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Subject: Gather round, children... rss

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Scott Sexton
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Spoiler: Fallen is a lie, or perhaps an elaborate illusion, BUT it is still a whole bunch of fun.

The Pitch: Fallen is a 2 player story telling game set in a dark D&D styled universe. One player plays a hero, the other plays a dungeon lord for the hero to match sword and wits with. The Hero player gets to build their character through the game by developing their abilities and getting better loot to equip. The Dungeon Lord on the other hand gets to develop their abilities and levels up their hordes of monsters. Mechanically, this isn't anything new or particularly special, although it is a somewhat interesting asymmetrical experience for the two players.

What works: The true meat of the game though comes from Fallen's Story Phase. The story phase makes up the bulk of Fallen. In it, the Dungeon Lord reads a paragraph of story text to the Hero. The Hero makes a choice based on what they think will best suit their skill set. The Dungeon Lord will read the result of the choice and a competitive die check will occur forcing the Hero to roll a check against whatever the Story card and the DL decides to throw at him (monsters & special powers). This cycle of Hero choices and dice chucking plays out over the course of 3 densely packed oversized story cards until the player reaches a final show down with the DL, which plays out VERY similarly to the Hero vs. DL checks that have been occupying the majority of the game.

The story telling in Fallen is the real attraction, and here is where it hits a home run. My kids LOOOOOVE Fallen's choose your own adventure style story telling. It is effectively a very compact light weight RPG experience. The main reason to get this game is that it is an excellent parent/child bonding game. If you have gamer children capable of fantasy as dark as say Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal this game is a must buy for you. Watchtower Games is sitting on a million dollar idea if they wanted to skew the story more towards a younger audience (say if you reskinned the theme in the world of Mouse Guard, Mice & Mystics, or The Dark Crystal). This is the best 2 player storytelling experience I've had with my kids since they started reading books for themselves. If you want a game to bond over with your kids, this is an EXCELLENT BUY.

More thoughts: Fallen isn't really a game, think of it as a competitive story telling experience. This is a shared storytelling/bonding experience. It isn't really a game in the traditional sense. Players wrestle over the ultimate outcome of a story. The role the Hero plays in the game is VERY enjoyable. They get to pick almost all the major story decisions and in truth, the story being told is theirs, not the DL's. Fallen, even though I would describe the game as having fiddly components, mechanically, it is a relatively simple dice chucker. Its sort of the opposite of Tales of the Arabian Nights, which is a simple game component wise, but has a very fiddly rules set. Because of the fun storytelling elements offered by the game, and its relative ease of entry, Fallen is an excellent choice for people who want to enjoy a story telling game but only have two players, especially if you are playing with younger players.

What doesn't work: The game is a lie. Who wins the majority of the checks (spread out over 80% of the game) doesn't really matter much. The only meaningful benefit of winning any of the checks during the Story Phase is who picks rewards first, and who earns XP. If the story card says that the hero will find a treasure after the encounter, the only difference it makes if they win the encounter or not is that they get a random treasure if they lose, or the choice of 2 if they win. Not that great of a difference really, especially early in the game.

I have developed a "competitive" variant that ramps up the tension so that there is more at stake in these challenges without causing a run away leader problem. You can see it in the first post here:

http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1313283/how-make-winning-cha...

There is also a wasted opportunity in how the designer has implemented choice in the game. The Hero's story choices effect ONLY what challenges are played (and what xp is awarded at the end of a story card). Inversely, the results of the challenges NEVER effect the story and only have minimal consequences mechanically (typically, who picks what, when and how, yawn). It would be really cool to see future story cards force you down different divergent story paths depending on your success or failure in certain challenges. I'm looking at you Watchtower Games!

Conclusion: So it may sound like I'm really down on Fallen. I do have significant criticisms of SOME mechanisms in the game, but I bring these up to temper expectations for what I find to be a fantastic experience. As is, this is an AWESOME experience in a box, and a fixable gaming experience with house rules. Ultimately, Fallen wants you to think it is a Storytelling game. Without house ruling, the Story Phase isn't really a game, it is a choose your own adventure that tells you it is a game, but lacks meaningful gameplay choices. Its still a hell of a good ride though. The final battle is a game in that the gameplay decisions become meaningful and have real consequences in how the story concludes. You never really escape the fact that Fallen is an experience where two people are struggling over the ending of a story and not so much playing a game. It is also worth noting that playing the Hero is inherently more enjoyable then playing the DL. The job of the DL is to make sure the Hero isn't given a passive experience. The Hero needs a good, living, breathing foil to give them something to struggle against and to share in the story that unfolds. That isn't to say that Fallen isn't a fun experience for the DL, but people should again temper their expectations. The joy of being the DL is the same as GMing a Role Playing game or dressing up as Santa and giving gifts during the holidays. Your joy comes primarily in giving someone else a hell of a good story to experience.

