Woodcraft Review

20 June 2023
I will never ‘log off’

Deep within the elves’ magical forest, light industry shatters the tranquil sylvan idyll. A series of rival carpentry concerns spring up, competing to transfer centuries of ancient growth into tables, violins and artisanal crates. Over a worryingly small number of rounds, you’re going to grab wood from the lumber yard and open market, pick up orders from prospective customers, chop, glue and bodge your wood to the necessary side and earn some sweet sweet profit, which in this world comes in the form of blueberries. The player who, at the end of it all, has the most victory points (represented, logically enough, by hazelnuts) will be the winner.

Woodcraft is a game of picking actions and managing an economy tighter than an expertly-cut half-blind dovetail joint. Each action, like buying and selling wood, planting trees, hiring assistants or claiming contracts, occupies a wedge of a big saw wheel, and when you pick it, you move it forward into the next quarter of that wheel. If it moves far enough, it’ll push the saw blade farther, unlocking bonuses for the actions that are left behind. This means – as in a lot of euro games – that you’re incentivised to choose less popular actions in order to pick up extra resources.

Did I mention money is tight in this game? It’s tighter than two squirrels who saved each other’s lives and swore a blood pact. And since time is money, time is scarce too – in a two-player game you get 14 rounds, which means just 14 actions to do everything, from hiring workers to buying scrap wood, before the game ends.

Wood comes in the form of three colours of dice, and you’ll need to match dice numbers and colours exactly with those listed at the bottom of contracts in order to complete an item. Luckily, you can use the saw action to split a die into two or more smaller ones – so, for example you could cut a 5 into a 3 and a 2, or two 2s and a 1. If you upgrade your workshop, you can also use glue tokens to stick two dice together – say combining a 2 and 4 to make a 6.

You can also plant dice in your nursery, where, each turn, they’ll grow by 2. When they’re the size you need, you can pull them up and use them in a nice piano. But you’ll probably want to sell them, because money is tight in Woodcraft – tighter than the lips of one of your elvish employees when asked to disclose corporate secrets. Indeed, by hiring extra workers and expanding your workshop you can bump up the income you’ll receive during one of the four income phases – but not by much. Expect a handful of blueberries for your labours unless you manage to fulfil some of the big contracts.

All of this adds up to a first playthrough that can feel like working the grill at a busy restaurant on your first shift. It’s easy to blow blueberries on the wrong things and kill your economy, then have to waste precious turns picking it back up off the floor. You start with four contracts and get to place a new one in your workshop after each income phase, and approaching them in the wrong order can kill your game.

On a second go, however, Woodcraft’s charms come crawling to the surface like termites emerging from a log. Despite the punishing, stingy economy, once you satisfy a contract your options open up. The mini-game where placing tools in your attic unlocks bonuses seriously amplifies your score. Variable end-game bonuses help steer your strategy. Luck plays a part – sometimes a contract appears you can instantly fulfil with your dice on hand – but you feel much more in control after a couple of plays.

This is Agricola rather than Caverna, tough and unforgiving behind the cutesy theme, but it’s fun and rewarding. Just remember it’s not all plane sailing, and you should avoid saw losers.

Tim Clare


TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED Underwater Cities

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Woodcraft retains the ungenerous economy of previous Vladimír Suchý games such as Underwater Cities. The action wheel has hints of the recent Damask, and there’s a jostling, ruthless capitalist energy that fans of Pipeline may well appreciate.

Read a review of Underwater Cities here

Designer: Vladimír Suchý & Ross Arnold

Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Time: 80-120 minutes

Players: 1-4

Ages: 14+

Time: £50

What’s in the box?

  • Action wheel board
  • 4 Player board
  • Income board
  • Scoreboard
  • 8 Flowerpot tiles
  • 12 Splicing tiles
  • 12 Sawing tiles
  • 3 Reputation track tiles
  • 7 Action tiles
  • 9 Tile-reuse tokens
  • 4 Gluing tiles
  • 55 Tool tokens
  • Starting player card
  • Arc tile
  • Blueberry tokens
  • 14 Dice in 3 colours
  • 16 Lantern tokens
  • 32 Player counters in 4 colours
  • 20 Scrapwood tokens
  • 16 Sawblade tokens
  • Round counter
  • 16 Glue tokens
  • 4 Score counters
  • 10 Solo cards
  • 49 Helper cards
  • 72 Order cards
  • 8 Public contract cards


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