'Shadows in the Forest' Board Game Review: Unique Fun for All Ages

In board gaming, it’s rare to see something you haven’t seen before. The last time that happened to me was in the unclassifiable and amazing Millennium Blades. It’s happened again with Shadows in the Forest, a game that delivers a unique twist in how it plays with light and darkness.

shadows-in-the-forest-board Shadows in the Forest uses light and shadows as game mechanics ThinkFun

The rules for Shadows in the Forest are simple. Every player but one works together to hide little Shadowlings behind cardboard trees, stumps and rocks around the board. The one player not on the Shadowlings team controls a miniature camping lamp, and walks along paths on the board, hoping to expose any Shadowlings. Oh yeah, and you need to play at night because all the lights in your house must be turned off.

That’s right, Shadows in the Forest takes itself a little too literally, with players actually needing darkness to properly play. While this does limit the time you can play Shadows in the Forest, it’s such an interesting concept that I don’t want to knock it any points for trying something different.

Another interesting rule is Shadowling players can choose how many of the creatures to use. The rules state there must be a shadowling for each player, but the team can decide if they want to use up to the six Shadowlings found in the box before the game starts. We found that more Shadowlings means longer and more challenging games.

shadows-in-the-forest-components A look at the Shadows in the Forest board. The Shadowlings are the creatures hiding by the trees ThinkFun

Actual gameplay is fairly simple. The goal for the Shadowlings players is to move all the creatures to one hiding place without being caught in the light of the lantern. This means the Shadowlings can’t cross the beams of light that form between the different rocks and trees. Players will find themselves dancing their little Shadowlings from cover to cover, hoping the player with the lantern doesn’t take an unexpected turn down any path.

The player controlling the lantern must catch as many of the Shadowlings as possible. To move, the player rolls a glow-in-the-dark die and pushes the lantern along the path the corresponding number of steps. If the player sees any glimpse of the Shadowlings, they have been caught. The game ends when all Shadowlings have been captured, or have been safely reunited.

Games typically take 15 to 30 minutes, but can sometimes go a little longer if you’re playing really strategically. This is a great length for younger gamers, and can allow for multiple rounds with many opportunities to be both hiders and seeker.

Shadows in the Forest is fast, easy and fun. You can play with your whole family, or do a simple one-on-one game. The only drawback is Shadows in the Forest is unplayable any time the sun is up, unless you have a dark basement or closet to escape to.

In terms of component quality, Shadows in the Forest is great. The Shadowlings are made of nice plastic and are all different, fun shapes. The lantern is adorable and is very bright, which makes it easy to track where the beams of light go. The one downside is that hiding places aren’t secured to the board, so those with long hair should tie it back so you don’t accidentally bump anything and reveal a hidden Shadowling.

With simple rules and fast rounds, Shadows in the Forest is a great game for all ages. The rules aren’t complex, and the novelty of using actual light and shadows as a game mechanic is really neat. It would be interesting to see this idea iterated on with a more complex game.

Shadows in the Forest is available now at Target and other retailers.

So what do you think? Are you interested in playing Shadows in the Forest for yourself? What other innovative games have you played? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.