Who should buy Fallen:

A person should buy Fallen if they match the following criteria-

Enjoy Ameritrash with mild euro influence.

You enjoy Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

You are able to play 2 player games without too much struggle.

You want a game to bond with a close friend or your children over (Fallen is perhaps one of the best family bonding "games" I've seen since Mice & Mystics).


You should avoid Fallen if:

You aren't a fan of Ameritrash.

You want to make meaningfull gameplay decisions that have meaningful consequences.

You hate roleplaying and Choose your own adventures.

You hate generic dark fantasy settings/theme.


A final note on those controversial KS exclusives:

There are three tiers of this game currently-

1- The base/retail game.

2- The KS enhanced version of the base game.

3- The 4 exclusive adventure packs.

I've not fully experienced all the KS exclusive content, so be warned.

Content wise, the jump from 1 to 2 is pretty hefty. Kickstarter backers at the most basic level pretty much doubled the content of the base retail game. Double the characters, double the story cards, double the monsters & gear & so on. The jump from 2 to 3 is a bit more mild, but it does add 60 story cards (each of the story cards are linked thematically so that the awkward jumps between story cards are minimized).

What should I do if I want to get this game. If you can find a copy of the KS version for less then $90, I say go for it, ONLY because there are no expansions for the base game, YET. The extra content you get in the KS version pretty much means you'll never need to worry about buying expansions if you want to give the game extra legs to run on (it'll take you dozens if not hundreds of games to plow through all the KS content). Depending on how random you want to make the story cards, you should be able to get 10 games (from the retail game) where you never repeat any story cards, and then keep in mind that each card has roughly 3 routes through the card, so at the very least, you would need to have 90 games to experience all the details the story cards offer. If you want more variety then you can get the KS version to increase the story cards to 70+ (which offers an insane amount of variety that most sane gamers will never fully explore). The other major boon is the 6 extra hero/DL characters added to the game. These so called "advanced" characters add lots of different mechanical options to the game, without being must buys.

The rare and pricey adventure packs you can find on line for roughly $120 offer more content then players need right now. The extra long adventure packs (12 thematically similar story cards) are overkill if you already have the KS upgraded set. This extra is only necessary for completionists or folks who want more options for the treasure deck or monster decks.

Keep in mind that this game will have expansions coming sooner rather than later. With each future expansion, the less necessary all these exclusives will be to have a quality gaming experience. So, if you can wait, feel free to get the base game now. If you want to get all the Fallen you'll ever need, find a KS base copy and go nuts.
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Udo Borries
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Just commenting to set the numbers for the content straight:

Retail version has 30 story cards, KS version adds 50 (20 KS story cards and 5 "small" adventure packs with 6 story cars each), the "large" adventure packs add 12 story cards each, which means additional 48 cards together.

Else: i agree with you in many points (in other points i think we should just agree to disagree, as they are mostly a matter of taste)
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Anders Pedersen
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scottatlaw wrote:

What doesn't work: The game is a lie. Who wins the majority of the checks (spread out over 80% of the game) doesn't really matter much. The only meaningful benefit of winning any of the checks during the Story Phase is who picks rewards first, and who earns XP. If the story card says that the hero will find a treasure after the encounter, the only difference it makes if they win the encounter or not is that they get a random treasure if they lose, or the choice of 2 if they win. Not that great of a difference really, especially early in the game.
I disagree on this one.

Getting the most XP means a lot, even early in the game.
If the Dungeon Lord can buff up his creatures before they are wounded, he definitely has an advantage.
And the sooner the Hero can get Skills, the better he will stand in future challenges.

Having two cards to choose from is also a very good reward, when it comes to Omens/Treasures. Not all cards are created equal and it also help you shape your character in the direction of your choice.

