Geek-Craft: With Friends Like These... - A review of Grimm Forest
It's not easy being a pig: people are constantly trying to eat your belly; even after puberty you can't grow more than peach fuzz on your chinny chin chin, and there's still that issue of people trying to huff and puff your houses down after you've toiled all day on their construction. Thanks to Druid City games; however, your plight has gained some recognition. Now, friends from all walks of the Grimm mythos are popping up. But, will their presence save your bacon or make you squeal?
The Grimm Forest (designed by Tim Eisner) is, in its simplest form, an action selection game for 2-4 players. Each turn, one of 3 locations--or 4, depending on player count--is stocked with straw, wood, or brick. Players then simultaneously choose a destination to visit. If they are all alone at the aforementioned location, they earn all the resources there, if two or more porcine protagonists are placed in one spot they must divvy up the resources, rounded down. As play progresses, you will construct the foundation, walls, and roof of your building by paying increasing amounts of a specified resource. The winner is the first piggy to build three complete buildings with ties being broken by the storybook hierarchy of straw < wood < brick.
Additionally, there are both Fable cards gained during a post-gather "build" phase, and Friend cards gained whenever you construct walls for one of your buildings. Fable cards are played during the initial gather phase mentioned above and typically affect the payout of a site in various ways. Likewise, Friends are helpers whose special powers help you win via speedier resource accumulation, monster slaying, or toying with your opponents. While players may have any number of fable cards in their hands, they may only have one friend at a time; meaning additional acquired friends must bump off a current friend or be given to an opponent; thus replacing their current friend.
[caption id="attachment_3079" align="alignright" width="500"] Just some of the amazing minis used in Grimm Forest (Photo by Amber Woywitka)[/caption]
Without a doubt, the first thing most people will notice about this game are the amazing minis and the overall attention to detail put into each piece: for example, one of the beams on the wooden roofs is ever-so-slightly shorter than the rest, to allow for perfect alignment of the house's chimney. Similarly, hings like the Bridge Troll and Dragon have definite heft when pulled out of the Game Trayz inserts. This raises a necessary question; however... "Do these pieces make for a better game, or just a prettier one?"
To that extent, I would say this: while Grimm Forest is a fairly light game that could have been made without said components, the game as a whole is served very well by them. Because the game is so approachable, I would suggest that it has a place as one of the best gateway games to come along in the past few years. The pieces, then, provide a fantastic "wow" factor for people passing by at a convention or walking past a display at their FLGS.
Moving on from the pieces, it should be noted that there is some definite "take that" in the game (which I tend to love, given the plot lines of the actual Grimm tales vs. the more saccharine Disney versions), though most of the aggression that can be used in the game is indirect. So, while there may be times that a player has a sequence of rough turns, it almost always happens because another player used logic to determine the best placement/use of a monster/fable card. Finally, I must commend Druid City's art direction in this game. The friends cards do a fantastic job with diversity and inclusion.
Overall, I think Grimm Forest is a good game that raises the bar for component quality. If you're looking to introduce friends or family to the hobby, or simply trying to turn the page yourself, this would make an excellent place to start.
Disclaimer: Grimm Forest was given to this article's author as a birthday present and has been played by him 6 times (2x each at 2, 3, and 4P counts). If you would like to reach him, he can be contacted via various social media listed below: