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LIVING FOREST is a board game by Aske Christiansen with beautiful illustrations by Apolline Etienne and published by Ludonaute and available from UK Game stores via Asmodee UK (England's top boardgame distributor) and Pegasus Spiele in Germany

LIVING FOREST is another cute game in the genre brought back to the foreground by the likes of Celestia, Everdell, Flourish etc. By cute I mean the themes, adorable, charming, dainty creatures, pretty plants etc all brought to life, or at least to the table, with 3D card models.

The four spirits of Nature - Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn (Fall in the USA) are all brought together to battle the terrible, fearsome flames of Onibi. There are different tactics available but it is up to the players which path to choose for the best.

The game begins on the front page of the Rules booklet and continue through to the back page, #16. The pages in-between are filled with illustrative examples as well as the rules. Even non-board game regular players will have no problems following how to play and how to win.

For Two to Four players, Living Forest plays very well with 2, 3 or 4, with each getting their own specific player board (their own Forest) and Spirit of Nature standee, and like all of the components that make up this enjoyably entertaining game, they are of really good material (card with play-longevity).

There are 39 Protective Tree tiles which are placed in the two dispensers in ascending order of value: 3,3,4,4,5,5 in one and 6,7,8,9,10 and 11 in the other - varying numbers of tiles but the same type of tile in each slot. The holders have to be assembled before the first game but then the designers have created a box deep enough and with a specific space for them so they need not be dissassembled at the end of each session.

These are the tiles that you place on your board. Your board also has a designed cut-out on the side where your personal deck of cards, your own draw deck, is placed during play - everything has its own place in the setup.

There are 3 sets of Guardian Animal cards. These are separated by the colour of the Sun icon in which a numerical value is printed. The 23 White Suns are numbered 3, 4 & 5, the 16 Yellow Suns are 5 through to 10, and the Red Suns 10, 11, 12 & 13. The Suns on each card are exactly the same shape and size which may cause people with a form of colour blindness. I am not colour blind and my only real association with it is my daughter's ex-boyfriend used to see Green as Brown, so I don't know if White, Yellow and Red are colours unaffected by the affliction. There are also 23 Varan Fire cards - each of these is identical.

Note: All of these cards have the same back design so take a few moments at the end of each game to separate them (by Sun) by visually regarding the front of each card.

So about the game itself. There are three ways of ending the game, the ideas being to plant 12 different trees in your personal Forest, or, to awaken the Great Guardian of the Forest, Sanki, by collecting 12 Sacred Flowers, or, to extinguish 12 Fires and thus rid the wonderful world of the awful Onibi. 

It is a card collecting, deck-building, tile laying, points gaining, ecological (but not preaching), forty minutes of fun. Every player's turn has the same mechanics and the same options, but can be played according to the player's wishes, and with a little luck-of-the draw. There is more thoughtful decision making play than there is luck, which is why I haven't lingered on the luck aspect - it is that miniscule, but it may be the difference between success and not getting the right number of icons required - usually by a factor of one.

 

A Player's Turn consists of three phases; Guardian Animals, Action, and End of Game Turn. The latter phase has itself, five phases: Onibi attacks you, Onibi attacks the Sacred Tree, New Guardians arrive, Return of Guardian Animals and passing the Sacred Tree (Turn Marker) to the next Spirit in turn.

All of these are explained in straight-forward text and examples, but basically you take cards from your own deck (one at a time and however many you want up to the third Varan symbol) and form a Help Line which, depending on the icons on some of the cards, allows you to perform either 2 or 1 Action. Some cards have Varans symbol on them and some have an anti-Varan symbol which negates the Varan symbols one for one.

If your Help Line has 2 or less Varan symbols then you have two Actions available, more than two Varan symbols means only one Action. The reason you may push your card drawing is to get the Elements needed to obtain the required Protective Tree Tiles and/or the Guardian Animal cards, thus including the deck-building aspect of the game.

The different elements on the cards allow for different market-style purchasing/ For example the Water element allows for Fire Tiles to be taken from the Circle of Spirits - the pond-looking mat around which your standee figures traverse the surrounding rocks. Each rock has a symbol which triggers an effect when landed on - your piece moves (jumping over pieces in its way) round the number of rock spaces equal to the number of 'move icons' you have.

A good part of your thoughts during play should be towards the buying and  placing of the Protective Tree tiles, for when correctly positioned in your personal Forest they score you bonus elements etc. You can also score Fragment tiles which can be used throughout for destroying Fire Varan cards or retaining Guardian Animal cards.

This is a super family strategy game that has many simple actions, all with intriguing effects. We played Living Forest many times and found it was always the board game equivalent of 'Shiny Happy People' - we truly shiny-happy-enjoy it!

LIVING FOREST has several good, very good, things within this game, from the rules to the components to the fun every player enjoys, but there is also another excellent reason to seek out this game; the price online is an incredible £22.00-£25.50.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021