Grow trees, gather wood and other materials, craft items, and build the best workshop!
Welcome to the Forest’s most satisfying and most productive cottage industry. Beginning with a few pieces of lumber, you will create furniture, musical instruments, and other household items as practical as they are beautiful. Are there any limits to the wonders of wood? It can be cut into any shape. It can be stacked and glued to any thickness. It is satisfying to the touch, pleasing to the eye, and intriguing to the nose. You can find it readily available for barter or sale, and you can even grow your own. How lucky we are to work with such a versatile material! And how lucky we are to live in a land where our labors are rewarded. As you progress in your craft, you will be able to improve your workshop, acquire new tools, and enlist the help of others. With diligence, patience, and attention to detail, your business will grow and prosper. Your many creations will be enjoyed by your delighted customers, and your reputation will grow as strong as the stoutest tree in the Forest.
—description from the publisher
Players take turns choosing one of seven actions, which become more valuable the longer they remain unchosen. Whenever you select an action, it is moved along the Action Wheel, and it may even rotate the Action Wheel to change the associated bonuses for the other actions.
The actions, in combination with other workshop abilities, can be used to acquire and manipulate dice, which represent wood, that can be cut, glued, purchased, or even grown. Specific combinations of dice and tokens are used to complete orders, which will eventually lead to the points determining the Game's winner.
The Game is played in rounds in which each player takes one turn, beginning with the starting player. On your turn:
- Grow your planted trees
- Choose and perform an action from the action wheel and perform as many free actions as you like.
- Buy points
Players have opportunities to gain blueberries and score points during their turns. Every four rounds or so, there is a special income phase during which players earn more blueberries and score points according to the income board. At the end of the Game, players will score points based on multiple factors, including public contracts, their reputation, and how many orders they have completed.
After 13 rounds and 4 income phases, the game ends, and players tally up their final score. The player with the highest score is the winner!
Woodcraft is another co-design from Delicious Games with first-time designer Ross Arnolds. As I understood from Ross, speaking with him at SPIEL, Suchy has helped him develop and balance the game ideas further.
Woodcraft features an Action Wheel for action selection that is interesting. Whenever you choose an action, it is moved along the action wheel, potentially triggering an Action Wheel rotation. The Action Wheel is set up so that actions that are getting chosen are not as attractive as actions that players disregard. You see, besides choosing an action, you're also selecting bonuses associated with that action, and bonuses become more lucrative the longer an action is NOT chosen. This adds an exciting dynamic to the action selection that is constantly shifting and changing.
Besides the action selection, the dice resources (which represent wood in this Game) are fantastic. Besides performing the primary action, you also get to perform additional free actions. The most interesting ones are sawing wood to split dice (e.g., 4 can become a 3+1 or a 2+2), splicing scrapwood to increase a dice value, and gluing lumber to combine dice (e.g., 2+2 becomes a 4). Managing your dice resources is the most exciting mechanism I've seen in recent games, and I'm blown away by it. It offers many difficult decisions, and it's a great feeling to discover the perfect combination of free actions to fulfill a complex order.
Woodcraft has a combo-tastic feeling that starts slowly but ramps up in the later rounds. Taking bonuses and performing powerful actions accompanied by several free actions make you feel like the best Woodcrafter. Hiring helpers grant additional possibilities and paths to victory that you will discover over time. All this, combined with a randomized set-up of orders and helpers, gives the Game enough replayability for a long time.
The theme is well integrated into the Game, especially the actions related to crafting wood (hence the name). Sawing, gluing, and splicing seem like something a Woodcrafter would do. The world presentation is well executed, and your workshop player board at the end of the Game shows the progress made. The helper cards have some of the best artwork showing a wide selection of differently illustrated Elves. The Game has a fabulous table presence that will surely attract attention when played at a meet-up or convention.
Woodcraft can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but after your first play, you'll find that the actions are all very straightforward. The weight comes mainly from managing and timing all the different actions. There is a lot to think about while playing, but since actions are pretty fast, it plays well on all player counts. I think 2 or 3 players is the sweet spot for Woodcraft.
Once you've played the first Game, you'll find you need to choose a strategy quite early since there are only a limited number of turns in the Game. However, due to the randomness of helper and order cards, you could end up with the wrong strategy. For example, if you choose to focus on tools (filling up your attic with tools will grant you various bonuses and income) and none of the cards with tools come up, or if an opponent has chosen that same focus, it can be hard to recover. The same applies to focusing on orders that grant reputation.
👍 Action Wheel action selection is super interesting
👍 Dice manipulation is fun an innovative
👍 Game has a nice combo-tastic feeling that makes you feel smart
👍 Enough strategic paths and variability
👍 Stellar presentation and well-implemented theme
➖ Random card draws
Woodcraft is a fantastic medium-heavy euro game with a well-implemented theme. It features interesting and innovative action selection and dice manipulation mechanisms that I've not seen before. It looks and feels fantastic to play and besides one small flaw, I've thoroughly enjoyed my time with it so far and will enjoy it even more in the future.
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)
Looking for alternatives or similar games? Have a look at Praga Caput Regni