Lately, there have been a number of games centred less around complex mechanics and direct confrontation, and more around pleasing aesthetics and calming gameplay. I’ve welcomed this new brand of games, as they open up a lot of different themes I never would’ve considered in the past.
Legendary Forests falls into this category of game. It’s darn pretty to look at, pleasing to play, and won’t leave you hating your opponents by the end of it.
You take on the role of Dryads trying to create the most beautiful forest on your own planet. Over the course of 19 turns, you’ll lay tiles and sometimes tree tokens to score points.
One player is chosen as the architect at the start of the game. They shuffle their World tiles and randomly remove five of them. Each other player can have their World tiles face up. They are all numbered and each turn the architect will draw one of their facedown tiles and announce the number to the rest of the players. They then find that tile and everyone adds it to their growing forest. This mirrors the game Karuba from a few years back. If you ever played that game, you’ll remember that although everyone is adding the same pieces, the results are dramatically different.
You’ll start with your number one tile already out. The tiles all depict some combination of forest types, including Maple, Cherry Blossom, and Ginko. As you grow your forest, each side of the tiles you add must match, i.e. Ginko must touch Ginko.
When you connect tiles, you’re also completing Runes. The four sides of the World tiles all depict half-Runes. Once another tile touches it, the Runes are completed. This will become clearer when we talk about scoring.
Most of the numbers on the World tiles are on a dark background, but a few are on a light background. When one of those is drawn by the architect, it starts a round of of construction. One player will have the construction token and they will have the option of taking a Tree token and placing it somewhere in their forest. The Tree token must match all the forest type it’s being built in. Red goes in Maple, pink in cherry blossom, etc. There are only two of each tree token colour for every player and once they run out, that’s it. After the construction round, the token moves to the left with the next player starting the next construction round.
Play continues until the architect has drawn their last tile and everyone has placed it in their own forest.
You’ll score points for all the tree tokens you’ve built in your forest. If a token is in a closed section (there are no half Runes), you score two points for every full Rune in it. If the section has not been closed, you score one point for every full Rune. They player with the most points wins.
On its surface, Legendary Forests seems like a fairly simple game, but if you dig a bit deeper…well, it’s still pretty simple. However that’s not a critique. You should just be aware of that going in. Between the colourful World tiles (on both sides), and the super pretty Tree tokens, it has great table presence. Its short playtime makes it really easy to digest and replay. Give this one a shot if you get the chance.
A review copy of Legendary Forests was provided for this article from Iello.