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Published by Delicious Games, Woodcraft looked like it would be an easygoing, delightful family game with everyone competing to establish their workshop in a magical land where wood can be harvested, chopped, spliced, glued and even re-planted before being assembled to fulfil orders. However, don't be fooled by Michal Peichl's appealing artwork and cute elven helpers: Ross Arnold and Vladimir Suchy have designed a tough economic engine-builder that doesn't mess around!

Over the course of the 14 rounds, 1-4 players (the game includes a solitaire option) take turns to choose one of seven actions from a roundel, whereby the actions chosen least will slowly gain bonuses to make them more appealing. At the start of a game like this, with lots of options, you might think you can just try a few actions to see what they do, and formulate a plan as you go. That might be a problem here because you only get one main action per round, so that's 14 actions for the whole game. It seems impossible that with only 14 turns you could recruit helpers, upgrade your workshop, grow new trees, buy and sell the wood and other materials you need, obtain contracts and ultimately fulfil them - but, somehow, it works: if you don't try to do everything.

There are plenty of things you could aim for. For example, try collecting lots of tools to fill your attic and trigger the lucrative bonuses there. Or focus on boosting your reputation so as to make your completed contracts worth more. Or recruit lots of helpers to give you an edge. Perhaps build up a steady income of money and points. Maybe aim for certain common objectives that might reward you for fully upgrading your workshop. You won't be able to do everything in one game, and some aspects like gluing wood together might never come up, but once you get things going the snowball effect should hopefully enable you to create a thriving business by the end.

There is a lot to take in and remember, and a lot of ways to make mistakes. The reference sheet helpfully explains all the cards, but confusion is still possible, especially as the cupped-hand iconography for income can be hard to spot and differentiate from non-income bonuses. Playing Woodcraft doesn't feel like quite the relaxing experience you might have expected. If things don't come together for you at the right time at the end, you can be left with not a lot to do in the final round. Still, this game dovetails a lot of interesting game elements in a highly thematic way, creating a challenging experience that many will find very rewarding.

(Review by Matt Young)

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