Dale Yu: Another look at Woodcraft


  • Designers: Vladimir Suchy and Ross Arnold
  • Publisher: Delicious Games
  • Players: 1-4
  • Age: 14+
  • Time: 80-120 minutes
  • Played with review copy provided by Delicious Games at SPIEL 2022

In Woodcraft, you play as forest people running competing workshops in the woods, with you gathering wood and crafting goods for your customers. Along the way, you hire helpers, improve your workshop, and buy different types of wood and other tools to create the best workshop you can. During the game, players complete their projects with wood (dice) that can be cut down to size, glued back together, and adjusted using dice manipulation to be as efficient as possible with their resources. Whoever builds the best, most successful workshop wins.”

The action wheel board is set up with 7 action tiles being placed in one quadrant. The arc tile is placed over the reward icons.  The circular saw points to the end of the next quadrant. Finally, 2 dice of each color are rolled and placed on the board.   The income board is set next to this, with the round marker on the first space of that track. Each player places a counter on the hazelnut track, the blueberry track and the reputation track.  Tiles are placed on the reputation track on the paler spaces.  There are bonuses that are achieved on each of the tracks as you pass them.  The scoreboard is somehow shoehorned onto the table, and players start at 0 on this track. 4 order cards are dealt above the board, and 4 helpers are below the board.  Finally, N+1 contracts are dealt and placed somewhere where everyone can see them.

Players get their own woodshop board and all the counters in their color. One die of each color starts your lumber pile, a brown 1, yellow 2, green 3.  The marketing track is seen in the upper left.  Players get lanterns, blueberries, a sawing tile and a splicing tile to start the game.  Other improvements are off to the side for now.  Finally, starting cards are dealt out: 3 early helpers (keep 1), 5 early orders (keep 2), and 2 hazelnut orders (keep 2).

The game flow is pretty simple.  It is played over 13-14 rounds – depending on player count.  

First, your trees grow.  Each die in a pot grows by 2 pips.  If the die reaches 6 pips, it is immediately moved to your lumber pile. 

courtesy BGG user Joellenbecker

Then you choose a single action from the action wheel and perform it.  There are 7 different action tiles: buy lumber, exchange dice, buy materials, choose orders, choose a helper, produce/plant a tree, improve your workshop.  There is an interesting bit here with the action wheel.  You can choose just about any action tile, when you go, you do the action on it.  You may also get bonuses found above and below the tile.  When you take the tile, move it forward to the next quadrant, sliding it as far as you can before you hit another tile or the end line.  If you have to move into a quadrant past the needle, you turn the wheel accordingly, and this will change the bonuses up.  You cannot move an action tile past the needle if the next quadrant isn’t empty though.  You could also decide to ignore the action on the tile to get 3 blueberries or pay a lantern to perform the action on any other tile.  In either case, you still get the bonuses associated with the tile you moved. All of these options can be done in any order.  

The tile actions:

  • Buy lumber – buy from the market in the corner of the action wheel board. Pay 1 blueberry per pip, +1 for a yellow die, +2 for a brown die.  Roll new dice to replenish the market
  • Exchange dice – you may sell a die for 2 blueberries per pip + +1 for a yellow die, +2 for a brown die. You can now buy a die from the bank, paying the usual costs. It must be a different color than the one you sold.
  • Buy Materials – buy glue, sawblades and scrapwood tokens – costs listed on the board

  • Choose orders – take 1 or 2 order cards next to the scoreboard. First is free, second costs 3 blueberries. Put them beside your board in the row that matches the icon on it
  • Choose a helper – spend blueberries to place a helper from the market onto your board – where you place it will give you a varying income bonus.  Helpers can have instant, once per turn or ongoing effects.
  • Produce/Plant a tree – either gain production for 2 helpers in your workshop OR plant a tree by planting one of your wood dice (value 1 or 2 – though you can split a bigger die).
  • Improve your workshop – add one thing to the next available space – the next pot, the next sawing tile, the next splicing tile or the next gluing tile 

You could buy a bonus action – pay 3 lanterns and use any action on any tile, regardless of position.

