Thanks to Ta-Te Wu for providing a review copy of this game.
I really like trick-taking games, and I’ve been enjoying exploring more of them as time goes on. Today, we’re looking at a new one called
FORK is a trick-taking game for 2-6 players, designed by Ta-Te Wu and to be published by Sunrise Tornado Games. FORK is an acronym that stands for Fox-Owl-Rabbit-Kale, and basically is about the food chain. As you play, you are trying to play stronger cards that will eat other cards.
The game comes in a small 54-card package. There are four terrain suits (arctic, desert, mountain, and swamp), as well as six fox cards. At the start of the game, each player gets 1-3 foxes (depending on the player count), and the rest of the deck is split between them. You do remove the swamp suit for a 2-3 player game, and some extra cards for a 2-player game.
The youngest player starts by choosing a lead suit. All players then choose a card to play. If you have a card in the lead suit, you must play it, otherwise you can play anything. Foxes count as any suit. Everything is played face down, except Kale which is always played face up. Once everyone has picked a card, simultaneously reveal your choices. You’ll then score the trick.
- If one player played a Fox, they may take any Owl or Rabbit of the lead suit that was also played in the trick. It’s placed in a score pile. The Fox is then discarded.
- If two or more players played Foxes, the foxes cancel each other out and are all discarded – no one scores for them.
- If there’s an Owl left in the lead suit, the player who played it gets to eat a Rabbit of the lead suit. The Rabbit goes in their score pile, the Owl gets discarded.
- If there are Rabbits of the lead suit left, they can eat Kale of the lead suit. This is resolved in numerical order – the highest value goes first. 2 and 3 value Rabbits can eat Kale of any suit. Ingested Kale goes in the score pile, Rabbits get discarded.
- If there is any Kale left in the lead suit, those who played it can put it in their score pile. Everything else gets discarded.
When the trick has been scored, all unscored cards will have been discarded. The lead passes to the left, and the process repeats. The game ends when you run out of cards to play, or when someone gets five cards in their score pile. Add up your scores, and the high point total wins. Kale scores based on how much you’ve collected.
I did get a pre-release copy of this game, so it may or may not be final in its presentation. The art is cute, and the cards are well labeled so that you know what each one is. Suits are color-coded, but with different shapes so you can differentiate them. The game comes with a handy suit guide so you can know what they’re all called. I appreciate that – I hate it when games just assume you know what all their abstract symbols mean.
The basic theme of the game is of the food chain. Foxes eat other animals, owls eat rabbits, rabbits eat vegetables. I’m assuming Kale was chosen over Carrots because it made the title acronym look less weird (FORK instead of FORC). It’s a good framing device for the way the game plays, because you know exactly what beats what.
FORK is a trick-taking game, and it plays differently than a lot of trick-takers in several ways. For one, the game is played simultaneously rather than sequentially. Most TT games have one player lead, then other players go around the circle, one at a time. Here, one player announces the lead suit, then everyone plays their card for the trick in secret…except Kale. You want to score points, but there’s an inherent risk in playing anything. Do you go for the Fox, knowing that another Fox might scare it off? Do you play an Owl and hope it doesn’t get eaten? Do you play a Rabbit and hoe you get a chance to eat some Kale? Or do you play some Kale and save your bigger cards for later?
But let’s talk about Kale. This is the only card you don’t play in secret. It’s the weakest card, but if you manage to score it, you can build it into some big points – having a set of five at the end of the game can get you nine points. Will that be enough? Maybe, scores don’t seem to be huge with this game
The game is pretty short. Most TT games play several hands and add up scores as you go. This one is played once through the deck, then it’s over. And sometimes less than that – if you have five cards at the end of a hand, that’s it. Honestly, it feels a little too short to me. I can understand wanting a nice compact game experience, but for me, I think I’d rather play the first to win two rounds, or something like that.
FORK moves pretty fast, and you don’t necessarily have to win a trick to score, which is interesting, and not something I think I’ve encountered in other TT games. The whole push-your-luck aspect of trying to play cards that can eat other cards without getting eaten yourself really adds to the whole “clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of me” part of the game.
The game is also very accessible. Over Christmas, I taught my parents and 7-year-old daughter to play. I missed the whole “Kale scores if it isn’t eaten” rule, but everyone picked it up very easily and had a good time. Even my daughter was making some very smart plays, and I usually have to help her with strategy stuff.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? If you’re looking for a fairly light trick-taking game with interesting twists on the genre, this is the game for you. It’s fast, it’s compact, it’s accessible, and it’s fun. I do recommend you check it out. The game is currently live on Kickstarter.
Thanks again to Ta-Te Wu for providing a review copy of this game, and thanks to you for reading!