Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Bosk

Game: Bosk

Publisher: Floodgate Games

Designer: Daryl Andrews, Erica Bouyouris

Year: 2019



Do you enjoy beautiful cardboard trees? How about wooden leaves, or squirrel meeples (squeeples)?! Don't be fooled by the similarity in appearance to Photosynthesis, Bosk is a very different game of area control taking place over four seasons. In Spring you will plant your trees, in Summer you'll count points for the trees planted, in Autumn the winds will blow leaves from your trees and scatter them over the forest floor, and In Winter you'll receive points for the coverage your leaves have over different areas of the forest.

Floodgate Games have built a strong reputation with Sagrada, and with another visually striking game like Bosk, they're certainly setting themselves up for success. Let's find out how it plays.



Gameplay

Bosk is a puzzly game of area control for 2-4 players. The game takes place over the four seasons, though in reality this is 2 playing rounds and 2 scoring rounds. At the start of the game each player will be handed a box of components, inside which are 8 trees (numbered 1-4 twice), a Squeeple, a bag full of wooden leafs and some larger cardboard leafs.

The game starts in Spring with trees growing, the only component used this phase are the numbered cardboard trees. Players will take turns placing trees along the crossings of grid lines on the map (the map size varies on player count). Once all the trees have been placed the Summer round begins and the trees will be scored. For each grid line, both vertical and horizontal points will be given out to the player with the highest value in trees and less points to the player with the second highest value.

The end of the spring phase, with all trees planted.
Then the player with the least points will get to choose the wind direction for the Autumn phase. This is done by placing a track along any of the board edges. On this track an arrow marks the current wind direction and which number tree must have it's leafs blown off. On a player's turn they choose one of their trees with the applicable number before choosing one of their large leaf tokens to flip over. This determines how many wooden leafs they can place this round. They may then place a wooden leaf in one of the squares adjacent to the tree in the relevant direction, then a second leaf in any of the squares adjacent to the first leaf in the wind's direction and so on until they run out of leafs. If while doing this you cover up an opponents leaf you must pay an additional leaf token for each leaf already in the pile. After placing leafs the tree chosen is removed and play continues until all trees are removed from the board. At which point winter begins, each area on the board (marked by the colour scheme of the terrain) will reward points for the player with the most and second most leafs in it. At the end of Winter the player with the most points wins.

Each player has a set of leaves which dictate how many wooden leaves can be dropped in each of the eight turns of the Autumn phase.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Area control is not exactly my favourite mechanic, especially at two players, so I did go into Bosk with a sense of skepticism. Sticking two distinct area control games together is hardly a way to my heart. However there is something about  Bosk's mechanics which rise it above the usual fare. The first round may seem at first to be a simple area control game, but there is a balance to be thought about, trees in the centre will be easy to use next round, though might not be able to use the largest numbered tiles as the map isn't big enough. Trees placed in the outer edges are able to use those high numbers to spread leafs far and wide, but only if the wind is blowing the right way when they activate. So maybe you actually want to lose this round so you can determine the wind's direction? After all, the points for Winter are far higher than those for Summer.


The Autumn phase is where the bulk of the game takes place, it's here you'll be battling for spots on the board by throwing leaves far and wide, or even using the squirrel to it's full advantage (the ultimate trump card, a squirrel can stand tall on top of any leaf pile and can never be overthrown)! And you can't help but notice as this phase goes on the board is getting strangely beautiful. They really did capture the feeling of tranquility as the ground becomes carpeted in brightly coloured leafs.

Perhaps one of the things which makes Bosk more palatable to me is the variety in the gameplay, but it may also be the games's length. Bosk is a quick game, clocking in at noticeably under an hour for 2 players. Which means even if you make stupid mistakes you aren't left regretting them for two long. But despite the short game time there is a lot to think about tactically, the way that the first phase naturally impacts the second one is simply wonderful. Overall I don't think Bosk has quite endeared me enough to have a change of heart on the genre, but it's certainly my favourite area control game. Though people more traditionally into the genre may find it a bit short, for me the length is just right to get into the gameplay, without the slog.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

Bosk is a game that immediately enchants you with its appearance. The colours are those wonderful Autumn colours, each player's leaves are unique in shape to match their trees of the same species and colour and the squirrel meeples are the icing on the cake. Not only that, but it's it has basically no set up, since you unfold the board - hand each player a box of their components and start to play.

For me, Bosk is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The wolf is the area control game, the sheep's clothing is the puzzly, tactical planning elements that really keep me engaged. Both of the gameplay phases feel exciting and completely different to each other. In the Spring planning phase it's all about balancing control of a row or column, with optimal board locations that will give you good paths to spread your leaves in the Autumn. In the Autumn phase you need to pick your battles wisely - dropping leaves in patterns that spread yourself over the board, but also wrestling for control in key zones where a completely controlled zone is so much better than where you have majority, but it's shared.


What's wonderful about Bosk is that every player is presented with the same opportunities - wind direction is the same for everyone - the number of total leaves you can drop is also equal, so it really becomes a battle of wits. At two players, it's not even a case of who you want to be mean to (which probably helps me to enjoy the area control), it's just about optimal use of your resources to get the best board positions. Towards the end of the game a strategy can really start to crystalise or fall apart when your choices become more limited and you realise that you have either blocked yourself in a corner or that you have free reign of some areas of the board due to the choices of another player.

Whilst Bosk is still a game with one of my least favourite mechanisms, it is one I really like. To an extent I've been won over by production quality. But it's also testament to Bosk being a short and simple game, that is certainly antagonistic, but that doesn't make me feel like a victim. If I lose, I just want to play again and puzzle out a different plan that might work in my favour. For me, Bosk is a perfect gateway into area control and the nature theme is definitely perfect for that entry point into a genre of gaming.


You Might Like...
  • The more you play Bosk, the more you start to notice different strategies you can implement during the two key phases of the game.
  • Bosk looks amazing and is definitely eye-catching on the table.
  • The game has no luck and everyone has an equal opportunity to win.
You Might Not Like...
  • Like most area control games, Bosk can be pretty mean!
  • You can make bad moves very early in the game, that can be a first game disadvantage to new or inexperienced players.

The Verdict
7/10 Bosk is both a beautiful game and a very elegant design. It has huge amounts of puzzliness and optimisation in a light game of area control. The game is so fair in its mechanisms that it can win over even those of us who aren't big fans of area control with its strategic planning phase and opportunistic area majority phase. It's definitely lined up to be a big hit for the family gaming as well as the hobby gamer crowd.


Bosk was a review copy kindly provided to us by Floodgate Games.

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