Full disclosure: A review copy of Legendary Forests was provided by Iello.
Alright, back with more games I picked up at Gen Con! To be fair, this was more of an Origins release, stateside, but you know, time details. Anyways, I have it now, and I’m going to talk more about this and a few more games from Iello in the future (Little Town and SOS Dino, both of which are pretty exciting). Let’s dive right into it and see how it plays!
In Legendary Forests, you play as forest spirits eager to create a new world. Naturally, you are creating distinct worlds, so you’d rather make sure that your world is better than your opponents! It wouldn’t be fair if you got special preferences, though, so everyone will be given the same tools with which to construct their world. Will you be able to create a better world than your peers?
Not a ton of setup, thankfully. Just give every player a set of tiles:
They should be numbered 1 – 25. All players should place the 1 in front of them to start their play area. Have every player but one sort their remaining tiles face-up in front of them., and then have the other player shuffle their stack. This player will be the Architect. The Architect should remove 5 tiles from the stack and place them out of play without looking at them. Once that’s done, also set out the trees:
There should be two of each tree color per player. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to start!
Legendary Forests is a game of competitive forest-building. As you do. In it, you play as forest spirits eager to prove that they are truly the best when it comes to arboreal construction.
There aren’t really turns; instead, each round, the Architect will reveal a tile and all players will add it to their play areas. As with most tile-laying games, the two edges of the tiles you connect must match and you have to place a tile such that it matches up edge-to-edge against another tile.
Every time a tile with a white circle around the number is revealed, all players may add a tree token to their forest. This starts with the player currently holding the first-player token. Each player may take a tree of any color and add it anywhere on their board such that it’s clearly in a space matching its color. There is no benefit to having more than one tree in an area, so try to avoid that if you can.
Once the final tile is drawn, the game ends! Tally your scores by looking at every area with a tree. Each tile edge forms half a runestone, so two adjacent tiles form a complete runestone. Count the number of runestones and then check whether or not the area with the tree is completed (enclosed on all sides):
- Incomplete area with a tree: 1 point per runestone.
- Complete area with a tree: 2 points per runestone.
The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
I mean, the game itself is basically multiplayer tile solitaire, given that you don’t interact with other players’ boards. To that end, I’d normally say player count doesn’t really matter. The one thing you need to watch out for, though, is that more players doesn’t necessarily mean more trees come into play. If anything, it means that you risk getting shut out in a color if you’re not careful. That said, it’s not that big of a deal, so I don’t really have a problem with increasing the player count. Anywhere between two and four players is fine with me.
- You’re going to need to bet big at least once, probably. You need to get a pretty large area going if you want to end up with enough points to win the game. I think usually winning scores in the games I’ve played have been in the high 30s? To that end, at least one big area on your forest has to score and be completed. You won’t be able to get enough runes together to win if that large of a mass is incomplete, so, get ready to bet bit.
- Keep track of what types of tiles you have left. This is something that I mess up as the Architect. Since all of my tiles are face-down, I’m never totally sure what’s still available in terms of connections or possible spaces to close off completed areas. That’s not a good thing to be unsure about if you want to win the game, so make sure you’re doing a better job of tracking that when you play than I’ve done in the past.
- If you’re not the Architect, keep in mind that you can’t play the last five tiles you have. The opposite case is also true for a lot of players. Since you see all your tiles, you rightfully assume that you’ll get to play all of them, so you may overinvest in certain areas mistakenly thinking that you’ll play all of your tiles before the game ends. Just make sure you realize that five of those tiles are never getting played, so you can’t rely on all of them.
- To that end, maybe don’t attach that four-way tile to an area you want completed in the last three turns of the game? It’s like a Cathedral in Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals; it’s really awesome if you manage to crush one early in the game and you can build off of it, and it’s very bad if you get one towards the end of the game and attach it to an area you’d rather have closed off completely. Add in players forgetting how many tiles they have left and you’ve got a real problem.
- Check to see if you can deny any of your opponents the trees that they want. This is pretty hard to do, to be honest, but towards the end of the game you might be able to cost another player a few points by taking a tree that would have let them score. Just make sure that the tree you leave behind for them won’t let them score much, either.
