The Fox in the Forest is close to the perfect card game, it contains all the elements ‘a keeper’ game should have; easy set up, easy to teach, gorgeous art and surprising tension that makes groups feel like they could go for one more game. The theme of this game is what drew me to it many years ago, and the forest theme is extremely popular now (something something urbanization and isolation makes Jack a dull boy). Games like Photosynthesis, Arboretum and, this year’s Diamond Climber winner for best light game Village Green all use nature to draw their players in. The Fox in the Forest is no exception, using adorable forest animals in a fantasy setting to make a surprisingly tight and competitive game that’s pleasing to the eye.
Originally published in 2017 by Renegade Games, The Fox in the Forest is a competitive trick-taking game. The object of the game is to accumulate 21 points by playing cards to win tricks over multiple rounds. The cards are numbered 1-11 in three suits and odd numbered cards have special abilities which can change the course of the round. Each player is dealt 13 cards, the remainder becoming the draw deck with one card face-up as the trump card.
Trick-Taking Mechanics in Action
Trick-taking is a well worn game mechanism where one player (the leader) plays a single card and their opponent must respond with a card from the same suit. Whoever has the highest numbered card wins the trick, although a card from the trump suit will always beat cards from other suits.
In the example of play pictured above the player with the 11 Monarch card was the leader. According to its ability, the following player had to play their highest numbered card of the same suit. Luckily for the leader, it was the 7 Treasure card, which means they got an extra point at the end of the round. If the following player had no Bell cards left, and had played a 7 Key, they would have won the round because it was the highest number in the trump suit.
“It’s Time to D-d-d-d-duel!”
The real bread and butter of the game comes from the scoring system. If players win 0-3 tricks they are awarded with 6 points, 7-9 tricks awards 6 points, anything in between awards 1-3 points and finally, if they win 10-13 tricks they are greedy and get nothing! (The scoring card says greedy, not me). This cute game brings with it a layer of psychological warfare as players evaluate their hands and try to determine what their strategy will be. Players want to maximize their points each round using the card abilities to their advantage. This game plays like poker as each person tries to read their opponent, think about what cards have been played, and win or lose rounds to their advantage. It can be surprisingly cutthroat and is a great game to play with someone you know well.
The game is excellently crafted; the point tokens are made from a thick and sturdy cardboard and the cards themselves are beautiful. My personal copy has travelled across Canada on a road trip and the cards held up well to many plays and cold nights. The creation of unique suits really adds to the charm of the game and they fit with the game’s fantastical forest setting. The rulebook has excerpts of the story that inspired the art and an FAQ. There is a video explanation online of how to play for visual learners, which is something many can appreciate.
Happily Ever After
Overall The Fox in the Forest is a great competitive game that has earned a spot as one of my all time favourite games. The psychological aspect of the game is much better implemented than in other trick-taking games and offers much more replayability. The gimmick does not wear out its welcome and brings unexpected tension to play.
If you liked this, and are curious about the sequel, check out our review of The Fox in the Forest Duet.