Review – Redwood

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Designer Christophe Raimbault

Artist Edu Valls

Publisher Sit Down!

Category Line of Sight, Real Space

Length 45-60 minutes

Release Date 2023

Player Count 1-4

It’s the magic hour, and the early sunlight is especially vibrant this morning. Line up your camera and snap a picture! This is Redwood.

Review

Redwood is a game about nature photography. In it, players move photographer figures around a shared board, trying to set up the perfect shot and maximize their points.

The game is played on a central board, which is divided into 5 biomes. Before the game begins, the board is seeded with features, as shown on a randomly chosen setup card. Each player has 2 photographer figures, 1 of which begins on a space along the edge of the board.

The game takes place over 5 rounds. At the start of a round, the sun token is moved clockwise to the next biome, and an objective card is revealed. Then, each player takes a turn.

To take their turn, the player chooses a movement template and a shot template. These templates measure how far, on the physical space of the game board, the player can move, and how far/wide their camera lens can see. Templates can either be taken from the supply or from other players.

The light gray player has chosen a movement template, which she attaches it to her figure on the board. Then, she places her other figure at the opposite end and removes the first figure and the template.

When moving, the player attaches their movement template to their photographer figure on the board. Then, they place their other figure at the opposite end, removing the first figure and the template. In this way, the photographer “travels” along the template a specific distance.

The player can then take a picture. This uses the shot template—anything it is covering will be seen in the photo. (Other players’ figures cannot be in the shot.) By drawing an imaginary line to the edge of the board, the player determines which biome will form the background of the photo. The player then takes a card from that biome. If the sun market is currently there, they receive a sun token as well.

After moving, the player shoots a picture.

The cards are used to form a panorama, and if they line up perfectly, they are worth even more. Each card has spaces on it, on which the player can place tokens corresponding to the board features (trees, flowers, or animals) that are in view of their camera. Objective cards provide points if the photo follows certain conditions, so players typically want to tailor their pictures to meet these criteria.

Continuing the example above, the player’s shot template covered a bear, as well as a yellow flower and a purple flower. She takes a photo card from the appropriate biome and adds the matching tokens to it.

Play continues like this until the end of the 5th round. At that time, players calculate their scores from things like panorama connections and photo details like plants, animals, and sunlight. The player with the most points wins!


While theme and art were what initially drew me to Redwood, it turns out that the gameplay is pretty good, too. Games like this, which involve moving pieces in real space, have the potential to be a bit wishy-washy, a bit inexact as players sometimes have to “eyeball” things. Indeed, edge cases can happen in Redwood, but personally, I didn’t find them to be super common or problematic. That being said, if it annoys you when a game feels imprecise, this one may not be for you.

Redwood expertly marries theme and mechanisms. It makes perfect sense, for example, that different lenses have different fields of view. Likewise, a photo with sunlight looks great, but too much sunlight causes overexposure and the photo suffers as a result. Also, having another photographer in a picture would totally ruin it, so players have to work around each other. All these little nuances play up the theme of nature photography, and I applaud the designer for creating such strong immersion.

The art and production of Redwood are striking—the cover is among best I’ve ever seen. Component-wise, the figures are detailed, and the templates clip onto them for more stable measurement. The templates themselves feel sturdy, and the board art and photograph cards are gorgeous. All in all, I am very impressed with how Redwood looks.

While gameplay remains more or less the same at different player counts, the downtime can be a little cumbersome in a full 4-player game. On the flipside, the more players there are, the more they get in each other’s way on the board, which increases the challenge of lining up the perfect shot. (I like this aspect.) For added replay value, the game includes rules for solo, team, and advanced play.

Redwood is probably the best real-space game I have played. This genre is certainly not for everyone—admittedly, I myself am lukewarm on it—but I like what this game does. Real-space games tend to be confrontational, often involving unit-to-unit combat (e.g. Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game), so the peaceful feel of Redwood is a nice change of pace. If a relaxing game about nature photography strikes your interest, check this one out.

A review copy was provided by Flat River Group.

The Bottom Line

Redwood expertly marries theme and mechanisms to create an immersive experience. Real space games are not for everyone, but if you like them, this is one of the best there is.

 

7

Author: Stephen Hall

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