Finding games that are fun and balanced at two players can be a challenge. Many board games offer two player variants to their rules, so that no matter the circumstance, the game will be played. However, these two player variants often cannot provide the same fun feeling at smaller sizes. The Fox in the Forest Duet from Foxtrot games and Renegade publishing is a perfect small package built for two players. This game provides quick and fun experiences that players will want to return to and the use of the trick-taking card mechanic provides the game with a level of tension that may be unexpected from such a small box.
Working Together from Home
The Fox in the Forest Duet released in 2020, just before the pandemic went into full swing here in Canada. Throughout the last year and a bit this game has been a great way for my husband and I to relax, as much of our board game library isn’t exactly two player friendly. Duet, like the original, is an excellent 2 player trick-taking card game. The mechanic is used to create a co-operative experience, as players collect gems in the forest before the end of three rounds. Players are dealt 11 cards that they must play each round, with a draw deck and trump card that are taken into account during play. The unique twist to Duet’s gameplay is that players cannot communicate with each other.
The Sound of Silence
Many games use the mechanic of taking away communication to enhance gameplay like The Mind, The Grizzled and Hanabi. Honestly, this is not a mechanic I am a fan of. The gimmick often wears out its welcome rather quickly and part of board gaming for me is the social aspect. However, The Fox in the Forest Duet uses the sound of silence to its advantage. The tension it provides the game is very real and adds to the challenge in a fun way. Players need to collect all of the gems on the board before the end of three rounds or they lose.
However, if players move beyond the borders of the forest, forest tokens are placed on the board reducing the number of spaces and making it more difficult to maneuver. If there are no more forest tokens to place, players also lose the game.
In The Fox and the Forest Duet players use the trick taking mechanic to move. The fox token moves towards the player who won the trick and rounds are over when both players have played all the cards in their hand. Each card has a number of paw prints that indicate how far the fox token will move and movement combines the total of both cards in the trick. The players are dealt 11 cards each every round to play. These cards act like a timer, increasing the feeling of satisfaction each time a successful move is made and compounding failures of play and increasing the tension of the game.
Challenge and Replayability
This game is much harder than The Fox in the Forest. Because players cannot communicate it means that success is more difficult to come by; both players could have an idea of what they want to do but it might not come together. Or, the trump card could ruin the best laid plans. Overall, we have about a 50/50 win/lose ratio with the game, and that is actually a selling point. When players lose there is disappointment but also moments where you were so close that you have to try again. If you and your gaming partner are savants at the game, then there are three levels of difficulty and different degrees of success players can measure themselves against in the rulebook.
Same Charm, Same Size Package, Different Game
As a sequel to The Fox in the Forest, comparisons are necessary. Duet has a new artist, but Roanna Peroz’s art is just as charming as the artwork in the original. The rulebook is just as nicely laid out, the cards are the same quality, and the board is really nice and durable. The real reason to buy this is for the tense cooperative play. This game is not just good for couples but also good friends, there is a level of strategy from this game that is not delivered in other silent cards games. I would highly recommend grabbing both this and the original for a good time frolicking in the forest.