I’ve been on a quest of late to find the best two-player tabletop games the world has to offer. Card games, board games, dice games…it doesn’t matter, I just want fun games to play with my wife around home or with a friend now and then. I may have stumbled onto something with my latest conquest, The Fox in the Forest.
Fox in the Forest is a 2-player trick taking game. If you’re unsure what that means, think Hearts or, if you’re in the upper Midwest, Sheepshead. Players will each throw a card in the center of the table with the “best” card winning the trick, and that player taking those cards. Fox in the Forest uses a common trope of trick taking games, the trump card. A card is revealed and that suit is trump, meaning that it’s value is greater, and can beat, any other suit regardless of its numerical value.
This trick taking game is played with three suits, each with values from 11 to 1. Each player is dealt 13 cards which means each hand has a total of 13 tricks, as you’ll play one card each turn. Points are earned based on how many tricks are taken: grabbing 0-3 tricks makes you “humble” and is worth 6 points but 10-13 tricks means you’re “greedy” and get zilch. Take 7-9 tricks and you declare yourself “victorious,” also worth 6 points. You’re defeated if you get 4, 5, or 6 tricks though you do get 1-3 points respectively.
This system is a clever way to make a two-player trick taking game competitive and fun. It’s impossible for both players to earn the maximum possible points and the best possible outcome is to be humble and make your opponent greedy. Goals can shift from hand to hand as you reevaluate how many tricks you’re likely to win. Adding to the challenge, and fun, are the special character cards.
Odd numbered cards represent characters in the forest which have special abilities that mess with the normal rules. Nine’s are witches, for example, and are always trump. Woodcutters (fives) let you draw and then discard a card, a very powerful ability. A fox (threes) allow you trade one of your cards with the decree card, potentially changing the suit of trump and your opponent’s plan along with it.
The Fox in the Forest is an attractive game, I really like the art which suits the light fantasy theme well. Gameplay is fun and challenging with lots of twists and turns along the way, especially the possibility of trump changing multiple times. The game plays out quickly and normal rules call for playing to 21 points, though I much prefer the 16-point variant. If you enjoy trick taking card games I recommend The Fox in the Forest without reservation.