Introducing Fast Flowing Forest Fellers

There are several things that game designer Friedemann Friese seems to have a special passion for. The first is things that are green. Including hair.



The second is the letter F. Preferably with a high degree of alliteration. This is the guy who has designed games like Fische Fluppen Frikadellen, Falsche FuFFziger, Fearsome Floors, and Funkenschlag. In fact, about half his games begin with the letter F! Presumably this is some kind of family tradition evident already when his parents named him at birth. Or maybe he needs to do this in order to be eligible for the family inheritance, or it goes along with the secret handshakes at his local game club. Well I really don't care whether his hair is green or if he has the letter F tattooed under his feet and behind both ears, because anyone who has designed so many great games, including one that’s ranked #3 on BGG deserves some serious respect!

 


That’s his third passion: games. And now our prolific green machine has added a fresh F-lettered title to his impressive array of green games: Fast Flowing Forest Fellers. Perhaps he thought that using four F-words in the title would make people sit up and notice. Certainly some of the folks who give out board games awards noticed. Boardgames Australia has shortlisted the game for the Best International Game 2009. So even if you don't share Mr Friese's passion for green or for the letter F, you owe it to yourself to check out Fast Flowing Forest Fellers. Here is our green-headed hero with his game:



It’s fun! It’s fantastic! But strangely enough, this great racing game from Friedemann Friese doesn't seem to have as much publicity on BGG as it deserves, so I hope that this review will help raise its profile. Great components, solid theme, easy to learn, and very fun to play - it has all the essential elements of being a terrific family game! Will your forest fellers (logging crew) make their way down their river before those of your opponents do? It's a great racing game, offering fabulous fun for families. This alliteration business seems to be rubbing off! But before I start thinking about dying my hair green, let's check out the game!



Game box

As well as featuring six Fs in just six words, the box cover introduces us to the theme of the game: lumberjacks on logs cruising down a river.



Yes, this is a racing game! For 2 to 5 players, Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is about trying to race your forest fellers (logging crew or lumberjacks) down the river before those of your opponents. The back of the box tells us more:



There we read this:
"Daring lumberjacks meet at the river to begin their traditional contest of the fastest log riders. By skillful maneuvers they try to beat-out their competitors to get ahead in this running of the river. Sometimes you want to move ahead quickly and other times you want to block others in your race to be the first across the finish.
Each player controls a small group of lumberjacks and competes with the other players to bring his group across the finish first. With very simple rules the game is provocative, since players must always keep watch on their entire group and those of the other players. The 6 double-sided game boards provide about 100 different river courses, which offer players new races every time they play.


So what do we need to race? Inside the box we find:

● 10 lumberjacks
● 45 logs
● 90 cards
● 6 2-sided game boards
● rules



Rulebook

The rule book is one of the best rule books I've seen for a family game:



Honestly! And here’s why: It has clear text. Bold headings. Straight forward explanation. Appropriate play examples. Colourful pictures. It’s everything that a good rulebook should be! And all this in just four sides of paper! That’s because Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is really a very simple game to learn. If you want to check out the rules yourself, can download them from the publisher Rio Grande here: http://www.riograndegames.com/uploads/Game/Game_295_gameRule...

Components: Lumberjacks

There are two lumberjacks of the same colour for each player. What’s with the single white lumberjack? That’s only needed for 3 player games, since 2-3 player games require a third lumberjack of a different colour.



But there’s a more important question that you’re dying to ask, right? Let me guess, it’s this: Why are the two lumberjack meeples different? The answer is that lumberjacks have gender! Male lumberjacks and female lumberjacks! Or are the females called lumberjills? At any rate, the "styling" of the lumberjack meeples more or less corresponds to the artwork on the matching cards, as you see here:



The adventurous squirrel riding along with Mrs Lumberjack is a particularly nice touch!

Components: Logs

We have lumberjacks, but lumberjacks need lumber to ride down the river on! The lumberjack meeples have their own logs already, but there are another 45 logs (lumber meeples?) that are going to be used as obstacles in the river.



