The Fox in the Forest Duet

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In the two-player, co-operative trick-taking game The Fox in the Forest Duet, players team up, helping each other move through the forest. Collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, and you win! To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, s…
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Awards

Value For Money

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • A true two-player game that you can take anywhere
  • Incredible artwork and flavour
  • Extra features to keep things interesting
  • Simple to pick up and fun

Might Not Like

  • Not as strategically involved as other games
  • Luck of dealing cards
  • You might get bored if you play it too often
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Description

In the two-player, co-operative trick-taking game The Fox in the Forest Duet, players team up, helping each other move through the forest. Collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, and you win!

To set up the game, place gem tokens on the designated spaces of the game board and the team tracker token in the center of the movement path. At the start of each round, shuffle the deck of thirty cards — which contains three suits, each numbered 1-10 — and deal each player a hand of eleven cards. Reveal one card as the "decree" card to determine the trump suit. For each trick, one player leads a card, and the other must follow suit, if possible. The winner of the trick moves the team tracker toward them a number of spaces equal to the number of fox footprints on the cards played. If the tracker lands on a space next to a gem, the players collect one gem. If the tracker would move off the end of the path, return the tracker to the center of the path, then add a forest token to one end of the path, reducing the number of spaces upon which you can move (with you sliding gems next to this covered space next to the new end of the path).

The odd-numbered character cards have special abilities when played, allowing the trick winner to move the tracker in the direction of their choice or to ignore the footprints on one of the played cards so that you can land on just the right spot. One character allows players to exchange one card with each other, while another allows a player to change the decree card.
At the end of a round, you add five gems to designated spaces, add a forest space to shorten the path, then receive a new hand of eleven cards from a freshly shuffled deck. Collect all 22 gem tokens, and you win. Run out of time or head off the end of the path with no forest spaces in reserve, then you can just keep running in defeat or shuffle the cards and start the game anew.

Player Count: 2
Time: 30 Minutes
Age: 10+

True two-player games, rather than games that have a two-player mode, can feel a little hard to come by. Ones that have beautiful artwork, come in a small box, are cooperative, and play really well? Even harder. Which makes Fox in the Forest Duet by Foxtrot and Renegade Games a worthy addition to your selection.

In essence, the game is incredibly simple: win tricks together to collect gemstones. Collect all the gemstones to beat the game. This might make the whole thing slightly boring. However, Foxtrot and Renegade came up with some clever tweaks to make it a fun and challenging little card game.

Game Overview

Firstly, there’s the beauty and simplicity of the game. You’ll get a set of cards in three beautifully rendered suits (doves, roses and stars). You’ll also get gem tokens, forest tokens, a forest board and your team tracker – along with two handy reference cards. Dealing out eleven cards each, you’ll play three rounds with a trump suit decided randomly each time. When you win a trick, the team marker moves across the board towards the winner depending on what cards have been played.

Certain cards in each suit have extra abilities. Examples include ignoring some of the movement or allowing a player to not follow suit. And why would you need those kinds of special abilities? Because Fox in the Forest Duet doesn’t let you communicate about what you have in your hand. And whilst some other cooperative trick-taking games, like The Crew, give you limited communication, this one doesn’t. Which makes the game a fantastic balance between playing cautiously, strategically and recklessly – or more accurately you’ll occasionally need to gamble in order to win. In fact, the ban on discussing the game only adds to the tension. It also forces you to talk about other things and that shouldn’t be a bad thing.

What Makes It More Interesting?

Did I say simplicity? Yes and no. You CAN play Fox In The Forest Duet casually; losing doesn’t feel like you’ve failed and we didn’t get angry when the other player took a risk or things didn’t pan out. But if you want more of a challenge? You can flip the game board to play a harder difficulty setting, or think much harder to try and be strategic. Additionally, at the end of each round, you’ll need to add more gems and make the forest path smaller. That last part also happens if you miscalculate and your post-trick movement would take you past the edge of the forest. This has the two-fold result that it makes your job easier and harder at the same time.

You might think that this all sounds like you’re almost guaranteed a win but the truth is that we lost as much as we won. If you don’t collect all of the gems by the end of the third round, or if you run out of forest tokens when your move would take you past the end of the game board then you’ll lose.

Even losing a trick can lead you towards losing the game, and without being able to communicate that can easily happen. But this is one of the things that I like most about Fox in the Forest Duet – you can get the style of end game tension something like Pandemic dishes up, but in a bite-sized chunk that can be played in thirty minutes with a lot less set-up. And if you want to play again straight after you win (or lose) you’ll still have plenty of time. It’s quick play-time, small size and simple rules mean that you can easily take it with you, play it in a small space and fit it in when you can’t manage a larger or more involved game.

