“Once upon a time, a woodcutter and his daughter lived in a small village bordering the forest. She had traveled with him and had seen him speak to the forest animals.”
That passage isn’t the actual opening line of the fairytale that inspired The Fox in the Forest, but it is a suitable opening for the game. Short passages adapted from The Queen’s Butterflies* are included throughout the rulebook, and while they aren’t directly taken from the story they do a good job presenting the tale in the context of this game. Story aside, The Fox in the Forest is a nice little trick-taking game for two players, from Foxtrot Games and Renegade Game Studio. [* see note at the end]
The deck in this game is comprised of 11 cards in three suits (Bells, Keys, and Moons). Also included are a handful of scoring tokens and a pair of convenient reference cards with the scoring and card abilities.
A regular game goes to 21 points, which can technically be acheived in as little as three rounds. Each round lasts 13 tricks with the score being based on the number of tricks you take in a round. The most interesting thing about the scoring, however, is that being greedy and trying to take every trick isn’t actually the point, nor is it particularly fun. At the end of the round, if a player took 7-9 tricks they are “Victorious” and get 6 points, while their opponent get 1-3 points for being “Defeated”. If a player is “Greedy”and takes 10-13 tricks, they get 0 points and their opponent is “Humble” and get 6 points instead. I really enjoy that scoring mechanic, as it forces players to pay more attention to the whole game, not just winning the trick of the moment.
At the start of each round, both players are dealt a hand of 13 cards, with the remaining cards forming a draw deck. A player will only ever draw a card at the same time as they secretly discarding a card to the bottom of the deck, as the result of a card’s ability, keeping their hand the same size. This has the dual effect of invigorating a players hand and changing what cards are out of play, making card counting even more challenging. The top card of the draw deck is revealed and becomes the “decree” card that determines which suit can trump the other two. Generally, the highest card played wins the trick unless it is trumped. It’s basic trick taking as far as that part of the game goes.
Going back to drawing (and replacing) a card from the deck, that is one of several abilities that playing a card can have. In this case, it is for playing the Woodcutter (the number 5 card). Every odd-numbered card has a name, a gorgeous piece of artwork, and an ability. The card names are all drawn from the fairytale and are the same for each suit. Likewise, the abilities are all the same regardless of the suit, but the artwork is not. Each suit has dramatically different art, that tells the same story in different ways. You could easily mount the whole deck and hang it on the wall.
The game isn’t particularly hard to learn, it plays quickly enough to slip in just about anytime you like, and if you want to play a longer game, just keep score on paper. It’s great.
If you’re interested, you can read The Queen’s Butterflies, by Alana Joli Abbott at foxtrotgames.com/forest/the-fairy-tale, then check out her website at www.virgilandbeatrice.com or her Facebook page atfacebook.com/pg/alanajoliabbott for more interesting things.