How else can we start creating log jams?! These are all wood - as all good logs should be! Great looking components!

Cards: Player cards

The five player cards are simply used to remember which colour lumberjacks each player has:



They aren't that essential, except perhaps in 2-3 player games, when players will have a third lumberjack of a different colour, as indicated on the reverse side of the player cards:



Cards: Movement cards

Each player gets his own "deck" of 16 cards:



Eight of these cards are used for movement of the male lumberjack (top row above), and eight for the female lumberjack (bottom row above).

The cards are numbered with a value from 1 to 5, which indicates the amount of spaces you can move your lumberjack if you play that card:



The 5s are best, because they let you move your lumberjack the furthest. But these also meant that your lumberjack is cruising down the river at white-knuckle speeds! The artwork nicely captures the terror that this can involve!



The artwork on the cards is truly fantastic! Don't miss the squirrel with sunglasses!

The player decks are identical in the distribution of values, the only difference is the colours.



Cards: Jokers (beavers)

There are also five jokers, which feature beavers.



Beavers, apparently, have a special talent of shoving lumberjacks around! Each player adds one of these to his personal deck of 16 lumberjack cards. The beavers function as "wild cards", and can be played to move either the male lumberjack or the female lumberjack up to 3 spaces on the board.

Components: Game boards

Ah yes, the game boards! After all, we need a river to ride on! The game comes with six boards:



Now here's the best bit: you only need two boards each time you play! And you can use any combination of boards! That makes 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 15 possible combinations of boards. But the variety doesn’t end there: each of the boards is double sided! And since each pair of boards can be arranged in 8 different ways (front and back, first and last), that makes for a lot of different possible configurations! I did the math and came up with the number 120. Go ahead and prove me wrong if you like, but it sure means there’s a lot of different possibilities before you need to use the same configuration again - talk about replayability!

Let's take a closer look at one of the boards:



The hexes with arrows signify a current, and the current will affect our lumberjacks and the other logs as they float down the river.

Most of the boards also have logs pictured on certain hexes. This means that these boards start with extra logs on those locations, to add to the mayhem!



Some boards are fairly straight forward, but others will quickly generate log jams and create havoc with fierce currents! You can customize the game according to how you want to play!

Game-play: Set-Up

Pick any two game boards, and join them so that there are rapids flowing from one to the next, and place logs on the marked spaces. Each player gets the 16 Movement cards (plus a Joker/beaver) in the colour matching their two lumberjacks, and all the lumberjacks are placed in front of the three start spaces of the river.



In a two or three player game, each player gets an extra lumberjack and extra movement cards, as in this example of two-player game:



Everyone shuffles their cards and draws three cards, which is their starting hand. We are ready to race!

Game-play: Flow of Play

Moving

On your turn, you play one of your three hand cards, move your matching lumberjack up to the amount of spaces shown on your card. Then you draw a card (to keep your hand size at three), and it’s the next player’s turn!



Shoving

But now here’s the fun part. When moving your lumberjack, you can shove up to two other figures (including logs) in a straight line. You can’t shove them onto the bank or rocks, but this is a great way to put a wrench into the plans of your opponents, or even to shove one of your own lumberjacks in the right direction! It’s interactive without being too mean, because using time and effort to push your opponent into a current or to create a log jam can also give opportunities to other players to get ahead.

The Current

At the end of movement, you need to check to see if there are any lumberjacks or logs on a current space (marked with arrows). These lumberjacks or logs will flow with the current - sometimes shoving other lumberjacks or logs along with them! This is especially a fun part of the game, because there are fewer things more satisfying in Fast Flowing Forest Fellers than giving your opponent’s lumberjack a gentle push, so that the current takes it in the wrong direction!



Game-play: End of Game

The game ends when someone gets all their lumberjacks off the board. When one of your lumberjack meeples floats past the finish space of the river, you can use the cards for that lumberjack as jokers to move your other lumberjack. The player who is the first to get all his lumberjacks down the river wins the game!

