During my trip to Gen Con 2012 I was able to meet a nice guy named Brent Povis with Two Lanterns Games. Brent was a really nice guy and so was his wife, who taught my friend Jeremy and me the game.
Morels is a two player game that has you going on a hike in the woods foraging for mushrooms. Should you pick the mushrooms at your feet? Or do you want to hike a little further for that other mushroom that looks a little tastier? Players are on a foraging hike that will allow them to gather mushrooms of different kinds. Once you’ve got three or more of the same kind, go ahead and fry them up! You’ll get bonus points if you can use butter with 4 of a kind (+3 points) or cider with five of a kind (+5 points). Some mushrooms are worth more points, but there are fewer of them. So you have to plan accordingly on your hike. On any given turn you can grab one of the first two cards available, or you can pay any number of walking sticks to walk further down the path and grab a card that you would rather have. There is definitely a lot of strategy with your choices in the game. When you’re hungry for mushrooms, or ready for a great two-player game, then pick up a copy of Morels!
Here’s a look at the setup to start the game:
Each player starts with three cards. Eight cards are placed along the foraging trail. And each player starts the game with one frying pan. On your turn you can take one of the first two cards. Or you can pay sticks to forage further along the trail. You pay one stick for each card you walk beyond the first two cards. So if you take the fourth card from the end you would be paying two sticks. When you’ve got a set of three or more like mushrooms you can fry them up by laying your set down by the frying pan, or by laying it down with a frying pan card. That’s the basics of how you play.
Length of the game: As I have gotten more and more into awesome games my wife has kind of been left behind. So I am always on the lookout for a new, lighter game that she’ll enjoy. That’s one reason I picked up The Little Prince at GenCon this year. She also doesn’t care for games that are over an hour. So to have a game like this that takes a half hour at most with people who know how to play, it’s perfect for us.
Theme: I don’t like mushrooms. It’s mostly because of their texture (I have a weird texture-sensitive palate). However, I love looking at mushrooms and other fungi in nature. So the theme of walking through the woods on a foraging hike actually sounds pretty cool to me. Plus, you’re not trying to build a castle or earn victory points. This is just a mushroom game where you get points for cooking mushrooms.
Endgame: While I could almost equally put this in the Upside category I’m putting it in the downside because there are often situations at the end where you don’t really have any decisions to make. I enjoy games where decisions get more important right to the end. You can have a play of Morels where, based on the last cards to come up, you just don’t have any fun decisions to make. I can forgive that because it’s not always the case and because the game plays quickly. But it needed to be mentioned.
Designer Perspective: What would I change?
This game works pretty well overall so it was a little tough to think of something to change. Basically this is a set collection game where the ability to procure sets is very structured. There is strategy in what mushrooms you take as you are collecting the sets, but there isn’t a huge “Take That” capability in the game. It never feels like I can really strongly affect my opponent. My change to the game would be to add a few cards to the game that each player starts with. These cards would be one-time use abilities. One specific ability I would like would be to take a card without having a card decay. Another ability would be to take a card and replace it with a blank spot along the foraging trail. Both of these abilities could add interesting twists to the strategy while providing a little of the “take that” concept.
For a mushroom foraging hunt one might suspect bringing along a light beer that goes down easy. They’d be wrong. For most meals with mushrooms you’ll find the Belgian or French beer styles quite accommodating. So my preferred beer pairing while playing Morels would be the Ommegang Abbey Ale, which is a Belgian Dubbel style ale.
Ommegang sounds foreign, but they are a New York based brewery. So don’t let the name fool you when you go into the beer store looking for a nice foreign beer. For those looking specifically for Trappist beer, which comes from Trappist monasteries, there are only 8 recognized Trappist sources: Achel, Chimay, Gregorious, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, and Westvleteren. Of those I have had all except Gregorius and Westvleteren, which I am hoping to remedy in the near future.
I’ll rate this with two players in mind and thus it’s rating is compared to only two player games. The fact that I can get my wife to play this game means a lot, and that helps it’s rating. Overall I enjoy this little gem. We specifically love playing this game when we are camping since it feels like we are actually out foraging for mushrooms. I’m giving this game 8 out of 10 on the BGG scale: