Dale Yu: First Impressions of The Fox in the Forest: Duet

The Fox in the Forest: Duet

  • Designer: Foxtrot Games
  • Publisher: Renegade Games
  • Players: 2
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Times played: 2 sessions, with preview copy provided by Renegade Games

The Fox in the Forest was a very well received 2 player trick taking game – a game which used special abilities on the cards to spice things up.  Generally two-player trick takers fall flat for me, the the original Fox in the Forest gave players an interesting challenge.  That 2017 release now has a follow-up, The Fox in the Forest: Duet (FitF:D) – and this new version brings yet another new twist – the game is cooperative.

That’s right, 2020 might become the year of the cooperative trick taking game – as Die Crew from Kosmos is also a big hit around here….  In FitF:D, the two players work together to try to pick up all of the gem tokens found next to the 11 space forest path – some spaces start with multiple gem tokens attached to them.  The board is arranged so that each player has one end of the track pointing towards them. The deck of cards is shuffled – 30 cards in three suits, with the five odd-numbered ranks having a special ability.  Additionally, each rank has a number of pawprints next to the rank number, ranging from 0 to 3.

In a round, each player is dealt a hand of 11 cards, and round will unsurprisingly include 11 tricks. The top card from the deck is flipped over as the Decree card, and the suit of this card is trump. The non-dealer leads the first trick, and all other tricks are led by the winner of the previous trick.  The leader can play whatever he likes, and the other player must follow suit if possible; if he cannot follow suit, he can play any card.  The trick is resolved, going to the highest trump card played, and if no trump, going to the highest card in the suit which was led.

If a odd ranked card is played, the special ability associated with that card is activated. Some cards affect movement of the team marker – i.e. Musicians can choose the direction of movement of the team marker regardless of who won the trick, and Gazelles allow the winner of the trick to ignore the movement value of one of the cards in the trick.  Other cards take effect immediately; the Royal Heir, when led, gives the other player the option of NOT following suit, even if they have cards in their hand of the led suit.

During the course of play, there are some rules about communication.  First and foremost – there is no discussion about what cards are in the player hands or about what strategy should be taken.  Players are also given a reference card to refer to so that they do not have to ask their opponent about how any particular card works, because in doing so, they would likely give information to the other player. 

Now, the team tracker is moved in the direction of the player who won the trick, and it is moved a number of spaces equal to the sum of the pawprints on the two cards played to that trick.  If there is a gen token attached to the space where movement ends, that gem is discarded to the box.  If all of the gems have been removed, the game is won!

If the movement would cause the marker to move beyond the last free space on the path, the tracker is moved back to the central starting space, and one of the four forest markers is placed at the outermost uncovered space in the direction of movement.  Thus, the path will become shorter in that direction for the rest of the game.  Any gems which were attached to the newly covered space are moved one space inwards so that they can be accessed.  If the team does not have any forest markers remaining, the game is lost.

At the end of the first round, gem tokens are added to each space on the path that has a “+” next to it – this usually means 5 new gems are added.  Then, a forest token is placed on one end of the path; the players can decide which end.  Unless the team marker is at one end of the forest path; if so, place the forest marker at the other side.  Again, move any gem tokens associated with covered spaces inward, and if you do not have a forest marker available, the team loses.  The deck is reshuffled and a new hand of 11 cards is dealt to each player.

A second round is played similar to the first, and then a third.  If the players cannot claim all the gems by the end of the third round, they lose.  The players will also lose at any time if they need to place a forest marker, and they do not have one available (only four total available to them during the whole game).  The players immediately win at any point where they collect the final gem from the board.  There is a scoring rubric that players can use to judge how well they won the game.

So, as I mentioned at the top, I am generally leery of 2-player trick taking games; I have found that they aren’t very interesting as the two-card trick idea kinda falls flat.  But, the original Fox in the Forest was a hit here, and this new version of the game is also quite interesting.  Sure, the game is decided by playing tricks – but this is really about the gameboard. 

There is a bunch of silent communication that needs to go on, and it will take some serious card playing skills to get your team marker to the spots where you want it to go.  In each hand, 22 of the 30 cards are in play, so it is important to count the cards, yet there will be enough unknown to keep you from ever being entirely sure of what is in play or not.  There is really a fine art in trying to figure out how to lead a card that will move the marker in the right direction… and the right number of spaces! 

As you cannot discuss strategy, you have to really mindmeld with your partner to make sure that you’re moving together in the right direction.  You have to be especially careful when you are near the edges of the path as you only have four forest tokens to place (and you must place one at the end of rounds one and two), so it’s quite easy to run out of them!

It is definitely a nice challenge, and one that I have enjoyed thus far.  The artwork is really nice, and each of the cards has individualized artwork (see the three musicians above). The game moves quickly, especially if players have played the original Fox in the Forest, as they’ll be used to the idea of the cards with special actions. 

Thus far, we’ve played four times (twice in each of two sessions), and we’ve only won once so far.  We have run out of forest tokens twice and we ran out of time once.  I like that record so far because it shows that the game gives you a lot of challenge, and we’re looking forward to giving it another go soon.

The game should be released this month (January 2020), and I would definitely recommend it to gamers looking for a different twist on a two-player trick taker. 

Until your next appointment

The Gaming Doctor

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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