In this picture, Green’s male lumberjack has already arrived downstream, and Green is about to win by having his female lumberjack move off the board:



Game-play: Example of Play

To illustrate gameplay, the rules contain a very helpful sample turn, which I’ll share here. The Green player has just played the 4 card corresponding to his male lumberjack:



Green may only moves his lumberjack on the right, since that’s the one that matches the male figure pictured on the card. But he may not move it to the right, as that direction is blocked by two lumberjacks next to the bank.

So he decides to move it in a zigzag movement to the left (see the green arrows above) along the lower bank. The current it moves through has no effect during its movement. But the Green lumberjack does shove the log (brown arrow) and Yellow lumberjack (yellow arrow) in straight lines as it moves. These two figures may not be shoved further, since the bank blocks them.

After his movement, the board looks like this:



But now there are two figures on current spaces, so both must be moved with the current. The Green player can decide in which order this occurs, and decides that the female Yellow lumberjack floats first. Yellow floats along the current (yellow arrows) completely to the right and stops before the Blue lumberjack.

Now the male Green lumberjack floats up one space (green arrows below) shoving the log into the current above it. This log now floats on the current up to the last space of the current (brown arrows below). It cannot float further because the yellow and blue figures block it. If the space behind blue were empty (i.e. no bank), the log would continue one space and shove both the Yellow and Blue lumberjacks one space further. The board now looks like this:



After Yellow floated and stopped next to the Blue lumberjack, the log has floated on the current to the right.

What do I think?

This really is a terrific racing game that has a lot to offer:
● The components are good quality, colourful, and very attractive
● The rules are easy to learn and explain
● The game-play is appropriate for a wide range of players, both old and young, gamers and non gamers, making it very suitable for families
● The play time isn’t excessive, and it’s perfect for a game of this weight
● The theme is immersive, and matched by the tension of the game-play
● There’s strong interaction, without being too nasty
● The different board configurations offers high replayability
● It has a very high fun factor, which is all too important in this sort of game

In short, Fast Flowing Forest Fellers has all the essential elements of being a terrific family game, and also has proven to be a big hit with non-gamers! Given the quick play time and strong interaction, it is also suitable as a filler type game for gamers. Well done Mr Friese!



So why hasn’t Fast Flowing Forest Fellers received more attention on BGG? Perhaps because it came out at around the same time as another race game, Snow Tails, which had more press, and thus overshadowed Friese’s game. Or are people scared off by the green hair and plethora of Fs? I have no idea, but I really think this game deserves more attention than it seems to have received. If ever there was a strong contender for an ideal lighter gateway game, this is it!



What do others think?

Fast Flowing Forest Fellers is lighter in tone than your average medium-weight euro game, and so maybe that’s why more hardcore gamers haven’t given it much of a second look. But I’m not the only one who thinks that it’s a game with a lot of potential with the right crowd. Here’s what two well-known game designers have to say about it:

"Friedemann, I wish, you will win the "game of the year 2009". – Uwe Rosenberg
"There's not a single innovative idea here (even the concept of a racing game is old news) -- but we end up with a masterful combination of old, yet solid ideas that results in an exciting, fun experience that feels fresh. Don't look for anything particularly deep; we are in absolute family territory here. What really sells the game is it's modularity. There are so many possible maps you can make. A winner." – Stephen Glenn


Did you catch that? Yes, that’s Mr Rosenberg. THE Mr Rosenberg, of Agricola fame. It’s good enough for the designer of Agricola to rate it an 8! And he’s not the only one who enjoys the game, as can be seen from these other accolades:

