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Geki
United States
Carlisle
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I got a chance to play Fantahzee, the new release by AEG, designed by Ryan Miller. The game looks cute, and the theme was intriguing. It was a disappointment. Here is why.

General Overview:

In Fantahzee players try to assemble a team of heroes, support them with special cards and fight various monsters by means of rolling dice Yahtzee style (hence the name). However, the complete randomness of the card draw and the absence of any meaningful decision make for a boring, repetitive, lackluster experience.

Components:

From this point of view, the game is of the usual AEG quality. The art has a cartoonish style (depicting quasi-goofy heroes and not-too-threatening monsters) that really resonates with the light and easy intent of the game. The graphic design is clear, and efficient, and where the information is not immediately transparent (e.g. how soaking damages works) it is due to clunky rules and not to any faulty execution in the icons.
A couple of people lamented the plain whiteness of the dice, and I can see their point: while there is nothing wrong with them, they are your classic Yahtzee six siders, and not the more refined, less lucid kind that you see in most boardgames. However, they are absolutely functional and they come in the nicest of felt string pouches.

Gameplay and mechanical analysis:

The game is played in turns, with each player competing to kill the same array of monsters. When one is killed, another one replaces it. There is no direct player interaction; given the fact that what other players will be able to do hinges upon what their cards (secret) and dice (not yet rolled) will be, you cannot even purposely try to interfere with their plans.

On your turn, you get to add 0-2 heroes to your party, playing them in front of you. Heroes only leave your party if they are killed. Being able to play 2 of them is crucial in the early game, although you have no way to guarantee you’ll draw any. If you have them, there is no reason not to play them. Even when you are in the rare situation of having options, some are strictly better than others.

Then, you get to play 0-2 action cards. These will allow you to roll more dice, reroll one additional time, manipulate the strength of your heroes, etc. Once again, since you don’t know what you will roll, it would be unwise to withhold these. Just play them, if you have any.


When you are done playing cards, you roll dice (and reroll them up to three times, ça va sans dire), trying to activate your heroes (each one requiring different numerical combinations - a 1 and a 2, or 3 of the same number, or something like that). Often, activating one specific hero will allow you to activate a different one, or at least make their activation cheaper, with a snowball effect which highly rewards drawing heroes every round.

A neat idea is the use of Steam: some heroes (mainly dwarves) and action cards provide you with steam, that allows you to activate certain heroes without using dice (and having to roll right in the first place). However, this also becomes a no-brainer. If you have a card that gives you steam AND a card that can use it, you do, otherwise… though luck.

When you have determined what heroes you activate, you add up their combat value, and kill monsters up to that health value. Easy, straightforward, very limited choices. Unless the point spread (each monster has a point value) is huge, you want to always kill the rightmost monster. If you don’t, you draw a penalty card (ranging from -1 to -4 negative points at the end).

Finally, you replenish the monsters and add up their “ambush” value. That’s the amount of damage your heroes must absorb. By killing (discarding) one of them, you soak up damage equal to their combat value. If any damage is left, you kill another one, etc. A few cards let you generate shields, which will reduce the damage. As usual, no choice there: if you can play the card or generate the shield, you never have any reason not to.

After all is set and done, you draw 4 cards and discard down to five. You don’t get rewarded by having more cards for, saying, having no playable cards in the first turn or never have any action cards. If you get playable ones, just play them!



Variety/Replayability

Variety is indeed quite high, each monster is slightly different (health, points, ambush value and a couple of other nuances). However, all this variation is meaningless, since you simply pick the different monsters to kill after totaling your combat strength: getting a 5hp-4points and a 4hp-3points does not feel any different from killing a 10hp-7points, and it usually does not result in any meaningful distinction, denying the players not only of interesting choices, but even of any narrational arc. Therefore, the originality of the experience appears to be extremely low throughout the game: you do the same thing over and over, and the dozens of different heroes have only a handful of different effects.
However, I guess that if one liked the game it could be replayed over and over, just like Yahtzee or Backgammon, since the constant rolling of dice compared to the extremely volatile nature of the card drawing would guarantee the impossibility of one game repeating another one.

