- Designers: Daryl Andrews and Erica Bouyouris
- Publisher: Floodgate Games
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 13+
- Time: 20-30 minutes
- Times Played: 3, with review copy provided by Floodgate Games
In Bosk, each player is a species of tree in a national park trying to be the dominant species in the park. The board is set up on the table, and each player takes all the trees, leaf tokens and leaf tiles in their color. A score track and a wind direction track are set off to the side. The game is played over the four seasons of the year with play happening in summer and fall and scoring happening in summer and winter. As each season is different, I’ll go over each one separately.
In spring, players plant and grow their trees in the park. In turn order, players place one of their trees on any unoccupied intersection on the board (even in the water). This continues until all players have placed all 8 of their trees. Once a tree is planted, it can never be moved. The placement of the trees is vital as you will score based on their location in Summer and will determine leaf placement in the Fall.
In summer, players score points for each trail (row and column) on the board. In each row and column, total up the value of the trees of each player in that row. Points are awarded for each row and column based on a fairly confusing chart. The maximum possible score for any column or row is 3 points, and points are awarded for players with the highest and second highest total value of trees. Award points for each row and column. The player who now has the fewest points becomes the new start player.
In Fall, the new start player takes the wind board and places it adjacent to one of the four sides of the board. This placement determines the initial direction that the wind will blow, and the pattern on the wind board determines the changes in wind direction for the rest of the game. The wind direction marker is placed on the leftmost space on the Wind Board. In turn order, a player will choose one of their trees in play (for the first four turns, they have to choose a tree which matches the number where the wind marker is); then select one of their leaf tiles and place it face-up in front of them, take a number of leaf tokens equal to the number on the tile and then these are placed on squares on the board in a direction as determined by the current wind direction. If a space already has a leaf on it, the newly fallen leaf is placed on top of any previously placed leaf. However, if you cover an opponent’s leaf, you must discard one of your unused leaf tokens from this turn. IF you choose your leaf token with a squirrel on it, you can cover any pile of leaves in the wind direction of your tree, and then your squirrel cannot be covered by a leaf in any subsequent turn. Then, to end that player’s turn, the tree which shed leaves is removed from the board. This continues until each player has taken a turn. Then, the wind direction marker is moved one space to the right, and the process is done again. The player who played the lowest valued leaf tile in the previous round becomes the new start player.
In Winter, players score for the amount of ground which is covered by their leaves. Only the top most leaf in a square is counted for scoring. There are 8 different regions on the board, and they are each considered separately. Players count the number of terrain squares in the region where they have the topmost leaf. Points are again awarded based on a chart in the rules. The highest possible score is 8 points per region, with points again going to first place and sometimes second place.
The player with the highest point total wins the game. Ties broken in favor of the player closest to the start player in turn order on the final turn of the game.
My thoughts on the game
Bosk is a beautiful game with simple rules yet deceivingly complex strategy. The game does not follow the more common pattern of learning a round’s pattern and then repeating it until the end of the game. In Bosk, you only get one pass through the two different yet related mini area control games.
In the first part (Spring/Summer), you place your trees onto the intersections of the board and then score based on majorities in each row and column. This part is fairly straightforward, but you must carefully consider where you place your trees because their location is of paramount importance in the second (and more complicated) area majority game.
In the second half of the game, you have a few more decisions on what to do. You have some choice over which tree to use in each turn and you also have to choose which leaf to use; and this determines how many of your leaf tokens you’ll get to place on the board. In this phase, you also have to consider the wind direction as well as the tree location; those these two options are mostly out of your control. Figuring out when to play your squirrel is a big decision in this round as it can lock in a particular space which can be crucial for scoring. You again score this area majority game, and then the game ends.
The thing which I have found interesting in exploring Bosk is that you really have to play the game multiple times in order to explore it – because in each game, you only get one chance at each phase. Thus, in order to see how things play out and develop differently, you’ll have to play multiple games.
The trees and wooden bits are beautiful, and the obvious comparison is to Photosynthesis. The trees do certainly look similar, but the gameplay is different for sure. One note of caution, when punching out your trees, use caution. I was in a hurry to get the game ready for a game session, and a few of my trees have some areas where the different layers of the punch board have frayed apart. I do not think this is necessarily a faulty punchboard issue, but once I took time to carefully punch things out, I had no further issues.
The bits all fit into neat little pop up boxes which give each player a really nice way to manage all their pieces. A few people have complained a bit about the similarities between the red and the orange; but the fact that the trees, wooden bits and leaves are different shaped really prevents this from being a big issue.
Bosk is a game with rules which are simple to teach. The scoring is a little convoluted, but the charts in the rulebook make it easy to manage. However, each decision can have a huge impact on the final scoring, so you have to stay on your toes during the entirety of the short game. For me, this is a great mix of beautiful pieces, short game time and interesting tactical strategy. This is definitely a game that will continue coming to the table in the months to come.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…