- Designer: Kosch
- Publisher: Edition Spielewiese / Pegasus Spiele
- Players: 2-5
- Age: 10+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
I’m such a sucker for boardgame themes (he says sarcastically). I absolutely love the flavor text on the first page of the FYFE rulebook: “FYFE is an abstract tile laying game for 2 to 5 people by Kosch”. Perfect. Tells me everything I want to know about the game! Based on the components, there is a beachy feel to the game with a board that looks like a beach, scoring surfboards and seashell lucky charms. But, interestingly, no story to go with it at all.
“The aim of the game is to fill your player board with tokens and scoring boards to maximise as many scoring opportunities as possible. A game lasts exactly 25 rounds. The player with the most victory points at the end of the game will be the winner.”
Each player takes a game board (with a 5×5 grid for tokens and 12 spaces for scoring boards around the edge), the 15 scoring boards and the 7 lucky charm tiles in their color. All the wooden tokens: 5 lucky charm tokens and 125 regular tokens (showing each combination of 5 colors, 5 numbers and 5 icons) are placed in the bag. Bonus First! Scoring tokens and joker tokens are placed in the center. The bag of wooden tokens is given to the start player.
To start each round, each player draws a wooden token out of the bag and places it in the supply area at the bottom of his board (exception: two tokens are drawn in the first round, and none are drawn in the final round). If someone has drawn a lucky charm token, it is shown to all players, discarded and a replacement token is drawn.
Then, if a lucky charm token was drawn, all players may activate one of their unused lucky charm tiles – flipping it over after resolving it. Players are not obligated to use one; after all, unused lucky charms are worth points at the end of the game.
Next, all players choose to place one of the two tokens in their supply area onto any empty space on their board. Now check to see if there is a scoring board pointing at this token (check horizontal, vertical, and even possibly diagonal directions). If not, at least one must be placed so that the newly placed token has a scoring token pointing at it. Place these on the unscored side.
In the final part of the round, check to see if any scoring boards are fulfilled – if so, flip them over to the scored side. Check the center of the table to see if the First! Token for this particular board is still available; if so, collect that token – worth 3 points. If multiple players score the board on the same turn, discard the First token for it. Additionally, if you score 2/3/4 lines at the same time with a single token, collect 5/10/20 bonus points for the task.
Continue this process until all 25 rounds have been played – and therefore all token spots on your player board are filled. The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker.
My thoughts on the game
I normally like games that tax the puzzle solving parts of my brain, and from the description, this one felt like it would be a good fit for me. I had a chance to see it at Gen Con, but I did not get my hands on an actual copy until just recently.
Though there is a beachy theme to it – let’s be plain here – this is an abstract puzzle game that challenges you to arrange the tiles to score in all directions at once. In my first few games, I agonized over tile placement, trying to make sure that I kept all my options open. However, after playing a few times, it is clear to me that you can’t score every line, and I’m better off just concentrating on the things that I want to accomplish. I have also learned that I should just keep the highest scoring criteria in the box, because every time I try to do that one, I fail and end up borking my whole board trying to keep the hopes of that one alive. Of course, YMMV, and invariably most of my opponents have been able to scored that cursed surfboard.
There is an interesting dynamic here that you have to have a scoring tile pointing at everything on your board. If you can play cleverly, you can limit the number of surfboards that you place in the early rounds. I have even thought of sacrificing one line and one column, playing the first 9 pieces in that row and column and thus only using 2 surfboards in that time. Then, I can concentrate on filling in the rows and columns with things that make sense with what is already there. Yes, that’s too extreme of a strategy, and it hasn’t won me a game yet, but I think that going forward I’ll still be trying a related strategy to this as it seems to make sense to me.
While it’s good to have a strategy, you must be willing to adapt. Many games change quickly based on the timing and frequency of the lucky charm tiles. If they come up early in the game, you often don’t have enough reason to use them – certainly not enough to give up the victory points to use them. Sometimes, the danged lucky charms stay in the bag, and you just sit and wait for the chance to swap two tiles or re-score a scoring tile… and then everything falls apart when it never comes out of the bag!
I actually find that I like the game a bit more with higher player counts as there is a higher chance of the lucky charm tokens coming out. Interestingly, this part of the game doesn’t scale at all for player count, so in a 2p game, you will only draw out ~50 of the 130 tokens, whereas you’ll draw out at least 125 of 130 in the 5p game. There is also an advantage in a higher player count game that you can see more of the tiles on other player’s boards – and this might help your planning as you’ll at least have a better chance of knowing what you can’t get. I also find the excitement around the race aspect to the scoring tiles is a bit more with a higher player count.
Speaking of that, in our group, we try to not look too much at other player’s boards for the purpose of reducing AP. If we allowed people to look at everything freely, the later rounds could take forever. We do allow people to spout out things like “Does anyone have a Red Frankenstein” or similar question – and people just yell out the answer. But we try to not have people examine boards to see what scoring tiles they are in competition for, etc.
As each round is played simultaneously, adding players to the game doesn’t really add much time to the game; though I guess each additional player increases the chance that you have an AP-prone player in the game – and if you do, everyone will have to wait for that player to take each of their 25 turns. In our group, that tends not to be an issue; but I think the potential for slow play is definitely something to consider if you know someone who is indecisive or a perfectionist. Because, yes, you could spend a lot of time trying to find the optimal play each turn – I’m just glad my group prefers to play loose and fast…
Since we play a bit loosey goosey, our games come in closer to the 30 minute range; and for me, this is a good fit for what you get. I have seen one game (that thankfully I wasn’t in) take about an hour… and I’m pretty sure that sort of thing is not for me. But as my group plays it, FYFE is a fun puzzle that gives the brain a decent challenge. Would definitely recommend it for my less serious gaming groups. The rules are easy to grok, but this might be a bit more mathy for my family outings – but you never know! Given how much I’ve liked the game so far, I wouldn’t be against trying it in that situation either…
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Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y, Eric M., John P, Steph H
- Not for me…