Well The Maiden In The Forest is an odd one, for sure. It’s definitely not an amazing game, so I would only recommend the print-and-play edition if you were intrigued enough to give it a go. I’ve played several more games, though, and it’s grown on me slightly.
The first point is that it’s very, very difficult to lose at this game (I’ve never lost, and really don’t feel like that’s any kind of boast.) It’s possible to lose – not least because the luck of the draw can cause you to burn turns without making progress – but you have so much time to get through the necessary actions that it’s fairly improbable that luck will be your downfall. The more likely way to lose is through poor planning, as you could put yourself into a position where it’s actually impossible to flip all of the cards (so part of the game is ensuring that you don’t do that); however once you’ve observed that you might do that, it’s not difficult to avoid doing.
It does engage your mind, though; at least somewhat. So the interesting question is this: So long as a puzzle makes you think, does it matter that success is almost guaranteed? Does there need to be a chance of losing to make the game worthwhile? I think this is actually ok. It’s a bit like an easy sudoku puzzle – the chances of you making an error may be very slight, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable to solve.
The second weird thing ties into the fact that you can paint yourself into a corner, because I noticed that there’s a simply strategy which is guaranteed to avoid that at the cost of being slower – yet still extremely likely to succeed within the available time. I did it once, and won after 9 turns (out of 12). It was an exceptionally boring game.
More interesting is doing what I tried initially – figuring out how you can flip as many cards as possible in the first few turns, and creating some additional chaos along the way so that you still have things to puzzle out in subsequent turns. When playing this way the first 2-3 turns might be slower (i.e. relatively fun); but as the number of remaining cards dwindles, the luck factor becomes more prevalent, and the game devolves into waiting to draw the right cards (or not draw the wrong ones) in order to execute the remaining few simple moves.
The final negative is that the game is slightly fiddly to set up and play, with the circular arrangement and different kinds of card flipping (but it’s not too bad).
I really expected to have abandoned this game already, but I’m not sure any more. It’s more “a thing to do” than a great game, and yet still I feel vaguely inspired to do it some more.