The fire continues to spread. Hissing and snarling like a trapped predator, it attacks again and again. The forest cannot defend itself against it on its own. It is up to us, the forest spirits, to stand by the forest. But we, too, can only save the Living Forest if we work together with the animals of the forest, and so we call them all to our aid in order to extinguish the fire and defeat the evil god Onibi in the end.
Living Forest by Ludonaute was already on my wish list for SPIEL 2021, but the final urge to buy was missing. On the one hand, it was because the board game from Ludonaute was only available in French or English, and on the other hand, I had the choice between Welcome to the Moon and Living Forest at the same booth.
In the end, I chose Welcome to the Moon, and since we have enough board games in the house, it wasn’t a big deal. And as the article here shows, it was only a matter of time before Living Forest found its way into the household. Whether it was worth it, I will examine in more detail in my article.
Deja Vu with Living Forest
The first time I played Living Forest, I couldn’t rid myself of the feeling that I’d had this board game on the table at some point. The drawing of cards with the Push Your Luck element, the deck building, the scoring of victory points, it all seemed familiar and the theme had also come up before.
At some point, it clicked. Of course, Living Forest resembled Mystic Vale in a lot of ways. Like Mystic Vale, you draw cards from your deck. However, you can stop or continue at any time. You are only stopped when you have three solitary symbols in your deck, which is three drought symbols in Mystic Vale. Then the card drawing phase in Living Forest is stopped, and you are only allowed to do one of the five actions. If you stop on time and have a maximum of two solitary cards in your hand, you are allowed to take two of the five possible actions. As the saying goes in Living Forest, “Careful feeds the squirrel.”
Because the number of actions can be essential. If I overdo my luck every time, my fellow players at the table will quickly present me with the bill. I will simply be left behind, running after their points. And running is to be taken literally here. Living Forest is ultimately a race for the precious points and the associated victory conditions.
At 12 is the end
If I or someone else at the table has 12 fire tokens, 12 different trees or 12 flowers planted, that’s it. Then there is no more round to maybe fulfill one of the three conditions.
So the race also starts from the first lap. In each round I try to secure at least one point, but it would be better to take two or more. The actions allow me to do just that. With the action Extinguish Fire, for example, I can get the fire tokens. With the action Plant Tree I get, who would have thought it, trees. However, with a small difference, so I can plant a maximum of one tree in each round. So I would need at least 12 rounds to get the victory.
But I can also do this in 6 rounds. For one thing, I already have two trees in my possession at the start, and I can use cleverly chosen bonus actions to circumvent this limit in accordance with the rules.
Namely, another action is Moving my forest spirit in the Living Forest stone circle. Here I can spend collected steps from my deck display to skillfully move forward in this circuit.
This not only allows me to get the bonus actions, which are the same as the normal actions, but I can also overtake my opponents. And they drop one or two bonus tokens in shock because I overtake them. Among them, of course, their own trees or their own fire, which we all have from the beginning of the game. So I have to keep my eyes open, because I have to see what the others at the table are doing.
Living Forest – Success through simplicity
So far, every game of Living Forest has been exciting and thrilling. Because contrary to my initial fears, collecting fire tokens is not the way to the goal. What I thought was too overpowering at the beginning has been disproved meanwhile. Because it’s not collecting the fire tokens that leads to victory, but planting the trees. Here my victory statistics look much better, also because I become more and more independent of my hand of cards and therefore don’t necessarily need more cards. Which is then again a damper for fellow players who have to collect fire tokens.
Fire tokens only come into play when the players buy cards and thus ensure a steady supply of the tokens. But no matter which strategy you follow: So far, I have been able to observe again and again with various groups the fascination that the board game exerts. Be it because of the beautiful game materials, which simply invite you to play, or because of the relatively simple rules. Everyone was not averse to another game.
Nevertheless, the game does not remain on the simple level, which perhaps the box and the illustrations promise. As my thoughts on the right strategy already show, the later game does not simply end, but offers enough strategic depth. However, luck plays an increasingly important role in later games. Because I can try to get the best out of my cards, but if I don’t get the right cards and I can’t plant trees with them or buy better cards.
Living Forest – a Feel Good Game
But that makes Living Forest for me also a family game or a pleasant light connoisseur game. I can be annoyed when I draw one more card and it was the wrong decision. Or it is exactly the right card, which then leads me to victory.
In any case, it’s precisely these moments that make Living Forest fun for me. Whether I win or lose is a purely secondary matter. Jasmin and I have often talked about feel-good board games. Games that are just nice to play because of their themes and mechanisms. Last year, for example, this was Meadow.
For me, Living Forest is definitely one of them this year, and yes, I’m a little annoyed that I didn’t buy Living Forest back in Essen. And I can also understand Harald Schrapers when he calls this game outstanding. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but I can definitely share the general positive attitude towards the board game.
And therefore also from me a clear request to you that you should definitely play a test game with this game.