Introducing Fantastiqa Rival Realms
First there was Fantastiqa (Enchanted Edition). This is Alf Seegert's excellent deck-building game that takes us down the rabbit hole and into a whole new world of whimsy and imagination. There's so much to like about this game, and the high quality components of the original Enchanted edition are just the start. There's a delightful whimsical story-telling fantasy theme, a rich literary background, and the clever integration of a functional board with the deck-building mechanism, to create a game full of adventure and story, and with both tactical and strategic game-play. Can you tell that I just love this family friendly game full of quests, peaceful dragons, and fun? (For more praise and information, see my detailed review of the Enchanted edition here).
Then there was Fantastiqa (Rucksack Edition). This took everything that was good about the original game, and cut some corners with the production in order to produce a quality edition that is much more affordable. Despite this, it still contained the content that made this game win my heart in the first place, and making this game available to gamers at a more accessible price point was a welcome move from the publisher. Retaining beauty while reducing cost? Bravo! There's also been a legion of fantastic expansions for devoted fans that have been added to the Fantastiqa stable as well. (For more praise and information, see my detailed review of the Rucksack edition here).
And now there is Fantastiqa Rival Realms. Rival Realms is the newest kid on the Fantastiqa block, and is a stand-alone and completely independent game, that was created out of the desire to produce a travel style version of Fantastiqa. Like the larger big brother board game, Fantastiqa Rival Realms welcomes us to the same lands of whimsical imagination and adventure. But this is a small box game that is part of The E•G•G Series from publisher Eagle-Gryphon Games, a series which consists of portable and relatively quick-playing games that are accessible and are marketed at a relatively low price-point, making them ideal for light and social gaming. It's the most recent member of the EGG family, coming in at #14 in the series, and is just hitting retail right now.
Although Fantastiqa Rival Realms has many connections with Fantastiqa in terms of theme, artwork, and even artwork, it is also a game that plays very differently, and should be considered an independent game. It is geared specifically for two players, although a good solo variant is also included. So let's find out more about this brand new title from Alf Seegert!
The game box is a very small box that matches the size and shape of all the other EGG series titles. It's all about efficient use of space, and convenience for storage and portability.
The cover artwork will immediately look familiar to anyone who has played Fantastiqa, being an image that combines artwork from two key paintings and characters featured in the original game.
The back of the box showcases some of the components, has a list of everything inside the box, along with other information about the game, including the following description:
"You and your opponent are rival magicians who are transported to the mystical world of Fantastiqa. With only a shared pack of magical cards, you will compete to summon landscapes, explore diverse regions, recruit fabled beasts, and embark on fantastiqal quests!"
Here's everything you'll get inside the box:
● 3 Standees (2 Adventurers, 1 Raven)
● 50 Region cards
● 12 Event cards
● 8 Enchantment cards
● 6 Quest cards
● 24 Mountain/Valley cards
● 24 Adventure tokens
● 1 Start player token
● 2 Reference cards
● 1 Rulebook
In addition, my copy of the game came with two other bonuses included:
1. Far Frontiers expansion: This is an expansion for Fantastiqa Rival Realms, and adds a number of other components and concepts to the game. I'll save showing and explaining that until I've covered the base game first.
2. Bonus cards for Fantastiqa: There are four "Rift of the Rival Realms" artifact cards which aren't used for this game, but can be added to your copy of Fantastiqa if you have one.
These additions are not normally included with the base game. The publisher still has a very limited number of copies of the base game that come with the Far Frontiers expansion prepackaged with it, but normally this is available just as a separate expansion.
Each player gets their own Adventurer standee, which is made out of cardboard featuring artwork matching the two main characters familiar from the original Fantastiqa, plus a plastic stand. You'll be moving this around your Realm as the game progresses.
These 50 poker-sized cards are numbered from 1 to 50, each card indicating one of five possible types of Regions: Highlands, Wetlands, Forests, Hills, and Fields. In total, there are ten cards for each Region type. As the game progresses, you will summon these Regions into play, adding them to your Realm, and creating a new land of Fantastiqa.
