Enchanted Forest

spiel_des_jahresThis is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 1982 winner, Enchanted Forest, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.

My wife and I are not very good at memory games. My children are much better at them, and maybe that’s why they love Enchanted Forest. They are very good at finding the wonderful treasures hidden in the magical wood. I am very good at getting lost and being sent back to the village.

SagalandEnchanted Forest is a combination memory and roll and move game designed by Alex Randolph and Michel Matschoss. The edition that I have was published by Ravensburger, and the game will play from 2 to 6 players, ages 6 and up. You can usually get through a game in 30 minutes. The game has also been released under the name Sagaland.

The game comes with a set of 13 cards that show the magical treasures the would be economic leaders of a small country are supposed to find. The game board itself is pretty enough, but the really awesome components are the little trees under which the treasures are hidden.
The idea of the game is that the aging king of a magical land wants to find a worthy successor to rule when he shuffles off this mortal coil, and so he devises a plan that whoever can find three magical treasures hidden in the forest will inherit the throne. What better method to determine the political leader of a small country than a scavenger hunt? Huzzah!
enchanted forest card
Find the Golden Goose
Setting up the game is easy. Randomly place the 13 trees on the game board and then shuffle the 13 cards and place them in the castle. In the Ravensburger edition that I own, the cards are really thick, so I don’t think they should even be called cards. I don’t know what else to call them though. they are more like tiles than cards. So shuffle the really thick tile-like cards and turn one face up and place them in the castle. Whatever treasure is showing is the treasure that the aging and probably insane king is interested in finding. The trees are placed on areas in the forest that are indicated by the forest spirits. The board is laid out with winding pathways through the forest and a straight road to the castle. Once at the castle, you have to follow a circular path until you reach the space with a key.
Players roll the dice to determine movement around the board. The dice are rolled at the same time but used independently, so you might roll a 4 and a 3 and use them to move 4 steps forward and one step back, or you might just move seven steps forward. If you end one of your moves on top of another player, then you send that player back to the village. In our games, Mommy is nice and usually doesn’t try and land on the kids, but Daddy will land on you without hesitation. Daddy knows that life is hard and you should get used to it. Treat your rolls as two separate moves, so you could move 4 and look at a tree and then move another 3 and look at another one. You need to use both moves, except when you are trying to land on the key space in the castle where you can make your guess.
If you roll doubles, then you can use magic to do one of three things.
  1. Place your pawn on any location that is not within the castle.
  2. If you are in the castle, you may place your pawn in the key space.
  3. You may swap out the current treasure for a new treasure.
Enchanted Forest game treasure
There’s the goose!

Play continues until a player finds three treasures. This will seem impossible at first, but eventually players learn where things are and once you get to the key space, you can just sit there and make a guess each turn as long as you are correct.

Enchanted Forest is not one of my favorite games. I play it occasionally because the kids like it, but I think it’s pretty frustrating. I don’t have a problem with the memory aspect of the game. I like memory games, even if I’m not that good at them. I have a problem with two parts of the game.
  • The magic roll that allows you to change the current treasure that you must find is terribly frustrating. You can work your butt off finding the Golden Goose, fight your way to the castle, and then have another player swap out the treasure to Alladin’s Lamp.
  • The Parcheesi-like gotcha mechanism that sends players back to the village adds unnecessary length to the game. If you want to play a game like Sorry, then play that, or better yet, play Dog.

These frustrations coupled with the length make Enchanted Forest one of those games I keep around only because I know the kids enjoy it.

You can find a copy of Enchanted Forest from an online retailer or you might be able to pick up a used copy from someone. I don’t think it’s too hard to get a copy of this one. I think I got mine in one of the first math trades I tried on Boardgamegeek. If you want a memory game that if fun and kid friendly, I would look for a copy of Sherlock. If you want a great alternative that has a gotcha mechanism that is fun for kids and adults, then I would recommend Geisterwäldchen.
Has anyone tried to modify Enchanted Forest to solve these problems? I would like to change the rule for using a magic roll from swapping out the treasure to adding another treasure. So if you roll doubles, then you could turn up another treasure card. If you know the location of any of the face up treasures, then you can make a guess on the key space. I think it’s worth a try just for the sake of those cute little trees.

2 Comments

  1. Yeah, ugh. I tried to like this one. It was an early SdJ. It was also one of my first thrift store finds, and I was very excited about that prospect. One of the trees was damaged (or did one of my kids chew it when a toddler?), which spoiled the memory aspect, but I was able to get a replacement. Then we finally played the thing. Yawn.

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