Review of The Fox in the Forest Duet, a cooperative trick taking card game for two players

Sometimes you only have two players, you want to play a board game together and you really want to play together on the same team. That is where a two-player cooperative board game like The Fox in the Forest Duet really shines.

The Fox in the Forest Duet is not to be confused with just The Fox in the Forest, which is also a two-player trick-taking card game with a fairy tale theme. We’re talking about the Duet version of this card game, the big difference being that The Fox in the Forest Duet is cooperative.

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What comes with a copy of The Fox in the Forest Duet?

The Fox in the Forest Duet was designed by Foxtrot Games and features art by Adrienne Ezell, Jason D. Kingsley, Roanna Peroz and, John Shulters. It was published by Renegade Game Studios in North America, in 2020. It plays two players only and each game takes about half an hour.

The main component in The Fox in the Forest Duet is a deck of thirty cards. These cards are numbered 1-10 and come in three suits: Doves, Roses and Stars. Each odd-numbered card has a special ability listed on the card and features fantastic fairy tale themed artwork. There are also two reference cards.

In addition to the cards, there is a small play board that is standard board game board thickness and features two sides, an easier A side and harder B side. On the board is a path in a forest with multiple nodes along the path. Each of these nodes has a box pointing to it where you place gems.

A number of tokens are also in the box including twenty-two red Gem Tokens and four round Forest Tokens. There is also a small orange wooden disc with a knotwork pattern on it.

The rules consist of one two sided folded sheet that is very clear and easy to read with lots of examples using actual game components. Personally, I wish this set of rules were a booklet instead of a foldout but it works how it is.

Fox in the Forest Duet is a two-player cooperative trick-taking game. How exactly does that work?

To start a game of The Fox in the Forest Duet you place the player board between both players. On this board, you will place a number of gems. The side of the board and the number of gems placed will depend on the difficulty level you want to play the game at. There are three difficulties included. The player tracking token (the orange disc) is placed in the middle of the path.

You start each round of The Fox in the Forest Duet by dealing out eleven of the thirty cards to each player. This leaves eight cards in the deck. You flip over the top card of the deck which is called the decree card, which sets the trump suit for the round.

The player who didn’t deal leads and you play through eleven tricks.

Standard trick-taking rules apply here. You have to follow suit if you can, if you can’t follow the lead suit then you can throw offsuit. The trick is taken by the player who played the highest trump card or, if no trump is played, by the player playing the highest card in the lead suit.

Who won the trick determines which direction the player token moves. On each card are a number of animal tracks, you total all the animal tracks on both cards in the trick and that’s how far the token moves. When the token stops, if there is a gem at that location the players claim it. If you end up going off the end of the track you are considered to have gotten lost in the woods and must add a woods token to the board. This makes the path shorter for all future rounds. If you run out of wood tokens you lose the game. 

Along with this, every odd-numbered card has a special ability that happens as soon as you play the card. For example, the 1 card is the Musician which lets you decide which way the player token moves no matter who won the trick. The 3 card is the Fox which lets you choose a player to swap the decree card with a card in their hand if they choose to do so. The 5 card is the Gazelle which lets you ignore the tracks on one of the cards played and so on.

At the end of each round, a forest token is added to one end of the path and new gems are placed out onto the board. If the players haven’t won by the end of the third round they lose due to running out of time. As mentioned earlier players can also lose by running out of forest tokens. Players win collectively if they can collect all the gems.

To make this more difficult there are a number of communication rules you are to follow when playing The Fox in the Forest Duet. You cannot talk about your cards, you can’t ask revealing questions and you cannot discuss strategy. 

There is a scoring system that you can use to see how you did at the end of the game. If your team lost, you score zero points but otherwise, you score points based on which difficulty level you chose, if you managed to win by the second round, how many cards you and your partner have left and how many forest tokens you did not use.

Overall impressions of The Fox in the Forest Duet from Renegade Game Studios

Back when I first played The Fox in the Forest, I was sceptical that anyone could make a two-player trick-taking game that would work. As I explained in my review of The Fox in the Forest, this scepticism was unfounded. The system created for The Fox in the Forest not only works but it works beautifully. This same system is carried over into The Fox in the Forest Duet, and it works just as well here.

I was very impressed by The Fox in the Forest Duet. More importantly, my wife, who usually does not like cooperative play, really enjoyed this game as well. It takes the mechanics from the original game and does something totally new with them. The new combination of card powers combined with moving on the path on the central board is just brilliant. It works perfectly and we both found it very elegant.

My only complaint about The Fox in the Forest Duet is the communication rules. I fully understand why they exist. The game wouldn’t actually work without restricting communication. If players were allowed to talk about which way on the path they wanted to go or which cards they have it would be far too easy. I just don’t like playing a game where I can’t talk about the game while we play it.

I mostly play two-player games with my wife, and this is exactly the kind of game we would break out on a date night, either at home or out at a pub or cafe. On such a date night I want to talk and interact with my wife while playing, not sit in silence and play a game together.  Yes, we could talk about other things, but The Fox in the Forest Duet is engaging enough and difficult enough that it requires a level of focus that makes talking about other things difficult. While this is great for a strategy game, it’s not great for a date night game.

Now it’s this lack of communication that makes The Fox in the Forest Duet so engaging. You are constantly planning, trying to count cards in your head and sync up with your opponent to play the right cards at the right time. It requires a solid level of focus on the part of both players, which is part of what makes it such a great game, just not a great game for socializing.

Even though I don’t think this one belongs on my two-player date night game list, I still strongly recommend The Fox in the Forest Duet for anyone who’s into playing two-player games. Especially for anyone who already knows they enjoy the trick-taking mechanic from other games. With the board element added, I even suggest people who normally aren’t big fans of card games to give this one a shot if they are looking for a new cooperative game experience.

A quick comparison of The Fox in the Forest and The Fox in the Forest Duet.

The obvious difference between these two games is that The Fox in the Forest is a competitive two-player game and Duet is a cooperative two-player game.  That fact alone is going to make many gamers prefer one version over the other. 

I did find The Fox in the Forest to be slightly easier to teach and get playing right away. The mechanics really are just basic trick-taking rules with some special cards. The Fox in the Forest Duet is a bit more fiddly with its board and multiple difficulty levels. It’s in no way difficult to learn, but it is definitely harder. 

Along with the slightly steeper learning curve, Duet is a heavier game overall. There are more things to think about and more variables in play. Having to worry about not just the number or ability of your cards but also the number of animal tracks, as well as where you are on the path and how many gems are at each node, gives both players a lot more to think about. There is also a higher percentage of cards removed from the deck each round that makes card counting a bit harder.

Overall I found The Fox in the Forest Duet to be the more strategic and tactical game. I would say the better “gamer’s game” but it was also much less social than The Fox in the Forest. The communication rules in Duet mean that most games are going to be played in silence with players trying to sync up with the other player and win the game together. Every game we played of Duet was played almost silently, whereas our games of The Fox in the Forest are very vocal and interactive with lots of socializing. 

I can’t help but think of it this way: The Fox in the Forest Duet is the better game, but the original The Fox in the Forest is more fun.

What I think is a bit of a missed opportunity here is some way to combine the two games. Either to make a new two-player game or perhaps to turn it into some form of four-player game. Perhaps even a way to use the odd-numbered cards from one game with the other. As it stands this doesn’t work as the abilities in one game don’t work with the mechanics in the other and the card backs are also different but it just feels like this is something that could have been done.

In the end, I really enjoy both versions of The Fox in the Forest. To me each game fills a different niche and each niche is somewhere I’m willing to play depending on my mood. If it’s just me and my wife and we are going to have a couple of drinks and want to play a card game I will grab The Fox in the Forest. If what we are craving is a more difficult challenge that we can work to solve together, then we will break out The Fox in the Forest Duet. 

As for which you should pick up, I think that depends on what you are looking for in a game. If you want a fast, engaging two-player card game filled with table talk, challenges and bravado, go with The Fox in the Forest. If you like working with a partner to solve a problem and games with variable difficulty levels check out The Fox in the Forest Duet. If you are like me, and sometimes want one or the other, pick up both. These are both great games that each scratch a different itch.

Have you tried both versions of The Fox in the Forest? Which did you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!

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