Redwood, a recent board game published by Sit Down! Games, puts the photographic power in the players’ hands as they attempt to line up a perfect set of five amazing wildlife shots. You’ll traipse across several biomes in search of a panorama worthy of any fireplace mantle.
Designed by Christophe Raimbault, the Redwood board game tests your spatial geometric skills as you guesstimate and estimate which movement templates will get you into the sweet spots to photograph the wildlife. You’ll also need to choose the right lens that for the job, hoping that you will be able to capture the most scenery.
So let’s take a look at this game through a critical lens as we check out Redwood!
The Redwood board game is dependent on the players’ ability to spatial reason in order to score the most points with their photographs. On your turn, you will eye up all of the templates and pick one of the Move templates and one of the Shot templates. Remember – once you touch one of them, that’s the one you have to use!
Your goal is to choose a Move template that will get your miniature photographer in position for the shot. Each of them is a slightly different size and angle from the others. You’ll clip that onto your miniature’s base, and then you can swivel it around to see all of the various spots you can end up this turn.
Then you take your Shot template and hope that your choices served you well. You want to fill up your photo frame with the assorted flora and fauna, possibly even getting a perfect shot if one of the animals is lined up with the template’s hole. If you manage to snag a pic of one of the major wildlife, they will bond over rock and stream to their other favored biome.
After five rounds the game is over, and the scores are tallied. You earn points for photographing sequoias, animals, flowers, and having a sun token. Whoever has the most pinecones wins the game!
Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Redwood!
Obviously the whole game design with the templates is super interesting and unique, which is why the Redwood board game initially stood out to me at Gen Con. The miniatures come with little neoprene stickers for the bottoms which really helps in a game where every millimeter matters. It helps them slip less and you can actually kind of push down on them to keep them even steadier as you line up your shot.
I did hear some reports of some component failures on the first printing of the game, where the notch that holds the animals in place on the board would break off or get stuck inside. My copy has a balsa bottom, so I’m not sure which printing that falls into, but I haven’t had any issues after several games. I would just be careful in that you don’t push them in too far.
Personally, I think that the rulebook layout is a tad on the busy-side with its use of many side-by-side columns which makes it a bit more difficult to parse through if you’re searching for something in particular.
Overall, everything in Redwood is exceptionally produced, including the plastic templates for the Move and Shot actions. The miniatures are excellent and building your photographs is very satisfying.
The number one important rule in the Redwood board game is that you have to completely cover the subjects of your photos. It’s bolded several times in the rules, but I still didn’t have that click with me on the first game. That’s what makes photographing the 3-point animals (like the bear) so difficult, because prioritizing that is going to impede your ability to fill the frame with other subjects.
You also can’t use the same set of templates that you used last time, if they’re still in front of you. I found that the smaller Move templates, such as the one that is U-shaped, seemed to be in higher demand. If you can stick around the middle section of the board, you have a lot more versatility into your subjects, but you can also miss out on those animals that are closer to the outside edge.
It’s actually quite hard to anticipate what animals might move between your current and next turns. Generally, the higher point animals are going to be in more demand, but it also makes sense to pay attention to the current round objectives to see what people might be going to focus on. At the end of the day, it’s up to your intuition to put together a solid string of photographs.
Redwood‘s box art made my jaw drop; it’s absolutely superb. The entire thing, coupled with the production quality, is very well put together in the sense that I feel the message being conveyed of nature’s beauty. There really doesn’t need to be much incorporation of iconography on the board, since the mechanics generally revolve around the templates. This opens up the board to be much more free of clutter, letting the art shine through.
At the same time, the division of the biomes and the placement of the objectives is very intuitive and works really well on the table. There is a certain thoughtfulness in the presentation that lets you know exactly what you’ll be doing in the game, and I’m appreciative of that.
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of other games that Redwood reminds me of, and nothing is coming to mind. It really feels like its own animal, no pun intended, and that makes it a standout on the table and on the shelf. If you’re a photography buff or a nature-lover, those two themes are coupled together nicely in this game. And, because of the simplicity of the mechanics, Redwood is exceptionally approachable by all ages, although I’d have a little bit more leniency with younger ages, like suggesting that the animals don’t have to be completely covered.
Other than that, I suppose if you’ve played other games with movement templates like X-Wing or the like, you might like this as well! I’m really stretching with that one, but like I said, it’s a very unique game that marries the theme and mechanics together really well.
The Redwood board game is one of those games where you’re really hoping for player interaction and that they use your templates. After all, that helps to open up your options when it comes back around to your turn! You’ll feel a bit of agony if the animal you were planning on photographing suddenly moves, but in a way, the fluid state of the board makes you feel like every turn is a little puzzle for you to solve.
Now, because of this, some players will succumb to analysis paralysis when choosing their templates. I get it – it’s a big decision. However, there is something to be said about keeping a bit of an internal timer going to just make a decision. You’re only choosing the templates, but you can spin those around all you want; it’s not like you’re locked into your original idea if suddenly your template offers you a fresh perspective when you finally lay it down.
Redwood: Panoramic Perfection!
When I attend conventions, I’m always looking for that diamond in the rough, and I think I found it in Redwood. I really haven’t heard buzz about it at all, and it really might be my favorite game of 2023.
It should be no surprise that based on this I’m happy to award Redwood with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness Award! Add that to the trophy case! I love gambling on a sweet shot, crossing my fingers that I chose the best templates to capture those critters in the frame perfectly.
You can pick up a copy of Redwood from your FLGS, or you can pick up a copy from Sit Down! directly.
[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Redwood from Flat River Group Games in exchange for an honest review.]