A good chunk of my time in the exhibition hall at GenCon was spent at the Flying Frog Productions booth. I fell in love with their games at GenCon 2011 and wanted to come back and drink deep of their geeky elixir this year.
FFP’s games seem like they start with a theme and grow from there. Last Night on Earth is the quintessential zombie title (and among the best of them to boot); Invasion from Outer Space hits the classic B-movie martian invasion theme; Touch of Evil covers the colonial supernatural thriller genre; and most recently Fortune & Glory tackles the globe-trotting, Nazi-fighting buried treasure seeker (a la Indiana Jones) trope head on.
Of all of FFP’s games, F&G probably has the most pieces. It’s the most intimidating looking at a distance and certainly has the heftiest price tag ($100 versus $60 for other base games). From the very start, however, you know you’re getting a lot of game. All of Flying Frog’s premier titles feature multiple scenarios and/or modes of play. In particular, Fortune and Glory is playable competitively, cooperatively, or even solitaire.
Full disclosure: Matt and I really wanted to demo this game at Gen Con last year, but missed the opportunity. We sprang at it this year.
Sitting down, we chose our characters for the game. I opted for Duke Dudley, a British nobleman whose wealth and patriotism were his unique advantages. (This decision may have been influenced by the fact that the photo model for the Duke was literally standing over my shoulder at the time.) Matt chose Doctor Zhukov, a mad Russian scientist whose scientific mind gave him other advantages. As with most FFP games, each character gets different dice-related properties as well asspecial abilities.
With all players’ characters chosen, the treasures of the game were revealed. For each of four colored markers, a treasure (“The Glove”) and an adventure (“Of Zeus”) are selected from different decks of cards and then combined. A location card places it randomly on the world map. This was a demo of the competitive mode of play, so the goal was the be the first player to amass a fortune of eight gold (foreshortened for brevity) and return to their home city claimed the day.
When the dice started rolling, the players were off after the titular fortune and glory. The world map is divided up into regional spaces; each space is one movement, as well as each section of ocean or city. Within the first turn, most players had made it to the location of one of the game’s hidden hidden treasures. Others, like yours truly, got stuck in Wales and ambushed by generic thugs.
Each adventure specifies a number of dangers. That’s a measure of the challenges a player must face before they can claim the treasure for their own. A danger card is flipped from a deck. It specifies a type of challenge - such as lore, agility, or cunning - a success threshold, and a required number of successes. Each player’s character card has a corresponding number of dice. That number of dice are rolled and the rolls that meet or exceed the threshold count towards their passing the challenge. If the challenge is met, the player earns glory points which are used as a secondary currency and may opt to continue towards the treasure or camp until later. If the challenge is failed, a cliffhanger ensues.
A cliffhanger is the logical escalation of a danger not triumphed. If you fail to meet the agility test of a daring airplane chase, you’ll flip the card and find yourself trying to escape a flaming wreck on a mountainside, having surrendered all the glory you amassed this turn. Pass this last-ditch effort and you’ll earn the danger token, get some consolation glory, and get to rest until the next turn. Fail, and you’ll sustain wounds that move you closer to ultimate defeat.
If you should succeed in passing all the dangers before the treasure, you take it and need to bring it to a city to fence. Bigger cities mean a bigger take. Drag your feet getting to safety and another adventurer might separate you from your treasure.
Enter a city, and you’ll need to flip a city card from another deck. This randomizes your trip into the city and ensures your run to ground might not be so run-of-the-mill. You might score some extra gear to help you out in the field, or you might bump into some Nazis.
Did I mention the Nazis? I should have. There are Nazis. They have a zeppelin, which is the universal symbol for intrigue, adventure, and Nazi shenanigans. At the end of every turn, a location card is revealed and a movement roll made. The zeppelin moves that many spaces along the shortest path to the indicated locale. If it reaches the location, it drops Nazi tokens on the field that will further complicate your quest. It’s not all gloom and doom aboard the Nazi airship, however. Each turn, the Third Reich is collecting lost gold of its own on the ship; should you be so daring and lucky as to sneak past the guards while in the same map space, you can steal the Nazi’s loot!
F&G is yet another quality product from a fantastic company. One thing I really respect about these guys is that every year, it’s the guys who are in the photo shoots for the game doing the demos and working the retail counter. They’re more than happy to sign a photo for you.
As for my demo, the Duke didn’t come out on top. A failed race for an artifact in Western Europe kept me busy while a flyboy out of San Francisco got lucky and dug up an artifact worth his requisite 8 gold in his back yard. Maybe next time…
Jojo the Bear versus Zard beast. Advantage: Jojo. Invasion from Outer Space by @FFPGames. #GenCon (Taken with Instagram at GenCon 2012)
Nautilus is a game that challenges the player to balance research and exploration. A player’s final score is a multiplication of these component scores, so ignoring one for the sake of the other is a sure way to end up at the bottom of the scoreboard. Research is accomplished by expanding the underwater city and moving researchers into it. Discoveries are made when researchers exit the city in submarines and venture into the abyss. #GenCon (Taken with Instagram at GenCon 2012)
For a dead guy, Abraham Lincoln is having a pretty good year. Riding high on recent successes in alternate history fiction in print and film, Honest Abe is Kickstarting his way into gaming with Pixel Lincoln. A company called Island Officials is already producing a Nintendo DS game in which the sixteenth president sets off in a platforming adventure to recover his magical top hat from John Wilkes Booth. Not satisfied with this addition to alternate Lincoln histories alone, they’re partnering with Game Salute to bring it to the tabletop as a deckbuilding game and funding it with Kickstarter.
As of this writing, Pixel Lincoln: The Deckbuilding Game is already funded and has met one stretch goal with just shy of two weeks left. I’ll pass — my gaming shelf is already covered in titles I should play more often, but I’d be happy to play this off your shelf somtime!
If you’re not familiar with Fluxx, you’re missing out. Fluxx is the easiest game in the world to teach to someone. Here, watch. I’m going to teach you how to play right now.
The base rules are simple. Each player starts with three cards. Each turn, you draw one card, and then you play one card. That’s it.
Everything in the game actually changes the game. Some cards establish new rules, others are items to hold onto until the game gives them context, others are the actual win conditions. How the game is played is constantly shifting. (Get the name now?)
Fluxx is also one of the easiest games to rebrand. Looney Labs makes a small mint selling thematic variants of the game. Oz Fluxx was released earlier this year to the tune of the Wizard of Oz and it is easily my favorite Fluxx variant to date.
In contrast to the supremely disappointing Zombie Fluxx which did too much tampering with how cards were balanced in the game, Oz Fluxx keeps it simple. It keeps to the theme while capitalizing on the game’s strengths and hard to dislike gameplay. It’s exactly the kind of game you can leap into on a whim; maybe it ends in a few short turns, maybe it sprawls out for a while.
For the low price of $20, you owe it to yourself to to check out Fluxx or one of its variants.