Game: Forsaken Forest
Designer: Alec Nezin
Published: Forsaken Games
Playtime: 20-60 Minutes
Play Type: Social Deduction
You have accompanied a group of travels through a dark forest, with mysterious forces awakened. Little do you know some of your companions have already become corrupted. Your only chance of survival is to make it to the Village or eliminate the threat entirely. Your only problem? Deciphering who is Forsaken before your time runs out.
In Forsaken Forest there are two teams of players, the Forsaken and the Commonfolk. There are some different special roles available to play within these categories but I suggest starting with the vanilla game until you are used to the mechanics. The end goals of each group are similar, but slightly different. The Forsaken want to either reach The Void on the map or eliminate enough Commonfolk so that there are the same number of Commonfolk as there are Forsaken. The Commonfolk want to either reach The Village on the map or eliminate all Forsaken.
Game play begins with each player randomly drawing a role card in secret. These should not be shared with any other player. This will determine which team you are playing for the duration of the game. Players will either have a Forsaken card or a Commonfolk card. There are two exceptions to this rule, The Shrouded and The Cursed. The Shrouded is the leader of the Forsaken, and thus is a part of the Forsaken team, but it is a double-sided card that must be flipped throughout the game. The Cursed is a part of the Commonfolk team, but is also double-sided. Both of these cards may appear differently to players each time they are peeked at. In order to use these two roles, cards must be sleeved. Both of these cards have one side that indicates their actual team, the other side indicates the opposite team. This is meant to confuse players who look at their roles.
After selecting roles, players will go into the first night phase. During this phase a moderator (who must have memorized the lines in the rulebook and keep eyes closed) or a digital moderator will direct players through the steps of completing a night phase. During this phase the Forsaken will set the destination cards and become aware of who is on their team. When playing with special roles, the moderator will walk players through their actions. I will list the special cards below:
- Coward (Forsaken)- A Villager who works for the Forsaken. The Forsaken do not know this player is on their team, but this player knows who the Forsaken are. This player does not take part in placing the Destinations.
- Silencer (Forsaken)- Places an Entangle Card on one Villager each night. That villager cannot speak during the next turn cycle.
- Shrouded (Forsaken)- Leader of the Forsaken, and has final say in decisions of where to place Destinations or who to kill. This card flips between Commonfolk and Shrouded and may appear to those who peek as either, depending on the turn it is viewed.
- Navigator (Commonfolk)- Begins the game with knowledge of one Destination. Each night this player gets to view an additional Destination.
- Oracle (Commonfolk)- May peek at one role card per night.
- Priest (Commonfolk)- May protect one player from Ritual Sacrifice each night.
- Curse (Commonfolk)- Commonfolk whose card switches between Villager and Forsaken. May appear as either, depending on when it is looked at.
- Blessed (Commonfolk)- The first time the Blessed is on Death’s Doorstep during the day phase, this player reveals their role and is Revived instantly.
After the moderator has covered all actions, players will begin the day phase. During the day phase, players must pay attention to the Turn Cycle. The Turn Cycle consists of six individual player turns, and then a forest turn. In games with a higher player count, not all players will get a turn each Turn Cycle. A turn consists of each player having an Action. An Action is when a player plays a card from their hand. There are two types of cards: slow and fast. Slow Cards may only be played on your turn. Fast Cards may be played on any player’s turn. Each player has the opportunity to play one Fast Card per other player’s turn, so it is smart to use your Slow Cards on your turn, and save your Fast Cards for other players’ turns. Even if you do not take an action on your turn, the Turn Cycle Counter still moves forward.
Actions can have a variety of effects. Some effects include assassinating players, making alliances, discovering information, creating a path towards one of the destinations, learning about other players, putting players on trail or reviving other players. I won’t go into all of these here, but it is important to look at movement, as it is one of the win conditions. Movement must start from the central space and the board and grow from there. Each future path must be touching the last path. When a player lands in a yellow bordered space they may draw from the artifact deck, giving that player a powerful item that may help them or help everyone. If a player lands in a red outlined space they reveal it. If that space is The Void or The Village the game ends immediately.
Players may use an Action to try to kill another player, either by a weapon or The Gallows. When using a weapon, a player is instantly put on Death’s Doorstep and can be revived. If a player is accused using The Gallows, that player has the opportunity to plead their case. Then everyone votes on whether to execute that player or not. If they vote to execute that player, then they are put on Death’s Doorstep. These are two effective ways to kill Forsaken.
