What Fluxx might have been if it was made by Friedemann Friese

Friedemann Friese is a giant among game designers. Besides being known for his green hair and for producing a pile of games all beginning with the letter F, he's also admired for his innovative approach to designing boardgames. If you see his name on the outside of a game box, there's a real chance that what's inside has some real "out of the box" thinking. Perhaps the best example of this is his game 504 from the year 2015, which has nine modules that are combined to create literally 504 different games. Then in 2016 he published Fabled Fruit, which introduces what Mr Friese called his "fable system". Essentially this is a legacy style of game mechanic, in which the game mechanisms and rules evolve over time. To successfully create a changing game-state in a filler game that is still fun is a real accomplishment, and it's something that he has continued with his newer Fast Forward series.

So far the Fast Forward series consists of four games, FEAR (2017), FLEE (2017), FORTRESS (2017), and FORTUNE (2018). Geared to be fillers, these games are designed to be learned as you play, turning what is normally a very bad way to learn a game into an actual feature of the game. As the game progresses, it will introduce the rules to you, and these will change as the game progresses. Each time you play you continue where you left off, and so the game rules will evolve as you progress through the cards that come with the game. It typically takes a dozen plays or more to get through the entire deck, and then you can start all over again, for a new experience. It's a genius idea, and it really turns the traditional filler into a rather different beast.

In the case of Fast Forward: FEAR, the theme - admittedly very thin - has to do with chasing ghosts. The focus of the game-play is hand management. On your turn you either draw or play a card with a number on it. The hand limit is 3, which forces you to play a card if you have a full hand. If you can't play a card without increasing the total of the cards played so far to more than 15, you lose and the game ends. The winner is the player who at that point has the hand with the largest numerical total. So you want cards with high numbers in your hand so you can win. But there's somewhat of a push your luck element, because the very cards that can win you the game can also make you lose, given that being forced to play a high valued card can make the total of cards in play above 15! As the game progresses, more cards and rules enter the game space to give different options and possibilities of managing your cards: e.g. cards with negative numbers, or a new rule that prohibits playing an odd-valued card. Can you manage your cards and end up with the highest valued hand, while avoiding being the player that goes bust and loses the game?

I've scoured the personal comments and skimmed through some reviews and other articles, and carefully organized some key quotations to bring you the important things you need to know and what other people think about Fast Forward: FEAR. The parts in bold express my own conclusions, which are then expanded upon and substantiated by the citations that follow, to give you a feel of what most people are saying on each point. Perhaps you could call this a kind of "consensus of opinion", somewhat biased because I'm the one who gets to pick the quotes to include, but overall a well-rounded and fairly objective viewpoint. So here you have it, an at-a-glance overview of some of the majority opinions that you need to know about Fast Forward: FEAR.

NB: For more reviews like this, see this list.

1. Fast Forward: FEAR is a game in which the aim is to play cards to a common pool without making the total exceed 15.
"A game of drawing and playing cards with changing rules. When someone has to play over 15 to the common playing area, he loses the round. The others count the value of the cards in their hands." - Michiel
"The trick here is not to have to total value of cards in the middle exceed 15. You want to balance having some low cards that are (relatively) safe to play and high cards that let you score points." - Surya
"This game system starts very slowly and seems to play itself the first couple games but it really becomes interesting once you get into it. Still stays simple but just become interesting when to play cards and when to hold them always trying to seize up your opponent." - rmiczek
"While still being light and family friendly, it also has some pretty interesting tensions. The Fear is aptly felt as the screws tighten and you try to avoid busting." - cfarrell

2. There is no rulebook, because players learn the rules as the game progresses. Moreover, these rules will change as you move through the game's pre-constructed deck.
"This is a neat concept--no rulebook! learn as you play!" - Goatcabin
"Love the rule discovery mechanics, quick intuitive play." - garyj
"Rules were simple and straight forward and it felt like there were meaningful decisions to be made most of the time." - larryjrice
"The most exciting part is discovering new rules and adapting to those." - Superdeathflame
"This game is like a cool experience discovering the rules playing a simple card game." - turzin
"Rules are revealed as part of game play so there is zero prep and zero setup time. The inclusion of new cards and rules as you slowly work your way through the deck keeps things fresh and exciting from game to game." - BrambleBeard
"Great re-launch of the Fable system. Kudos for making a game with no rules pre-read necessary." - Ajax
"Really a fantastic, light implementation of the fable system. The changing deck really keeps you motivated to keep playing." - anatana