Each card also has a whimsical action on it, e.g. "Dance Deliriously with a Medley of Mead-Muddled Honey-Bears!" (#3), "Hum the Hermetic Hermit-Chants of the Happy Hill Hippogriffs!" (#44), and "Flood the Fields by Opening the Wellspring of the Wild Water-Weasel!" (#50).
Humorous and cleverly worded sentences like this are typical from Alf Seegert, and it's one of the things I loved about the original Fantastiqa as well!
These 6 cards indicate Quests that can be completed to earn points, ranging from four points to seven points.
These 12 cards all feature a game event which will have an immediate impact on the game when revealed.
There are 8 Enchantment cards, with four each of two types: Setup Enchantments and Gameplay Enchantments. These have a permanent impact on the game, and are effectively like miniature game variants, that change how the game works in one way or another.
These 24 cards are smaller in size, and picture a Mountain on one side, and a Valley on the other. Mountains indicate impassable terrain, whereas you will be able to travel between Regions that have a Valley between them.
There are 24 Adventure tokens, made of circular cardboard, and each player will get an identical set of 12 as follows:
● 6x Creatures (Rabbits, Water Nymphs, Troll, Bear, Billy Goat, Dragon)
● 3x Artifacts (Double Espresso, Flying Carpet, Magic Mirror)
● 3x Gems
When acquired, these will all give you special benefits and abilities while travelling throughout your Realm. Each player's set has a different coloured back, which is convenient to keep them apart.
There is also a Raven standee, which players can access by paying gems, in order to get special benefits.
Start player token
This round cardboard token will help keep track of who is the start player, to ensure an equal number of turns.
Two double-sided Reference cards are included, which contain a handy summary of the actions available on a turn, points for endgame scoring, and an overview of the different Adventure tokens.
The rulebook is a small 20 page booklet, a draft of which is available from the publisher here.
There's a fair amount of relatively small print, but besides the list of components, set-up, and game-play examples, the actual rules for how to play the game only consist of 8 pages. I like the fact that there are some helpful illustrations that show how game-play works, including a detailed example of a player's turn. Also included are rules for a solitaire variant.
The rulebook explains the concept of the game as follows:
"A curious card trick has gone very, very wrong, and two magicians find themselves lost in a billowing sea of fog. When it dissolves, they gaze upon the immense emptiness of Fantastiqa, the legendary land of fabled beasts and fantastiqal quests - just before it is summoned into being!
With nothing but a shared deck of magical cards, you and your opponent will create the world around you, explore diverse regions, recruit mythical beasts, and gather remarkable artifacts! The Magician who scores the most points by summoning regions and completing quests is declared the winner."
So basically you and your opponents are the magicians who summon the world of Fantastiqa into being, earning points by creating Rival Realms. You each play cards from your hands to create Regions and to go adventuring in your separate Rival Realms. By collecting Adventure Tokens, you gain the assistance of Creatures and Artifacts which allow you to perform special actions that help you explore further. Points are earned by creating and exploring Regions, connecting Regions of the same type, and completing Quests.
Each player gets an Adventurer standee, 12 Adventure tokens, and 12 Mountain/Valley cards. One player gets the Starting Player token, and the other gets the Raven standee.
The illustration below will assist in showing how the game should look at set-up, but here's how to get there.
Starting player: The starting player begins set-up of his Realm first, and the other player will create a mirror image of this as we'll see in a moment. The starting player creates his Realm as follows:
● Mountain/Valley cards: These are laid out in two rows of six Mountains (there needs to be enough room between the rows for placing Region cards), and then any three in each row are flipped over to the Valley side.
● Adventure tokens: Each row in the sub-realms above/below the four central Mountain/Valley cards gets a random Artifact, Gem, and two Creatures, placed in random order.
Opponent: Now the opponent creates a mirror image Realm, that corresponds to that of the Starting player.
The opponent places the Raven on any Mountain card of his choice. Then both players (start player first) place their Adventurer on any space of their choice in their Realm; if applicable taking the Adventure token in this space and putting it face-up in front of them.
