SNAP Review – FORK: A Food Chain Trick-Taking Game
[Anitra] Andrew, how often do you think about…
[Andrew] The Roman Empire!
[Anitra] No, the food chain.
[Andrew] Oh, not as often.
This is a SNAP review for FORK, a food chain trick-taking game by Ta-Te Wu and published by Sunrise Tornado.
FORK is a card game for 2-6 players ages 8 and up, and it takes about 20 minutes to play. We’ve got the “pocket” version here, which is just cards, but there’s also a larger “box” version which includes a scoreboard, tokens, and an expansion.
Speaking of the box, what’s the art like here?
[Anitra] The art by Lili Chin is pretty simple, but it’s very well done. Every card has lovely flat illustrations of an owl, a rabbit, or a kale on one of four terrains. There are also fox cards, on a bright yellow-orange background, since they don’t belong to any specific terrain.
[Andrew] I really like it. It’s a nice, elegant art style.
[Anitra] Each of the four terrain’s animals are different species too, which adds some more interest to the cards.
Now that we’ve looked at the cards, what are the mechanics of FORK and how do we play?
Well, FORK is based on trick-taking games like we said, but it’s a little bit different. Instead of suits, we have terrains: Arctic, Desert, Mountain, and Swamp. Each of these terrains has twelve cards in it: five Kale, six Rabbits, and one Owl.
To set up the game, give every player a Fox card. Then shuffle all the terrain cards together and deal out an equal number to each player. (In a three player game you’ll only use three of the four terrains, and you’ll give players two Foxes instead.)
Each round, one player leads a card, then each other player plays a card, following suit if possible. Foxes are wild and can be played in any terrain.
So far, this sounds like a normal trick-taking game.
But in FORK, Kale cards are played face-up, while everything else is played face-down. So usually the lead player needs to declare what terrain they’re playing in – and they can show it with a marker on this little multi-terrain card.
When everyone has played a card, it’s time to reveal the cards and resolve them. Cards are resolved from highest number to lowest.
#9 is the Fox. If anyone played a fox, they can score an Owl or a Rabbit, taking it from the played cards on the table. But if two players played a Fox, neither one gets anything. Either way, the played Fox card is discarded after this step.
#8 is the Owl. If a player put out an Owl in the current terrain – and it wasn’t taken by a Fox – they can grab a Rabbit from the played cards. Then they discard the Owl. No Rabbits in the current terrain? Then the Owl doesn’t do anything, but still gets discarded.
#7 all the way down to #2 are Rabbits. Starting with the highest value, each Rabbit in the current terrain can score a Kale from the current terrain, if it’s out there. Then discard the Rabbit. If the played Rabbit doesn’t match the terrain for this round, it does nothing.
Lastly, #1 is Kale. If a player still has a Kale on the table that matches the current terrain after all of the animals have eaten, they get to take it back and keep it for scoring.
Now the round is over, and the player to the left of the start player becomes the new start player.
When someone has five scored cards, or when everyone runs out of cards in their hands, the game ends. It’s time to count up your score pile!
Each Owl is worth 2 points, and Rabbits are worth 1-3 points. Group all your Kale together, regardless of terrain, to score it: just 1 point for a single Kale, all the way up to 8 points if you scored five Kale cards.
There’s a team variation that must be used for six players and can be used at four players, if you like that kind of thing.
There’s also a two player variation that involves several rule changes.
[Andrew] So Anitra, what did we expect from FORK?
[Anitra] Well, it’s a small box. It’s got cute illustrations. It’s trick-taking. The name is really clever – FORK stands for Fox Owl Rabbit Kale, but it doesn’t actually tell us much about how the game plays.
[Andrew] We’ve seen a lot of really, really clever trick takers lately, some of which we’ve reviewed at the top of our scale. So I was expecting here some new, novel mechanics in FORK, given the hype it has gotten.
[Andrew] So what surprised us about FORK? I know you’ve got some thoughts.
[Anitra] FORK has got to be the strangest trick-taking game I’ve ever played. It was hard to wrap my head around at first, but once I learned the rules, it’s actually much simpler than I expected. As soon as cards are revealed and resolved, it just kind of snaps together for me.
Instead of winning the whole trick, you’re just getting one card. Will you be able to grab a high-value animal? Or maybe you’ll just try to get as much kale as possible. Once you get the mechanics, it’s all about guessing your opponents’ moves, just like in any other trick-taking game.
I showed it to a group of young teenagers, and after the first hand, everyone just got it. With the way you win just one card, it feels a little unbalanced at three players, but we had a good time playing with four and five players.
[Andrew] We didn’t really love this game at two players, with the variation, though. The rules weren’t super clear. But one thing was sure – this variation uses three terrains simultaneously, so there was a just lot more stuff to keep track of. It was just too much for a game that should be fast and simple – like it is at higher player counts.
[Anitra] We recommend FORK for families who already like trick-taking. It might even be a good way to introduce trick-taking to kids around age 8 or so – the animals-eat-other-animals theme is a little easier to understand than trump suits and winning and losing whole hands.
[Andrew] It’s a super cute game and it looks great on the table. This is a great stocking stuffer tuck-box game that will be available this holiday, or you can pick up the slightly larger deluxe version right now at SunriseTornado.com.
We’re going to rate FORK 3½ kale out of 5.
And that’s FORK, in a SNAP!
The Family Gamers received a copy of FORK from Sunrise Tornado for this review.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
FORK - a food chain trick taking game
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 2-6 (we say 3-6, best at 4-5)
Playtime: 15-20 minutes