Designer: Friedemann Friese
Publishers: 2F and Stronghold Games
Players: 2-4 (Fear), 2-4 (Fortress), 1-4 (Flee)
Time: 15 minutes (Fear & Fortress), 75-90 minutes (Flee)
Games Played: 7 (Fear), 4 (Fortress), 3 (Flee)… all with review copies provided by Fireside Games
I almost feel compelled to make some glancing reference to Aesop’s Fables as I begin this overview/review of Friedemann Friese’s Fast Forward game series… but which one? Is this the Hare & the Tortoise? (Friedemann does have green hair.) Is it the Ant & the Grasshopper? (Once again, green.) Certainly not the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing…
The “Fable” game design structure first appeared in late 2016 with the publication of Fabled Fruit – a simple but enjoyable set collection game where the “playing field” (made up of oversized cards) shifted as players used the special powers & the fruit they collected to purchase them from the tableau. (I wrote a review of Fabled Fruit last year – you could do worse things with 5-10 minutes than follow this link to go read it.) The main deck is pre-set… dripping new actions and powers into the game in ways that vary depending on how your previous games have played out.
Fabled Fruit (and the new “Fable”) games all share one other important characteristic: they can be reset for new groups and/or for a second playing by the same group. The main deck of cards is numbered and simply needs to be put back into numerical order for the game to be ready to restart. (Note: I’m a big fan of the legacy games – I’m particularly fond of Risk Legacy & Pandemic Legacy.) I think this ‘halfway point’ between the permanent changes of a legacy game and the standard “memory wipe” of most board games is a nifty way to thread the proverbial needle.
Last fall, Friedemann published 3 new “Fable” games with the “Fast Forward” label – not only did they use the structured deck similar to Fabled Fruit, but they also buried the rules in that structured deck. I’m a recovering wargamer with a few years (and CRTs) under my belt – so I remember the innovation of programmed instruction that occurred when Squad Leader was published. (Yes, I’m dating myself. I’m old. Get off my lawn.) The rule cards in the Fast Forward games function as programmed instruction for the players as they learn the rules of each game… and how each game changes over time by the introduction of new rules, roles and twists.
Both of the competitive Fast Forward games (Fear & Fortress) have multiple “games” played as you work your way through the deck. We’ve chosen to use chips or tokens to denote wins and collect them over an evening of play to figure out who “won” that particular game for an evening. It’s a little like deciding who won the most hands in a standard card game.
Reviewing these three games is tricky, as part of the fun of the “Fable” games is the discovery of the various wrenches that Friedemann is throwing into your plans and strategies. So what follows is a quick overview of each game, followed by my reaction to each game. I’m looking forward to the other Opinionated Gamers chiming in with their thoughts as well – and I’m predicting that we will NOT agree in our assessment of these three games.
The simplest of the three games, Fear is firmly in the “better than UNO” camp of games. The ghost-y art is cute… but it’s really a version of a climbing card game. (Example of climbing games include Tichu, Too Many Cooks & Clubs.)
Maybe I better explain my “better than UNO” classification. As a long-time game player/collector, I’ve lost count of the number of times that a group of non-gamers will excitedly invite me to play UNO. I’m not a schmuck, so I’ll sit down and enjoy a few rounds as a pastime – but UNO is (and always has been) defined mostly by random luck and the joy of hitting your neighbor with a Draw 4 card.
Over the years, I’ve learned to carry a few simple card games with me to such gatherings that (a) are simple to teach, (b) don’t have themes that make people shy away, and (c) have actual tactical decisions. Games like Team Play, Take 6, Pig Pile, Attacke and the aforementioned Clubs always go over well – and are, as I said, “better than UNO”. (Hmmm – I ought to work with the OG writing team to get all of us to suggest “better than UNO” games – faithful readers, someone remind me to do this!)
With all that background, Fear has now entered the rotation for smaller groups as a “plop the deck on the table and play the game” standby. With the limited number of rules (and the drip method of introducing them to the game), it’s a novel concept that has drawn in both gamers and non-gamers… and then provided a lot of enjoyable game play.
I have played through the deck 3 times now – once 2 player with my 12 year old son, once with 4 gamer friends, and once with 3 non-gamer friends. A full play-through (accomplished with the gamer group) took about 70-80 minutes… the other runs were done over multiple gaming sessions. Everyone had a good time – and while my knowledge of what was coming gave me a slight advantage, I couldn’t predict timing or the way other players would choose to play their cards, so it wasn’t overwhelming.
I expect Fear to sit on the shelf for a few months now – and then come out with a new group of folks for more enjoyment. (I can also see my soon-to-be 13 year old deciding he wants a rematch of our previous battle… which I have no problem with!)
This Fast Forward game has you amassing your forces to attack, conquer & defend various fortresses. (Hence the name.) The focus here is on set collection & bluffing – and as the game proceeds, the opportunities for causing your opponent to second guess his own plans increase.
