Published by Ravensburger
Designed by Alex Randolph and Michel Matsechoss
Review by Jocelyn Becker (email@example.com)
For ages 8-adult
This is the first in an occasional series of reviews of children's games.
It could (and should) be argued that many of the games reviewed in The Game Cabinet are suitable for children. Indeed, I played an exhilarating game of Die Siedler just last week with a ten year old, who played faster and more intelligently than many adults.
However, there are some games that are more fun for children, either with or without adults present. The Game Cabinet will be looking at some of those games, both new games and others that have been around for a while. The series starts this month with a review of Enchanted Forest.
Although the theme of this game is fairy tales, it's not suitable for very young children, since it is basically a memory game that also requires a skill at identifying fairly small, detailed images. Although Ravensburger claims that the age range is 8 and over, I'd say you could play it with younger children, maybe 6 and over, depending on the memory and concentration ability of the kid in question.
At the start of the game, everybody begins at the village. As the game progresses, you travel through the enchanted forest with the ultimate plan of reaching the castle at the other side of the forest. As you travel through the forest, you try to find hidden treasures: characters and items from all your favorite fairy tales. When you stop at a tree, you can peek underneath to see who or what is hiding there. Will you find Aladdin's lamp? Puss's Boot? Cinderella's slipper? The Wicked Witch's poison apple?
After you've had a sneak peek, you put the tree back without telling any one else what you found and carry on with your journey to another tree. The problem is that you need to remember what you find under each tree, which is trickier than it sounds after you've looked under several trees.
Everybody is racing to get to the castle and correctly reveal the whereabouts of three of the treasures. However, you can't choose which three treasures to find. That would be to easy. The castle contains a stack of cards, one for each treasure. The top card is always turned up and, when you arrive at the castle, you need to successfully reveal the whereabouts of the treasure depicted on the card. If you fail you are sent back to the village to start your journey over again.
There's also a path that runs round the castle in a loop, and tension can run high when two or more people are on the loop, each trying to land on the others to send them back to the village, while at the same time hoping for a dice roll that takes them exactly to the castle door.
Just to complicate matters, a double roll allows you to work a small act of magic. You may shuffle the stack of treasure cards in order to, hopefully, change which treasure is revealed. Or you may be transported to the entrance to the castle loop. Or, if you are already in the loop, you can leap right into the castle itself.
So let's say that the top card shows Cinderalla's slipper and you know which tree is concealing the slipper. Off you go racing to the castle. If you're lucky enough, you will evade your fellow players, who will be trying to land on the same spot as you so they can send you back to the village. You need to roll an exact number to get into the castle, and there's a big chance that before you can successfully enter the castle, someone else will roll a double, which lets them do magic. One of the magic tricks they can play is to put the top card back into the deck, shuffle the cards, and turn over the new top card.
So suddenly you could find yourself near the castle, with the top card being Aladdin's lamp, and you've no idea where the lamp is. You roll the right number to enter the castle. You guess where Aladdin's lamp is. Your guess, unfortunately, is wrong and you find yourself back at the village, far away from the castle.
One strategy to avoid this situation is to visit many trees, maybe even all the trees, before going to the castle. Then you can guarantee that you know where each treasure is - so long as you can remember correctly what is hiding under every tree. Also, the other players will know that you've been to many trees, and they'll try to stop you from reaching the castle. The more trees you visit, the more you likely you are to be chased back to the village.
The board is very pretty, the more you look at it, the more you find hidden images from fairy tales. I like the plastic trees, they're good and solid. Some of the treasures are hard to identify, which can make them hard to remember. I've discovered that not everybody knows the same fairy stories. Some tales like Snow White and Cinderalla seem to be universally known, but others are a little obscure. For example, I did not recognize the picture of Hop "o my Tumbs" bag of stones, since I don't know that story. If young children are playing, they need to have somebody nearby that they can whisper with to ask about the identity of treasures they don't recognize.
The chase element prevents the game from being automatically won by the person with the best memory. It can be a very fun game, particularly if the players are into chasing each other back to the village, rather than everone single mindedly visiting trees and rushing to the castle. It can be a little frustrating, particulary if you are sent back to the village right before you reach the castle.
It can also be frustrating if you forget where you saw the treasures. I have to work very hard to remember what treasure is under which tree; I have to keep repeating them to myself. Each time I reach a tree, I check that I can remember what is under all the other trees I've already seen.
Overall, I give Enchanted Forest a big thumbs up. If you have young game players on your Christmas list, I can recommend this for them.The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell