Bosk by Floodgate Games
Players:2 to 4
Playtime:20 to 40 minutes
Perfect for:Players who enjoy strategic area control games that have gorgeous art and thematic creativity.
Bosk (which means small forest) is a game of seasons, trees, and leaves. Over four rounds (spring, summer, fall, and winter), players try to optimize their position on the gameboard, which has a grid like pattern overlaying eight natural areas which comprise a nature park. Throughout the course of the game, players place trees and let their leaves ride and fall with the wind in order to maximize their presence across the board and within each section.
To play Bosk, two to four players begin by choosing a designated color. In the first season, spring, players will be taking turns placing a total of eight trees of their color onto the intersections of the gridlines, with each tree having a value of 1 through 4. Once all trees have been placed, the game moves into summer where the summed value of each players’ trees are calculated across each horizontal and vertical axis. The players with the highest totals receive points before moving into the next season.
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In fall, players let the leaves from their preplaced trees fall into the various sections. This is done in turn, where players follow a wind chart which designates which way leaves should be placed (i.e. north, south, east, or west from the chosen tree), and by choosing the number of leaves that fall by selecting a value card from their hand (2 through 8 leaves). Note that every tree will only release leaves once, and each of the value cards can only be played once. Once leaves fall from the board, that particular tree is removed from play. After all leaves have fallen, the game moves into winter where the players with the most leaves in each of the eight sections receives points, and the person with the highest total at the end of the game wins.
What works in Bosk is the engaging strategy, the art, and the theme which combine superbly to create an exceptional game. The placement mechanic of Bosk is somewhat unique given the staging element—playing first the multiple axes, and then later dropping leaves into individual tiles that surround the trees. Furthermore, it should be noted that leaves can “top” opponents, but at an extra cost to the player placing them, meaning that area control can shift wildly throughout gameplay. The basics of Bosk are very intuitive, but actually mastering the gameplay requires cunning in order to outwit opponents.
Not enough can be said about the art (compliments of Kwanchai Moriya and Matt Paquette) and theme of Bosk which merge gorgeously. The components include four different wooden color/leaf combinations for each player (the red maple leaf is an especially nice touch), beautiful free-standing trees, and a marvelously painted gameboard. While playing, the board actually feels like it transforms through the seasons of a park as multicolored trees sprout, and their leaves drop a kaleidoscopic quilt over the landscape. Aligning the rounds with seasons, and using the wind to guide strategic placement, works incredibly well.
The only players who might not enjoy Bosk are those that don’t particularly care for the thought and patience that often accompany area control games. Bosk is also 100% strategic in nature, so players who enjoy a dash of luck within their gameplay to keep things interesting won’t find that particular component here. A super minor quibble might be that score-keeping is a bit difficult during summer and winter because all players are scoring several little amounts of points quickly and must use a single track, so that becomes little cumbersome (individual scoring tracks may have worked better), but again, this is being nitpicky.
Bosk is delightful for many reasons including its creative twist on the area control mechanic, the engaging and balanced gameplay, and overall aesthetic. Highly recommended for families and players of all ages.
Recommended if you like: Photosynthesis, Petrichor
Final Grade: A+
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