Imagine, that you get an innocent idea to poke your finger through the painting. You continue by pushing whole hand inside and suddenly, you find yourself on the other side! In the world of monsters. And in front of you, there is a forest. A mysterious place, which can conceal series of hazards. You go inside right away or do you equip properly first?
Fortunately, we will not have to decide for ourself, but on behalf of the hero, Jonas. This is character, whose story is told by the Wormworld Saga. It is the work of illustrator Daniel Lieske, who made it into his lifelong work and you can support him on Patreon to continue his efforts (there are around 10 chapters completed up to date, all readable online). Part of his story made also foundation for newly established game designed by Carlo A. Rossi and published in 2016 by French company IELLO.
A small box will grasp your attention in terms of processing. It is designed like a book and inside, players find drawn introduction to the story, but also bottom of the box filled with contents for their adventure backpack (lots of empty spaces). This backpack is first cardboard element, that they place in front of themselves and spread line of cards representing their path through the woods below it. Adventure consists of six obstacle cards, among them one card with a helper and then one final boss in the end. Each card presents several round object icons, that hero needs to use to get past it. Now, common hero miniature is placed on the start in front of these cards.
Player are now in fo the initial phase, where they one by one can inspect the entire route, look at each card. They are always turned face down, before and after. Players try to remember pictures of required equipment and their number, because based on this, they will need to prepare equipment into their backpack.
That’s why players start rolling dice. Players can always choose two icons from their results and therefore put two items in their common backpack. But precedence must always be given to icon of Loki. That’s cub, a friend of Jonas, and it will help him in trouble. Rolling then continues until players fill whole backpack to the last space.
From there on, players will only be revealing cards and determine, if they are well prepared for the journey. They fill the needed symbols, covering them with items from their bag, and thus continue card by card, danger by danger, until they get to their help. He is a friend and can trade them a joker in exchange for certain items. Anytime during their quest, Loki can also be sent back to the camp to bring some items.
These items, that are traded away, are not coming back. Players should be sure, that they will be no longer needed, because the most important stage of their journey awaits them now. There are two more adventures and then final monster guarding the exit. Final battle is completed blindly – tokens on the card are placed based on memory. Only like this, players can win. Whenever during their wanderings, they have not necessary tokens and are out of options to recover some, the forest has defeated them.
Game The Mysterious Forest is ruled by adventure, but above all imagination. To fully enjoy it, you do not let yourself be bound by your imagination and flow with a story about courage.
It is all beautifully simple and focused on memory. Success finally decides, whether players can work as a team and therefore be successful or not. While in the initial memorization, they should not talk, they may advise and consult each other freely later, comparing what they remember. Sometimes, it is not easy to agree, but this game what this game is about – sharing your ideas and accepting other’s opinions.
Later, game can suffer from lower variability. There are not many cards to choose from. All this is saved perhaps only by final boss cards. There is six of them. But there is thirteen of those representing actual forest adventure and half of them is always used. Gamers will remember sets together, rather than individual icons, but even so, game makes use of memory and counting skills. And both are great to see in children’s games.
In the face of the final fight, you can lower difficulty for really young players, raising their chances for victory. You can add one extra card on the road, to have more things to rembemr. The very complexity depends also on players rolling dice and what symbols they choose.
Players have the whole victory in their hands. And it does not matter, if there are two or more. Everyone must remember everything and can not be simply divide portion of cards, as you would think. The game does not last very long, which is a good thing. You rather play again, than face long line of perils.
The Mysterious Forest has absolutely delightful processing. I can imagine, that if I was a small child, I could not force myself to stop playing with this adventure game. And we should also thank to the story for that. You will experience a true adventure, while playing. All players go through it together and you simply are follwoing the course, because all skills were already proven sooner (by equipping backpack). The Mysterious Forest remains a truly elegant children game.
+ children's story
+ wonderful processing
+ simple but clever gameplay
+ focus on memory
+ Jonas miniature
+ story has a sequel outside the box
- questionable variability over multiple matches