Monday, 22 June 2015

Morels / Fungi

Plays: 2Px1.

The Game

Morels was first published by Two Lanterns, a small publisher. It received widespread praise, and was later republished by Pegasus as Fungi. It is a two-player-only card game about a walk through the forest to pick mushrooms. Not an everyday setting for sure.

A row of eight cards is set up at the centre of the table, representing the forest path and the mushrooms (and other items) along the path. The first two cards are considered to be right under your feet. You can easily pick either card here. Other cards are slightly further away, and to pick them you need to pay sticks, which is the only currency in the game. You collect mushrooms because you want to cook them to score points. You need to collect at least three of the same type in order to cook a batch. You also need a pan for each batch you cook. Pans are another type of card you can collect from the card row. Every turn, regardless of whether you've picked a card, the first card will be moved to a decay pile (and more cards drawn to replenish the card row). The decay pile represents mushrooms which are not picked starting to spoil. It will only be discarded when it grows to four cards. Players can use an action to claim all cards in the decay pile, which is a good way to gain many cards quickly. However you must stay within your hand limit. Also you don't get to pick. It's all or nothing.

There are a few other types of cards in the card row. Baskets increase your hand size. Butter and cider cards can be used as seasoning when you cook mushrooms, to increase their score value. There is one poisonous type of mushroom called the fly agaric which works like a laxative. If you pick it, your hand size is temporarily reduced and you may be forced to discard cards. This may not be a bad thing. Sometimes you want this because normally there is no mechanism to discard unwanted cards. When your hand is full, you are temporarily stuck. Another way to get rid of cards is by selling mushrooms. You need at least three to cook (and score points), but you need only two to sell. Selling gets you sticks, which, as mentioned above, allow you to pick cards which are further away.

One special type of card is the night card. When you pick such a card, you get to draw a double mushroom from the facedown night deck. These are just like mushroom cards except each card counts as two mushrooms.

The game ends when the draw deck is exhausted and the card row is empty. Highest total score from cooked mushrooms wins.

The numbers in the top left corner of the mushroom cards indicate their point values if cooked and stick values if sold.

The two cards on the left are the baskets, which increase hand size. The cards on the right are the batches of mushrooms I have cooked so far. For two of the batches I have added butter for seasoning (i.e. I get some bonus points). You need at least four mushrooms if you want to add butter.

The Play

The game that Morels reminds me of surprises me - it's Through the Ages. The similarity I see is the card row which keeps running. In Morels this is a sushi bar conveyor belt turned to super high speed. Plates of sushi fly by and you can't grab every plate you want. The fat boy sitting across from you is also grabbing plates. Furthermore, your limited table space means you need to be picky. You need to eat the sushi quickly too to make space. It's chaos! So many restrictions and challenges in your face at the same time!

The sticks in the first edition are handmade. Very nice.

The Thoughts

Morels almost feels like a real-time speed game. You are assaulted by multiple challenges and forced to make tough decisions. The pace is fast. Actions are simple. The juggling of multiple restrictions and considerations forces you to give and take. You can't have everything. You need to make sacrifices and you need to prioritise. The game is like being ejected from an airplane together with an explosion of loose currency notes. You want to grab as much money as you can before you need to pull open your parachute. There is only so much you can grab and only so much you can stuff into your pockets, collar, mouth...

This will make a nice spouse game.

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