Visitor in Blackwood Grove Review

VISITOR IN BLACKWOOD GROVE (Resonym)

There was a loud crash and flash of light back in Blackwood Grove last night. Everyone on the radio is saying that it’s nothing, just that a few roads will be shut down as they clean up a bit of space junk fallen out of orbit. The local TV station mentioned it but hasn’t even sent out a reporter… which seems strange. They sent out a reporter when the bar in town first started laminating their menus two years ago. Something’s not right. Time to take a bike ride out on the old farm trails and find out for yourself.

In Visitor in Blackwood Grove, players take on the roles of the stranded Visitor, the helpful Kid, and the federal Agents vying to claim the Visitor for their own dubious research. To start each game the Visitor flips over 2 and draws 14 cards from the Object deck from which to make their Pass Rule. The Pass Rule determines what Object cards can and can’t make it inside the Visitor’s protective Forcefield for that game. Pass Rules can be based on color, material an Object is made of, size, weight, or almost anything else (with a few exceptions described in the rulebook). Looking at all of these cards, the Visitor attempts to make a Pass Rule that’s hard for the Agents to guess but not impossible for the Kid. After the Pass Rule has been determined, the Visitor classifies the flipped two card as having met the rule or not and then discards half of the 14 other cards to form their starting hand. The race to defend or dissect the Visitor is on!

For the following turns, the Agent and Kid players test Object cards against the Visitor’s Forcefield and Pass Rule. Some tests are done secretly and some are done openly, depending on the level of trust that the Visitor and Kid are able to establish. For every Object card the kid is able to pass through the Visitor’s Forcefield, their trust increases and new rules are introduced that make the game easier for their team. On any given turn instead of testing Object cards the Agent or Kid players may attempt to prove the Pass Rule. Four Object cards are drawn and placed face up, the Visitor uses Guess Tokens to indicate which make it through, the guessing player indicates which they think will and won’t, and if all four are correct, the game is won by the guessing player!

Taking inspiration from classic road trip games like 20 Questions or I’m Thinking of Something, Visitor in Blackwood Grove is a genius marriage of theme and gameplay. The rules are simple enough for anyone to pick up, the game components are wonderfully and smartly done, and with Stranger Things making kids on bikes as cool as dudes on motorcycles, there’s an awful lot to love about this game!

The only issue is the learning curve that comes from the Visitor making up with a rule that’s both hard enough to keep away the Agents and simple enough for the Kid to be able to help. The rulebook give a few examples of good vs bad rules and also provides a deck of suggestive cards (such as, “Things that way more than _” or “Things that are made by humans”) that do help, but your first game or two may vary from hard to easy as you figure out the sweet spot. (Resonym) by David C. Obenour