The six Quest cards are placed face-up in ascending order on one side of the two Realms, and the shuffled Region deck face-down on the other side. Each player is dealt a starting hand of five Region cards, and you're now ready to play!
On your turn, you first perform an action (either Summon a Region or Go Adventuring), playing as many Adventure tokens as desired in the process. Then you end your turn by refilling your hand back to five cards.
The two Actions you can choose from on your turn are the following:
● Summon a Region
To Summon a Region, you take a Region card from your hand and place it face-up in your realm.
There's one important restriction for placement, however. There are three rows called sub-realms (Upper, Middle, Lower) where you will place your Region cards, and the Region cards within each sub-realm must increase in ascending order. The illustration below shows legal placement for a 23 card.
If placed in a space where your Adventurer currently is, you immediately "Explore" that Region by rotating the Region Card 90 degrees. Gems and Artifacts, but not Creatures, can be used as part of Summoning a Region action.
● Go Adventuring
To Go Adventuring, you discard Region Cards and/or Creature tokens to move your Adventurer through accessible Unexplored Regions, which you then Explore by rotating them 90 degrees and collecting any Adventure tokens there. Here's how that works:
- How to travel: You can access and move into a Region if (a) it is horizontally adjacent; or (b) it is vertically adjacent and connected by a Valley; or (c) it is connected by an already Explored Region. While you can't move into empty spaces, or reverse direction on the same turn, you can certainly move across as many accessible Explored Regions as you like, and even cross, overlap, and loop around your prior path. Explored Regions are the ones that are rotated 90 degrees, and you can travel freely across any number of these.
- How to Explore: To access and Explore an Unexplored Region, you must discard a Region Card from your hand which matches the Region type you are Exploring (e.g. Highlands, or Forest, etc), or a Creature token from your supply which matches that Region type. Region cards discarded in this way go face-up into your opponent's Raven's Nest, while Creature tokens are placed to the side. You rotate the Region 90 degrees to indicate it is now Explored, and then continue your turn.
Sometimes, with clever play, you can do a whole series of moves on a single turn, like this example pictured below, which is explained in detail in the rulebook.
The Adventure tokens that are used when Summoning a Region or Going Adventuring can be used as follows:
● Creatures: When Adventuring, you can discard these to Explore a Region you are moving into, if they match the Region type.
● Gems: These allow you to get help from the Raven, which you can either place on a Mountain to create free passage there, or place besides the Region deck to steal 2 cards from it or from either player's Raven's Nest.
● Artifacts: The three artifacts give you special abilities as follows:
- the Double Espresso allows you to take an extra turn.
- the Flying Carpet allows you to move to any Region Card and immediately Explore it.
- the Magic Mirror allows you to switch any two of your Region cards, Adventure tokens, or Mountain/Valley cards in play (there are some restrictions and qualifications about using the Magic Mirror detailed further in the rules).
At the end of your turn, you check for Quests and Redraw your hand up to five cards.
You can claim any Quests that you may have completed on your turn. The Quest card is placed face-up in front of you and can't be claimed by another player later in the game. Some Quest examples:
Lower Realm: "Fill the Lower Realm with Region Cards!" (4 points)
Wanderer: "Explore all five different Regions!" (5 points)
Tea Time: "Gather all Six Creatures for Tea with the Peaceful Dragon!" (6 points)
You then redraw to a full hand size of five cards. You can take cards either from the face-down Region Deck, or select any cards from your own face-up Raven's Nest (into which your opponent will be discarding Region cards while Exploring).
Enchantments and Events
These are optional additions to the game, and aren't recommended for use the first time you play. They add extra variety and also some more unpredictability to the game.
