A land once ruled by three powerful siblings is rumored to have 6 gems of power hidden in 12 towers. Thieves talk of it among drinks in the taverns. You are the thief that is brave enough to venture into the forest and attempt to steal the gems.
Todd Sanders has put together another beautiful deck of cards and an intriguing play mechanism to challenge you - as the thief - to win the game. The game has three major card types - 48 encounter cards - 12 castle cards - and the 6 gem cards. The three siblings and your attribute card finish the deck. This makes for a pretty involved deck to PnP, but the cards are fun to look at while you chop the pages up. You will also need cubes of 5 color (Yellow, Green, Red matching the Crests of the Siblings - and Black and White) with 14 cubes of each. A draw bag or mug is the "tower" that you blindly draw cubes from - which are seeded with 4 cubes of each color - with White having 6 to match the gem card count. The last noodley item are three markers that are placed on your attribute card to keep score. The suggestion is 8mm cubes. I have a bunch of plastic beads that I use for all of these cubes.
The directions are succinct and if you read every word carefully - they are fully worked out. My write-up is longer than the directions so read the directions carefully.
Setup is simple: Place the three siblings in a random horizontal line. Above each sibling place 16 encounter cards. Draw three tower cards and place them above the three Encounter piles. At the bottom of your tableau place your attribute card - with three cubes to keep score - for strength, cunning, and luck. Tower and gems are placed on the periphery and drawn from when needed. When one of your attributes is fully depleted - you die. You also die when all of the encounter cards are depleted (you have searched all three realms.) When all 6 gems are found - you win.
Beginning each round you choose a Tower from the three above the siblings - in which you will search for gems. Replenish the chosen Tower card with a new one from the Tower deck. This chosen Tower card is placed to the left of your attributes card. You may read the modifiers of the three and choose the best for you.
The 16 cards above each sibling is the realm of the sibling. Then 4 encounter cards from the leftmost realm are lined up left to right below the siblings and your turn begins. Any cards that have colored cubes on them - place a cube(s) of each color in the Tower draw bag. Some of the Encounter Cards are Location Cards and these get placed to the right of your attribute card. There can only be one location - so only the last location of any of the 4 encounter cards is kept - the others are discarded. Sixteen cards with 4 cards a round makes 4 rounds per realm. Then you move to the next realm - left to right.
Rounds have an Encounter Phase and a Search the Tower Phase. Each card may have a cube that is added to your "Tower" draw bag - cubes are added once the encounter cards are placed. The Encounter Phase involves a choice of Evading or Incapacitating. Evasions can gain tower icons; Incapacitations can gain Scrolls or Key icons. Some cards have no icons, both icons, or just one or the other. What you do to each Encounter card depends on your needs as a thief. The Search Tower Phase finds Gems and gains attributes (or loses them if you draw a black cube.)
In the Encounter Phase you decide to match the Evade Strength of each card from left to right - or Incapacitate by drawing two random cubes. Remember - you need Tower icons to search the Tower in that phase of the turn - so Evading cards with a Tower Icon should be done each round.
When you Evade - you deplete the target attribute by the Evade Strength number (plus modifiers.) The attribute is defined by the Crest located on the card to the right. This adds randomness to the needed attributes each round. (The Rightmost encounter card uses the Crest of the Leftmost encounter card.)
To Incapacitate you draw two random cubes - and remove an attribute based on the color drawn (Strength/Red, Cunning/Green, Luck/Yellow) - White and Black are ignored for the purpose of this draw. If the Encounter card you draw has a Scroll or Key Icon - you take it into your hand - and modifies actions on some of the towers.
In the Search the Tower Phase - you draw the number of cubes matching the number of Tower Icons you Evaded. White finds a Gem! Black depletes an attribute of your choice. Red, Green and Yellow add an attribute - or help empower a gem. There are modifications on the Tower cards that use the Scroll and Key icons (cards you have kept in your hand after an Incapacitation) - these get discarded after use.
In short: Evade is how you gain Tower Icons to search; Incapacitation gains Icons that add possibilities.
I have not mentioned much about Location Cards, Stillness Cards, and Gems. The Location Cards are placed near you attribute cards and add function to the other encounter cards. At the beginning of the round it is placed - only at this time do they may add cubes to the draw bag. They remain until replaced with a new location. These are more location "types" than actual locations. Stillness Cards just go into your hand and add modifications. Gem Cards once acquired also add modifications - and must be read carefully.
The mechanism of The Thief in the Forest Wyr is a bit complicated at first. The directions do a good job of explaining some aspects - ones I somewhat glossed over. What the directions fail to make clear at times are the nuances and overviews that I have tried to expand upon. If you decide to try this game - I hope this review will help.
What I have not mentioned much is that many of the cards have detailed modifications - the siblings have certain modifications to certain cards - or take black cubes, etc. The locations add modifications. The Towers have modifications. In short - you really need to read the cards and start to become familiar with the modifications. I'd say this would take a few run-throughs to get comfortable with. It took me a few turns just to get the hang of the mechanism - Evade, Incapacitate, Search Tower, Gem Powers and Empowering Gems, etc. This game has a lot to pay attention to and this can be hard in a Solo Game where I am the only one to watch over me.
In conclusion, I enjoyed the process of learning the game and playing through the mechanism. After I got the hang of the play and realized I needed to read each card carefully and remember when and what to do I started to get a feel for the theme as well. I do feel the theme and mechanic blend pretty well. In fact, I suggest that the fun of the game is trying to keep the RPG feel in your head while you play. Try to pronounce the names. Remember them and take their powers personally. This can be a nicely engrossing game.