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goosarino strangeprawn
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Despite the impression you’ve no doubt formed of me, it’s not every day I want to complete a triathlon pre-breakfast before climbing a Monroe or seven after lunch, only to round out my day with some light BASE jumping. Oh no. Sometimes I don’t have time for hi-octane hi-jinks, sometimes I just wanna chill with a cocoa and an Emmerdale omnibus.

Much of the preceding paragraph, it may surprise you to know, is lies. With the occasional damned lie thrown in. Emmerdale!? Really. My point though, is this. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for games that involve hours of intense calculation or negotiation. Sometimes I want a relaxing half hour of straightforward decisions. Sometimes I want to play Morels.



Morels is like a lovely soothing massage for the eyes and cortex, just relax as it runs its mycelial fingers across your brain, just yield to its soft fungal caress. That’s when you realise it’s got you exactly where it wants you.

What we have here is a two-player card game based around the age-old goals of Collecting-Sets-Of-Things and Not-Picking-Up-Things-You-Don’t-Want. The central conceit of the game is an enjoyable yomp through some crisp autumn woodland, whilst on the hunt for rare and delicious mushrooms to cook and devour. The rarest and most exquisite being the legendary morel.

The dappled forest is represented by an ever-replenishing row of eight cards coming from the deck pile laid out between the foragers, who take turns at picking one of the two cards at the opposite end from the deck to add to their hands. The unchosen card is sent to the holding-pen of the ‘decay’ pile. For you see, instead of taking the cards from the forest a player may choose, if able, to pick up the entire decay.



I say if able, as the limiting factor to your collecting (and one you will curse regularly during any game) is your hand limit of eight cards. This can be expanded by picking up basket cards. You’ll want those. A lot. But the purpose of this sylvan search is those mushrooms, and by collecting sets of identical mushrooms and then foregoing a turn to cook them with a pan card you both score points and create precious room in your hand. There are a few additional bells and whistles on this particular toadstool, such as the option to ‘sell’ pairs of mushrooms for foraging sticks that grant access to cards further up the forest track, the night deck, bursting with even more potent and flavourful versions of the regular mushrooms, and the feared poisonous destroying angel mushroom. A fungus feared as much for its toxicity as its complicated game effect. That’s not entirely fair, it just suffers from rules that are easier to demonstrate than succinctly explain in written form. Like the offside rule. Once there are no more cards in the forest, the stroll is over and the game ends. All counts for naught bar cooked mushrooms, and whoever has the most points wins. Yay.

There is a very lovely and easy-playing game here, but it’s one that thrums with a concerto of interlinked concerns. There’s the obvious and dominant melody of trying to collect sets of high-scoring mushrooms, pushing your luck to hold out for one final porcini, and biting the bullet to know what cards to let slide by.Alongside is the ominous ever-present bass of having no flipping room in your hand, and over it all flits the gentle harmony of making sure you’ve got the pans, sticks and baskets you’ll need for cooking, searching and flexibility. This breaks into the occasional refrain of keeping an eye on what your opponent is picking up before reaching the crescendo of not having enough turns left to cook everything you’ve collected.



For all my opening spiel of relaxing simplicity, there is a depth involved in Morels and a cunning, calculating mind required to play it well. I don’t often play it well. For what is essentially two player rummy wrapped in some fungal tinsel I for one find Morels a gently satisfying experience, and one I can easily share with people whose love of cardboard and cubes falls far short of my own.

Oh, and if I can return to the tinsel for a moment: Oh, what tinsel! The artwork adorning the cards is functional, evocative and attractive all at once, and the night deck provides beautiful nocturnal counterparts to the daytime mushrooms. The large player-aids that outline the relative abundance of all the kinds of card are wonderfully over sized and chunky, and the piece-de-resistance (and if you’re thinking of picking up the game I can’t recommend adding these optional extras enough) are the little model frying-pans and hand-carved foraging sticks. Sure, functionally they differ in precisely no ways from the standard token versions, sure, they’re but the froth on top of your pint, but they’re extra bits. They add a beautiful tactility and level of immersion that I don’t believe the cardboard disc versions can touch, and as such are worth every penny of the extra cost.



Morels is easy enough to learn and quick enough to play that you can introduce it to someone and before you know it you’ve played three games in an hour. There’s also the possibility that you’ll spend that whole hour playing one game where you both calculate every possible combination of cards still to come out and working out how best to stunt your opponent’s options. Diff’rent strokes. There’s not much here to sate the hunger many of us feel for building empires or optimising economies, though there are methadone-like elements to the game that may dull the pangs. However your brow will not go unfurrowed, your intellect unchallenged, or indeed, your time unpassed. I’m probably not going to pull Morels out of the cupboard at every available opportunity, but sometimes it’s just me and one other. Sometimes that other doesn’t want to commit to a long and convoluted game. And sometimes I want to play Morels.

And that’s a very good thing indeed.
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Adam Meledeo
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As I was reading your first sentence, my thought was "Is this guy ON mushrooms?"

I had the chance to play a game with the designer (more specifically, with his lovely wife Kaleen--Brent helped me out, but she still won) at BGG con. The game is really enjoyable; I was planning to pick up a copy but they sold out as I was playing the demo! Fortunately they offered to ship one out ASAP for at-the-con cost.

Really looking forward to getting a lot of games in with the wife, kids, and various friends who are gamers or not, when the two player situation pops up.
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Steve Blackwell
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Wonderfully written. If this doesn't get a bunch of thumbs just for that, there is no justice in this world.

It is truly a sublime game. Simple to pick up but not simple to become a master. Everything about it oozes quality.

A most enjoyable write-up. Thanks.

M B
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Andy Andersen
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A great review of a great game. My wife and I play it at least 4-5 times/week.
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Donnie Clark
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Arlington
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A great write up for a great game that my wife enjoys immensely!
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Patrick Leacock
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A great mushroomy review! I really enjoy this game.
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quelf elf
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SNAKE! SNAKE!
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The Soot Sprite
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A wonderfully entertaining review thank ou.

goosarino wrote:
... as it runs its mycelial fingers across your brain, just yield to its soft fungal caress. That’s when you realise it’s got you exactly where it wants you.


So the game's inspiration was some form of mycoid mind flayer?
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The Soot Sprite
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meledeo wrote:
I was planning to pick up a copy but they sold out as I was playing the demo! Fortunately they offered to ship one out ASAP for at-the-con cost.


I continue to be impressed by Brent's customer service attitude.
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goosarino strangeprawn
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Whoah, thanks for the comments, tips and thumbs everybody. It's like a thumbnado in here. This is now officially my most thumbed review. Really thanks a lot you guys.
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Pablo Schulman
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Belo Horizonte
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goosarino wrote:
That’s not entirely fair, it just suffers from rules that are easier to demonstrate than succinctly explain in written form. Like the offside rule.


LOL'd at this part!

Great review btw!
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Robin DH
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Alexandria
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mudshark_baby wrote:
Wonderfully written. If this doesn't get a bunch of thumbs just for that, there is no justice in this world.

It is truly a sublime game. Simple to pick up but not simple to become a master. Everything about it oozes quality.

A most enjoyable write-up. Thanks.

M B


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