Once six turn cycles have passed, The Forest takes a turn. The Forest’s turn can consist of one of two things. First, The Forest plays an action card that has a negative effect on all players. Second, The Forest plays a card that leads to the Night Phase. During the Night Phase, use the moderator or digital moderator to walk players through the steps. Players with special nightly abilities will activate and do those abilities, but the most important step to night is that the Forsaken will complete their Ritual Sacrifice by placing that card on a player’s role card. When that player opens their eyes for the day phase they will be on Death’s Doorstep. The Shrouded has the final say on who is killed. After the moderator finishes walking through the night phase, then the day phase begins and the prior steps are repeated.
Play continues like this until all Forsaken are dead, there are an equal number of Commonfolk and Forsaken, or The Void/ The Village are found on the map. Players will then reveal the winning team and any players associated with that team share the victory.
The artwork for Forsaken Forest is very well done. The cards are easily distinguished by both character art and are labeled clearly, while still feeling thematic. There are some cards that require the players to have sleeved their cards, and there are no sleeves included with the game for this purpose. As someone who rarely sleeves games, I found this to be a little disappointing as I will likely never play with those cards as a consequence. Even for someone who does sleeve their cards, these cards would likely be fiddly, as players must remove their card from the sleeve and switch it back and forth each turn. I would have loved to see these cards be two seperate cards that go together that a player must switch between each turn, rather than having to flip them back and forth.
The board that players use is easy to follow. The information that is given is done in such a way that anyone should be able to distinguish what the different colored squares mean and which destination goes with which card. However, the board could stand to be slightly larger. When playing with 12 people, it can be very difficult for everyone to reach and see the board without bumping into one another. Due to the hidden information in the game it is crucial that people have some space to work.
- High Player Count
- Multiple Paths to Victory
- High Player Interaction
- Thematic Artwork
- Unique Combination of Mechanics
- Digital Moderator
- Playing Space Too Small
- Best at 8-12 Players
- Some Fiddly Mechanics
- Player Elimination
- No Noise Mechanic Included
Forsaken Forest will really stand out to players who enjoy social deduction games. While similar to other games on the market like Ultimate Werewolf and Secret Hitler, Forsaken Forest introduces new mechanics to bring more clarity to deciphering roles and slightly more strategy behind the betraying roles. Players no longer are just guessing on who was killed or what arguments were made but also by physical actions made within the game. The introduction of action cards to this genre made for a more engaging game.
That being said some of the card mechanics such as flipping cards did feel fiddly. The flipping between cards can be time consuming and potentially noisy. This is especially a problem because the game does not include a noise making mechanic. While seasoned social deduction players understand to either put on music or make some sort of noise while hidden actions are happening, new players may not realize this. If players do not make noise, it is easy to determine who the Forsaken are early on, as well as who might be cursed.
Despite that, the game does feel significantly more engaging than a card based deduction game. The added actions give players more control over how they are viewed, and add more opportunities to confuse players or defend themselves once accused. Also, the addition of a digital moderator is appealing because it allows all players to take an active role in the deduction. For groups that have a game “leader” who teaches and moderates most games, this may be a good compromise. It will appeal to gamers who enjoy more depth than what the typical party game will give.
Although there is more depth than other social deduction games, there are still a lot of similarities between game play. Two drawbacks of this are the need for a higher player count and the inclusion of player elimination in game play. While Forsaken Forest can be played at four players, I do not suggest it. There is a high chance of multiple players discovering the Forsaken in the first two turns, making it almost impossible for the Forsaken to win. This game definitely plays best with 8-12 players. The additional players help balance the game, and keep one side from having too large of an advantage. Added players does increase the time it takes to play though, sometimes in a very significant way. Additionally, players can be eliminated from game play. It is important to note that in Forsaken Forest players are not completely eliminated, but rather become Vengeful Spirits. They are able to discuss strategy in the game, and keep their role card (which cannot be looked at) in front of them. They cannot however effect game play in any physical way. In shorter games this may not be a big deal, but this game can last as long as 60 minutes and can be frustrating when you have no real control over what happens.
If you are looking for a meatier social deduction game, I would highly suggest checking out Forsaken Forest. It feels reminiscent of other titles in the genre such as Ultimate Werewolf, but adds complexity and depth in a way that is easy to learn and engages players. Beyond just trying to eliminate opponents, the opportunity to have other paths to victory also becomes a huge boost for me. While elimination is a key part of the key, it is entirely possible to have an entire game without anyone becoming eliminated. That versatility is something that made the game stand out especially to me. Additionally, if you enjoy other horror themed games, especially the A Touch of Evil series, you will find that Forsaken Forest has a similar feel to it. The Kickstarter for the game has ended, and those copies are being delivered but you can preorder the game from their website: https://forsakenforest.com/.