Morels Review

By Chris / December 2, 2018
mossbark games - feature

Forage your way through the forest and cook the rarest mushrooms to win Morels!

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Platforms

Android & iOS

Game Length

5 Minutes

# of Players

1-2

Game Publisher

Two Lanterns Games

App Developer

@mossbark

Our Rating

Multiplayer Options

  • Asynchronous Games
  • Cross-Platform
  • Random Matchmaking
  • check
    Local Pass-and-Play

Overview

Morels is a two-player, set collection, card game hitting mobile devices from Mossbark Games. Players in Morels attempt to collect and cook sets of matching mushrooms in order to gain points. Cards are revealed in a sliding purchase row, with the game ending when the last card leaves the board, a game usually takes about five minutes.

Morels is played like many set collection games with a common row of cards available for purchase in the middle. Cards enter on the left and have a higher cost of purchase. After each turn the cards slide to the right and become cheaper to acquire. There is a decay pile at the far right of the board which collects cards that have run off the board without being grabbed, the decay pile gets moved to the trash when a fifth card needs to be added.

A turn in Morels has players taking one of a few actions; acquire a card from the purchase row, sell a set of cards, cook a set of cards, grab the entirety of the decay pile, or play a frying pan from your hand. That’s all there is to it, a player takes their action and their turn is over. The game plays out until the last card leaves the purchase row.

The fun is, of course, in the details. The ultimate goal is to cook mushrooms for points. Each set of mushrooms is worth a certain number of points per each one cooked, and you must have at least three of a single type of mushroom to cook it. Mushrooms can only be cooked in frying pans, so you must have one available in your hand or an empty one in your play area to cook a set. There are also modifiers, butter and apple cider, which provide bonuses if you add them to the frying pan when cooking a set of mushrooms, but there are certain quantity limits you must reach in order to be able to add these. You must have at least four mushrooms in your set to use butter, for example.

Should you not want to, or are unable to, cook mushrooms, you might want to sell some in exchange for foraging sticks. Foraging sticks are the payment for the card costs on the purchase row. The most recent card to enter, on the far left of the board, costs six foraging sticks to acquire, for example. You must have at least two of the same mushroom to be able to sell. There is also a strict hand limit, which starts at eight in the default rules but can be expanded if you acquire a basket card. There is one card, the ominous Destroying Angel, which will temporarily reduce your hand size if you acquire it.

The last real rule wrinkle to Morels are the moon cards. All of the cards mentioned thus far come from the day deck, which makes up the majority of the game (about 90% of the cards), but there is also a separate night deck. Whenever you acquire a moon card, it gets discarded and you grab the next card from the face-down night deck. The night deck cards are powerful, they are alternate versions of mushroom cards which provide a quantity of two mushrooms per one card. Each mushroom type except the aforementioned destroying angel and the most valuable mushroom in the game (Morels) have a night deck version.

All of this adds up to quite a bit to consider while playing Morels. It’s far from a heavy game, but there is a decent amount to consider while playing. Some mushrooms aren’t worth many points when cooked but are quite valuable when selling. There are only three morels cards so you must acquire all three in order to sell them for huge points, do you risk using up a spot in your limited hand hoping to grab the others? Or do you let them slide into the decay or opponent’s hand?

Morels is a good, not great, game in my opinion. There are some holes I began to see after only a few plays. The destroying angel cards are essentially only there to prevent you from taking a decay pile that contain them. The only case where that would happen is if there was a card you absolutely had to have in the decay, but any card that hits the decay is one you had a chance to grab earlier, and the decay doesn’t sit around long enough for your needs to drastically change so that a card you let pass two turns ago might suddenly become a necessity. Also, the night deck being universally positive seems a bit unfair. As you play against the tougher AI you will notice they go hard after moon cards, this is a big hint that they are overpowered. Perhaps a random negative card in the night deck might make players think twice?

The positives of Morels are that it provides a lot of set collecting fun in a short, tight game. If you are a fan of games along the lines up Jaipur, Splendor, Century: Spice Road, etc… you will find a lot to like in Morels. It has more moving parts than some of those others between the selling vs cooking, night deck, and point modifiers. Plus, the mushroom theme is quite a bit more interesting than trading goods/gems/spices.

