utrecht
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TWWaterfalls wrote:
How would you rate the game at different player numbers?

This looks like a game that plays best at 3-4 with 2 also being good. I played 2 solo games on Tabletopia and was unimpressed. It was fine (and not too easy) but I definitely wouldn't buy for its solo play. I will probably give it another crack or two (solo) and try to get a few friends in on a game.

Regardless I have backed it (retail version) and really look forward to playing with 3-4 players.


I now played the game 3 times on Tabletopia with 2 players (giving Brad103 his first win ). I highly like the strategy for a 2-player game. 3/4 players might be good, especially with some of the unlocked stretch-goals, but 2-player would be my 'best played with' vote
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Jack M
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After watching the reviews by Sam Healey and others I have a better understanding of the gameplay. Now that I see the game for what it is, rather than the elegant artwork and away from the excited comments section on Kickstarter, I can't help but think this is rather dull compared to TGGs other releases like Tao Long
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Brad103
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pieterschutz wrote:
I now played the game 3 times on Tabletopia with 2 players (giving Brad103 his first win ).

Hi Pieter Thanks for giving me that first win! You caught on to the strategy pretty well by mid game. Which is why I'll never play against you again!

lord_erkenbrand wrote:
After watching the reviews by Sam Healey and others I have a better understanding of the gameplay. Now that I see the game for what it is, rather than the elegant artwork and away from the excited comments section on Kickstarter, I can't help but think this is rather dull compared to TGGs other releases like Tao Long

At this point I've probably played Spirits as many times (if not more) than I've played Tao Long. I find that they're both similar in some ways. They' both abstract, and they're more simple to jump into and play. But they're both surprisingly deep in strategy once you play it a few times.

If you've played Tao Long, you learn that rather than just taking your best move, you also have to consider what moves you are leaving for your opponent, and even what moves you'll likely have available on your next turn. Spirits plays very similarly to this. You can just take the best tiles available, but you need to see what you're leaving open for your opponent. You have to choose where to place your gem/stone, and when to sacrifice a gemstone to take a protected tile (probably the hardest decision to make). Often times you can set yourself up for a combo 3 or 4 turns ahead!

Most of this strategy is seen in 2 player games (same with Tao Long) but it remains in 3-4 player games as well.

When I first read the rules for the game I too thought it was a bit basic for me. But after playing it a few times I learned otherwise. If you're still on the fence about it, I'd suggest trying it out on Tabletopia some time, you might be surprised
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Kirk Beiser
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The only issue I see with the game is at 2 players with it being a bit of a zero sum game. I can take these points away from my opponent or I can get these points for myself. It just becomes a collect the most spirits/sources by maximizing the selection of 2 tiles at a time and/or the tokens.

That isn't really bad but I like the 3/4 player setup better where there is a bigger risk of getting a -5 and it is less zero sum-ish due multiple players getting 0 points for a particular spirit or power source. I find the strategy a lot deeper at 3/4 players.

Note - The leaves/seasons expansion and probably the Hex cards change the zero sum aspect of the 2 player game but those aren't on Tabletopia.
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