Select one Enchantment (selected randomly or by mutual agreement), and this is placed face-up besides the Region Deck, and the rules on this Enchantment card are in effect for the entire game. Some examples:
Blinding Fog: "When setting up the game, keep all Adventure Tokens face down in your Realm. Only reveal an Adventure Token when your Adventurer actually claims it. Mirror Mountain/Valley cards as usual." (Setup Enchantment)
Realm of Wrapping: "The Middle Realm wraps around so that the far-left and far-right spaces are considered connected for the purposes of Adventuring and Final Scoring." (Gameplay Enchantment)
Enchanted Rucksack: "Each player's hand size is increased by one for the entire game." (Gameplay Enchantment)
After players have their starting hands at setup, shuffle five Event Cards (selected randomly or by mutual agreement) and shuffle them into the Region Deck. An Event is to be resolved as soon as a player draws it, and it affects both players, starting with the active player. After the Event is resolved, it is removed from play, and the active player draws a replacement card. Some examples:
Melting Mountains: "Each player flips any Mountain card to its Valley side."
Perilous Portals: "Each player moves an Adventurer to any unexplored Region Card in that same Realm and immediately Explores it."
Raven's Nest: "Each player draws the top two cards from the Region Deck and places them face-up in their own Raven's Nest."
Game end trigger
The game end is triggered at the end of a turn in which:
● a player has placed a Region card in their final (18th) available space;
● or the Region deck is exhausted;
● or both players have passed.
Both players should receive equal turns, with the non-starting player getting a final turn if the game end was triggered by the starting player.
Scoring awards the game to the player with the most points, which are calculated for each player as follows:
● -1 point: for each space without a Region card
● 1 point: for each Explored Region and each unused Gem
● 2 points: for each matching/horizontally adjacent pair of Region cards in a sub-realm
● 3 points: for each matching/vertically adjacent pair of Region cards connected by a Valley
● Various: for completed Quests, as indicated on those cards
The Mischievous Raven: A Solo Summons Tale
I have always loved playing Fantastiqa, and really wish that it had a good solitaire variant, because adventure-style games of this type really lend themselves well to solo gameplay as well as multiplayer games. A few gamers have tried coming up with one, the best of them being Uriel's Robe, and while I did have a great deal of fun with that (see my posts in that thread), no solitaire variant has proved entirely satisfactory so far.
So I'm very pleased that Fantastiqa Rival Realms includes detailed rules for a good solitaire variant, entitled The Mischievous Raven: A Solo Summons Tale. This was devised by Brandon Scott of Eagle-Gryphon Games. Brandon was also very heavily involved with the development of Rival Realms, and clearly enjoys the game a lot and knows it inside out, so he was well-placed to come up with this.
How It Works
The game works similar to the main Rival Realms game, except that you are trying to beat the Mischievous Raven (who steals magical cards from your deck every time you resupply), and manage to finish your realm on time. There are a few minor rule adjustments to the setup, including ways of adjusting the level of difficulty. Obviously you only set up your own Realm, since there is no opponent. There are a few more adjustments to the main rules (including the elimination of Event cards), but the overall flow of play isn't significantly changed.
If you want to see the full rules for this solitaire variant, you can see the draft made available from the publisher here.
FAR FRONTIERS EXPANSION
In addition to the Fantastiqa Rival Realms base game, there's also a small expansion: Fantastiqa Rival Realms: Far Frontiers Expansion.
In my copy of the game, the Far Frontiers expansion was pre-packaged along with the base game, although it is actually a separate expansion. This adds an extra dimension of game-play for people looking to add something further to the game.
The Far Frontiers expansion includes the following:
● 14 Relic tokens
● 2 Quest cards
● 2 Enchantment cards
● 2 Reference cards
● 1 Instruction sheet
Set-up: Game-play with the addition of this expansion follows the standard rules of Fantastiqa Rival Realms, with the two new Enchantment cards mixed in with the Enchantment deck, and the two new Quest cards placed besides the other Quests. Each player mixes their seven Far Frontier Relics face-down, and places a random relic face-down on each of the four corner spaces, returning the rest to the game box unseen.
Game-Play: Whenever you have Explored a corner Region, you can claim the corresponding Relic - keeping it secret. Then on a future turn, before or after your regular turn action, you can perform the action of this Relic, then removing it from the game.
