Legendary Forests is a lightly strategic, tile-placement game in which you will create forest-scapes and aim to grow trees within these forests in order to score the most points. It’s a charming and calming game with beautiful components, one of my favourites to play when I don’t want to be overthinking and weighing up many different options or scoring objectives. It’s a kind of go-with-the-flow game. Though there are some influential choices to be made, tile selection is out of your control and sometimes it’s nice to be out of the driving seat!
Preparing the Game
To begin the game you must first decide upon an Architect, who will take one set of tiles, find the tile labelled 1 and set it aside, remove 5 other tiles from their set at random, shuffle them and place the remaining tiles in a face-down stack.
The other players then collect their set of tiles and place them all face-up, in front of them, so they can see each tile. It’s easier for the other players to order their tiles numerically as they will need to find the tile that the Architect calls out at the beginning of each new turn.
Then place two of each coloured tree, per player, near the play area. (So if you’re three players you’ll need 6 of each tree colour).
The Architect takes the Large green tree token.
Now you’re ready to grow a forest.
Crafting your Forest
Each turn always starts with the Architect.
The Architect will draw a tile from the top of their deck and read out its number to all other players. Each tile is numbered. All other players will need to locate that same tile from their pile of tiles. All players must then simultaneously place that tile into their forest.
Tiles must share a full coloured border with a tile already in their forest (grass doesn’t count).
This goes for all tiles placed subsequently. A tile can only be placed where it shares a border with ALL of the tiles already in place.
Tiles can be placed in any orientation but cannot be moved once placed.
At first, it felt a little strange that the Architect is ‘in charge’ but you quickly realise all players have equal opportunities.
Also, at the start of your game, options are limited, so oftentimes you’ll find all players are making the same move. Later in the game, this should change as each player tries to create larger forests for the trees they have chosen, so don’t worry that people are ‘copying’!
The Value of Runes
Points are earned by creating whole runes on the forest floor, each tile has half a rune on each coloured edge and will need to join other tiles matching its colour to create full runes.
Whole runes are worth one point. Whole runes in an entirely enclosed forest of one colour are worth two points.
BUT WAIT A SECOND. Runes aren’t actually worth ANYTHING unless a tree of the same colour as the floor of the forest is growing within that space. You must bear that in mind whilst placing your tiles, particularly towards the end of the game, when tree varieties may be running low. There’s no point working on a beautifully, enclosed, rune-filled forest floor when you have no chance of growing a tree there. (It will still look pretty though…)
8 of the tiles are numbered using a white circle, and these are the tiles that will allow you to place one tree, of any available colour, into your forest.
Starting with the player who holds the Green Tree token (the first time this will always be the Architect) each player selects a tree to add to their forest. If the tree colour you want has run out, that’s tough luck.
Once everyone has chosen, play continues as usual and the Green Tree token is passed to the next player in clockwise order. This person will be the player who chooses first next time a tree-growing tile emerges.
Winning the Game
To win Legendary Forests you need the most points. You’ll want to create large enclosed spaces of one colour and have a tree growing in that space.
Though this seems like a simple endeavour, the random way in which the tiles are drawn can make things tricky, particularly if you’re holding out for one tile that never materialises! Which has happened to me on several occasions!
My Final Thoughts
I really enjoy Legendary Forests, it’s simple, calm and still uses your brain. There’s enough choice to be actively influencing your chances of winning, but an element of luck that means you won’t beat yourself up if you lose.
It’s a quick and light game, that you can play in around 30 minutes and not feel too taxed afterwards. Perfect for a relaxing evening after a stressful day.
The components themselves feel calming, they’re pretty and well-made, though it is a shame you never get to see the beautiful reverse side during gameplay.
If you enjoy playing tile placement games at a gentle pace, with aesthetically pleasing components, then Legendary Forests is the game for you.