Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers

Plays: 5Px1, 2Px2.

The Game

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is a race game where woodcutters race along a river with currents, rocks and logs. A player controls a team of 2 or 3 woodcutters, and must get the whole team to cross the finish line to win. Movement is done through card play. Every woodcutter has a set of cards, and each player constructs his deck by shuffling all his woodcutters' cards. A player has a hand of 3 cards, and to move a woodcutter a matching card for that specific woodcutter must be played.

The cards in the game. The one on the left can only be used to move the green male woodcutter, the one in the middle can only be used to move the green female woodcutter, the one on the right is a joker. The number means you can move up to that number of spaces. You may not stay stationary.

Let's talk about what makes this race game different. A woodcutter can push other woodcutters and logs, unless there are three or more of them (or obstacles) in the direction he or she is trying to push. This means your woodcutters can help one another by pushing them forward. You can also force others to help you by standing in their way.

And then there are currents. Woodcutters and logs on current spaces get carried away (literally). Some currents help you by carrying you forward, but some can carry you backward. You need to beware not to let others push you into bad currents.

The rules are quite simple and intuitive.

The first half of the introductory race track. Nothing very fancy, just winding paths and a few logs. In a 5-player game, black and white belong to the same team. At the moment not all woodcutters have entered the race track (green, yellow, red).

The Play

So far I have played three games, the first one with five gamers, and the next two with my 6-year-old daughter (she was the one who asked me to teach her the game).

The first game with five players, the max player count, was a little slow, and there was higher risk of other players pushing you into inconvenient locations. We also had frequent traffic jams because of the many woodcutters in play. We had many occasions of players getting shoved into a back-flowing current and being pushed far back. I think the introductory race track was intentionally designed this way so that players can learn the hard way.

Han was first to get his first woodcutter across the finish line. I thought he would surely win the game, because once one woodcutter crosses the finish line, its cards become jokers. However it was Shan who was first to get both woodcutters across the finish line. Maybe the rest of us had been trying too hard to harm one another instead of focusing on racing forward.

My "little green man" has a broken arm.

Some racers are approaching the second half of the race track. A bunch of them are stuck in a traffic jam in the rear.

Han (yellow) had an early lead. I was green, Allen was blue, Shan was red, Wan was black and white.

That long chain of current spaces is a dangerous place. I have been pushed into it and was dragged but the currents all the way to the lower right corner.

When I played with my young daughter, I gave her suggestions and helped her when she couldn't make up her mind. She actually beat me in the first game we played.

When I played the second game with her using the non introductory race track, I realised the different setup can make very different games. And this is without any additional rules. In the race track that we used, there are a few shortcuts that are initially blocked by logs. If one of your racers can race ahead, taking the long way, and push aside these logs, your other racers will be able to take the shortcut. Naturally you want to avoid helping your opponents, and if they happen to open a shortcut you want to try to exploit it.

The Thoughts

I'm generally not a race game fan, so race games don't do much for me. Fast Flowing Forest Fellers has simple rules, and the race track designs are creative and provide replayability. There is a bit of hand management you need to do. You need to constantly look out for opportunities and dangers. The cards you draw limit you somewhat, but everyone has a same personal deck, so luck is reduced to just timing of card draw (not to say it can't be significant).

It is fun to do nasty stuff in the game. Rules being simple means this game can be taught to non-gamers and children easily.

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