The Grimm Forest, released officially earlier this year, is a fantasy themed simultaneous selection, set collection board game. From designer Tim Eisner, artists Noah Adelman, Lina Cossette and David Forest, the game sees 2 – 4 players spend around 45 minutes in the world of fairy tales and stories. Befriend characters like Red Riding Hood and Tom Thumb as you construct 3 houses: from Straw, Wood or Brick. However, does Druid City Games have a solid game or one that the Big Bad Wolf would blow over? Let’s find out!
Over the course of the game players must construct 3 complete houses to win, gaining resources along the way to pay for bases, walls and roofs. Each round is made up of 2 stages the Gather and Build phases. In the gather phase each location gets a designated amount of resources: the Fields gets 5 Straw, the Forest gets 4 Wood, the Brickyard gets 3 Brick and in a 4-player game an additional Market location gets 1 resource of each type.
Simultaneously players secretly choose one of their four gather cards, each indicating one of the four locations. At this time, they can also choose to play a Fable card from their hand. Before gather locations are revealed, players reveal what played Fable cards do, often tweaking the rules or gaining some kind of bonus. Gather locations are then unveiled with players moving to their chosen locations. Players will then find themselves at a place either alone or with others. The final fable cards will now be triggered, potentially seeing players forced to change location and then it’s time to grab resources. If alone at a location all the resources are gained, while resources are equally divided (rounded down) between players at the same location.
Now it is time to move onto the Build phase. During this phase players, starting with the first player, can perform 2 actions. Actions can be to draw a single resource, draw a fable card, use a special action offered by a Friend or build a house segment. Friends are awarded by certain Fable cards but also when the wall section of a house. While fables can be seen as one-time abilities Friends stay with you giving a permanent buff or special action, at least until you gain another one.
As it is the objective of the game players will be building house segments, with their obtained resources. Players can start construction on up to 5 houses but they only need to complete 3 to win. As players progress up the building, floor, walls and roof, the cost of the segment increases, with costs of 2, 4 and 6 respectively. Walls always give the friend bonus when built however being the first player to build a type of house also gains a bonus.
Throughout the game players will use fables and friends to gain resources while hindering others in a rather take that styled game. The majority of cards revolve around either gaining something yourself or denying an opponent, be it entry to a location or pilfering their resources. Some of the cards are classed as advanced and may pose a little difficulty but otherwise the cards boil down to fairly simple choices and gameplay.
One aspect of the rules that is slightly unintuitive given the background lore is that players can build any three houses. Automatically players thing of the Three Little Pigs story and in their head plan out to build one of each. While it is perfectly possible to build one of each it would be significantly easier to block players, thus I believe the design decision was made. Just make sure you stress this when going through the rules and you’ll be fine.
The is no getting around the fact that the miniatures are awesome. Perhaps they are as a result of trying to make the game look more appealing for the original Kickstarter audience, but they are also not overly necessary. Especially in a 2-player game it is entirely possible that all of them will sit on the table looking nice but left untouched, simply taken out of the box for more of a table ornament role than gameplay. As someone whom loves a good mini in a board game it feels odd to say this but The Grimm Forest comfortably falls into the category of overproduced. For the weight of the game, a very family friendly game, on top of the limited miniature use, I’m confused as to why they were not ejected from the box to reduce the size and cost of the game.
The Grimm Forest does play at two, nevertheless it is relatively obvious that it was not entirely designed with two players in mind. Specific cards, such as the Robin Hood friend, are only truly effective with multiple opponents, with the use of “each player”. At the same time, others have unobtainable goals, such as Lonely Castle which is only discarded when “3 or more” players visit the same location.
Despite these issues, the way a dummy player is introduced must be the least intrusive dummy player I’ve ever experienced. After resources have been added to locations in the gather phase, and more importantly before players have selected gather cards, a die is rolled to see which location the Prince takes half the available resources from. This limits the effective choices of players keeping the same level of location conflict seen in higher player counts, whilst doing little to interrupt the flow of the title.
The Grimm Forest is at the end of the day a glorified card game, which has awesome pieces of sculpted plastic randomly included. With custom Game Trayz included to speed up setup and teardown, the lovely housing segments and the quality of the minis it is impossible to argue the game is anything less than stunning. Alas, it all feels a little unnecessary. The Grimm Forest feels like the ultra-deluxe version of a game that is much loved without their being that cheaper option for people to have fallen in love with. The game below is enjoyable and I look forward to entering the fairy tale world again to play. Nevertheless, it delivers a family weight experience in packaging and with a price tag of a game I’d expect more of.
[Editor’s Note: The Grimm Forest was provided to us by Asmodee UK for review purposes. The game is currently available from local UK board game stores, find your local store here]