Redwood: Nature Photography as Puzzle

Redwood game box

I love nature photography. But I’m terrible at it.

I don’t have the patience to wait for an animal to do something interesting. My photos of flowers are not as appealing as real life. And I have no idea how you get a good picture of a tree. But that doesn’t stop me from trying. And now I’ve found Redwood, a game that might actually teach me a bit about it.

Redwood is a game of nature photography for 1-4 players by Christophe Raimbault, illustrated by Edu Valls, and published by Sit Down! Games. It’s best for ages 10+, and plays in under an hour.


To begin your journey into nature photography, set out the circular board and place the five kinds of panorama background cards next to their matching biomes. Randomly select five objective cards (one of each number 1-5). Select a “sunrise” card to determine the placement of the objectives, animal cutout pawns, and the large sun token.

Redwood sunrise card #1

Spread out the seven move templates and seven shot templates so that each one can be easily grabbed. And don’t forget the supply piles of animal tokens, flower tokens, tree tokens, small sun tokens, and “Harmony” tokens (pinecones).

Every player takes two matching photographers. Starting with the last player, each player puts one photographer on a signpost space on the board (the other stays in their supply).

Full setup of Redwood for two players

How to Play

Every player’s turn has the same structure. First, choose templates, then move your photographer, and finally take your photo. After five rounds, everyone tallies up their points and determine whose nature panorama will most dazzle their audience.

Choose Templates

The templates are translucent plastic with a semi-circular clip on one end. You must choose both a move template and a shot template before moving your photographer. And once you touch a template, you’ve chosen it – so estimate carefully!

After the first round, you may have one or two templates sitting in front of you from your previous turn. You are not allowed to choose these – but you can choose any other template on the table. If you choose a template in front of another player, they get a Harmony token (point) from the supply.

Once you’ve chosen the templates for your turn, return your old templates from the previous round.


Hold your photographer on the board, and then gently clip the move template onto it. This shows exactly how far your photographer moves this turn – but you can turn the template any way you want (or flip it over to get a different curve). Once you’ve made your decision on moving, hold your second photographer figure gently on the endpoint circle – then remove the other photographer with the template.

Moving a photographer

Your move has three restrictions: your path cannot overlap an animal, nor can it overlap another photographer. And of course, the endpoint of your move must be on the board!

Point and Shoot!

Now set up your photo. Clip the shot template into the base of your photographer. This represents the camera angle of your lens and your focus length. Swivel the template to make the best photo you can. You want to completely cover interesting subjects with the template, such as flowers, sequoia trees, and animals. And you definitely don’t want any other photographers in there!

Your final shot template placement determines which biome is in the background of your picture – take the corresponding panorama card, and matching tokens for any plants or animals you completely covered. Join the panorama card to one side or the other of the panorama cards you already have, then place tokens from this shot on the target icons of the card.

two panorama cards with tokens from Redwood
Adding a new panorama card

Check the face up objective cards for any bonus points you may have earned with this shot. Then any animals you photographed this turn will move to another hexagonal hole on the board, in one of their favorite biomes if possible.

Same landscape objective bonus
Check objectives
Animal pawn lifted to show hexagonal peg and hole
Move any animals in the shot

New Round

After each player has had a turn, the large sun token moves clockwise to the next biome. This also reveals an additional objective – flip the card and find out a new way to earn more points!

After five rounds, the game ends.

Redwood objective zero flowers
The final objective revealed! If you can avoid all flowers in your shot, get three bonus points.


End game point calculation is pretty straightforward and helped by the scoresheets in the box. Earn points for each Harmony token, animal, sequoia, and flower; lose a point for each empty target on your five panorama cards.

You’ll also gain points for photographing a variety of animals, and for “connecting” your panorama backgrounds.

You’d also like to get some sun in your final picture – but not too much! If you point towards the sun for just one section of your panorama, you’ll add four points. But if you aimed at the sun more than once, you’ll lose two points instead.

