Review by Bob Rossney.
The board consists of a 9x12 grid divided up into 3x3 sections. Each player has a supply of trees in four sizes: seedlings, saplings, trees, and great trees.
Each player controls a League of Foresters (LOF), which employs foresters, and an industry, which employs loggers. Simply put, foresters plant your trees, water them (which helps them grow), and protects them from the depredations of your opponents' loggers. Loggers cut your opponents' trees down.
Each turn you hire foresters and loggers and deploy them secretly. Once everybody's placement is revealed, foresters in the same square with loggers can arrest and try one logger, and the extra loggers have a chance at logging in that space. (If they fail -- it's determined by a die roll -- the forester gets to tend that tree instead.)
The object of the game is to grow the most valuable forest.
It is easy to lose sight of this objective. The game has two separate economic systems. Your industry takes money in from logging, and pays it out in wages and fines (from when a logger is caught by a forester and sent to jail). Your LOF takes money in from growing great trees (the largest possible) and jailing loggers, and pays it out in wages and the very expensive seedlings. Money is not transferable between your industry and your LOF.
As the game progresses, it's important that you manage your industry's business well. It's essential that you manage your LOF's well -- for if your LOF runs out of money, you can neither protect nor improve your forest, and you can be put out of the game entirely.
But making money doesn't win the game. To win the game, you have to grow dense forests. At the end of the game, each tree is worth from 1 to 4 points. This is doubled if you have 4 trees in a section, and tripled if you have five or more. You also get an additional 2 point bonus (after the doubling/tripling) if the trees are in a national park -- that is, a 3x3 section all of whose spaces are occupied by trees.
There are tensions aplenty in this game. You can only place three foresters in a section, which means that you can't protect all of your trees as you try to grow a dense forest. National parks get you a small bonus at the end of the game, but as soon as a section becomes a national park all of the trees in the section stop producing income for their LOF's -- a terrible shock if you're not expecting it. If you get too far ahead, your opponents will descend on you with their loggers, or worse plant seedlings in your section to turn it into a national park.
This is a very interesting game. So far I've only played it once, but I'm eager to play it again. Unfortunately, the rules are not as clear as they could be. The sequence of play is unnecessarily confusing, and the rules about conflicts between foresters and logging have ambiguities that our group only discovered by playing the first two or three turns incorrectly. Also, while the components are lavish and very attractive, the game includes parts that you don't really need (the LOF and industry mats, which would only be necessary if the LOF's and industries didn't have differently-colored money) and doesn't include parts that you do need (the rules suggest you establish two places on the table to serve as the illegal labor market and the jail). Plus it's shockingly expensive.
Overall, it rests on the complexity scale somewhere between Acquire and 1829. I'll need to play it a few more times before I can say if it's in the same league in terms of quality, but so far it looks quite good.
Copyright 1994, Bob Rossney.
The Game Cabinet - firstname.lastname@example.org - Ken Tidwell