Barrier to Entry

Morels contains a tutorial which you will be prompted to play the first time you choose “Local Play.” You can also play through the tutorial again later if you choose. The tutorial is simple and clear, it walks you through each of the actions in the game clearly and concisely. The game also contains a very short rulebook which is great for using as a reference. Morels is a set collection game, and if you’ve played anything along similar lines, it will be simple to pick up Morels using the strong tutorial and rulebook provided.

morels - card

Tree Ear!

morels - menu

Main menu

morels - game late

Late in the game

Look and Feel 

The controls in Morels are as well done as you could hope. Cards are moved around using drag-and-drop and I haven’t noticed any issues with drop areas being too small or anything along those lines. When you select a mushroom card from your hand, the game automatically selects all of the matching card types, this is a handy convenience as when you act on a mushroom card, you will almost always want to act on all of them at once. It’s the tiny attention to detail like this that can really pay off in a game.

The visuals are totally functional. The cards and other game art looks great, double tap a card to get a closer look and the art really shines. The iconography on the cards, which defines the point benefit for cooking and the foraging stick sale price, is visible without zooming which is great, there is no practical need to zoom in most cases, and especially after you have learned the game. The only tiny nitpick here is that some of the menu and text visuals look a bit unrefined. This is no way affects the game, but these portions do lack some of the visual polish we see in other apps.

Multiplayer

Morels features cross-platform, asynchronous games with a 24 hour timeout per turn. Games are created by hitting the “Find Match” button. You might be matched instantly if there is somebody else in the queue, or you might get matched later once a match is available. Either way, the “hit the button then forget about it” method of matchmaking is always preferred, so well done here. Randomly matched games will always use the base rules, not any of the variants. There is a friend system that is based on IDs, not the most elegant way of doing things, but it is functional. Invite-based games can use any of the custom variants described in the next section. Once started, online games work as well as you would hope. System notifications work, you can start multiple games, etc… The game tracks your overall win/loss/tie record for online play.

The only complaint here is that there isn’t an option to play a real-time game. If we have to choose between async and real-time, we will always prefer an app has async, but having the option to play real-time is always nice. Overall, it’s very impressive that Mossbark produced such a well made online system with their first game.

Single Player

Single player games can be played against one of three AI levels: Easy, Medium, and Hard. One silly, but fun, feature of the app is the ability to name the AI opponents you play against. Always wanted to take down your old foraging rival Gareth? Go ahead and put his name in and set it to easy! The game tracks your win streaks against Medium and Hard. When starting a game you can select from six variants or just use the regular rules. The variants were designed by game designer Brent Povis and all add some unique twist on the base game. A complete list of the variants:

  • No Moons: No moon cards in the deck
  • Tournament: No night versions of mushrooms valued 3 or higher, but 5 of each of them in the day deck (excluding morels)
  • Tournament, No Baskets:  Tournament rules, but without baskets
  • No Baskets: No baskets, but 12 hand limit from the start
  • Morel Frenzy: 9 morel cards in the day deck
  • No Moons, No Baskets

The AI is quite well made. The game designer mentioned how impressed he was with the hard AI in our interview, and I can confirm; it puts up a tough fight. It took me quite a few tries, and copying their tactics, to defeat Medium AI. (Hint: Get the moons)

The game has 36 achievements to collect, ranging from simple (complete the tutorial) to very tough as specific (use 2x butter and/or cider in one cook and win). Achievements are always nice to see to give players something to chase. There are no stats kept in the game outside of the win streaks, it would have been nice to see a total of games played, wins/losses, mushrooms cooked, etc...

morels - setup

Setting up a game

morels - rules

Checking out the rulebook

morels - victory

Victory!

What Else?

The physical game has an expansion, Foray, which introduces three and four player variants to the game, among other changes. It seems unlikely that an expansion of that scope, which changes the entirety of the game, would make its way to the app, but we have no confirmation on that assumption.

The Wrap Up

Morels is a fun set collection game and represents a great first entry into the digital board game world from developer Mossbark Games. The app is well made with many of the features we hope to see in every app. A slight, occasional lack of visual polish and lack of detailed stat keeping are really the only nits to pick.

The game is fun if you want a different twist on set collection, and the app is well made with easy to use online games and challenging AI opponents. It is a bit no-frills, but plays really well and lets you enjoy the game.

Morels is a fun set collection game that has been given a great digital implementation

What we like


- Tough AI opponents

- Easy to use, effective online matching

What we don't like



- Would like to see more detailed stat keeping


- Option to play real-time online games would be nice


Our Rating

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