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Fog of Love» Forums » Reviews

Subject: All is fair game in love and war – a preview rss

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Jacob Gunness
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The Basics
Fog of Love
2 players
45-90 minutes

The fine print
The preview is based on a prototype – both components and mechanics are still being worked on. The game will be on Kickstarter from February 14th. Yes, that day

The short version
Fog of Love is a 2 player, semi-coop story based game about entering a relationship and trying to make it work. Or not, as the case may be.

Where I'm coming from
Back in November I received my copy of And then, we held hands, an abstract, yet surprisingly thematic game about trying to repair a broken relationship. Fog of Love takes a totally different mechanical approach, but thematically it works as a prequel of sorts to And then… - this is your chance to act out the parts of two people (male and/or female) who have just met. You’ll take your relationship through three stages:
1. The initial “Wow, aren’t you just amazing? That's the most charming snore I've ever heard!” stage
2. The subsequent “You’re still (mostly) amazing but I think we need to talk about a few things” stage
3. The final “Erm, did I ever mention that I’m actually married already? No? Are you sure?” stage

For anyone raised on a strict diet of dungeon crawls, Mediterranean trading and all out space battles, diving into something as… well, grown up as this might seem like a tall order. Personally I find the theme to be a nice change of pace.


(photo (C) Henk Rolleman)
What’s in the box?
Keeping in mind that this is a prototype, subject to change, you get a number of pretty stylish components:
– a board which is rather toned down and very functional
- several deck of cards in heavy cardstock
- a number of wooden tokens
- two person cards, either of which can be set to male of female.

The card font is a wee bit small, and the rule book still needs some adjustment, in particular with regards to outlining a viable game strategy. I’ll get back to that. But the designer told me that he’s working on it. Apart from that it’s easy to read and get a grip on the mechanics.
My only gripe, and it’s a personal one, is that there’s an awful lot of pink and light blue here. I’m not particularly thrilled with either colour, and furthermore, given the opportunity to really play with gender roles it seems a bit, well, trite. That said, it’s certainly functional enough.

So, how does it work?
Setting the game up is a breeze, thanks to the board where everything is clearly indicated. Choose a game scenario, hand out some cards and tokens and you’re pretty much up and running.
First order of the day is to create your character, which is done from a plentiful selection of Traits, Occupations and Features cards – the latter being handed to you by your partner. Opponent. The person on the other side of the table So you’ll wind up with a sensually voiced, down to Earth pilot or a short, badly dressed florist or some other combination. This collaborative creation is a real hoot, and the rules actively encourage you to role play your character as much as possible. More on that in a bit.
All Traits, Occupations and Features award you points on the six Personality scales, which include Sincerity, Discipline and Curiousity. Now, your Traits cards are secret, so your partner doesn’t know that you’re a, say, closet Control Freak, which might require four or more Discipline points at the end of the game to score you points.

With the setup out of the way, now’s your chance to get this whole couple thing started and get to know your short legged journalist partner a little better. Like I said earlier, the actual game takes place over three stages, each with a fixed number of Story cards being played and with increasing important events taking place. The rules refer to the game as “romantic comedy as a board game”, and if you know your rom com repertoire, you should feel right at home. Most Story cards will set up a dilemma of some sort, involving work, parents, children, dates, cancelled dates and later on more juicy stuff which may or may not involve explicit, taped activities with your ex. Whoops!

Each of these cards gives you between two and four possible replies (which you should act out to the best of your ability), going from the blatantly selfish to the fully committal.

Sure you can go with your ex to that high school reunion, honey!
or
I’d rather have you stay home so you can give me a back massage. Or a foot rub. Your pick.

The situations are often pretty funny and will certainly ring a familiar bell for a lot of us. Often you’ll both select a hidden reply and then reveal it simultaneously. There’s a lot of fun to be had with these reveals. Depending on what your reply is, you’ll rake up points on one or more of the six Personality scales, hopefully getting you closer to your Traits goals. And often you’ll score Satisfaction if you’ve both picked the same reply. That makes thematic sense. The game also involves secret cards which you'll play, hoping that they won't be revealed until the game ends.

Sounds fairly simple so far, eh? Well mostly yes, but...


(photo (C) Henk Rolleman)

The snake in Paradise
There just had to be one, right? Nothing’s ever simple in a relationship! For starters, there’s one bit we haven’t covered yet. The Story End cards. The game comes with a number of scenarios of varying lengths, each having its own stage ending events and its own selection of Story End cards. These cards basically specify your winning conditions. You start with a number of these and discard them as the game progresses, winding up with just one at the end. Your aim might be a harmonious relationship where your partner is just as happy as you are. Maybe you’ll want to be dominant. Maybe you’ll want your relationship to break up at the end but still have your (ex) partner remain relatively satisfied.
And this is where the game gets really tricky. You have to keep your own Story End in mind, but you also have to guess at which Story End your partner is going for. Is she trying to break up while I’m attempting to patch things together? It’s an interesting game concept, but in reality – and at least after a few games – I found this part of the game to be less effective. It’s rather difficult to “read” in which direction your partner wants to take things. Hopefully the aforementioned strategy part of the rules book will help out inexperienced players.

A potentially frustrating part of the game experience is getting the role playing and focus on Story End criteria to gel. My wife and I had a lot of fun creating our characters and playing them out via the Story cards (there’s nothing like getting to act like a really selfish jerk for once!), but at times we found our end goals to be at odds with the characters we were trying to act out – mind that your Features are given to you by your partner and may point in a wholly different direction than your Traits. The trick is probably just to go with the flow and have fun with your persona. As the designer writes in the rule book: It’s not really about winning over each other, but about creating an interesting love story. So you might want to approach the game with that mindset.

