Fanfor Verlag, £40+
Designed by Valentin Herman (aka VtI)
3-6 Players, 2-3 hours
Reviewed by Mike Siggins
Waldesfrust is the second major release from Fantasy Forest, following on from Hacker last year. That was a game I found good, if unassuming, but which the critics apparently loathed. Sadly Fanfor's follow up game is something of a duffer, and expensive to boot. Unless the reviews are kinder or there are bottomless coffers round at Fanfor's offices, I very much doubt if we shall see a third game from them at Essen '93.
Waldesfrust is a game about forestry, which is 80% of the reason they got the sale. The other 20% was down to the excellent production which consists of bags full of wooden pieces, a lovely board and stacks of thick card tree counters in various stages of growth. We are talking major heftage. Unfortunately, the same is true of the rule book which is long and distinctly wordy. I read it again after play, thinking that because of the mass of rules there must be far more to the game than we had experienced. Unless I'm very much mistaken, there isn't.
The game is essentially about planting and nurturing trees in the hope of building up a sizeable forest while fighting off the effects of big business, represented symbolically by a men with chainsaws who chop your trees down. Big business is played by your opponents so everyone get to create and destroy in the same game. To summarise the gameplay, you have a gridded board onto which you can place new trees, foresters to protect growing trees and saws which chop them down. All these are placed by way of secret plotting which is revealed simultaneously in the time honoured fashion. Simply, if you place a saw where there is a forester, its effect is nullified but if not the player picked on loses a tree. There are so many squares that avoiding problems is usually easy if you are trying to chop (not enough foresters, too many trees) so the game tends to three steps forward, two steps back progression (if you are lucky) constantly planting and growing trees, only to see them savagely lopped. Gradually, and painfully, you try to build up sections of forest in your colour that ultimately have a value at game end which determines the winner. There is also a rudimentary economic system such that you have to pay to hire foresters and so on. And so it goes on turn after turn.
A complete game is not going to take much less than two hours, probably nearer three, featuring a very steady build up of forests and the same daft system performed over and over. It's repetitive and boring. The other major failing, probably linked to the first, is the lack of empathy with the subject. I didn't actually care if my trees were being cut down and the almost random plotting allowed for minimal decision making. The game's strengths are the theme and the production which are the easiest assets to create given ideas and money. Sadly, they are swamped by the drawbacks.
In conclusion then: it is expensive, processional, overlong, lacking in interesting decisions and, worst of all, it completely failed to engage me. It really is difficult to say much else about this one. I am not at all enamoured by the system and it is unlikely that I will play it again, but I feel some commentary is required or else many of you might feel tempted to buy. With the DMark still strong, it is going to hurt a few wallets. On the other hand, I seem to be slightly unusual in holding these views, they are admittedly based on one abbreviated playthrough and the three other players were willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. I'm not, and you have been warned.
On to the review of Kalahen or back to the review of Schmuggler an Bord.
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