When I heard about that chance, I knew that my call had finally been heard. There are a lot of new skilled wizards in the village, but members of our wise council have not spread for years. It was only today that the messenger finally announced, that a new chair was ready at the forest house. Right there, near the dark woodland, our council is housed. I’m not going to apply myself, I’m too tired for it. But I will do everything to get my apprentice there. I will have to use my marionette. Only with its help can council be impressed with the quality of a potion, because they can find the purest ingredients in the woods.
We live at the foot of one this rich forest in Blackwood board game. Its author is Philippe Tapimoket and the unique illustration were made by Alödah. The game is published thanks to production of RUNES Editions, which presented it to the public at the Spiel 2017 fair in Essen.
Blackwood stands up to its name and introduces us with a small box, leading us into forest full of witches and mysterious beings. This time, however, we do not have to worry about sticking our fingers or head inside, nobody will jinx us, because they are all busy preparing potions. Inside, there are three boards creating the game environment – village, forest, and hideaway. They are connected together and create bottom edge of the game area and create leading lines for cards in the columns above them. To the left, players place something to mark progress of their expedition. This place will show numbers one, two, and three as the match continues.
Then the setup with cards starts. To the far left, above the village, participants place a line of six magic cards, and next to them the same number of potions. There are many more, but only first random six will get into the offer now. Likewise, shuffling is valid also for the cards of the forest (largest amount). Players deal them into five columns. The number of rows then depends entirely on the number of participants in the game. The first column is marked by the forest marker. The rest of the cards, coins and tokens are placed close to the board. Each player takes three marionette pieces in their color and also gets eight coins to the beginning.
Each Blackwood match is divided into three expeditions and they consist of five rounds. Individual turns will always start by exploring the forest where players are looking for raw materials using their marionettes. Players then place their pieces on the forest cardsthat are on offer. At the same time, however, they must bear in mind that collecting ingredients for potions will only be possible in the column under which forest indicator lies.
Chance to buy forest cards is evaluated from the top of the board, but only in the active column. If a player has marionette on a card, he or she can pay the amount printed on it and put it in front of him. Free space is immediately filled. But it does not happen from the drawing stack, but by shifting the cards from left to right. This may result in a new card being placed on the same position and it may contain some marionette again. Even this one gets bought now, even though it was in a non-active column a while ago. Gradually, all cards in column are activated, players make their purchases and the onewho ventured with his puppet the deepest into the forest will also get a starting player pot for the next round.
During any turn, active witch can perform any of the optional actions. By using acquired ingredients, player can make a potion. He can choose from six of the currently revealed recipes. Ready bottles can be kept by the player, exchanged for spells (which then allow you to interfere with marionettes, avoid paying or otherwise avoid standard rules) or sold. However, player does not lose the card entirely, they just turn it around, which can also affect final scoring. Purchased spells can be used during these actions. And the last free action is a chance to ask for a financial contribution, if player runs out of money.
Now players fill up all the vacancies in the forest with new cards and pointer moves one field (and column) to the right. When the pot reaches the last, fifth column, it is the end of the first of the three expeditions. In the meantime, players should use their potions because those not used now are spoiled. They can be sold, but with a loss. Then the forest pointer returns to the beginning, the expedition mark moves to a second space and everything goes on with the new round. Even marionettes will stay in their places as they continue to search for ingredients for the potions.
All players‘ efforts continue with two more expeditions. They make potions, fight against others, and try to predict, when and where to start search the forest. Players in the end add points for reputation not only for potions, but also for coins. On the contrary, everyone loses reputation for needing financial assistance. The one who ultimately has highest sum of reputation becomes the winner.
Blackwood is, despite its theme and appearance, another worker-placement game. Players now have three wooden marionettes in their service, that are sent to the forest. Ingredients are not so easy to get and these little characters are the only one, who can do it. You have to pay them for it properly when they come back with a catch.
But while players send characters to specific positions, they must anticipate changes on the board and in the forest. This is because only one column is evaluated each round, but sending of the figures is not limited. It is therefore possible to plan for the upcoming turns. But the cards move even within the current round, which can surprise player – pleasantly and uncomfortably.
Content itself is not only about the clear planning, but it also introduces some unpredictability. And it just gives the game the pinnacle of uniqueness. And so you, despite a much more universal theme, will always have fun during the game, because it still offers some challenges. Players always have something to do in their turn, as the pieces are returned to them after the purchase.
Different numbers of players do not bring a distinctly different experience, as the choice of ingredients in the forest also varies. Only turn order has a much greater impact because players often simply steal raw materials for potions that someone else wants. But there is virtually no conflict in the match except filling those positions. Only one spell card can attack an opponent and you may be a bit missing these options.
Game has enough depth, but it is not overly complicated. You’ll learn rules in five minutes and you can play. The whole match then takes the usual time, just like the games of similar weight category (about an hour). Still, it remains at a level where it is still possible to mark the box as family entertainment, but at the same time it does not discourage even more experienced candidates.
The game is beautiful to look at. Illustrations that decorate it are really successful and radiate all such pleasantly gentle (and a little dark) atmosphere. From cards and plans to marionettes, everything is very nice and appealing.
Despite its common core, Blackwood is a really exciting game. The ever-changing map layout, and only a partial evaluation of the map makes the game less tactical and a bit of a random experience. But luck is only about what the opponent chooses and this will change order of possible evaluations a bit. But you always determine where the marionette figurine will go and what it will gather. We really enjoyed playing Blackwood and you should too.
Blackwood is not much surprising, but from the start to the end it is a really fun and solid game. It offers meaningful choices to all participants, which are occasionally affected by unexpected turnovers. Players then get a hole into their plans and can think everything over again. But their puppets are on the quest at that moment. Game looks fantastic and feels very nice, so what do you want more? That you can not influence your opponent? Blackwood does almost everything right and becomes a quality entry game, that brings players of different levels together.