And while there are enough Traits, Features and Occupations to create a lot of variety, there are currently only 100 Story cards. Is that a hindrance to replayability? Yes and no. Each story will stay the same, but you’ll approach them differently with each character you play, so that might not be much of a problem. At any rate, the designer mentioned that there might be more Story cards as stretch goals.

The bottom line
What's really going on inside the head of that person I've decided to get involved with? That question has had love struck people scratch their heads in bewilderment for eons. Fog of Love, from first time game designer Jacob Jaskov, is certainly an original creation and not really like anything else out there.
There’s a great deal of meta gaming to this, and I think a significant part of your enjoyment of the game will rely on your willingness to experiment and role play your characters. The core mechanics are solid, with the Story End criteria certainly being interesting but taking a bit to wrap your head around. At any rate I only see them as part of a bigger parcel, and if you’re the kind of gamer who has a lot of focus on winning and losing, this might not be the game for you. But I see it work really well for others, maybe even for those of you with a partner who doesn’t get gaming at all.

It takes someone you know really well to fully enjoy the game with, and given the game topic (yes, there are cards about having outdoors sex), there are probably people who are more obvious choices than others when it comes to opponents

While I don’t think the game is perfect, the novel approach to a much underused theme should be enough to warrant your attention. And my wife hasn’t asked for a divorce yet, so my selfish, macho florist might not have been all that convincing after all
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Sam Carroll
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Great review! This gives me a much better idea of how the game feels to play.
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Abdiel Xordium
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Gunness wrote:
There’s a great deal of meta gaming to this, and I think a significant part of your enjoyment of the game will rely on your willingness to experiment and role play your characters.

I think people can and should make board games on just about every subject there is. But this statement, if true, indicates a flaw in the game design.

A good board game is not dependent on role-playing or metagaming. The subject matter ought to be expressed by the players interacting via the mechanisms to achieve the end game goals. A player shouldn't have to role-play because making strategic and tactical decisions should inherently reflect the themes the designer wishes to express on the subject.

Independent of subject matter, themes, and role playing. Is it a good game?
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Jacob Gunness
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I'm not sure that I follow you. Why would the design be flawed?

Take games like Tales of the Arabian Nights or Agents of SMERSH. I'll venture a guess and say that if playing these games and not getting into the spirit of things (role playing a bit, if you will), the experience will fall flat. Does that make their design flawed?

Like I wrote, I think the mechanics are solid, but not really groundbreaking. If you want to look at it strictly objectively, the gameplay is a matter of reading aloud cards and using the options they give you to manipulate six variables. If you wanted it, I guess they could be about a lot of other subjects.
The manipulation of the game goal by discarding of the Story End cards is pretty clever, though like I stated, a bit tricky to get to grips with.
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Abdiel Xordium
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Take a good war game for example. When stripped of its subject matter and reduced to an abstract it's a good game. But the designer has infused the mechanisms with the results of his study about the subject. So in trying to win the game you are thinking about the war from the point of view of the designer. There is no need for players to roll play, to make Patton speeches or affect a German accent, to engage with the designer's themes.

On the other hand you have novelty games like Gother Than Thou, which aren't good games and depend on the novelty value of the subject matter and the willingness of the players to adopt the right mood in order to enjoy playing.

If a game is not designed such that first and foremost it is a good game, and second that it expresses its themes not through role play and being in the right mood, but through mechanisms, player interaction, and end game goals, then it's a flawed design. It's either a good game that poorly expresses its subject matter, or just a bad game and the subject matter is wasted.

Your claim that enjoying the game is dependent on metagaming and role play implies to me that the game is poorly designed with a novelty subject rather than a good game that cleverly explores a rarely gamed subject. Hence my question.


Oh and Tales of the Arabian Nights is so flawed it's a non-game. It's cheaper and much more fun to buy a few copies of your favorite one-act play and invite your friends over for a reading.
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Mr Osterman
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abdiel wrote:


If a game is not designed such that first and foremost it is a good game, and second that it expresses its themes not through role play and being in the right mood, but through mechanisms, player interaction, and end game goals, then it's a flawed design. It's either a good game that poorly expresses its subject matter, or just a bad game and the subject matter is wasted.


I find your measure of a good game a little restrictive.

A good game is one that I have fun playing. A bad game is one that I do not. Mechanics, pieces, parts, types of interactions, moods all vary and at the end of the day it's about "did I have fun"?

I've got games that are GREAT games to play with my wife and kids and HORRIBLE games to play with my friends from the Old Days. No amount of rules or design could make a game one that is universally good/ bad.

It's all in the "Did I have fun" and "Will I do it again?"
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David "Davy" Ashleydale
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abdiel wrote:
Oh and Tales of the Arabian Nights is so flawed it's a non-game. It's cheaper and much more fun to buy a few copies of your favorite one-act play and invite your friends over for a reading.


I was trying to wrap my head around your response, but when I read that you dislike Tales of the Arabian Nights so much, I realized that we probably won't easily come to a consensus about what makes a game good.

It sounds like you see it as a design flaw if a game isn't fun when the theme is stripped away. But a good theme will often make a game fun for me even if the mechanics themselves aren't that great.

Talisman would be an extremely boring game if it were just rolling dice, moving around, gaining/losing stats until someone gets to the last space. But I love the thematic situations that come up. My Ogre Chieftain got thrown in jail for trying to buy a turtle from the black market. The Holy Grail passed hands 5 times in 5 turns, only to get dropped by someone when they were turned evil and then obliterated by a magic spell. I just love the stories that these situations weave in my head. Tales of the Arabian Nights does the same thing for me.

I'm looking forward to giving Fog of Love a play.
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John Carey
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I'm a bit late to the party but great review! I'm looking forward to playing this with the wife!
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Keith D
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Great review I have to check it out next time I am at my LBGS
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