Medieval Intrigue Theme
Artists: Jacqui Davis and Darrell Louder
Designers: Philip duBerry and Jason Kotarski
Publisher: Green Couch Games
Fidelitas is a light-hearted hand management game in which players are the faithful citizens of a city "you've never heard of" working to gain the trust of as many of the townsfolk as possible in order to lead the charge in the upcoming revolution. Set up is simple. There is a row of five location cards, each containing two locations of the same guild. One Virtus card, or townsperson, is placed at each location and the players start with a hand of their own two Virtus cards. Players also get two Missio cards, which are the hidden objectives players will be working toward to earn points and thus win the game. In a turn, players place one of their Virtus cards in a matching guild location or any location if the guild of that character is not represented on any of the location cards. They then resolve the action described on the card. These actions are how players move or remove characters from locations. The active player draws up a replacement Virtus card, either from the face down pile or from the face up piles at the tavern locations. At the end of the turn players check to see if any of the Missio cards' conditions have been met. For example to complete the Baker Missio, there must be characters from 4 different guilds at the bakery. If a Missio card's requirements have been met, the player scores the points depicted at the bottom of the card and draws a replacement. Play continues until one player reaches a set amount of points or the Virtus deck gets used up twice.
Every decision you make in Fidelitas is an interesting one. With each player working on a set of unique hidden objectives, I find myself constantly having this little discussion inside my head: "Should I play this card and further my own agenda? Is that too obvious? Okay, don't be obvious. Maybe I should do something to throw the other players off of my trail, so they don't mess with what I'm really trying to do. OR should I do something to mess with what I think they are trying to do? Maybe they have have been trying to throw me off this whole time... It might sound like the paranoia could cause analysis paralysis and slow the pace of the game, but it hasn't in any of my plays. The game play is so super simple, you just don't have time to consider every detail, though you may try. Sometimes you have to play your card and come what may!
This game is charming! Despite the theme of manipulating and cajoling your fellow townsfolk, the game doesn't feel cutthroat or confrontational. The hidden goals definitely help with this. Without knowing your opponents' true intentions, the actions you take to thwart them seem less direct. Granted, it can work the opposite way and your actions could inadvertently -or not so inadvertently- be screwing over the same person all of the time, thus making you seem like a clairvoyant jerk. This only happened to me once, but I had fun all the same! It's difficult to get to upset with the charismatic artwork of Fidelitas starring back at you.
Even the rulebook is delightful. I may not have the final rules, but I am really hoping they keep the humor that is peppered throughout the preview copy!
Fidelitas is a whole lot of game in a tiny package. This game could be considered in the filler category, but I think it's just a notch above that. I'd call it a "filler plus," or perhaps a "gamer's filler". It's a clean design that is easy to learn and can take less than 30 minutes to play; all of the things I expect from a good filler. I think the strategy in manipulating the cards while tactically reacting to what the other players are doing is what shifts this into that next level for me. Fidelitas will definitely appeal to strategy gamers that are short on time and/or space. Did I mention this game is highly portable? With only 75 cards, you can get your Euro on just about anywhere.
I absolutely love the artwork and graphic design of Fidelitas! The character art reminds me of the stained glass stuff from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. It has a softer look that had instant appeal with everyone I showed it to. There isn't much to say about the components. It's a simple deck of cards, but my pre-production copy has held up very well over several plays and many a shuffle.
Theme was not a particularly strong element of the game. I found that many of the characters make sense within their profession/guild. A thief allows a player take cards from other players and the butcher allows a player to remove cards from a location to the discard pile, but I never really felt like I was actually wielding my influence over anyone. I don't have a problem with abstraction, nor do I ever mind a game that is really about accumulating victory points, so this is fine with me. Just don't go in expecting Game of Thrones and you'll be fine too!
Ease of Play: ■■□
The rules for Fidelitas are clearly written, easily understood, and fun to read. As I was learning the game, every question that came up was answered directly in the body rules or found easily in the card breakdown at the end of the rule book. I haven't played ANY pre-production games that didn't need some rule clarifications, so this is remarkable to me! Because the rule book is so polished and the rules themselves are fairly straightforward, teaching the game was a breeze. I taught it to three different groups and in each instance we were up and playing in five minutes.
Learning this game is easy, but mastering it is a different story all together! This game has some depth and it takes a play or two to develop a strategy for manipulating the cards (and your opponents) to get what you want. There are a good amount of things to keep track of: the other players' scores, how many cards are left in the draw deck, where the other players have been moving cards, what types of cards they have been drawing into their hands. I might not introduce it to someone as a first ever game, but I would use it as a step-up game for getting someone into more complex Euro-style games.
Fidelitas seems balanced and scales very well to all player counts. The strictly casual players I tried this with took a little longer to grok the tactics, but it seemed after one game, everyone was on equal footing for the next. As with any game in which you are dealt random objectives or abilities, it is possible to get very lucky and win quickly if your opponents don't get equally lucky. The Tavern is a special location that mitigates this possibility. It allows players to place a Virtus card (ignoring it's normal action), then get rid of an unwanted Missio card and draw a new one. It also triggers adding another face-up card to the other side of the Tavern, giving players more options when they draw their next Virtus card. I considered house ruling, draw x choose two Missio cards at the start of the game, but ultimately decided that the game doesn't need it if the players effectively use Tavern location.
With the fourteen different actions and twenty unique hidden objectives, there is certainly enough content to keep Fidelitas fresh for awhile! There is also room for expansion. I could very easily see different characters being added to the game in a modular style (a la Guildhall or Lost Legacy) where you can swap in alternative Virtus cards.
All-in-all, Fidelitas is a super solid game that I rather enjoyed. I think the mechanisms are interesting and I don't have any other game that quite scratches the same itch. It's puzzley and mind-bending, but so quick and simple almost anyone could learn to play.
Overall, Fidelitas is an 8 for me.
I would never turn down a play!
Submitted by The Socially Inept Gamer, Tiffany Bahnsen
So glad you enjoyed the game, Tiffany! Thanks for pointing out how charming I...oh, I mean how charming the game is. :)