The trick taking genre is arguably one of the most popular types of card games. Despite this, I can’t say that I have ever been a huge fan of the genre. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I have never been the biggest fan of trick taking games. While it isn’t one of my favorites, I have started to try more games from the genre when they try to add something unique. I actually enjoyed The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine quite a bit. What I liked about it was that it added a cooperative mechanic along with a mission structure. Both were interesting additions to a trick taking game. This is something that intrigued me about Fox in the Forest Duet, as it seemed like it was trying to do something similar.
The original Fox in the Forest was released back in 2017 and it was highly regarded. At some point I would like to try out the original game. I am not in a huge rush to check it out though, as it is a competitive trick taking game. I personally was more intrigued by Fox in the Forest Duet which was released a few years later in 2020. This was because it was trying to be cooperative trick taking game. Fox in the Forest Duet is an interesting and fun little cooperative trick taking game, that while good may not be enough to convince those who don’t already like the genre.
Fox in the Forest Duet is to its very core a trick taking game. If you have ever played a trick taking game before, you will feel right at home. Basically the game is played over three rounds with each consisting of eleven turns. Each turn both players will play a card from their hand. Whichever plays the highest card from the trump or lead suit will win the trick. The winner of the trick will move the Team Tracker towards their side of the path. The ultimate goal of the game is to collect all of the gems on the board without going too far in either direction.
If you would like to see the complete rules/instructions for the game, check out our Fox in the Forest Duet how to play guide.
In many ways The Fox in the Forest Duet is very similar to your typical trick taking games. A large majority of the gameplay revolves around playing cards and determining who wins each trick. For this reason if you have played trick taking games before, you probably already have a pretty good idea of what to expect. If you generally like trick taking games, here is a good chance that you will like the game. If you generally dislike trick taking games though, I don’t know if the unique elements of the game will overcome your feelings about the genre.
The Fox in the Forest Duet differs from your typical trick taking game in a couple of areas.
The most obvious is the cooperative elements. Most trick taking games are competitive games where everyone plays for themselves or the players are divided into teams. The Fox in the Forest Duet only supports two players. Both players must work together in order to try and complete the objective of picking up all of the gems.
In a way the game plays like a game of tug of war/back and forth. In order to collect all of the gems the two players basically have to take turns winning tricks. You can’t communicate who should win each trick. The two players usually know who should win each trick based on their current situation. A player can win a couple of tricks in a row, but you need to try and prevent them from moving the marker too far. Basically you need to take turns winning tricks. This will keep the marker on the board and allow you to keep collecting gems.
This is sometimes easier said than done. Many times a player can play a card that improves their odds of winning/losing a trick. If you play a low card, the odds are high that the other player can play a card that is higher. The same holds true when you play a high card. There is no way to tell what cards the other player has in their hand though. You could play a card that you think will lose you the trick, just to end up winning it. This could then move the marker past the last space on the path. You can’t communicate what cards you have to your teammate. You need to try and remember what cards have already played to give yourself a better chance of knowing whether you will win a trick.
At the same time you are trying to manipulate the position of the marker in order to pick up gems. When playing cards you need to consider the direction that the marker will move. The number of spaces is crucial as well, since you need the marker to land on a specific space. This is not always as easy as you would think as you can’t coordinate with the other player. The second player needs to consider who will win and how far you will move before they choose their card.
In fact there is a strategy to purposefully trying to not move anywhere on your turn. If you are currently on a space that features a few gems, you may try to play cards that prevent any movement. You might want to play a few tricks where both players play cards that don’t feature paw prints. It doesn’t really matter who wins these tricks either, as the marker won’t move anyways. When you get a lot of gems on one space, this is definitely a strategy to consider utilizing.
You don’t need to have the marker land on a gem spot every turn. You have to succeed in most of the rounds if you want to win the game though. There is a limited time to win the game, and new gems are added each round. Whenever possible you need to try and get rid of a gem. Otherwise they can stockpile rather quickly to the point where you stand no chance of winning if you don’t prioritize getting rid of gems.
While I am not the biggest fan of the genre, I was genuinely kind of surprised by the amount of skill/strategy involved in The Fox in the Forest Duet. There is a reliance on luck in the game, and you mostly have to play based on educated guesses. Players need to work well together if they want to stand any chance of winning. You need to find a good way of communicating without talking to your teammate. You sometimes need to feed cards to your teammate that are easy to beat if you want them to win. If you need to win a hand, you need to figure out what your teammate is telling you through the card they played.
One thing that can help with this is all of the odd cards in the deck give the players a special ability when played. Some of these cards alter the gameplay which could change who wins a trick. Others can be used to give helpful information to your teammate. Sometimes you will play these cards for their numerical value and suit. The abilities can be quite useful if used at the right times though.