You can also take free actions 

  • use a helper – use a helper’s once a turn ability as written on the card
  • saw lumber – flip a saw tile over, choose a die greater than 1 and cut it – i.e. split the value into multiple dice. For each new tie taken from the supply, use a saw tile
  • splice scrapwood – turn in a scrapwood token and increase the number on a die by the number shown on the splicing tile that you flip over
  • glue lumber – spend a glue token to join two dice that sum to less than 6 into a single die equal to the sum.  If different colors are glued, you choose which of the colors to keep.
  • harvest a tree – move a die from a pot to your lumber pile
  • Spend a tile reuse token to flip any tile over
  • complete an order – if you have the resources depicted on an order, you can complete it. Return the stated dice and tokens to the bank and get the reward shown on the card. Based on the location of the card WRT to your board, there may be a further reward or penalty.  Keep the completed order face down near you.  If you fill a hazelnut order that you got at the start of the round, you can also then claim a public contract; giving you an endgame bonus.  Multiple players can claim a public contract in the same round; but after that, the public contract is set aside and no one else can claim it.
  • Place a tool – when you get a tool, you place it in your attic. You must first start on the bottom row, but then can build up pyramid style.  If you place two tools of different types next to each other, you gain the one-time bonus printed between their spaces.

Finally, you have the opportunity to buy points. Once per round, you can pay blueberries to move ahead on the marketing track. Gain the points shown.  At this time, also return any lumber dice in excess of six to the supply.

Every few rounds, income happens – refer to the turn track on the board to see when these occur. Orders move down a row, and players must play a new order from their hand.  Players gain blueberries per that track and VPs per the hazelnut track.  All the splicing, gluing and sawing tiles are reset to be used again.  The helper and order card market may also be altered.  New decks of cards are also introduced near the midpoint of the game.

After the final round, there is a final income phase and then there is some final scoring.

  • Points per each claimed public contract
  • Sum unused dice, blueberries, and tokens – score 1 point per 10 of these
  • Take penalties for each order at the bottom of the track (move back on reputation track)
  • Then based on the final position on the track, score the designated number of points for each completed order

The player with the most points wins. Ties broken by being later in turn order.

My thoughts on the game

Woodcraft is another complex game from Delicious Games, a firm which is starting to generate a pretty good track record of meaty games.  It has taken a while for me to get the game to the table enough to write a review, as the longer games have to wait their turn to get back to the table as of late…  

I normally like games with fixed and limited actions, and this one fits that niche perfectly.  You definitely have to make the most of your 14 action wheel choices, and each decision can be complex.  You obviously have to consider the main action, but also look at the possible bonuses as well as the potential to move the wheel (and how that will affect bonuses in the future).  I like the way that the wheel ends up incentivizing actions which haven’t been used recently.   And, I would definitely urge you not to forget that you can spend a lantern to do any tile action – this can be worth the cost if you really need to do a particular thing this turn.  It’s also very beneficial to spend 3 lanterns to take an extra action.  As you grow more experienced, you might even end up choosing certain actions more for the bonuses associated with them than the action itself, or making a more advanced move of choosing an action if only to prevent your opponents from taking it themselves.  In any event, lots to consider each time your turn comes up.

The dice manipulation aspect of the game is a really neat puzzle.  I love the way that you have to figure out how to take your dice and then possibly cut or glue them in order to get the values that you need for specific contracts.  It can take a few steps to get you where you want to be with your dice; but figuring out the best way to manipulate your dice is one of the puzzles of the game.

To score points, you’ll want to have the right dice because a lot of your points will come from contract fulfillment.  There is an interesting bit of risk in the timing of the contracts.  You fill orders in the income phases, and if you don’t, they will drop down in value.  So, you always need to keep an eye on this!  If you completely ignore an order and it falls off the board, you will lose reputation and this will definitely cost you points in the final scoring.

There is a bit of engine building going on as well; as you unlock areas of your woodshop, you’ll get access to more free actions – which makes each of your turns much better.  As you add helpers, you’ll also get an ever increasing amount of benefits.  I would caution you to balance your attention though; in my early games I got so caught up on gaining more “free” actions that I didn’t spend enough energy in actually filling contracts, and didn’t score very well!  Between the bonuses from the wheel, your helpers and your workshop actions – sometimes taking all these feels like a turn in itself, before you even move to take the main action granted on the tile you chose!  

As you have a lot of little actions to possibly take, you will definitely have to take a minute and get all your actions lined up in your head.  There is definitely a learning curve – it took me a while to get the whole process down of acquiring wood, sawing it to size, gluing scrap together, splicing wood bits – all in order to get the right number on my dice…  For those who are AP prone, this can become a prolonged process as there are a lot of little steps to be considered when planning your turn.  While each particular action is easy and straightforward, it is a huge puzzle to figure out how to use all those little things to create a unified plan.

