Operation F.A.U.S.T. from Robert Burke Games is a WW2-themed bluffing, deception, economy and income-based item collection title. That's a lot of different game types rolled into one package. While I was intrigued by the premise and theme, I had some initial concerns about whether or not it could execute all of these in a streamlined and smooth manner. Does it pull it off? Let's take a look.
There's already some excellent detailed breakdowns on BGG, so I'll focus on my take on certain key elements rather than paraphrasing the rulebook.
It's clean. It's tight. Most importantly, it's intuitive. If one was to make a Venn diagram overlapping Love Letter, Coup, and Citadels, Operation F.A.U.S.T. would sit comfortably right in the middle. One element that makes it stand out is having different rules and effects on the cards for whether you hold it in your hand and declare its ability or you table it - face down. Either one can be challenged - provided your opponents hold at least two Intel - the game's currency. If your opponents run themselves out intel purchasing cards or artworks, it opens the door to all manner of unopposed chicanery. Very cool.
There are a number of strategies one can employ, but none are absolutely dominant - unless you're using one of the 'additional rules' provided in the book. More on that in a moment.
Actual archival photos of actual people involved in this iconic time period give it an incredibly authentic feel. As a bonus, the back of the rule book contains biographical information on everyone depicted on the cards. The art is all real works from the time period - which will absolutely thrill your art history friends, provided you have any. Card text is clean, and having the total count on the cards of the type in the deck helps the bluffing game tremendously.
There are a number of alternate rules, but I don't feel that they add a great deal to the core experience. In particular, "Monuments Men" allows a player to table two Allies cards in order to claim all four cards in the Art Cache. In nearly every game I've played with this rule, it resulted in an instant win - and in the odd circumstance that none of the other players holds enough intel to challenge your action, you get away with murder. I can see where it could make an interesting diversion, but it breaks the wonderful flow of the game.
There have also been certain additional cards made available that give each player a unique role with additional abilities or win conditions. The art on these bonus cards are not archival photography from the time period, but rather posed 'period' photographs of what I assume are members of the design team, which is a baffling missed opportunity to include WW2 personalities and additional strategies in an additional way. Imagine having a Hermann Goering role card, or Dwight Eisenhower or Churchill with different effects or goals. Were Robert Burke games to produce an expansion in the form of official role cards for each player, I sincerely hope they take it in that direction.
-Great theme, fully realized in art style
-Deception and bluffing mechanics shine
-No player eliminations
-Expanded bonus content and rules don't add much authenticity or solid gameplay
There aren't enough games that have one foot firmly planted in historical accuracy and the other in tight, fast, pick-up-and-go gameplay. Operation F.A.U.S.T. succeeds on a number of levels, and is a worthy addition to any gamer's collection.
My review is based on the PnP version Robert Burke Games made available for Kickstarter backers. However, from following the status of the project through updates, the mechanics appear to be unaltered so I expect my observations to apply to the finished production project as well.