- Leave yourself options. I usually try to have spaces of each color that I don’t care about so that I don’t always have to attach a big, open tile to an area that I want to complete by the end of the game. Plus, it helps you make small areas, just in case you get a tree you don’t want. Place it on one of those, collect a few points; it’s a decent move.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Very pretty game. I think the theme choice here was really nice. The tree tokens look great, the tiles are bright and vivid and colorful, and even the backs of the tiles are fun to look at.
- Reminds me of essentially a solitaire Carcassonne. I kind of like that multiplayer solitaire aspect. You just sort of peacefully connect colorful tiles and occasionally play tree tokens on them. The game looks nice once you’re done and nobody can come in and mess up your tile area.
- Scoring is pretty easy, too. That’s kind of my favorite part. It basically scores just like Carcassonne cities, just with runestones instead of cities actually giving you points.
- It’s quick to play. Once everyone knows how to play you can probably burn through games rapid fire, which would be awesome. I think this is a really solid filler-weight title.
- Pretty easy to transport. Small box, or you can just bag up the tiles and tokens and kind of be on your way. Either way, I really like these box sizes since they’re easy to take places.
- Not using five tiles at random is a decently interesting move. It adds a nice sense of dread, especially if you’re depending on a specific tile to come up and you’re getting closer and closer to the end. It perfectly captures that feeling of your bag still not coming out at the airport baggage claim; the more tiles you see that aren’t the one you want, the more nervous you’ll get until you either are happy or very sad.
- Everyone getting the same loadout usually means unless someone messes up, the scores will be pretty similar. That’s kind of what makes the game interesting, to me, but I can see this being a bit frustrating for other players, as with similar skill levels / building types, the game may come down to one tile or one tree poorly placed.
- The trees being a limited resource is vaguely annoying. I know it’s to add a competitive aspect, but in reality it just means if multiple players need those trees, whoever randomly goes last that round is the one who ends up getting messed up. That’s not really strategic, unless you’re going to try to argue that they should have planned ahead better. Even then, I’m not sure I 100% buy that as a valid strategic move.
- It’s vaguely possible for one player to just copy another one. The one issue with these kinds of games is that that happens. It would be nice if the five start tiles were all different so that couldn’t happen, but I understand that might mess with balancing. NMBR9 provided bonus tiles as a variant expansion that essentially did that; I wonder if Legendary Forests will ever get any sort of additional content? I’d love to see it.
- No insert guarantees you’ll always have a mess when you open the box. This is very frustrating because you have to re-sort and separate the tiles every time you play the game. A simple insert would have gone a long way toward making this game even easier to play. This is, again, where I think NMBR9 had some good ideas, though I think I like this game a bit better because of the tree tokens. I would even have been fine with some way to keep the tiles separated, but we ended up with nothing.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think Legendary Forests is a solid little filler game! I like that you can expand upward with player count without too much trouble, since players shouldn’t really be interacting over the course of the game (save to pull trees from each other, which does matter, yes, but not as much as other things). You end up with such a nice little forest scene as well, which is pleasant; I like tile-laying games a lot because they leave me with that sense of progression, and I think Legendary Forests is no slouch in that department. Add in that it’s quick to play and easy to score, and I think you’ll find that this is an easy game to get to the table and the exact right kind of game for players to just want to play over and over (and I’ve indeed experienced this effect). On the less-fun side, I’m not entirely convinced that limiting trees as a resource does anything but force players to not explicitly copy each other, so, I’m vaguely irritated by it. I also find that scores end up being pretty similar once players all know the game pretty well, which may or may not land well with your group. My particular frustration is that this, like Between Two Cities before it, is a very tile-heavy game with no insert, meaning those bad boys are going to slosh around the insides of the box until you have to manually sort them again and again and again. I feel like this ends up contributing to the aftermarket for a lot of game inserts, yes, but I’d rather just have something that will keep my tiles together and not cost more than the game. Either way, though, that doesn’t take away (too much) from the fact that this game’s quick, simple, and fun, and those are usually three things that really make me want to recommend a game to someone. If you’re cool with multiplayer solitaire and you like tile-laying games (or forests), Legendary Forests might be right up your alley!