Relics: Examples of the Far Frontier Relic actions include the following:
Raven of Recollection: "Reclaim one of your used Adventure Tokens. You may use it immediately."
Steam Sherpa: "Treat all Mountains as Valleys this turn." (very useful if you Go Adventuring!)
Talisman of Transportation: "Move a Region Card in your Realm to a new location in your own Realm. The new location must be a legal placement."
Rules: If you want to see the full rules, you can see the draft made available from the publisher here.
What do I think?
Whimsical setting: I love the whimsical setting of all the Fantastiqa games, and this is no exception. Alf has added lots of very fun flavour text, and he recommends reading this whenever Going Adventuring and Exploring a Region. The game definitely has the feel of being a fantastic adventure, and it's a big part of the appeal.
Spatial element: The game-play of Rival Realms has a very spatial element, as you move your adventurer between different regions. This makes it feel immediately different from a typical card game, and gives a sense that you are moving around on a board.
Tactical: The spatial element of the game-play also produces highly tactical game-play. You really need to think about and plan your movement when you Go Adventuring, to try to maximize what you can get out of a turn. Some may find this a little brain-burning, but it would be a pity to make the game bog down for this reason, since it is intended to be a casual and fun experience. But this does mean that there are real decisions to make, in terms of how best to move your Adventurer, and even to set yourself up for a big turn.
Strategic: This is not a game that you can play on auto-pilot, driven by the cards you draw. There's real planning needed, and you have to think about when to Go Adventuring, and how best to do that. The designer of the game has started a thread with tips for playing the game, and for sharing strategies, which you'll find here: Rival Realms Strategies
Musee-inspired: If you've played Alf Seegert's game Musée (which I also recommend as a fun casual game that scratches the Lost Cities itch - see my review here), you will immediately find the set-up of the landscape of Fantastiqa Rival Realms familiar, including the rules about adjacency, plus the Mountains and Valleys. Alf has stated that Musee was a partial inspiration for Fantastiqa Rival Realms (link), but by adding a travelling mechanic, it has become a totally different game.
Fantastiqa-inspired: The big and obvious inspiration for Rival Realms is of course Fantastiqa. Does this feel like a travel version of the original game? I suppose in some ways it does, especially in the fact that you are moving an Adventurer between regions, trying to optimize your travels in the quest for points. The shared artwork and Alf's whimsical wording of quests and regions also does a lot to make the link seem obvious. People who like the world of Fantastiqa will probably find a lot to like here as well. And yet it does feel like a very different game, with very different mechanics - for one thing there is no deck-building. So this is by no means a "Fantastiqa Express", but is an independent game set in the same world.
Two players: I'm a big fan of games that work well with two players, since there are a lot of games I enjoy playing with my wife, Fantastiqa being one of them. So I'm pleased that this title caters to that nicely!
Solitaire: The theme and feel of the original Fantastiqa lent itself perfectly to solitaire play - it's just a pity that the perfect solo variant hasn't been discovered yet. But that's not the case with Fantastiqa Rival Realms, because it comes with well thought out solitaire rules in the box. Especially given the tactical nature of game-play, where it can be fun to puzzle out the optimal logistics of a turn, this is a real plus!
Accessibility: The rules can seem a bit intimidating at first, and this isn't the kind of game that you can unbox and be playing in five minutes flat. It's not a complex or difficult game as such, but there are some unique mechanics, and also a number of elements that some would consider "chrome", like the adventure tokens, enchantments, and events. Hopefully we'll see someone put out a video with a quick play-through or run-down of the rules, because it seems to me that with this game it will be easier to learn when you see how it works, rather than just reading the rule-book. I expect that reading my description of game-play above will also assist in learning the game.
Interaction: Since players have separate Realms, this isn't a fiercely confrontational game with any nasty interaction, thus creating a very pleasant and casual feel to the game experience. It is less interactive than the original Fantastiqa, because in that game players are moving on the same game board. Even so there is still some interaction, because you are competing to be the first to get quests. Furthermore, using Region cards from your hand to Explore Regions, you are forced to discard cards into your opponent's Raven's Nest - making them available for him to use - so this is another way in which there is indirect interaction, so it does pay to keep an eye on what your opponent is doing.
