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Shadows in the Forest

In this kid-friendly asymmetrical game, one player searches the forest for Shadowlings with only a small lantern for light.

Shadows in the Forest certainly has some unique mechanics, but is it just a gimmick or is it legitimately fun to play?

Gameplay

The board is made up of a series of interconnected stone paths, with spaces between on which you place various tree standees and similar hiding spots. One player will be the Seeker and places the mini lantern on a space at one of the four corners of the board. The other players control the Shadowlings. They control them as a group and must work together. The game leaves it up to you how many Shadowlings you wish to play with, though you must have a minimum of three in the game. Each Shadowling has a detachable mask. The lantern is turned on and the light in the room turned off. While the Seeker hides his eyes, the other players place the Shadowlings in the shadows of separate hiding spots.

On the Seeker’s turn, he rolls the glow-in-the-dark die, chooses which direction to move the lantern, and then moves it that many spaces along the path. If the lantern’s light falls on any Shadowling, that Shadowling is frozen and its masked is removed. If the Seeker ever has all Shadowlings frozen, he wins the game.

After the Seeker has moved, the Seeker player closes his eyes and the other players move the Shadowlings as a group, moving where the players believe is the best hiding spots for them. The Shadowlings do not have to follow the paths on the board, but they must stay within the board and may never jump over obstacles. If, while moving, a Shadowling is ever touched by the light, the Shadowling is frozen. To unfreeze a Shadowling, another Shadowling with its own mask on must end its turn in its hiding spot and they must be together until their next turn.

If all Shadowlings meet together with their masks on, in the same hiding spot, they win the game.

Shadows in the Forest Components

Review

Shadows in the Forest is an extremely creative game. There are not many games that use light and shadows as a mechanic, and it does so in a way that is both clever and deeply thematic. The game has a great atmosphere that sucks you right in.

This feels more like a kid’s game than one adults are likely to break out on their own, but it's one that parents and teens can have a lot of fun with too, making it great for families. The fact that the number of Shadowlings you play with is optional also means there can be some difficulty adjustment. In fact the rulebook offers suggestions for how to make either role more or less challenging, thereby adding another way to adjust the game’s difficulty; perfect for adults playing with younger kids.

While there are roll and move mechanics, there is actually some really interesting strategy about which direction you turn your lamp, and the directions you head in. You need to think about the direction of your light and how it will limit the ways that the Shadowlings might choose to move, and might even freeze them on their turns as they attempt to change hiding spots. There is also some fun social deduction on the part of the Seeker, as you try to guess how the Shadowlings are moving, and when you take into account that the Shadowlings have to work together without communicating in a way that will give themselves away to the listening Seeker, there are a lot of layers to the gameplay.

You can run into some technical issues with the game of course: finding a room dark enough (if your house has a lot of windows you may only be able to play this at night) and we also managed to lose our Shadowlings at one point when we couldn't see them and forgot where we’d placed them all. But when you have the right setting for the game, the use of shadow and light in the mechanics is deeply effective and enjoyable.

While adults might not be whipping out Shadows in the Forest too often by themselves, it's one of those kids’ games that can be just as fun for the adult as it is for the child. It's far from boring, has a lovely theme that results in some fascinating and original mechanics and is a board game that is fresh and unique.

Pros: Thematic, interesting mechanics, great for families, you can adjust the difficulty for both roles

Cons: Can be difficult to find the right play area, adults might not find themselves playing it often without children

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.