As I said at the beginning of this review, I am not a particular big fan of trick taking games. I don’t hate the genre, but I also wouldn’t consider it one of my favorites. While it doesn’t overcome all of the issues I have with the genre in general, I thought it was better than a lot of the trick taking games that I have played.
I would say that the game being cooperative helps quite a bit. I really like cooperative games, so it helps the experience being able to work with another player instead of competing against them. The back and forth element of the gameplay is really interesting. How you coordinate the movement along the path is critical to how well you do in the game. This leads to some interesting decisions as you prioritize which spaces to focus on in order to get rid of gems.
As I don’t generally play a lot of trick taking games, I don’t know how my thoughts on the game’s difficulty will translate to players that play games from the genre far more regularly. Players more skilled in trick taking games will likely do a lot better. I found the game to be pretty difficult to actually beat. In action it can be pretty difficult to get rid of all of the gems in time, without running out of time or going off the end of the board too often. The game relies on skill, where it may take some time before you can regularly start winning the game.
It may be hard winning the game, but the game itself is not super difficult to play. People who are already familiar with trick taking games will likely be able to jump right into the game. The few areas where the game differentiates itself could probably be taught within a couple minutes. Those less familiar with trick taking games though will likely take quite a bit longer as they familiarize themselves with the gameplay. Even with players that rarely play trick taking games, I would guess most players could learn the game within five to ten minutes. The game has a recommended age of 10+ which seems about right.
Ultimately I found The Fox in the Forest Duet to be a good, but not great game. I personally think the game is a little overrated, even though it is still enjoyable to play. I mostly attribute this feeling towards two things.
First I think the game relies on a decent amount of luck. There is definitely skill to the game as you need to use your cards well in order to maximize your chances. Sometimes there are things in the game though that you can’t overcome with strategy. I would say that a lot of the luck comes from the card distribution. There are ways to sometimes manipulate who wins a particular trick. If one player is dealt significantly higher cards, they will win a lot of tricks no matter what the players try to do. In some situations this may be good if you want to move towards that player’s end of the board. If you need to move in the other direction though, this will make it much harder to accomplish that task.
Otherwise luck just comes in what cards the players ultimately end up playing. You can indirectly give a decent amount of information to the other player. You can’t give them everything though. Therefore you sometimes have to make educated guesses which can pay off or really hurt you. When you are first to play a card in a round, you sometimes have to just hope that the other player has the right card to play to either lose or win the trick. If they have the right card, you will do well in the game. If you made a bad guess, it can significantly hurt your chances of winning.
The other issue I had comes from the fact that the game is essentially a trick taking game. It is probably one of the best trick taking games that I have ever played. It still isn’t one of my favorite genres for a reason. I am not entirely sure why, but this genre has never been one of my favorites.
As for The Fox in the Forest Duet’s components, I generally thought they were pretty good. The card quality is pretty typical. I liked the card’s artwork. The gameboard is on the small side, but it didn’t need to be large. The other components are made of cardboard and are solid. I think the thing that I liked most about the game’s components is that it does a good job fitting everything into a small box. The game doesn’t take up much space. This is great for space conscious people, and will help if you want to bring the game while traveling.
I generally have mixed feelings when it comes to trick taking games. Unless they do something unique, I usually try to avoid them. I was intrigued by The Fox in the Forest Duet though due to the cooperative elements. It ultimately ended up being one of the better trick taking games that I have played. While much of the gameplay is similar to most trick taking games, the cooperative mechanics introduce an interesting back and forth mechanic as players try to alternate winning tricks. You need to avoid going off the end of the path while also landing on spaces that feature a gem. This actually leads to quite a bit of skill/strategy and an interesting fun trick taking game. It still relies on a decent amount of luck at times, and it still doesn’t fix some of the issues that I have always had with trick taking games.
Ultimately your feelings towards The Fox in the Forest Duet are likely going to depend on your thoughts on trick taking and cooperative games. If you dislike one of the two genres, I don’t know if the game is good enough to change your mind. If you generally like one of the two though and at least don’t mind the other, The Fox in the Forest Duet has enough interesting elements to make it worth checking out.
The Fox in the Forest Duet
Year: 2020 | Publisher: Foxtrot Games, Renegade Game Studios | Designer: Foxtrot Games | Artist: Roanna Peroz
Genres: Card, Cooperative, Trick Taking
Ages: 10+ | Number of Players: 2 | Length of Game: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Light-Moderate | Strategy: Light-Moderate | Luck: Light-Moderate
Components: 30 game cards, 2 reference cards, Forest Board, 22 Gem Tokens, 4 Forest Tokens, Team Track, instructions
- An interesting blend of trick taking and cooperative mechanics.
- The game has quite a bit of skill/strategy as you trade off winning hands to pick up gems.
- Relies on a decent amount of luck at times.
- Is at its heart still a trick taking game which may not appeal to those who don’t like the genre.
Recommendation: For fans of trick taking games that are intrigued by a cooperative mechanic.