30 November 2017
There’s a purity to card games that use a standard deck of 52 playing cards that makes them hard to improve on. In the case of The Fox in the Forest’s charming two-player take on whist, however, it comes just about as close as you can get.
The contents of the box are essentially a three-suit deck, dropping the royal face cards in favour of standard numbers from 1 to 11 split across the more whimsical categories of bells, keys and moons. Each odd card is a character with a special ability, evolving whist’s basic game of trumps by introducing simple powers – the fox changes the current trump card, the witch counts as a trump card regardless of suit and so on. The abilities are pleasantly varied and well-executed, offering a generous balance of ways to undermine your rival or boost your own score, opening up the previously one-note strategy.
The presentation all plays into the game’s fairytale framing, introduced with a few sentences in the manual and extended with a lengthier version online. While it’s as light a dressing as can be (there’s no mention of a bell, key or moon at all in the full story), it ends up sustaining the magical allure in a way that works. A big part of this is the game’s stunning artwork, which treads the line between traditional fairytale cliché and expressive, bold visuals. If this were a full deck of playing cards, you wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up.
Complementing the meaningful changes to the gameplay is an interesting scoring system that rewards risk-taking – more tricks won means more points, but win too many and your score for that round plummets to zero. Meanwhile, win three or fewer and you’ll take the maximum number of points. This slight but shrewd tweak introduces an extra layer of strategy and variety, where tactically conceding rounds can be just as beneficial as dominating your opponent.
It’s a shame that The Fox in the Forest forgoes that fourth suit, as the lack of flexibility is perhaps the only very minor drawback here. As it comes though – a lively two-player trick-taking game with a winning charisma – it’s a joy.
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.rot/Renegade | £14.99 | Trick-taking | 2 players | 30 minutes | Age: 10+ | foxtrotgames.com/forest
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