Our attempt at this game with two players was a dismal failure. Even though the box says it works for 2-4 players, we found our four player games to be much more interesting. (In fairness, Fortress may work better as a two player game when you’re deeper into the deck, but the opening wasn’t any fun, so we didn’t keep going.)
With a full complement of players, timing is everything. It is, in some ways, a push-your-luck game… “how long do I wait to collect a stronger set of warriors… or do I rush forward with weaker troops to take control of the fortresses and pray for the hand to end quickly?” As the rules morph over time, various tactics wax and wane in effectiveness.
We’ve played through the deck one time… and I’ve played the early part of the deck 2-3 times. The full play-through was done over multiple sessions. Once again, my personal knowledge of the deck gave me a slight advantage, but the randomness of the card draw and tactics of the other players mitigates the majority of that effect.
For my money, this is a solid game that I’ll keep for (a) travel (it’s easy to slip the deck into a baggie and slide into your luggage) and (b) the right crowd of new players.
Pardon me if this section barely makes sense – my brain is still melting from our plays of the most complicated Fast Forward game.
Flee is a different animal than the other Fast Forward games – it is a cooperative puzzle that has more in common with Friedemann’s solo game Finished than it does with the others in this collection. (To wit: Flee actually will work quite well as a solo game.)
The Alice in Wonderland theme is window dressing for an increasingly complex game of Hot Potato. Over and over, the players are trying to figure out the downstream implications of their choices on solving the puzzle… or, as is more common, not solving it.
This is a brain-burner of a game… and for the right group of puzzle-minded folks, I think it would be great fun. Sadly, my family is not the target audience for Flee.
A group of four of us played for about an hour, making some headway into the deck. However, we called the game at that point… our collective intellect resembled the old Far Side cartoon with the student asking be excused because his brain was full. We left the deck set to continue – but we have not brought it to the table again.
A solo play last week was interesting… but at about the same point, the amount of brain power needed to continue exceeded the amount of fun I was having.
I want to emphasize that the problem is not the game… it’s us. (Yes, it sounds a little bit like I’m trying to break up with Flee and let the game down easy.)
FAST FORWARD @ TN GAME DAYS
As I’ve taken way too long to write this review – apologies to Stronghold Games & Friedemann! – the time lapse did allow me the opportunity to lead a Fast Forward event at Tennessee Game Days. 24 folks had the chance to play each of the Fast Forward Games for roughly 40 minutes per game… and, since I had them “captive”, I asked their reactions to the games.
The clear favorite (in that setting) was Fear… which is not a surprise, as it’s the easiest to pick up quickly. There was also a mix of long-time gamers and folks who were newer to the hobby, so a positive reaction to Fear seems appropriate.
Also well-liked by some of the groups was Fortress. It took most of the tables a little longer to “grok” the system, but those who were positive about the game were very positive.
A couple of folks really loved Flee – but the majority of the tables were not impressed. A common complaint was that the opening of the game was “scripted” – that there was only one solution in the early going. (Note: I’m not sure that is true – but I can see how a group that failed and had to restart would experience the game that way.)
Personally, I’m a big fan of Fear and Fortress… I think that either game would fit nicely on your shelf and hit the table often enough to justify their very fair price points. (Once again, let me point out that all three of the games make excellent travel games due to their ease of packing.)
And while I’m not the right guy to say nice things about Flee, I can see that certain folks who enjoy puzzling things out could find this game addict
Last but not least, I’m excited about the next game in the series (coming out at Essen?!) which got some positive buzz from the Gathering.
Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers
Doug Garrett (Garrett’s Games Podcast): As Shelley and I have discussed on the podcast, we had a good time with FEAR, but less fun with the other two, though we admire all of them for their inventiveness and the fact that you can just sit down and start playing. I hope Friedemann’s innovations continue and I look forward to seeing the mechanism employed elsewhere as well.
Dale Yu – FLEE is by far my favorite. The puzzle solving nature of the game is fresh and it was a pretty tricky thing to finish. I haven’t played it since November 17, and frankly, I don’t remember much of the deck at this point. I’m hoping to get a re-play of the game this coming summer as I have a gaming weekend set up in a West Virginia basement…. It should be the right crowd for that. Fortress was meh for me. Fear is a cute little trick taker, and the rule changes are enough to keep it from getting stale. The good thing about all of these is that I still feel like I could play them again, even though I have already seen all the possible cards… That’s something I didn’t think I would say when I first played these at Essen.
Joe Huber – I’ve enjoyed all three of these games, but my favorite of the lot is Fear; for me, it’s the best suited for the learn-as-you-go approach. Though I have no doubt that there’s still more that Friedemann can get out of the concept; I’m sure my favorite Fast Forward game is still to come.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
I love it…
I like it… Mark Jackson, Doug G. Dale Y, John P
Neutral… Joe H.
Not for me…Greg S.
I love it…
I like it… Mark Jackson, John P
Neutral… Doug G., Joe H.
Not for me…Dale Y
I love it… Dale Y
I like it… John P
Neutral… Mark Jackson, Doug G., Joe H.
Not for me…