Foragers Review

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Foragers is a game by Steve Finn, published by Dr. Finn’s Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of prehistoric people trying to survive through collecting and sharing food. They will have to use their wits and skills to gather tools and win skirmishes. The player that can perform these actions the best will be declared the winner.

To begin, the starting tiles are set up and placed on the table as shown on the setup card for the corresponding number of players. The rest of the tiles are then separated into edge and corner stacks. Some tiles are removed based on the number of players. Each stack is then mixed up to randomize the tiles before being placed facedown to form 2 stacks. Food squares are placed on the appropriate food spaces. Sharing tokens are then randomly placed on the fire pit tiles equal to the number of players plus 1. The tool tokens are placed facedown on the table and mixed up. One token is then placed face up on each food space with a tool icon on it. The remaining tokens are placed into a pile and are kept facedown. The common action card is placed near the board with the appropriate side face up that corresponds with the number of players. Players choose a color and are given a player board or tableau, a pawn, 10 action cards and 4 action cubes in their chosen color. They also receive a energy track marker which is placed on the 9th space of their player board, as well as 3 victory points. Players will then shuffle their action cards and place them facedown on the left side of their player board. The spoilage cards are shuffled together and a certain number of cards are removed based on the number of players. They are then placed facedown near the board. The first player is chosen and they are given the Hunt Leader card which they will place in front of themself on either the male or female side, their choice. Beginning with the player to the right of the hunt leader and continuing in a counter clockwise fashion, each player will place their pawn on 1 of the resting spaces on the board. Once this has been done by all players, play now begins.

The game is played over a series of rounds. Each round has 4 phases; planning, acting, spoiling and assessing. The first phase is the planning phase. In this phase, players will each draw 3 action cards from their deck. They then choose one of them and place it face down on the table, to the right of their player board. The remaining two cards are placed on the top of their deck in any order. Once all players have accomplished this task, the next phase can begin.

The second phase is the acting phase. In this phase each player will simultaneously reveal the card that they chose in the previous phase, flipping it face up. Beginning with the hunt leader, each player will take turns choosing an action by placing one of their action cubes on an empty square of their action card, or on the common action card. Once the player has placed their cube, they will perform their chosen action. This continues with each player placing action cubes until each player has placed 4 action cubes and performed the subsequent action. Players may place a cube on the common action card if their action card did not have an action that they wanted to take, as long as their action card did not have the same type of action on it. There are 7 different actions that may be taken depending on what is available on the player’s chosen card. Those actions are walk, forage, pick up tool, eat, rest, share and discover. The first of those actions is the walk action. If this action is chosen, the player is allowed to move their pawn up to the number of spaces that are shown on the action card. The player is not allowed to end their movement on a food space that is occupied by another player. However, they may pass through, if their strength is higher than the other players. If this happens, the special brawling event occurs. The walking player that has the higher strength is allowed to take a number of victory points equal to the difference in strength between the 2 players, up to a maximum of 3 victory points. This only happens in a food space and not in resting or fire spaces. It should be noted that a player is not allowed to take victory points from more than 1 player per turn.

The next action a player can take is the forage action. This action allows a player to pick up a number of food squares up to the number shown on the action card from the space that their pawn currently occupies. The squares are then placed on the first empty space on the corresponding food track, starting from the left side of the player board.

Another action that a player can take is to pick up a tool. This action allows a player that is in a food space that has a tool on it, to pick up that tool and place it on their player board. A player is allowed to have up to 2 of the same type of tool. Each tool provides a special ability. Fish hooks allow a player to take an extra fish from a food space with fish on it. Boomerangs allow a player to take an extra auroch square from a food space. Sticks allow a player to take an extra fruit square from the food space. Arrowheads are a bit different, as they add 1 to the player’s strength level.

Yet another action that a player can take is to eat. This action is one way that a player can increase their energy. Eating any food squares on the player’s board allows the player’s energy to increase. They are allowed to eat up to the number shown on the action card. The player’s energy marker moves depending on how fresh the food was, as shown on the player board. Fresher food provides more energy.

The next action available is the rest action. This action allows the player to increase their energy as well. Resting allows the player to move their energy marker a number of spaces on their player board’s energy track equal to the number shown on the action card.

Another action is the share action. For a player to be able to take this action, their pawn must be in a fire pit space. To share, the player returns a number of food squares of a chosen type that correspond with the food token that is present for that area. That particular sharing token is then taken by the player and placed on their player mat on the space that matches the colored rocks for the fire pit that they were visiting. It should be noted that the age of the food doesn’t matter and that a player may share food in the same fire pit multiple times during the game.

The last action is the discover action. For a player to be able to take this action, they must have their pawn in a space that has a path leading off the board. Their also must be space for the placement of a new tile based on the number or players. For example, in a 2 player game, the board must finish in a 3 x 3 grid with the corner tiles in the corners. Once the new board has been placed, the specific number and type of food squares, as well as a new tool token are placed on the appropriate spaces. The player then receives a victory point for the action.

It should be noted that there is also a special action that a player is able to take called run. This action can be taken before and/or after performing a regular card action. This action does not require the use of an action cube nor does it count against the 4 actions that a player is allowed to take per round. Running is just like walking except that the player must spend 2 energy for each space that they run. As long as the player has enough energy, they may run as many times as they want. Running follows all the basics of walking when it comes to other players and occupied spaces. Once all players have completed all of their actions, the next phase begins.

The third phase is the spoiling phase. In this phase, the top spoilage card is flipped over. All players then age their food that corresponds with the icon on the card the number of spaces shown. Any food squares that move off the track on the player’s boards are returned to the supply. The spoilage card is then discarded.