"Absolutely fantastic light game. Just the right mix of strategy, chaos & screw-your-neighbor. With a few more plays, I fully intend this to be a 9." – John Weldy
"The new kid on the block and the heavy contender for the Gateway Game award of next year. As simple as that!!" - Manuel Pombeiro
"A really fun race game with lots of ways to mess with the other players." – Matt S
"Quite enjoyable gateway-type game. I got it because I can play it with different numbers of players, and with different kinds of folks, and with that in mind, it delivers." – David Molnar
"Great family racing game! The Ave Caesar of our century... " – Christian Frank
"This game is too lowly rated for what it is - a simple card-driven race game that offers more strategic opportunities than most similar games." – D K (futhee)
"This is quickly becoming my families new favorite. Even my four-year-old can do just fine." – Jeremy Coe
"Fast fun light racing game that's easy to teach. Most of the fun in this game comes from sending other players floating back towards the starting line and trying to set up crazy chain reactions that push everyone all over the place. Great little filler game with attractive pieces and a fun theme." – Mike Ditchburn
"A light and fun racing game for up to six (sic) players. The rules are straightforward, but it's well worth a look." – Brian Moore


Many also make comparisons with race games like Ave Caesar or RoboRally, so if you enjoy those games, definitely take a close look at this; if you don’t enjoy those games, you might just find this one a better choice.



The final word

Is Fast Flowing Forest Fellers for you? The beauty of this game is that it will work well in so many groups or settings: for gamers as a filler, for non gamers as a gateway game; for adults as an appetizer, for children as a main course. With Few Failures, Friedemann Friese’s Fast Flowing Forest Fellers offers Fabulous Floating Fun For Families and Friends. Fantastic!



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The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Quote:
What’s with the single white lumberjack?

Actually, the black male lumberjack was a mis-"print", it should not have been in the box, just a female black lumberjack and a white male lumberjack.
The black male lumberjack is not used.
in Essen last year we got the white lumberjack separate when buying the game at the 2F booth.
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montag 66
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Another great review, Ender!

FFFF is everything I wanted from Snow Tails. It's fast, very interactive (even with 2 players) and exciting. Every game is also close unlike Snow Tails in which we usually seem to have a run away leader.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Snow Tails but my wife hates it. The game is a chore for her. On the other hand, she loves FFFF and asks to play it often which is the sign of a great game in my world.
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Dennis Ku
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Yes! One of my comments makes it into an Ender review. Well done!
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Zé Mário
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I'm not a fan of racing game, but this one is definitely my favourite. The chaos caused by the logs, currents and nasty pushes can be mighty fun.

Way better than Snow Tails, IMO.
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Michel Boucher
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http://www.jsp-mag.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wra...

Friedemann Friese at Concours Boulogne 2009. English language interview (second column, second row, click on icon).
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James Palmer
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Great review!
10 minutes ago I hadn't even heard of this game, and now it's on my wishlist!
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Judit Szepessy
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Excellent review. I like the feature that you can arrange the boards in different ways. I have just ordered this game and so much looking forward to playing it.
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James Palmer
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Felkor wrote:
Great review!
10 minutes ago I hadn't even heard of this game, and now it's on my wishlist!

2 days ago I didn't know about this game and now I own it!

Thanks for the great review! I played a game of it this evening with my Little Brother and we both had a great time!
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Far out!
Fantastic flow of feelings, my fine fellow. I feel I've found a fine fit for my file of fun fulfillments.

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Quote:
Shoving

But now here’s the fun part. When moving your lumberjack, you can shove up to two other figures (including logs) in a straight line. You can’t shove them onto the bank or rocks, but this is a great way to put a wrench into the plans of your opponents, or even to shove one of your own lumberjacks in the right direction! It’s interactive without being too mean, because using time and effort to push your opponent into a current or to create a log jam can also give opportunities to other players to get ahead.

I just wanted to add that on some boards, such as the one under Current, you can position your figures suchthat you can shove your own quite a few spaces. This effectively lets you move across the wider boards *much* faster and keep away from opponent lumberjacks. Either fortunately, or unfortunately, the recommended beginning setup doesn't have such a board.
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This review, by far, is the best review I've ever read. I love the pictures, the explanation, and what you like. This review helped me bump FFFF to the top of my wish list. Thanks
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