3. The evolving rules are a lot of fun, and much of the enjoyment revolves around discovering the new cards and changing rules.
"It's fun to watch the game 'evolve' over many games." - El-ahrairah
"The idea is interesting, with the game being slowly revealed and altering as you play. Part of the experience is the discovery." - RobertBr
"The game was super simple and it was neat how it played out with the rule changes mid-game." - bnordeng
"Much of FEAR’s fun is finding out the next twist, the next rules modification." - kentonwhite
"The mechanism works very well, very fun way to get into the game and see it develop." - paulkessels
"The game evolves with new special rules and cards that appear every so often, which keeps it fresh and fun." - Emsdad
"It's very simple and short, but the exploration of the deck is refreshing and fun and original as far as I know." - Maghd
"The game is rather simple, but it doesn't get boring thanks to the changing rules. This and the option to safe you rule-progress is amazing." - Sinchen

4. This concept will remind some people of Fluxx, although it is arguably more tactical and fun.
"If you have played Fluxx you can think of this as a pre-programmed Fluxx set." - RobertBr
"I read that the Fast forward system is original, but, in some way, it remembered me about the Fluxx games." - Glitterfolie
"It's Fluxx, it's UNO... whatever! I prefer it to both. A fun game that I have actually played all the way through in one sitting, and had a lot of fun doing so." - mccrispy

5. Game-play is very easy to learn and the game has a very light feel given how simple and quick it is to play.
"Worth checking out for a light card campaign type game. Simple for the family to try out too." - punkin312
"A casual card game, good for introducing new gamers to the hobby over a long series of games." - El-ahrairah
"It's a fine very light game." - Surya
"Very simple game, perhaps a bit too simple?" - Glitterfolie
"Plays very fast 10 minutes on average. It is enjoyable to play though very light, looking forward to play more and see how it evolves." - murzim
"Games are light and quick enough that you can play a couple of rounds of this while waiting for someone or in between heavier fare. This one is likely staying in my collection forever." - anatana
"Easy to understand. Whole family laughed and enjoyed the change of rules along the way. Loved they way it taught you game play as you went." - Picabo

6. Yet there is a real fun factor, due to the changing gameplay and tactics required in a very light game.
"Lots of fun so far." - PedroG
"Fun little game, lacks a scoring system. The fun in the game is forcing another player to lose." - Pol56
"The game is of course very light, but the rounds go quickly and there's some fun to be had." - Superdeathflame
"Do you rate the single fifteen-minute game or the broader experience of playing through the deck and discovering new cards and new rules? I'm going to go with the latter, because we found that aspect a lot of fun. The individual games are entertaining but they're fairly light and quite short." - Gola
"A fun and interesting game." - greglios
"We had a lot of laughs!" - Joverowa
"Very enjoyable game with fun twists and turns. Keeps you guessing and on your toes." - Red22jlj
"Great fun!" - Nyarly362

7. The game is also very addictive, and many people find themselves playing over a dozen games in a row to discover the entire deck!
"All 25 of my plays were consecutive in a single evening." - Eric Brosius
"Three of us played through the whole deck in about an hour or so on a busy day at the con." - bnordeng
"We played through the entire deck on Christmas morning: ~15 games in 90-120 minutes." - wkover
"FEAR provided many game sessions worth of entertainment." - kentonwhite
"The game is very light, maybe too light, but I had a good time with it for 2 hours or so, treating it as a legacy game where the fun is in discovering the twists and turns as they come. In that time we played about 15 games." - HBGlover
"We went through all the cards in 3 hours of play time which was really enjoyable." - a_esbech
"Enjoyed our first outing -- playing 17 games to get through the deck." - jrachfal
"Very nice filler to start or end your game night! We started to play and we didn't stop until the deck was completed!" - Joverowa
"We couldn't stop playing until we played through the entire deck. Very fun game." - shoggothlord
"We super did not want to stop once we started, and ended up playing the whole thing in one sitting." - grasa_total