The Verdict

Foxtrot and Renegade have done an incredible job packaging this up in a way that should appeal to people who like card games, an original fairy-tale story, or a game that’s beautifully designed. Not only that but I swing between desperately wanting to win and not minding losing when I play games. Since losing a trick, accidentally missing a gem or wandering past the edge of the forest path is so easy to do you could find this frustrating, and yet often it’s the result of a bold attempt to win when you’re not quite sure what your opponent-teammate has in their hand; I like that.

I’m a big fan of co-op games and Fox in the Forest Duet pushed my buttons. It absolutely won’t replace something bigger and more involved (we’re looking at you Betrayal at House on the Hill) but if you like the idea of a shorter, simpler version then you should definitely invest in this. It’s cheap, it’s fun and it’s challenging yet not overly complicated – which is exactly what it’s meant to be. It would also stand up well with younger players.

This brings me to the final obstacle in our house: The R-test. Or: whether or not my wife will play. (Note to readers here: there are a few games that she’ll play or tolerate but very, very, very few that she will actually enjoy. I’m always on the lookout for something that might tempt her towards playing more. Should I ever get her to try something ridiculously complicated like Dune then I’ll have achieved the board game equivalent of locating the lost jewels of Atlantis in your grandmother’s attic). So what happened with this one?

The R-Test

This time I didn’t even ask if she wanted to play and opted instead simply to plonk it down in front of her once we’d finished eating. Perhaps the simplicity of the pieces won her over but she didn’t roll her eyes or groan in the sort of resigned way a patient who needs their annual bowel check might. A solid start.

We actually won together in the second round and she picked it up pretty much straight away. Based on a complex set of algorithms that factor in facial expressions, amount of concentration, number of times I have to remind her it’s her turn, and the multiples of how often she complains that she’s “no good at games/can’t remember the rules/it’s boring/is it finished yet” I can safely say that this one will get played again. It might even be asked for.

The Fox in the Forest Duet is a beautiful cooperative trick-taking card game where you and your partner push and pull your way to victory. Each player has a hand of cards, and they use them strategically to move around the forest board to collect gem tokens.

What Is Trick-Taking?

Trick taking is a game mechanism which has been around for many years; some popular games include Spades, Hearts, and Euchre. These games use a standard deck of 52 cards (or less), but the core concepts are the same. Each player is dealt an equal number of cards and then the player to the left of the dealer chooses 1 card to play, going around the table each other player has to play a card in the same suit (Hearts, Diamonds, Spades, or Clubs), unless they don’t have a card of the chosen suit. The round ends after all the cards are gone.

In Fox in  the Forest Duet, the suits are Dove, Rose, and Star.

Setup

To start the game, you decide which level you want to play on: Level 1, 2, or 3. Level 1 uses side A of the forest board and has you place 12 gem tokens. Level 2 and 3 use side B of the forest board, and places 13 or 16 gem tokens. Set aside the 4 forest tokens. Place the team tracker on the center of the forest board. Now shuffle the 30 cards and deal 11 cards to each player. Flip over 1 of the remaining 8 cards, this will be the decree card (the most powerful suit). Determine the first player however you wish!

Gameplay

The first player plays a card and the second player follows suit, or if they do not have the same suit they are able to play any card they want. Whoever wins the trick counts the number of footprints at the top of the card near the numbers and moves the team tracker that many spaces towards them. When the team tracker lands on a space with a gem token, the player removes 1 gem token. Game continues until all 11 cards have been played.

To start a new round the players, take all 30 cards, shuffle them, deal out 11 to each player, and then flip 1 of the remaining 8 cards over to be the decree card (the trump card). The team adds 1 gem token to every gem token location with a (+) next to the space. The team also adds 1 forest token to 1 of the partners end space, if any gem tokens would be unattainable you would just shift that gem token to the next closest space. Whoever did not deal out the cards leads the first trick.

Special Cards

What makes The Fox in The Forest Duet a unique trick taking game is that each odd numbered card has a special ability. These special abilities are mostly optional and are the same throughout each suit, and these can save the team in a pinch. My favorite card is the number 9 since if you lead with it your partner can play any card they want!

Win Condition

The only way to win Fox in the Forest Duet is to not have any gem tokens left on the forest board. This can happen at any point during the round.

Lose Condition

There are 2 conditions which will make the team lose, both are similar to each other. The first lose condition is if the team moves the team tracker off the board and there are no more forest tokens left in your supply, then the players lose. The second lose condition is after the players have finished their 3rd round and there are still gem tokens on the forest board.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • A true two-player game that you can take anywhere
  • Incredible artwork and flavour
  • Extra features to keep things interesting
  • Simple to pick up and fun

Might not like

  • Not as strategically involved as other games
  • Luck of dealing cards
  • You might get bored if you play it too often