After scrolling through Instagram a couple of months ago, we came across a picture of beautiful wooden meeples that formed a forest. Since we love meeple games and nature games, we were immediately interested and started to follow the process of Pangaia Games with their first board game. After a long wait any many teasing pictures on their Instagram later, we received our own mini forest in a box to preview. We couldn’t wait to play this game and so we cleared our table right away to build our own forest with the help of the forest spirits. Note that this is still a prototype and that the final product may look or play different.
How to Play.
For the setup, begin with placing a tile of every different environment per player in the middle of the table to form a map. For two players, you will place eight tiles for example. Each player receives all of the components in their color and a player board. Place three seeds and six treetops on the corresponding slots on your player board and place the life tokens and resource tokens close by. Then shuffle the ritual cards and achievement cards, reveal three cards of each deck faceup and place the stack of the ritual cards close by. Also give each player a random face up ritual card. The remaining achievement cards can be placed back into the box. You are now ready to create a forest.
On your turn, you have three phases to go through before it’s up to the next player. The first turn is to grow seeds. If you have planted any seeds in a previous turn, they will now turn into trees. This phase will be skipped during the first round. If you have a single seed on an empty land, this will always turn into a tree. If there is a tie between seeds and different players, only the player with the most trees in play adjacent to that land will grow the tree. If you have more seeds on a land then your opponent (when you have two and your opponent one for example), one of your seeds will evolve. In all other cases, seeds will remains dormant on the map and you may spend one life token to still grow it. For every seed turned into a tree, you also get a resource token of the environment the tree grows in. If a seed is transformed into a tree on a snow environment, also take a snow resource to your player board. The trees of the current active player can grow simultaneously this phase.
After the growing phase, you can take an action with your spirit. You can plant a new seed by moving your spirit to an empty lake on the map. The seed can be planted to any adjacent land. You can place more seeds on the same land during this action if you have more seeds available. You can also gather by placing your spirit back on your player board. Gain one resource of your choice if you choose the gather action. Lastly you can pray. If you pray you can score one of your ritual cards. There are three types of ritual cards. With trail rituals you will see two land types on the ritual card. The goal is to plant trees starting from the first land and ending in the second land. If you score this card, you gain one point for each tree on the trail. You also gain one point for each opponent’s tree on the trail, unless they are level two or higher trees. Star rituals will score you points if you place trees on and around the land type on the card. For each of your trees adjacent to the central land, you gain one life point. Lastly there are peak rituals. Peak rituals will show you one land type where you will have to build the highest tree possible using your tree tops in the last phase of your turn. If you score this ritual, you gain one point per tree level. A level two tree contains the normal tree meeple and one tree top.
If you score ritual cards, your trees will decay. Trail and star rituals will make your tree decay by one level, meaning one tree top will be placed back on your player board on a spot of your choice. If there are no tops on the tree, the tree will be replaced by a seed. When scoring peak rituals however, the tree will fully decay and will be replaced by seeds equal to the level of the tree. If you have no seeds left, you cannot place new ones. In the last phase of your turn, you are able to add tree tops to existing trees. On your player board at the beginning of the game there will be six tree tops. You can unlock those by paying the right amount of resources indicated on your player board. Every resource you pay with has to be different. You can’t pay with two sun tokens for example. Once you unlock a tree top, you can place it on one of your trees on the map. In the beginning of the game you will have only one seed to play with while three other seeds are locked on your player board. Once you unlock all the tree tops that hold an extra seed, it will stay unlocked for the remaining of the game. With some tree tops you unlock, you can place additional seeds adjacent to the tree that receives the tree top. You can only do this if you have seeds available. You can also always replace your already planted seeds before they grow.
When a player takes the last ritual card, the game ends after every player has had the same amount of turns. At the end of the game, all players grow their seeds one last time into trees, but you can’s spend life points to grow then anymore. Then count your score. Add all the life points received during the game and score the three achievement cards that were layed out for this game. Also score unscored ritual cards if you have fulfilled the ritual’s requirements and add life points for unlocked treetops as indicated on the player board. The player with the most points, wins the game.
Playthrough of the game.
So the first few rounds in our first game, was all about building and growing. We were placing our trees and slowly building a beautiful forest. Tomasz had a trail ritual where I had a star ritual and we were planting seeds in the best way possible. After a couple of rounds, it got interesting. Tomasz had all his trees growing in the center of our play area, blocking off a great deal of the map. I had a peak ritual I could still fulfill, but planning ahead is everything in this game and since he was blocking me, I couldn’t prepare for any of the other rituals that were face up. Then karma happened. He had picked up a trail ritual going from sun land to snow land and he had just grown all of his trees. Since he already owned a tree in a close sun land, he needed a tree on the snow land to complete the ritual. But since he didn’t have any trees left, he now not only couldn’t complete his rituals, but also had no more trees to place. So I had just gained all the freedom to complete the three rituals left, which caused me to win the game. This teached him a hard lesson in greediness.
Although I was very happy that I had won, we both missed an option to somehow not get stuck like this, making it less enjoyable for Tomasz. Don’t worry though, I was having enough fun because of this for the both of us. The game teaches you a hard lesson once you get greedy and plant all of your trees without completing rituals. We get the lesson, but there should somehow be a way out of this other then waiting for the game to end. We have actually had gotten the chance to talk to the designer about this and are confident that positive changes will follow! Other than getting stuck like this, the game looks absolutely beautiful and has more depth then you might think. You have to plan ahead and look at the other rituals in play. You need to keep track of seeds that are placed and will turn into trees, while making sure you still have enough trees and seeds yourselves. The map will be random each time to, which will make some trail or star challenges more or less difficult every game. We have enjoyed this game so far a lot and it has big potential, but we do think it’s not perfect yet and could improve some gameplay rules.
Forests of Pangaia is a strategical territory building game where you try and create the best forest with the help of your spirit. This game looks beautifull and we have had so much joy in expanding our mini forest with our colorful trees and spirits. The game also has more depth then you might think since you really have to plan ahead and know where you want to grow your trees. Timing when to pray to complete rituals and to decay your trees is to get them back is another story. Even though we enjoy this game a lot, we feel there could be some gameplay improvements. But after talking to the designer itself and knowing what the plans are for the Forests of Pangaia, we are confident he will make an already awesome prototype, a perfect board game.