Components: These are fantastic, as always. Like the other titles in the EGG series, all the cards are high quality, with an air-cushion linen style finish, and they look and handle great. Everything is a tight fit to get back into the box, but I like the fact that space hasn't been wasted, and at least you feel that you're getting good value for your money!
Expansion: I also like the fact that you can start this game in a simpler mode, by eliminating the Enchantments and Events, while you get familiar with the main mechanics. But from then on, there's a lot of ways to add to the game play, first by introducing these Enchantments and Events, and then by adding in the Far Frontier expansion. While most people will be happy enough playing the base game, having this as well is a nice addition.
So is Fantastiqa Rival Realms for you? If you like two player games, and the idea of a casual card game with a strong spatial element and a whimsical adventure feel interests you, then Fantastiqa Rival Realms is definitely worth checking out. Considering everything you get with the game, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck, and there are quite a few ways to play or add to the experience, including solitaire.
Certainly if you are already a fan of Alf Seegert's excellent Fantastiqa, then getting Fantastiqa Rival Realms is a no-brainer, and you're almost guaranteed to enjoy this as well. Even though it does have a different feel and mechanics, there's enough connections in terms of the thematic setting and artwork to make it feel somewhat familiar, without in any way feeling like it is a scaled down version of the larger board game.
Alf Seegert, congratulations on another great game release, and yet another fun title!
Want to learn more? You can order this game at your favourite retailer, or directly from the publisher Eagle-Gryphon Games. For more information, see the product pages here:
● Fantastiqa Rival Realms (with expansion) [current cost: $24.99]
● Fantastiqa Rival Realms (without expansion) [current cost: $17.99]
● Fantastiqa Rival Realms: Far Frontier Expansion [current cost: $6.99]
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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- Andrew MacLeod(amacleod)Canada
OntarioAnd when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
- OK, I NEED this!!! And does the tea-mug come with the game, Richard?
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amacleod wrote:OK, I NEED this!!! And does the tea-mug come with the game?Lovely isn't it! Here's a closer look:
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- Alf SeegertUnited States
Salt Lake City
EndersGame wrote:amacleod wrote:OK, I NEED this!!! And does the tea-mug come with the game?Lovely isn't it! Here's a closer look:
Mug and first mug photo are courtesy of Tea and Board Games,@teabletop on Twitter -- love their logo!
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- Alf SeegertUnited States
Salt Lake City
- Thanks for such a wonderfully thorough and beautifully illustrated review, Ender!
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It's worth adding that the Far Frontiers expansion now has a separate entry in the BGG database, since it is not actually part of the Rival Realms base game.
Those who enjoy keeping meticulous track of their game collections on BGG can rejoice! [smile]
You'll find it here:
Fantastiqa Rival Realms: Far Frontiers Expansion
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- John Rudolph
- Love Musee and own Rival Realms. Can't wait to get it to the table this weekend! Have been playing Musee the past 2 weeks to get ready for this one since they have a similar play mechanism (card rank order). Thanks for designing the game.
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- Tyler DeLisle(TyDeL)United States
Funny, I didn't think you were still doing reviews for some reason. comprehensive is an understatement, thanks for the great write-up! Looking forward to picking this up sometime soon.
I've always wanted to try Fantastiqa, but have never gotten around to it as I'm a bit burnt out on deck builders. This sounds like an easy entry and something to play quickly with the wife.
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TyDeL wrote:Funny, I didn't think you were still doing reviews for some reason. comprehensive is an understatement, thanks for the great write-up! Looking forward to picking this up sometime soon.Thanks for the feedback, glad you found the review helpful!
Yes I am still doing game reviews like this, if you want to be notified whenever I post a new one, you can subscribe to this list:
Ender's Reviews: Comprehensive Pictorial Overviews
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