8. The combination of easy rules and fun game-play makes it highly suitable as a filler or family game.
"Good Family-game with very simple, but neverthless interesting mechanisms." - gimli043
"I would recommend this to families who like Uno and hate reading rules." - msaari
"It'll be fun to fully rewind and introduce Fear to non-gamers and other families." - wkover
"Its simple push your luck card play with creative rule modifiers is perfect for families." - kentonwhite
"I really dig it. Not much more than Uno but the way the rules change and cards go into the box make this so much better. Great lunch time game." - P_J_Keller
"Great and light game - good for playing with family and friends on a relaxed evening without being stressed too much but having a lot of fun." - Nessi2017
"Very nice filler to start or end your game night!" - Joverowa
"Fun, quick, unique, family weight campaign card game." - BrambleBeard
"Great game. simple enough for Grandma!" - Chee
"Nice and quick game for lunch break." - JensG
"9 rating for family setting: very quick and easy yet tense gameplay - interesting changes along the campaign - small means, big result!" - schroederjan

9. Fast Forward: FEAR is not for everyone. Those who disliked the game found it too simple or themeless, or were concerned about the replay value. Even then, most critics still admired the fable concept.
"The themes of ghosts and fear have absolutely nothing to do with the mechanics of the game." - ladyboardgamer
"A mix of luck and cards with nothing to do with ghosts or fear ... I think it was put best as Uno Legacy." - Cereidolon
"Mechanics borrowed from Uno and Fluxx aren’t a great place to start and Fear doesn’t really even do much with those." - Agyar
"Too light to want to return to play through the entire deck. The first few twists weren’t enough to keep my group interested." - benshever
"To get the best of FEAR, playing the entire deck in one sitting would be satisfying to see how the rules change and grow, but the game is so shallow that playing the two hours needed to get through the deck would much too long of a sitting." - Grey Pilgrim
"Too much luck and not much strategy and the rule changes that eventually turn up are underwhelming." - FranklinTV
"Not really much of a game, but the "legacy" aspect is interesting." - jens_hoppe
"Interesting concept - I was more intrigued by the evolving game than the game itself." - acolyte
"If you're expecting anything but the lightest of gaming experiences from this one, you will be massively disappointed." - wkover

The bottom line: what you need to know

Once again Friedemann Friese has outdone himself by producing something that has to be admired as clever and innovative, while still being fun at the same time. Innovation in itself is laudable, but it only becomes a commercial success when it produces a game that is actually enjoyable for everyone to play. And that's definitely the case with Fast Forward: FEAR.

The game is easy to learn and play, and the special rules that get introduced and removed as the game progresses ensures that you have to constantly change your tactics from game to game, and sometimes even mid-game. This may frustrate gamers looking for something deeper and with more meaningful decisions in the style of games like Red7. But this ebb and flow is perfect for a game intended to be light, relaxing, and fun. The discovery process of these rules is already a rewarding activity, and the game especially will shine when played with the same group over multiple games in one sitting, as the game keeps changing shape. Some have reported issues in understanding or applying the rules as this happens, but the one or two questions that came up in our games were quickly answered with the help of the BGG forums.

Each game is usually quite quick, and we found that they typically last 5-10 minutes, which is perfect for a filler. In fact, in our first play we played 16 games in a row, over the course of about 2 hours, and made our way through the entire deck. That gives some sense of how addictive and enjoyable it can be. To add to the fun, whenever we play we've been keeping track of how often each person is the winner or loser.

Some will see this as a one-hit wonder, that leaves you wanting to shelve it after exploring the entire deck. I can understand this view point, especially if it's the joy of discovery that draws you to the game. But in my opinion Fast Forward: FEAR is still fun on return visits, as long as it's a very light game experience that you're after. I just wouldn't recommend it for just two players, since it's easily best with a player count of 3-5.

Fast Forward: FEAR is definitely easier, more accessible, and lighter than Fabled Fruit, another legacy-style game from Friedemann Friese that I've had good success with. I think that this smaller title can have an even broader reach and wider appeal, given the tactical and fun game-play. The box size may be small, but there's a lot of rewarding experiences packed inside as you explore the clever game system. I've really enjoyed this ingenius little filler, and look forward to exploring the rest of the Fast Forward series!

Where to get it? Fast Forward: FEAR is available from the publisher Stronghold Games (here).

mb The complete list of Ender's "What you need to know and what people think about..." reviews:
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