Feb 052013
 

pic1321261_t[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Whenever a publisher sends me a game for review purposes, I always worry about what I’ll say if I don’t like it. On the one hand, I want to be honest about my opinions of the game. On the other hand, I want to thread carefully because a bad review can result in loss of sales and we all know that making a living as games publisher, specially if you’re a small guy, is far from easy!

If to that we ad that fact that I am actually very fond of the designer, that makes my trepidation all the more noticeable.

Thank goodness we’re talking about Alf Seegert here. That means that I can rest assured the game will be very enjoyable and very original. If you’ve played The Road to Canterbury you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you’re seriously missing a treat!

Fantastiqa is a competitive story-telling game for two to four players who will need to travel from land to land subduing beasts and creatures in order to recruit them and get their help to go on quests that will bring glory, and therefore victory, to the first player who caries out a number of quests. The number of quests is determined by both the number of players and how long you want to make the game; anything between 7 and 11 quests.

When I did the unboxing video, it was very clear that the quality of the components is second to none. The box is thick and sturdy and the insert is clever enough that it has plenty of space for all the components, including specific compartments for the card decks. The cards well laminated and easy to handle with absolutely lovely artwork and well though graphic design that won’t get in the way of the icons when you hold them. The tokens that represent what resources you can acquire by visiting each land on the board are huge and charming in their simplicity – though some people have pointed that the wood figure of the griffon looks more like a squirrel. I thought it looked a bit like a dragon. But I’m biased; I like dragons.

The game mechanics are a very clever combination of strategy and deck building that makes mastering this game quite a challenge. And a very enjoyable one at that!

Every turn, the player can do one of three things. Travel from one land to another to subdue a creature. Complete a quest or visit a statue to buy more cards. Cards can contain creatures, artefacts or quests. To subdue a creature you have to have an element that’s opposed to that of the creature. For example fire is subdued by water. Every time a player subdues a creature, that creature becomes part of the discard pile of cards and it becomes an ally, supplying with a resource that one can use later to complete a quest. As you subdue a creature, they might give you some gems or the use of an ability, like giving someone one of the very annoying Green Dragons – a dragon so peaceful and polite that can’t help you subdue creatures or go on quests. It just drinks tea. And takes valuable space in your hand.

Very irritating when your “friends” decide that you should have a whole herd of green dragons in your deck.

When you subdue a creature on the board, that card gets replaced by another from the creatures deck. These new cards can be events that will allow different actions to take place and then get discarded – like trading cards or giving cards to another player. A very good addition makes the game a bit more unpredictable.

To complete a quest you have to have a number of resources in your hand equal to the resources the quests requires to be completed. You can also commit cards to quests, though, by simply adding them to the quest card. This disables the committed card, but it means you can accumulate resources little by little.

pic1321259_md[1]The basic mechanics are very, very easy to pick up and within three or four rounds you won’t have to look at the rules very often. There are a few more rules and aspects to the game than the ones I’ve mentioned, but let me assure you they’re all well thought out and never break the game. At least not in the times I’ve played it.

Talking about the rules, although they look a bit daunting at first, they are surprisingly easy to follow and are well laid out. We didn’t have much of a problem finding the right icon or token explanation when we needed it. Admittedly, parts of the layout could do with better titles and section dividers, but it’s hardly something that’ll spoil your enjoyment of the game.

To make things even easier, the box comes with a glossary and a detailed turn structure in a handy card. It also comes with a card that explains additional rules to use the cards that were available for Kickstarter backers.

Did I like it?

Silly question! This game is charming and nasty in equal measures!

The simple mechanics make this game perfectly suitable for anyone to play, including children. The lovely artwork – which comes in the shape of classical pieces has been very well chosen and, although it’s not all as consistent as I’d like to see, every piece fits the bill perfectly.

In fact they’re so good that within a few rounds, we were not just adventuring, we were telling the stories of or travels from the Marshes to the Mountains while we subdued the baby dragon and the witches with our Water of Witch Entrapment and our Wand of Dusty Undragoning. Those were the silly names we gave to the cards; nothing to do with the game itself. Though the game has its fair share of silly names!

The deck building aspect of the game is what gives it the true depth of the gameplay. Even with a relatively limited number of cards (which I hope will be expanded in months/years to come), there is enough game in them to make sure you won’t get tired of the game any time soon. Learning when to give up cards, when to commit them, how to use the cards you have… It will take quite a few games before you master it. And even then, your friends will give you green dragons. Grrr!!!

Just to let you know, the first couple of times you set up the game, it will be laborious. Once you get used to what’s what and where it should go, it gets a bit quicker. It does require a fair amount of preparation, though!

I can’t wait to play this game again. And again. When I took it to my FLGS to play with some unknown humans who happened to be around, it was unanimously received as a resounded success and one of them even wanted to buy it from me. He didn’t have enough gems in his pocket, though, so I didn’t sell it.

Five well deserved magical gems for this supremely enjoyable game!

Fantastiqa is available from:

Main Catalogue
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Rating: 4.6/5 (5 votes cast)
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Fantastiqa review, 4.6 out of 5 based on 5 ratings
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Paco G. Jaen

Born in Spain with a talent for dyslexia, I am gamer, player, graphic designer, photographer and psycotherapist. Also online magazine publisher and writer. Yep.. I do lead a busy life!