Why aren't you playing... Bosk?
Bosk is a game of strategy where you and your opponents take turns planting trees in a national park to make the nicest trail paths, then spread your trees' leaves across the park to cover the most ground. I had the opportunity to give it a go, and it's a great deal of fun - here's why you should be playing Bosk!
In Bosk, you'll essentially be building your own nature reserve, and the game's art sells that theme amazingly. The trees that you'll be placing come in these rich hues of red, orange, yellow, and purple. The board you'll be using employs a radical palette that manages to make each patch of land feel both unique and part of a larger puzzle.
Each piece of the game's art has been meticulously painted and detailed, giving the world of Bosk a very gentle, relaxing aesthetic - if you've ever played Firewatch, imagine that, but as a board game. The flat areas of the park feature gentle blending across their open stretches, dotted with soft, tall blades of grass and flowers. The dark blues of the rapids, meanwhile, are interrupted by jutting boulders and miniature drops, culminating in a waterfall that bleeds into the light blues of the calmer, downstream waters.
Once you start adding your trees, everything feels very... alive. As the leaves fall from the branches, the game board really takes on an autumn vibe that lets you slip into the warm embrace of the game world.
It's deeper than it looks
For a game that's so pleasant to look at, Bosk is surprisingly cutthroat! The name of the game is area control. In order to come out on top, you'll need to hold the advantage over as much of the board in summer and winter as possible. To do this, you'll have to be thinking about the end from the start, which is harder than you'd expect.
A game of Bosk has two playing seasons, spring and autumn, and two scoring seasons, summer and winter. You spend the spring planting your trees across the park's trails (the rows and columns of the grid), and your control of each trail affects the score you'll receive in summer. However, once you reach autumn, your decisions in spring affect where you'll be able to place your leaves!
In order to maximise your points in winter, you'll have to think about leaf litter potential in spring. However, points in Bosk are handed out on an attrition-based system, which means you'll also need to find that perfect balance of pathway coverage and leaf-blowing preparation.
Once you actually get to autumn, you'll be met with a new challenge. Spreading across the biomes of the park becomes a series of individual battles in what is essentially a war for control. Points are given out per section, and are awarded to players based on how much of the section they control. The general rule of thumb is you want at least one leaf in each area, but beyond that, there's a lot of decisions to be made. Some sections become hotly contested, and you'll have to stop and make the call on whether it's worth pursuing that further, or just giving up and using your finite resources elsewhere. Is it worth covering your opponents' leaves, knowing full well it'll cost you two leaves to do so? Should you favour denying your opponents' leaf piles, or spreading as far and wide as possible? It's decisions like these that make playing Bosk deep and engaging - much more so than you'd expect from the speed and simplicity of the game.
While the rulebook may say that a game of Bosk, "is played over the course of one year", once you eliminate time spent learning the rules of the game, it'll most likely take you between a half hour and an hour to make your way through the four seasons (depending on how many players you have, of course).
Scoring can take a bit of time to get your head around, but as soon as you know this game's ins and outs, the only thing that'll hold you back from having sub-half hour games is how long it takes you to make your strategic decisions, and how long it takes you to count points!
Each of the game's phases is relatively simple to execute - spring has you placing trees across the pathways, and autumn gets you to spread those trees' leaves all through the park. Again, once you know the ins and outs of the game's systems, you'll be breezing through each of these phases like a champ!