As with all the little actions, the rules themselves are also straightforward.  While reading thru them, I didn’t have many questions.  That being said, the game is much more complex than the rules read would suggest with all the interacting parts.  This is one of those games that you’ll have to play multiple times before you get the hang of it.  After a few games, I am now able to score more than double of what I did in my first game! 

All in all, Woodcraft is a very solid game from Suchy/Arnold and Delicious Games.  Our games have tended on the longer end (just over 2 hours usually) which has made it harder to get to the table.  I have enjoyed my plays, but given the length, this isn’t one that I’m probably going to pine for.  That’s not to say it’s not a good game – as it is, and the opinions of my fellow gamers would support that – it’s just a touch more complex than I’m currently looking for in my games.  For those looking for a more crunchy experience, this is definitely one to recommend to that crowd.

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Alan H: Like Dale, I’ve enjoyed my plays of the game and 2 hours plus for a game is quite normal for me. There’s lots to take in and so our games have been nearer three hours. What stops it getting a higher rating is the fiddliness of the actions. It works and it’s logical but not a clean enough game for me. There are others that will get to the table for 3 hours gaming more frequently than this one. 

Larry:  I’ve only played this once and it certainly wasn’t under optimal conditions, so I really haven’t given it a fair shot yet.  My initial impression isn’t that positive, but I could see it turning out to be a game I like.  Our game did have some issues, though.  It was a 4 player game and the consensus is that it doesn’t play that well with that number, which I’d agree with (less control and a lot of downtime).  The overall design feels a bit overwrought, like many of Suchy’s recent titles–there’s lots of side actions that don’t feel essential to the heart of the game, including all the add-ons to the central rondel mechanic.  It really, really needs player aids.  I do think the basic concept of working with wood boards, including being able to divide them and glue them together, is clever, so I have some hope for this.  Mostly, this is a game I want to try again to see how it plays with fewer players and a better understanding of the rules.  It’ll probably never become a huge favorite of mine, though.

Doug G: Shelley and I talked about this one on Episode 863 back in January. We enjoyed the game, but agree that there’s a learning curve and it feels a bit fiddly. Our games lasted quite a bit longer than we would have liked, though experience would, of course, speed that up a bit. My strong recommendation would be to play this as a 2-player first, as I can see it getting bogged down and tedious with its full contingent in a learning game. It wasn’t so good that we felt the need to hold onto it.

Ryan P: Woodcraft is my 2nd favorite game of 2022 behind Tiletum. Suchy is consistently near or at the top of my year end lists. The puzzle of finding the best way to purchase, sell, split, and grow dice for multiple orders is very unique and feels incredibly rewarding. I’m normally not huge on contract fulfillment, yet it’s the most satisfying part of Woodcraft. The action wheel seems unassuming, but there ends up being a lot of decision space. Using a lantern to alter a tile really elevates this aspect of the game. It’s also because the players control the amount of bonuses. One game, we used the same action 3 times to start; we basically flooded the rest of our game with freebies. Most games though, you will want to deny opponents opportunities; those games can feel really tight on actions. While the game is highly tactical, it does a nice job of giving you some strategy elements to start: 4 orders that you must play throughout the game, public endgame objectives, and a starting ability.

Compelling main mechanism, intricate puzzles, high replayability, and a smooth blend of tactics and strategy – that’s the game for me. Yes there can be long turns where a player freezes up, yes it’s got some fringe rules that I messed up too, yes my boards are really low quality, and yes it’s really a 2-3 player game. But those are all small issues that are easily overshadowed by an excellent gameplay experience. I highly recommend it for euro fans; it’s a game that I will be playing for years to come.

Dan B. (1 play): This feels more integrated than some of Suchy’s other recent games (e.g. Praga Caput Regni, which felt like several unrelated games jammed together), but it still has too much going on for my tastes. The attic in particular feels tacked-on and despite the fact that I won by putting a bunch of tools there, I think the game would be better without it.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers:

  • I love it! Steph H, Ryan P.
  • I like it. Alan H, Doug G.
  • Neutral. Dale Y, Larry (for now), Dan B.
  • Not for me…

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.
This entry was posted in Essen 2022, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply