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Operation F.A.U.S.T.» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Operation F.A.U.S.T: The Coup Killer rss

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Ever since Coup showed up a few years ago I've seen it be a staple at various game nights. And there's some good reason. It's fast. It's portable. It has some good player interaction. But there's also some gripes that I have with it making me always avoid it. But enough about Coup; for now. Let's talk about F.A.U.S.T.

Overall Gestalt
It's WWII and the art treasures of Europe, having been plundered by the Nazis, are out in circulation. The players have a team of operatives gathering intelligence to get the paintings for themselves. The first player who secures $1,000,000 worth in paintings wins.

The Nuts and Bolts
There are 4 paintings face down on the table. They vary in value from $0 to about $500,000 with most being worth about $300,000.

Paintings have 3 categories: normal, forgery, and lewd. The lewd ones are worth their value but subject to being seized. The forgeries have no value unless you buy a separate certificate and are subject to being seized. And the rest are perfectly fine and safe.

You start the game with 2 random and secret operatives. There's 6 different types with different abilities and distributions. You also start the game with 5 Intel which is the currency of the game. On your turn you take 1 of essentially 4 actions although there are a few more and they vary a bit.
* Take Intel from the bank
* Take Intel from another player
* Hire another operative
* Buy one of the paintings
* And then there's a big category of Other.

On your turn you announce what action you're taking and what operative is letting you take it. Which operative you actually have is hidden. If you go unchallenged you take your action. If someone does challenge you, and anyone can challenge any claim, you have to show or admit defeat and not show, which is an interesting twist. Whoever is on the wrong side of the challenge has to pay half of their current Intel to the other side. And then if the person wasn't bluffing, the action resolves. For some of the actions you can claim multiple of the same role. So instead of saying you have X, you say you have 3X, and get 3 times the benefit.

Additionally, every operative has 2 abilities. The first plays out how you are expecting. You claim a role and its ability. If noone challenges, you take the action and end your turn. The second ability is a card sacrifice. Instead of just announcing your action, you put an operative face down on the table. And then claim operative's the second action. Win, lose, or unchallenged, the operative is going into the discard at the end of your turn.

Now. The category of Other abilities is pretty broad and very important. One operative can look at 2 of the 4 face down paintings. One operative can swap your painting for someone else's. Another can choose a random painting from someone else and if it's lewd, confiscate (take) it. Another can look at all of someone's paintings and take all of the forgeries. Another can be used to buy a new painting at a discount. Another lets you draw 2 new operatives. Varied. Important. Powerful.

So that's how it works. Now how does it work?
It works quite well.

It enables a good amount of bluffing. The meat of these types of games is bluffing and not being bluffed. But the frequency you're willing to put yourselves out there depends on how much you stand to lose. In F.A.U.S.T. how much you stand to lose ebbs and flows throughout the game. The price of being wrong is half of your current Intel. But that can be 2. Or that can be 12. And you're never risking your paintings which are your VPs. So maybe one round you want to play it safe. Then you spend the Intel you have on the table and are willing to roll the dice again. And relatedly, maybe you're more willing to take a chance if the other guy has a big stack and don't think he's going to call the bluff. But the willingness to be wrong, in either direction, goes way up.

The game is never in lock-down. When someone has 2 paintings they're probably close to victory. But they could have ones with low value or worse, forgeries. And even if they don't someone else can always swap their paintings for their paintings. And then they can end up with cheap art or art which can now be seized. On the flip side, someone can win earlier than you would think. Buying a painting costs 10 Intel. You look over and see that they have 2 paintings and 4 Intel. Safe enough for another round then. But then they lay down 2 cards and announce that they get a 6 discount on buying a new painting. BAM. Game over.

There's no one way to win. Sure. Collecting Intel is good. You use it to buy art which is what lets you win the game. But other roles let you scout out what you would be buying. And other roles might seize what you just bought. And other roles accumulate so you can be getting a lot of Intel each turn. It's not as easy as R-P-S.

There's just interesting gameplay.

Wait! What about Coup? You said this kills Coup!
Although Coup has been crazy popular, I've always had a few problems with it. And talking to people in my group, I'm not alone.

First, there just isn't a lot of game there. It's entirely a game of bluffing. But because of the stakes of being wrong, the bluffing is either rare or let go. If someone is claiming the Ambassador to fish for new roles early on, are you really going to risk one of your lives to call him out on it, even if you think that they're lying? But worse, I'll go through a game of Coup and then you get to the end and the end-game is, "If you have X and Y, I can't stop you. You win." So just when it should be getting to the most interesting, it's over. With no fanfare. And you knew that it was going to be over. You see how much money they have. You know how much they need. And there's nothing you can do to stop it. It's entirely anti-climactic. And this is never one of my real gripes but Coup is player elimination. It's short enough that it doesn't matter that much but people do get kicked out and maybe start wandering around.

F.A.U.S.T. fixes all of these problems. There's a broader gameplay than simply are you lying or not. The roles and abilities are varied enough that none of them are bad. And you can use them in different ways to win. You don't get to a point where the end-game is known (although you might suspect it). And everyone stays at the table until the end. Put simply, in 90%+ of the times that someone would play Coup, I would say that they should play F.A.U.S.T. It's simply better in all the important ways.

Overall View
I'll give F.A.U.S.T. a 7. It falls into my category of games I'd be fine taking out with the right number of people. And it's nice, portable, and people can pick it up in 3 minutes. It doesn't get to the point of grabbing me and I'm sitting around thinking how I can get it to the table tomorrow. But not every game has to be. If I was a big Coup fan, it would probably be between an 8 and a 9. And it does say something that of the half dozen people I've played it with, none of whom really cared for Coup or would be willing to play Coup, all thought that this was more than decent and willing to do again.

As a side note, I'll say that I like the effort the designer made to make this historical. The gameplay is too streamlined to really make it a theme-y game. But it's nice that it's there. But I am a little disappointed in the production value. The cardstock is a little thin. It would have been upgraded if the Kickstarter had really gotten intertia. But it finished at $25k and 900 backers so got produced at 300gsm. It's not flimsy but it isn't quite as good as what you normally see nowadays and doesn't arrive at the same level that the actual game does. But it's certainly worth its price, currently $18 at CSI. If you're looking for a portable, quick, bluffing game go out and get yourself a copy.
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Robert Burke
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Thanks for the great review.
One point that confused me. We spent A LOT extra to upgrade the cardstock.

It's 350gsm and linen finished! You'll be hard-pressed to find better.
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David Oldster
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I think the cardstock is really good quality, frankly. Otherwise, your review was spot on.
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M M
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Tinyelvis wrote:
Thanks for the great review.
One point that confused me. We spent A LOT extra to upgrade the cardstock.

It's 350gsm and linen finished! You'll be hard-pressed to find better.

Ah. Think I was going off of the KS page. And the highest stretch goal was 300 or higher. But they do feel thin to me.

One other thing which I had answered this week. Most of the people I showed it to generally didn't like Coup but liked FAUST. I showed it to some friends last night who like Coup. And they thought FAUST was better. It is a good game.
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Justin G
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I agree. For me out has replaced coup.
 
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