Have you heard that there’s a threat to Wingspan on the horizon? Nope, not a bigger, badder, predator that is coming to gobble up all those beautiful birds. And not a terrifying environmental disaster that is heading to tables everywhere to wipe out their habitats (although how equally cool and scary would those ideas be for expansions!?).
This is a design danger……..an Elizabeth Hargrave game with Beth Sobel art that, if rumours are to be believed, could be better than Wingspan! I feel like I am committing heresy just saying it! Wingspan is one of my all-time favourite games!
Nevertheless, there is a band of playtesters out there whose feedback about forthcoming Undergrove is so full of praise that the birds might have to give their crown to the mushrooms!
There are hardly any pictures (although click here for Elizabeth Hargrave’s June newsletter where she does share one!) and information at this stage is super limited. But BGG does have a few details:
“For over 300 million years, trees have traded nutrients with fungi in a vast underground network. Scientists continue to make new discoveries about this hidden world — including the fact that some of these nutrients seem to find their way from mature parent trees through the fungal network to the trees' seedlings.
Undergrove is a medium-weight 3X game in which you play a Douglas-fir tree that is building symbiotic relationships with fungi and using them to establish your seedlings. Players explore by adding new mushrooms to a shared forest area, expand by playing new seedlings and roots on those mushrooms, and exploit their relationships with the mushrooms to gain resources. Players then help their seedlings grow into trees by transferring resources through the fungi. At the end of the game, the player who has grown the best set of seedlings with the most valuable symbiotic relationships wins.”
To topple Wingspan is a tall order though. It has a huge following and is credited for bringing a huge number of players into our beloved hobby of modern board gaming. With Elizabeth Hargrave at the design wheel, and Beth Sobel powering the artwork, however, the double-dream-team might just be able to do it. But even if the birds rise up and retain their popularity, it still sounds like an awesome game!
As a big fan of nature, and someone who is absolutely blown away by the mycorrhizal network going on under our feet – trees communicating and sharing resources via mushrooms is mindboggling brilliant! – I’m really looking forward to Undergrove. It’s going to be a while though, as the Kickstarter is not tabled to launch until October 2023.
But I am hoping there will be more tree-asers as the months tick down! (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)