The final phase is the assessing phase. At the beginning of this phase, any player’s pawns that are on a resting space automatically gain 4 energy. Players then check to see if the end game event has been reached. Once the final spoilage card has been revealed, the game is over and final scoring takes place. If the game is not over, all players take back their action cubes and discard their previously used action card. The hunt leader card is then passed to the next player in turn order. A new round begins.

Before final scoring begins, each player is allowed to eat any food squares on their player board at a rate of 1 energy for each food eaten. Victory points are scored for strength and sharing tokens. They are also bonuses awarded for visiting different fire pits and sharing food, for collecting 3 or 4 tokens of the same type and for the number of tools. The players then add up their points and the person with the most points is the winner.

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COMPONENTS
This game has lots of really nice looking pieces. There are lots of brightly colored action cubes and player pawns, as well as food squares and energy markers. Each of these are made out of wood and are really sturdy. I think it would have been really nice if the food squares had been shaped like the different food that they represented or if the player pawns had been meeples instead of oversized cubes. Not really the best design in the world, but they get the job done. There are lots of tokens made of thick cardboard, such as the victory point tokens, share tokens and tool tokens. These are all pretty cool looking. The game also has lots of cards. There are action cards, the common action card, the spoilage cards and the hunt leader card. This last one is double sided and has a male forager on one side and a female on the other. I wish that this great looking art had been more prevalent throughout the game instead of simply teasing me from what’s basically a first player marker. The other cards are all nice enough and show the different actions that each player can take or show which foods are spoiled. It boils down to simply iconography here. Nothing bad, just looks more like hieroglyphics than anything. In any case, the cards are good quality and look nice. The player boards, or tableaus as they’re called in the rulebook, have colors that match up with the player pawns and action cubes. These are nice and pretty sturdy for the most part. There are places for all the stuff you need on them. The last things to mention are the land tiles. These are the same thickness as the tokens, since they’re punched out from the same cardboard sheets. They look nice and show all the different places to perform a player’s actions. They are a little bland looking but like many of the other pieces, they get the job done. Look, the components are good quality but the designs are gonna blow anyone away. That said, they’re still pretty darn decent.
7 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game looks nice enough. It has plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book. Everything is easy to read and understand. The rules are all laid out really well with plenty of descriptions on how each phase and action works. There is also a great variant set of rules for 2 players that include setup and how to play the game with 2 dummy players. The rulebook also has a really great reference sheet on the back cover that includes both the game summary as well as a summary of all the actions along with icons. The rulebook looks nice enough. Overall, there are only a few things that I have to complain about. First, there’s nothing really clear about how to end the game in the rules. You really have to look hard to figure it out. Would have been nice if there had been a highlighted section near the end of the rules telling how this works, preferably right before the final scoring section. The other thing is that instead of explaining how to set up the game in the rulebook, there’s a separate setup card that explains all that. Sure, it’s not a big deal but I like having everything in one handy place. Just seemed a bit off for me. Other than that, the rules get the job done.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
This is a really nice game that is quite enjoyable. Of course the first thing that I thought of when I saw the game was Stone Age. However, this doesn’t play anything like that at all, so you need to get those assumptions out of your head. First let me address the 2 player game. I didn’t really cover this in the overview earlier. If you don’t like using dummy players, you really won’t like this way to play. The dummy players have a certain way that they will act for each situation. These actions are pretty well spelled out in the rulebook. Personally, I think it would have been better to have simply had each player play 2 foragers each and then maybe add up the two totals at the end or something of that nature. Just spitballing here. Ok, enough of that. The real story is that the game is fun. I really like that their is a bit of a worker placement style aspect to the game. Each action that you take has meaning behind it. The only thing is that at the beginning of the game it seemed that there was pretty much always plenty of food. Only when things got near the end did there become a real tussle for food. Maybe that was intended thematically or something. Maybe the ice age was coming and there was less and less food to be found. I don’t know. The tools didn’t really seem to be all that important and unless players really wanted to throw their weight around, the fighting aspect didn’t seem that big of a deal either. In that way, the game tended to be more pick up and deliver than worker placement. Being a fan of both genres, seemed to make this game more interesting to me. I really like the food spoilage and found that it made a lot of sense in theory. The thing that I didn’t like is how that it was random what spoiled and how badly it spoiled based on the draw of a card. I really felt that this could have been a bit more predictable. Of course that probably would have made things too easy for veteran players to really run the table. In any event, fans of both worker placement and pick up and deliver games should find this one interesting. The game lasts about an hour, give or take. I enjoyed it, just not as much as I thought I would. Still, it’s a pretty good game especially with more players.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
Foragers is a pick up and deliver style game with a stone age feel to it. The game is a bit longer than most of Dr. Finn’s games, with play times lasting around an hour. Some of the components are a little bit rough and I wished that there had been a little more of a thematic approach to them, such as meeples instead of player pawns and food shaped pieces instead of squares. That said, the quality is still there it’s just that the blandness seems to pull you out of the theme of the game. There are a few issues with the rulebook as well such as no clear end of game section and the setup section being separate from the actual rulebook. Nothing major that will cause too many headaches, they’re just things that I didn’t necessarily like. In any event, the game is quite fun unless you don’t like dummy players, then don’t play the game using the 2 player variant rules. A few aspects didn’t really seem to be all that influential in the game but it was still nice to have those options available. Fans of some worker placement and pick up and deliver games should enjoy this one. I would recommend giving it a try despite some of my complaints. It’s still a solid game and one that most players will enjoy.
8 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Dr. Finn’s Games at his site.

http://www.doctorfinns.com/

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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