- Designer: Joshua Buergel
- Publisher: Renegade Game Studios, Foxtrot Games
- Players: 2
- Ages: 10 and Up
- Time: 30 Minutes
- Times Played: > 5
The Fox in the Forest is a 2-player trick taking card game from Renegade Game Studios and Foxtrot Games. The game, designed by Joshua Buergel, was released this summer, getting a bit of pre-Gen Con buzz.
As regular readers know, I’m a trick-taking enthusiast, to put it mildly. I was eager to get my hands on The Fox in the Forest, and a friend was kind enough to get me a copy for my birthday.
Two-player trick taking games are genuinely few and far between. We’ve seen a few games attempt to include 2-player rules, but generally the game is actually meant for three to five players, and the 2-player rules are more of an afterthought. Not so here: The Fox in the Forest is meant only for two-players, and that is certainly noteworthy in its genre.
The Fox in the Forest is a trick taking card game played over multiple hands, with there being 13 tricks each hand. Players score points each hands — generally between 0 and 6 points, plus maybe a bonus from the 7 Card — and in the standard game play continues until one player has earned 21 points. Alternatively, players can aim for a shorter game (16 points) or a longer one (35 points).
The game comes with 33 cards, 1-11 in each of three suits. Each player gets a hand of 13 cards, the remaining 7 are set aside to form a draw pile, and the top card of that draw pile is flipped over. This card, known as the “Decree Card,” marks the trump.
One player leads, and the other player must then follow suit. The higher card of suit led — or trump, if there is one — will then generally win the trick, subject to the text on the cards. The winner of the trick leads the next trick. This proceeds until all 13 tricks have been won.
As alluded to above, the odd rank in each suit (1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11) have special abilities printed in text on the card. These abilities activate when the card is played. For example, the 1 card provides that if you play this and lose the trick, you lead the next trick. The 3 card allows you to exchange the Degree Card with a card from your hand. The 7 card provides 1 point for each 7 in the trick (possibly earning you 1 or 2 bonus points). I won’t repeat all of the abilities here, but these samples provide a flavor: the text generally alters what your opponents can play, who wins the trick, or who leads the next trick.
After all 13 tricks are played, each player earns points for how many tricks they won.
- 0-3 Tricks = 6 Points
- 4 Tricks = 1 Point
- 5 Tricks = 2 Points
- 6 Tricks = 3 Points
- 7-9 Tricks = 6 Points
- 10-13 Tricks = 0 Points
As discussed above, you normally play until one player has 21 points, at which time the player with the higher score wins.
My thoughts on the game…
The Fox in the Forest is is an especially well-designed and well-developed trick taking game. Joshua Buergel’s creation genuinely takes the trick taking genre and distill it down to a game for two players. Much to my surprise, I actually felt like I was playing a much bigger card game, even if there were only two cards in each trick. I didn’t expect it to work, but it did.
[Side Note: The only other 2-player-only trick taking games I’ve tried had a system for working extra cards into the trick. This is the only game I’ve played where there genuinely is only two cards per trick. I didn’t think it would work, but it does!]
My favorite part is the scoring system, which is an exceptionally clever part of the design. Basically, you want to take either 0-3 tricks, or 7-9 tricks, as those give you the maximum possible score of 6 points. But, interestingly, if you take that number of tricks, your opponent will always fall out of that optimal range.
The score system is clever because it — along with the text abilities on the cards — keeps the game from entering “auto play” mode. If you’re not familiar with that concept, take another trick taking game most people have played: Hearts. I can often look at my hand in Hearts and know what card to play when: it’s obvious, and I don’t have much of a choice, and leads to boredom. I can’t do that in The Fox and Forest: both players need to be nimble enough to either (a) force their opponent to 10 or more tricks, or (b) get themself as close as possible to 7-9 tricks. From the first card in a trick to the last, The Fox in the Forest always feels interesting to me.
Throw in the text on the cards — which can greatly change up gameplay, without making the game feel chaotic — and you have a game that is one of the better trick taking games of recent years.
The game plays fast. The box says 30 minutes, and I’d say that’s about right for the standard game. I have tried the shorter game, and I’ll probably stick with it in the future. It cuts roughly one or two hands off gameplay, which shortens 5-10 minutes, but it didn’t seem to sacrifice any depth.
The cards are well produced, and the artwork is stunning. Renegade’s artwork is often a miss for me, but I really like what they’ve done with The Fox in the Forest. They’ve also included reference cards and tracking chits for points, a nice touch.
Overall, I’d enthusiastically recommend The Fox in the Forest. There were a few trick-taking games making their debut at Gen Con, and I think this and Indulgence stand above the crowd. If you like the genre, and especially if you’re looking for a 2-player trick taking game, I recommend The Fox in the Forest.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Lorna: I agree. Fox in the Forest is my favorite 2 player trick taking game. I’ve been on the lookout for a good one for many years and this one works well. Other 2 player trick taking games have really lacked in intensity for me and this one accomplishes it in a big way. The scoring system really works here and the key card as could be expected is the Fox. Has definitely become a top card game for me.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Chris Wray, Lorna
- I like it.
- Not for me…