The reward with Reward tokens is very subtle, and if I were to tweak anything, this is where I would make a change.
How about making the winner draw all 3 tokens and then choose one?
That would eliminate the odd situations where the looser ends up with a better result than the winner.

scottatlaw wrote:

There is also a wasted opportunity in how the designer has implemented choice in the game. The Hero's story choices effect ONLY what challenges are played (and what xp is awarded at the end of a story card). Inversely, the results of the challenges NEVER effect the story and only have minimal consequences mechanically (typically, who picks what, when and how, yawn). It would be really cool to see future story cards force you down different divergent story paths depending on your success or failure in certain challenges. I'm looking at you Watchtower Games!
Now on this I agree.
It became apparent in oury very first game that there was a disconnect between making choices and taking tests.
I know the reward tree would quite possibly have to be doubled in size if the game should also take the results into consideration. But some of the tests feels forced the way the game is written. In one of our sessions, the Hero walked up to a throne where a skeleton grabbed his hand. We then had to resolve a test and afterwards the story continued with the skeleton reacting. The outcome of the test had no impact on the situation and it was a bit difficult to explain exactly why and how a challenge was needed.

While the story as a whole is engaging, the test system is fun and interesting, and the writing is good, the way tests are sometimes implemented annoys me.
I have not fully settled on how big an issue I feel it is, but my current rating of 8 is possibly the highest I can go due to this imperfection.
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Scott Sexton
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dbc- wrote:
scottatlaw wrote:

What doesn't work: The game is a lie. Who wins the majority of the checks (spread out over 80% of the game) doesn't really matter much. The only meaningful benefit of winning any of the checks during the Story Phase is who picks rewards first, and who earns XP. If the story card says that the hero will find a treasure after the encounter, the only difference it makes if they win the encounter or not is that they get a random treasure if they lose, or the choice of 2 if they win. Not that great of a difference really, especially early in the game.
I disagree on this one.

Getting the most XP means a lot, even early in the game.
If the Dungeon Lord can buff up his creatures before they are wounded, he definitely has an advantage.
And the sooner the Hero can get Skills, the better he will stand in future challenges.

Having two cards to choose from is also a very good reward, when it comes to Omens/Treasures. Not all cards are created equal and it also help you shape your character in the direction of your choice.

The reward with Reward tokens is very subtle, and if I were to tweak anything, this is where I would make a change.
How about making the winner draw all 3 tokens and then choose one?
That would eliminate the odd situations where the looser ends up with a better result than the winner.


You are right that this is going to be largely an issue of personal preference, and that is why I brought it up in the review. (My reviews are subjective opinion and not fact.)

As a long time fan of Ameritrash games (which this is), high stakes dice combat is nothing new. My critique is to illustrate that for fans of Ameritrash, the stakes you have in winning any given individual challenge is pretty low (I agree that winning as many as you can does give you SOME advantage, but not a whole lot) and may mean you'll find the challenges repetitive and boring. If I'm chucking dice, I want there to be serious consequences, this isn't Bruges or Roll for the Galaxy. Its the Ameritrash way!

I think the standard game mode is perfectly fine for folks who want to focus on the story, and if you enjoy the game as is, again, more power to you. Enjoy what you enjoy! There is no right or wrong way to play a game if everyone is having a good time. For those with tastes similar to mine, I encourage them not to give up on this game and try my variant rules.

Heck I'd encourage anyone to take the variant rules for a spin, they are a blast and give the game more of a raw tension. How many times have you cheered out loud for winning 1xp?
 
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Edwin Karat
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I'm going to have to disagree with this thread. After a couple of plays, I feel that a lot more attention was paid to the game mechanics and balance over theme, which makes it very much not an Ameritrash game to me(*).

The consequences of winning/losing are subtle but huge. XP is valuable and can get you an effective +1 bonus, which is a big deal in contested rolls over your opponent. Also, getting to choose your cards does matter a lot in practice -- some cards are more useful than others, especially in different situations.

Looking at the design history of the game, it looks like there were more rewards in playtest, but they were toned down, as this prevented the game from being too lopsided.

Finally, if you compare this to other storytelling games (eg Tales of the Arabian Nights or Agents of SMERSH), the decisions are far more meaningful here.

Basically, I feel as if this thread is calling it an Ameritrash game but criticizing it for not being an Ameritrash game.

(*) I'm not going to argue over the "correct" definition of Ameritrash, since I believe that such discussions are ultimately pointless. However, I consider that Ameritrash prioritizes theme over gameplay. It may not be a Euro either, but I don't think that all games have to be one or the other. If not, I consider this game to be neither.
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Paul DeStefano
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karat wrote:
Basically, I feel as if this thread is calling it an Ameritrash game but criticizing it for not being an Ameritrash game.

I really have to agree with that statement - and the fact that that statement is correct.

It is striving to be Ameritrash.

For the record, I think the game is pretty decent fun.
 
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