SNAP Preview – Forage
I love fast-playing solo games. They’re perfect for taking a few minutes to decompress or filling time while I’m waiting around for my kids at their various activities.
If it’s small enough that I can tuck it in my pocket and play it on a space as small as a notebook, that’s even better.
It plays in 10 minutes or less, and the box says ages 14 and up.
Forage is the third installment in the “harvesting trilogy”, which also includes Orchard and Grove.
Let’s talk about the art in Forage. Inside this little telescoping box are 18 cards, 15 custom dice, instructions, and a cute little wooden mouse token.
Like the two games that came before it, every card in Forage is divided into six sections. Three types of brightly colored terrain and foraged food appear on each card: orangey-brown sweet chestnuts on orange and yellow fallen leaves, tan mushrooms in brown soil, and purpley-blue blackberries on green brambles.
These same color combinations are on the dice as well as on the cards. The numbering here is unusual – 1,3,6,10, a basket for 15, and a mouse for -2. More on that in a minute.
The backs of the cards depict recipe challenges: various dishes and modifiers on a white background, echoing the color scheme used on the front of the cards without copying it exactly.
And although we don’t use him much, we can’t forget this cute little mouse token – his name is Edwood Mouse.
So, how do we play Forage? If you have watched my Grove review, most of this will sound familiar, but watch out for a couple of changes.
As with Grove, you’ll only use nine cards for a full game. Choose one of them randomly and lay it face up, then draw a hand of two cards from the remaining eight in your deck.
Place a card from your hand, overlapping one or more matching terrain types with the cards already on the table.
For each food area that overlaps the same terrain type, either place a die or upgrade the existing die in that spot.
There is one non-food area on each card, showing two terrain types. These can be placed over an existing die or food spot, but won’t cause a die to be placed or upgraded there.
If any area on the new card covers an area that does not match the card below it, you must place a die, of the appropriate terrain type, with the mouse showing. This die can no longer be overlapped, unless you use Edwood Mouse. He can be used once per game to “scare off” a smaller mouse – but he’ll subtract five points from your final score.
After placing the card and arranging all the appropriate dice, draw a new card and go again. Once all nine cards are on the table, calculate your score by adding up the values on all the dice – then subtract 1 point for every die that’s on a split-terrain area instead of a food area, and don’t forget to subtract points for every mouse in the wood, too.
If beating your high score isn’t enough, add the recipe challenge – pick two cards from the ones that aren’t being used for this game. They’ll give you a target score to beat, along with two ways to earn bonus points.
So what did I expect from Forage?
I love Grove, the previous game in this series – it’s one of my favorite solo games! I was expecting something similar here, layering cards to “upgrade” die faces.
But Forage should be more than just a new coat of paint. On the other hand, I was hopeful that rule changes wouldn’t make it more complicated. And of course, the rulebook should still be full of delicious puns.
So lets talk about what surprised me in the rule changes.
Having the option to overlap non-matching areas whenever you want gives a lot more flexibility in Forage. Of course, you’re still going to have to place a mouse and lose points when you do that, but sometimes it’s worth it.
And the reason why it’s worth it is because the die values upgrade really rapidly. In Grove, they climbed stepwise: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and then 10. But in Forage, it goes back to the pattern that was established in Orchard, the first game: going from 1 to 3 to 6 to 10 to 15.
These two aspects combine to make my choices more interesting – I can work out the math to decide if maybe losing two points for a mouse is worth it, if I’m making big jumps on other spaces.
The recipes feel a lot like they did in Grove, but there’s a nice detail changed here that makes it feel a tiny bit more thematic. Your two recipe names sometimes combine to make a description, like “Grandma’s Pickled Mushrooms” or “Award Winning and Homemade”.
I highly recommend Forage for solo gamers like me.
Like Grove, it plays very quickly and it’s small enough you can bring it almost anywhere.
I think I might like it even more than Grove, which was my top game of 2021. Forage is about the same difficulty, but I love that it gives me a little bit more freedom to choose how I place the cards. I’m also loving the autumnal feel of this game.
If Forage sounds like your kind of solo game, check it out on Kickstarter today!
And that’s Forage – in a SNAP!
The Family Gamers received a pre-production copy of Forage from Side Room Games for this preview, then sent it on to another reviewer.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?