Review – Forage: A 9 Card Solitaire Game

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Designer Mark Tuck

Artist Mark Tuck

Publisher Side Room Games

Category Solitaire

Length 5-10 minutes

Release Date 2023

Player Count 1

Forage is the third and final installment of Mark Tuck’s 9-card solitaire game series from Side Room Games. Following Orchard and Grove, Forage has players hunting for blackberries, mushrooms, and chestnuts. Hungry for fun?

Review

Orchard and Grove have been on many an airplane with me. Every time I’m flying somewhere, I pack them in my carry-on to play on the tray table.

Forage concludes this solitaire series with some familiar ideas and a few new twists. As in the other games, the player builds a tableau of overlapping cards, placing dice on matching areas and trying to earn a high score.

The die faces show 1, 3, 6, 10, and 15 pips, as well as a -2 face showing a mouse. As in Grove, each card has a “blank” space without a food symbol. Forage expands on this idea, making the blank space into a “split” space, which counts as 2 types of land. Split spaces neither place nor advance dice, but they give the player more options of how and where to position cards.

In another twist, Forage changes slightly the way mismatched areas work. Since each die now has a -2 face on it, the player is no longer limited in the number of times they can mismatch spaces (though they of course take a penalty each time they do).

A game in progress…

What’s more, once per game, the player can overlap a space that they previously mismatched, something that was not allowed in either game before. However, if they do this, the penalty increases. (To mark that this action was taken, the player replaces the die with the wooden mouse figure.)

…and a game completed.

This game once again includes an objective variant, in which the player chooses 2 cards, whose numbers determine the minimum score required to win. Each of these cards also provides a special scoring opportunity, providing an extra hint of decision making.


I am continually impressed with this series. For being so small and unassuming, these games are a delight to play, and I never get tired of them.

Forage is a great conclusion to the trilogy—it feels like the culmination of the ideas from Orchard and Grove, with a few little tweaks that make it stand on its own. These games all stick to a single formula, but they each iterate on it to produce 3 unique experiences.

As for a side-by-side comparison, Forage feels like the best of the series. That being said, the earlier games are both so good that it’s only better by a hair. Orchard, being the initial game that debuted this system, was simple and clean. Grove then expounded upon Orchard by introducing blank spaces, objective cards, and spaces with multiple fruit icons. Now, Forage borrows the objective mechanic from Grove, with a scoring distribution like Orchard, and it adds in split spaces, negative points on the dice, and the ability to overlap a mismatched space for a deeper penalty.

I admire how the addition of new mechanisms never seems to dilute these games or make them overly complicated. Each entry in this series is simple, snappy, and strategic. For folks who are just getting into these games, I recommend playing them in order. Even though Forage is probably the best overall, it’s cool to see the whole progression of this series, to explore it from beginning to end. (And again, Orchard and Grove are both great games in their own right, so you really can’t go wrong with any of them.)

Bottom line, these are my favorite solo games (as well as my trusty travel buddies). I have so enjoyed watching the progression of this series, and I look forward to many, many more plays of all these games in years to come.

A review copy was provided by Side Room Games.

The Bottom Line

Forage is a strong finish to a fantastic trilogy. Highly recommended for quick-but-strategic solitaire play.

 

8.5

Stephen Hall

A bard pretending to be a cleric. Possibly a Cylon, too. I was there when they dug up the "E.T." cartridges.