Dark Journeys: Bryan Barnes looks at “Forsaken Forest”

Greetings to all readers of the Gumbo, Bryan is back, this time with another look at an interesting game that might not be on your radar.

Lost in a terrifying forest, where a wrong turn, a wrong choice, or a wrong accusation can lead to the end for your village, is the setting for the new social deduction style game, Forsaken Forest. This 2018 release is designed by Alec Nezin and published by Forsaken Games.

Forest game plays 4-12 people with a mix of board movement, card play, and social deduction. Find a tree to hide behind because it is time to dive into this game of village finding and monster hunting.

Opening the box, the graphic design pops right out.

The color choice is great and the overall design really makes the graphical part of the game shine. The board is also well done, with a darker background but well defined borders on the important squares to help find them. Even with this glare heavy shot below (I am not a photographer) you can see the destination and excavation squares.

In Forsaken Forest, one team of gamers will play as the villagers finding their way home, and the other team of gamers will play as the forsaken. The game play is also good with this game, and here is a quick overview:

The game revolves around moving on the above board using wander cards to arrive at destinations and excavation points to find help (excavation points), or home (village), or sometimes doom (the void). The best part of this mechanic is the forsaken (Bad people team) have multiple ways to win. They can either equalize out themselves and villagers, like in the popular social deduction game of werewolf, or get the group to the void, which is basically a pit of despair (Like when your wife tricks you into going to your mother-in-laws place).

There are a few differences between Forsaken Forest and your typical werewolf experience, in addition to the “pit of despair.” Unlike werewolf, the group cannot simply accuse the forsaken. They have to use appropriate cards from the deck to start a “trial”. The villagers, also, have two ways to win: find the village or kill off the forsaken. This gives the game a more dynamic feel because any movement on the board can bring suspicion. There are also special roles for both factions which can help the forsaken elude capture or the villagers pin down that last terror spawn.

Another difference to note is that Forsaken Forest does not technically have player elimination. If you die, your ghost haunts the forest helping your side, purely verbally, try to win. The game claims not to need a moderator, either. Although in our Gumbo game nights and review sessions we never played that way, it would be a nice benefit for some gamers since not every group has someone willing to moderate.

Not everything about the game is a cherry path back to the village of good games. The rule book is well laid out but much longer than needed. There is a lot of over-explanation that, frankly, just does not need to be there. To show what I mean, let’s look at one of the role, “The Oracle”. The role seems simple — during the night phase, the oracle wakes up and peeks at a role card. The book tells us this is simple, so let’s look at the wording in the rule book (note: the capitals on odds words are added because they refer to game mechanics or game items)

“The Oracle awakens on Night Two and onward to use her psychic abilities to learn the true identity of one of her fellow Travelers. Each Night, she is able to Peek at the Role Card of the player of her choice. (Not bad, but oh wait, it continues…)

The Oracle’s goal is to survive long enough to use her special ability and then use that secret knowledge to determine who the Forsaken are, and where they are trying to lead the group. The Forsaken won’t know which player she chooses to peek at, so she has the distinct advantage of knowing how other players interact with the players that she peeked at.”

And this word soup was spilled basically all over the rule book. In the context of this article, the lengthy wording of the role may not seem that bad, but it really adds up when trying to teach or find a rule.

The night phase has issues as well. The book, I felt, calls for too much movement during night phase which can be detrimental to any hiding role. Another issue with the game my players found was it was far too easy to gain information about the other players. There are a slew of cards that will allow a normal villager to look at another players role. Finally, a major issue our plays exposed is the ability of the players to keep the night phase at bay, or invalidate bad stuff. The Forsaken players always seemed to be at a disadvantage because they needed night and forest cards to help harrow and thin the villagers, but there are cards that prevent night from coming, stop the resolution of forest cards, and can save someone from being sacrificed by the forsaken. While this counter play needs to exists, it felt like too big a hurdle at times.

Overall Forsaken Forest is a solid game. It will fill a niche for groups that like some social deduction, but not an overwhelming amount. Also might be a good game to help introduce boardgamers to social deduction games since there are card and board move elements.

— BJ’s thoughts:  I enjoyed the social deduction aspect of the game, but felt that the board and card element needed just a little bit more refinement. Like Bryan said, some of the cards seem to come in powerful runs that affected the game play. I like the concept of mixing social deduction with a board game (Battlestar Galactica is probably the king of the hill in that genre), and I’d like to see what the designer can come up with next. If the designer’s aim was a tension filled experience, he was successful in his quest – there’s a lot of tense moments especially late in the game when it feels like doom is always just around the corner. If you like social deduction games, it’s worth a try.

— John says: If you don’t like social deduction games, you won’t like this one. If you do, it’s a step up from The Resistance and an even more satisfying experience.

Always remember to have fun,

Bryan Barnes


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