Designer & Artist corner

Ryan Miller's claim to fame is Epic PVP: Fantasy, which I haven’t had the pleasure of playing yet. After trying this one, I am not too inclined to do so, but I’ll give it a shot.

J Hause has to his credit two other nice looking but mediocrely rated games: Greedy Greedy Goblins and Dark Seas. This artist has potential, and I look forward to enjoying illustrations this good and funny on a more likable game.

Final Thoughts:
While the Yahtzee mechanic has been used successfully in plenty of these games of ours (noticeably King of Tokyo and Elder Sign, but there are countless others), this game is able to make it meaningless even more than in the original game. What you desire to do is almost always transparent, and it all comes down to getting decent heroes and cards way more than managing your odds like in the parent mass-market game. I cannot honestly recommend this game, even for lighter crowds.

I hope you enjoyed my review and I look forward to comments and feedback. For more reviews, both written and video, please check out my geeklist, here on bgg.

Thanks for reading
Geki

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Rick Teverbaugh
United States
Anderson
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I played it at GenCon and liked it well enough to buy it. I still like it better than you. It isn't a great game. I am tinkering with shortening the monster piles to make 2-player shorter.
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John Wiser
United States
Edwardsville
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I picked this up at Gen Con as well and while not a great title, I feel a expansion will correct that. I have fun playing it and that says a lot as I have titles that I look at and shake my head and put back (and some I do not even pick up.).

Fantahzee is fun for what it is and I did get to ask AEG if any expansions were being made and/or thought about and I was told yes, depending on sales.
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v b
United States
New Jersey
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100% agree with the review...
VERY disappointed in this game overall. Not that it's a bad game, but I expect more from AEG. :-/
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Geki
United States
Carlisle
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Thank you all for the comments. I tried to go behind "I did not like it" and explain why. And, please notice, it has nothing to do with the "lightness" of the gameplay, but with (IMHO, obviously) non-existent choice-matrix.

Thanks
Geki
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Mike Beiter
United States
Tonawanda
New York
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I really appreciate your negative review style.

It is very well constructed and it is obvious that you are trying to see both sides and find value where able.

I wish others who write a non positive review of a game used this format for refference.
It would help make the review comments less volatile and encourage civility.

In short, well done.
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Geki
United States
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
I really appreciate your negative review style.

It is very well constructed and it is obvious that you are trying to see both sides and find value where able.

I wish others who write a non positive review of a game used this format for refference.
It would help make the review comments less volatile and encourage civility.

In short, well done.


Thanks. I try to give balanced reviews, both for negative and positive ones. I started when I reviewed Terra Mystica, which definitely did not work for me, but of which I could see the strengths.

Thank you for your feedback.

Geki
 
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Geki
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Sure, it's at the end of the review, but I'll restate it here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/170959/gekis-reviews-t...
 
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v b
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geki wrote:
Sure, it's at the end of the review, but I'll restate it here:

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/170959/gekis-reviews-t...

my apologies...
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Mike Bialecki
United States
Costa Mesa
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MajaiofDreams wrote:
I really appreciate your negative review style.

It is very well constructed and it is obvious that you are trying to see both sides and find value where able.

I wish others who write a non positive review of a game used this format for refference.
It would help make the review comments less volatile and encourage civility.

In short, well done.

Yes. I think it's worth mentioning (again) that this is how a negative review is done. Review the game, not it's fans.
Example:
Quote:
Correct: The amount of random dice rolling in this game doesn't appeal to me.
Incorrect: It's hard for me to imagine how anybody can enjoy all this random dice-rolling.

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Geki
United States
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mbialeck wrote:

Yes. I think it's worth mentioning (again) that this is how a negative review is done. Review the game, not it's fans.
Example:
Quote:
Correct: The amount of random dice rolling in this game doesn't appeal to me.
Incorrect: It's hard for me to imagine how anybody can enjoy all this random dice-rolling.



I appreciate the appreciation. What I wanted to avoid was giving an attacking vibe, à la "you people don't understand anything", as it is often done about games I do like...
 
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