On a whim and a suggestion from Critical Role, we hit up the crew at Think Fun to see if we could possibly review their game Shadows in the Forest. The big selling point to this game that everyone was hyping was that it is a game that you play in the dark using the shadows as half the gameboard. So when we hear something cool like that, of course, we need to play it and see how well it works. But how did the game actually play in practicality? I got some friends together and tried it out.
Shadows in the Forest is a team vs. individual board game for 2-7 players in which each side has their own set of rules and objectives that they must adhere to. The two sides are the Seeker (individual) and the Shadowlings (team). The goal of the Shadowlings is to hide from the Seeker in the forest behind objects in the woods, which includes trees, stumps, shrubbery, and rocks. These can be placed anywhere on the board in any of the designated locations, as you see below. At the start, the Seeker will place their lantern in one of the corners and leave the room.
During this phase, all of the seekers must choose a location to hide in that is not seen by the light of the Seeker's lantern. At the start, they must all be spread out into different spaces. Then the lights go down and it is the Seeker's turn. The Seeker must hunt down the Shadowlings throughout the forest by rolling the glow-in-the-dark D6 and moving their light around the board and through the forest. Because of the way the light works with the trees, certain areas can be lit up and others create massive shadows to hide things. If the Seeker finds a Shadowling, they take their mask off and they are frozen in place. They cannot be unfrozen until another Shadowling unfreezes them by staying with them for one turn.
The goal of the game for the Seeker is to capture all of the Shadowlings' masks and freeze all of the players. The goal of the Shadowlings is to eventually all meet up in the same space at once. The latter sounds easier, right? Wrong! As you can see in photos we took of the game at play, the light cuts through sections of the forest and lights up certain areas. A Shadowling cannot pass through an area that's lit, meaning the light can cut players off from each other for several turns at a time. Often times leaving them helpless.
A good example can be seen here, in the lower-left corner you see a Shadowling I was controlling stuck behind a rock while my teammates were all on the other side of the map. Until the Seeker moves the lantern, my options are limited as to where I can move on this side of the board with shadows protecting me. It's these kinds of situations where players enevitably get caught and are stuck for several rounds unable to help or say anything to either side.
But that doesn't mean the Seeker is powerful as hell. It can take about a dozen turns to track down people, and even if you snag a few of them, it only takes one person to unfreeze someone else. As you can see the comparison photos below, it only takes some bad positioning and quick thinking from the Shadowlings to gain the upper hand and eventually win the game.
That being said, if you're a wise planner and know how to divide and conquer, being the Seeker can be the most rewarding role of the game. Collecting masks is an awesome task to do and is funny to watch your opposition get frustrated when they realize they're now down a player and need to buy time to rescue them. While we played the game, things were pretty evenly matched every time with neither side having an advantage until nearing the game's end. We played seven games in one night during the review phase giving everyone a chance to be the Seeker, and in the end, the Seeker side won four compared to the Shadowlings' three, but that tie-breaker was close!
I fully recommend buying Shadows in the Forest. The light runs off only a couple button cell batteries and will end up being the only thing in the box you'll need to maintain down the road. Everything else makes this a great game for groups who love playing in the dark, or times when the power is out. The only disadvantage it has is that if you don't have a dark room to play in, you need to wait until it gets darker. Beyond that, this was an absolute treat to play and I cannot wait to do play it again with a full group of seven.