Redwood final panorama
A panorama with perfect connections between every card and exactly one sun token.

Other Ways to Play

Redwood allows for an expert mode, which changes the panorama background cards. Each one now has an additional requirement on a marked target space – and if you fail to fill that marked space, you lose three points instead of one. The flower scoring also becomes more difficult; instead of one point for each flower, you get seven points for each set of three different flowers (and nothing for individual blooms).

Expert card for Redwood
Cover the red target with a red flower, or lose three points!

The rulebook also recommends a team mode for four player games. Both players on a team play simultaneously, moving at the same time and setting up shots at the same time, without overlap. You’ll get to earn extra points for objectives that your teammate satisfies, and at the end of the game, you combine your scores to compare with the other team. Playing in teams is also compatible with expert mode.

I tried the solo mode. There are four solo scenarios, each of which has a specific set of objectives and some additional constraint you must meet during the game. Your photographer is the only one moving and taking photos, and has a specific starting location indicated on the sunrise card.


The first thing I noticed about Redwood was the movement templates. These allow for a type of fluid movement – you have an exact path and distance to move, but on a wide-open map instead of a board with distinct spaces. I normally associate this style with war games, and only one other family game: The Adventures of Robin Hood (sort of).

Estimating exactly how far you want to go is surprisingly challenging – and combining it with the variety of shot templates creates an extra layer of uncertainty. But this is a good thing! We often found ourselves saying “OK, I picked. Let’s see how this goes,” because it’s impossible to be exact if you can’t test your choices.

Lining up a narrow and long shot

However, everyone faces the same challenges. Covering enough animals and/or plants for a “full” photograph means getting everything lined up just right, and even the best player can’t do it all the time. This also leaves some room for fudging, which can be different for different age ranges.

Shot template from Redwood, covering two animals, a tree, and a flower.
It’s very rewarding to cover multiple animals in a shot – if you can get it lined up.

Surprisingly Fast

The box for Redwood says 45 minutes. As a solo or two player game, it takes even less time than that. Each player only gets five turns. As long as no one is over-analyzing their choices, it can go very quickly.

As a solo game, it felt incredibly smooth and fast. The challenges keep things interesting and really highlight the puzzle-like nature of the game.

And although it felt like a lot of setup to get started, it’s a lot less than other “point of view” games like Tang Garden. Once I’d played a few times, I knew what we were looking for with the objectives and the “sunrise” card, which made things go a lot faster.

But I can see why the rulebook recommends team mode for four players. It’s not just about the time between your turns; the board is also more vulnerable to crowding as everyone chases the same objectives (and sometimes the same animal). Team mode speeds up the game but also lets you share objectives with your teammate instead of nudging you towards same decisions as everyone else.

Three photographer minis crowded together
Excuse me!

Quiet Family Fun

Other than the crowding at four players, there are a few things that make Redwood stand out for me as a family game:

  • It’s not directly competitive. You’re trying to compose the best photographs, not ruin other people’s pictures.
  • But other people’s choices affect yours. Animals move after being photographed, and taking a template from a player means they get a point AND the opportunity to take that template again, if they wish.
  • There’s no reading. Objectives and constraints are all communicated with symbols.
  • It’s easy to handicap for younger players. Have them play in basic mode while adults play expert; further loosen the rules by letting younger players pick their shot template after moving, or giving them credit for plants and animals they can only cover partially.

It’s rare that a game can move as quickly as Redwood does while allowing players to interact in a non-destructive way. If I ever visit the Pacific Northwest, I hope the parks there give me the same feeling of peaceful productiveness that I get when playing Redwood.

Find Redwood on Amazon or at your local game store.

Redwood game box

The Family Gamers received a copy of Redwood from Flat River Games (on behalf of Sit Down! Games) for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

  • 9.5/10
    Art - 9.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Mechanics - 8.5/10
  • 8/10
    Family Fun - 8/10


Age Range: 10+ (could go younger)
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 45 minutes