If you’re at least a semi-regular reader of our game articles, you know that both Nicole and I usually complain when we sit down to play a memory game. To be fair, we go into the game knowing that both of our girls will trounce us. As we age, both our memory abilities and reaction times wane. But we keep playing them! Good ones, bad ones and games we find at thrift. I think we’re secretly hoping that our memory skill will get sharper the more we play!
Something we hadn’t considered is that there might be cooperative memory games. That way we wouldn’t compete on an uneven playing field – we could rely on our girls’ strengths to be successful. It took some searching, but we finally found a great example in iello‘s The Mysterious Forest game published just last year! And because it includes variations for different levels of complexity, it gave us harder challenges after we had mastered the easier ones!
The Mysterious Forest is inspired by Daniel Lieske‘s graphic novel, The Wormworld Saga. The main character, Jonas, steps into a magical painting and finds himself inside a fairytale world. In order to escape, he must cross the Mysterious Forest and defeat the Queen of the Draconia, one of the most dangerous creatures in the forest. You and your team must make sure he is well-equipped for his journey!
Inside the box you will find 24 oversized Path cards, a Backpack board, 55 Equipment tokens, 2 Wanderer tokens, 4 custom dice and a high-quality pre-painted vinyl miniature of Jonas. To set up the game, sort the Path cards by type (forest, wanderer and final battle) and deal them out face-down to the center of the table. A basic game includes four Forest cards, followed by a Wanderer card, two more Forest cards and then a Final Battle card. The Jonas figure is placed on the Starting card and set to the left of the path. A pile of Equipment tokens is set close by and all Loki tokens are put face-down into a single stack. Four of these are drawn and put into your Backpack in any spots.
As I mentioned previously, The Mysterious Forest is a cooperative memory game. Each of those face-down cards will have equipment icons printed at the bottom of the other side. Your goal is to make sure Jonas has the correctly matching equipment needed to pass through that part of the Forest, appease the Wanderer or ultimately fight the Final Battle.
The first thing your team does is scout the path ahead. The first card is revealed and everyone tries to memorize the necessary Equipment shown. The card is then turned face-down and the next card is revealed. It too is turned back over and you continue on until the next card until you reveal and cover the Final Battle card. At this point you know exactly what to expect as you travel through the Forest and can begin preparations for your journey.
Starting with the first player and going clockwise, each person will roll the four included custom dice. The dice faces depict different Equipment types or Loki, a special helper. The active player will choose two of the four results and place matching Equipment tokens in the backpack and pass the dice to the next player. If one (or two) of the dice depict Loki, he must be chosen over a piece of Equipment. This is usually the preference, as Loki can be more helpful than just one piece of Equipment!
Once all of the Backpack slots are filled, you are ready to begin your adventure. The first card is again revealed and you will spend matching Equipment tokens as shown on the card’s face. Once fulfilled, you will move on to the next card, revealing it and pulling the right tokens from your Backpack. If at any time you cannot fulfill the card’s requirements, you may summon Loki to help you find the right piece. Remove a Loki token from the Backpack and flip it over. Loki will either offer you a choice of one of three Equipment types or allow you to exchange another piece of Equipment for one still in the Reserve.
When you reach the Wanderer card, he will offer to sell you his crystal weapon for certain equipment in your backpack. This weapon has the power to create two Equipment of your choice, represented by the Wanderer tokens. Simply pay the Wanderer’s fee and immediately receive the two Wanderer tokens. If you cannot afford his price, continue on your journey sans the crystal weapon.
After your trek through the Mysterious Forest, you will eventually encounter the final battle against the Queen of Draconia. Once again you need to ‘pay’ the required equipment in order to vanquish this foe. By this time your backpack is quite empty and you may not have the correct items to prevail. If you do not, everyone loses! But if you did pack carefully, everyone wins The Mysterious Forest!
This setup of 4 + Wanderer + 2 + Queen is the setup for “Budding Explorers”. Ramp up the difficulty by taking fewer starting Loki tokens, adding additional Forest cards or beginning the game with no help at all from Loki! You can also play a variation where you don’t turn over the Queen when the Final Battle commences! Your team must place Equipment tokens above the card and hopefully recall correctly the exact requirement necessary to win. The card is then revealed and only if the tokens match exactly does everyone celebrate their success!
The Mysterious Forest turned out to be a great solution for us when we would like to play a memory game but don’t want to always be delegated to last place. The cooperative nature spurs communication and tons of engagement from all ages. Copies are available on Amazon for under $30 or at your local game store! Be sure to check out the “Coming Soon” section of iello’s website to see what they’re releasing this year. Or take the well-worn path of following them on Facebook and Twitter to be instantly notified of brand new games!
What ‘equipment’ would you pack for your next hike in the forest?