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Subject: A Delight (from a Grown Up's Perspective) rss

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Alex Martinez
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Irving
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Two things I'm going to get out of the way up front:

I am a grown up.

I do not have kids. Nor do I really know anyone who has kids that are old enough to play this game yet.

Nevertheless, I bought Stuffed Fables for a couple of reasons:

I love the idea of the Adventure Book system. Like another new favorite, Near & Far, the idea of using a spiral bound book for boards is a terrific concept. It is such an efficient use of space. For Stuffed Fables, it also allows the inclusion of a storytelling system and additional unique rules right there on the accompanying page. It is a great idea, and the execution here is brilliant.

I love a good All-Ages Game. Note here that I said, "All-Ages", not "Kid's Game". A Kid's Game is something like Candyland, with no (or very limited) decisions, something that a child can wrap their head around without feeling overwhelmed. An All-Ages Game is one that is intended for all age ranges. Like Teletubbies versus Coco, there is a huge difference between these two target audiences, and it's just a shame that we haven't quite figured this out as a culture.

One of my favorite games of all time is Heroscape, a game with real tactical choices but deliberately designed to be playable by adults and children while being a fun experience for both. Stuffed Fables fits squarely in this category too.

I love toy games, i.e. games that are unapologetically toys. I certainly don't mind other types of games and have many in my collection, but there is something appealing to me about a game that doesn't feel the need to show you how "edgy" it is. The Adventure Book system is flexible enough that this need not be a game about brave stuffed heroes. But Plaid Hat deliberately chose to make it about this, and did so without feeling as if they needed to dumb down the game. (Accessible, yes. Dumbed down, no.)

Finally, I enjoy a lot of what Plaid Hat does. Tailfeathers is a great X-Wing style game in a unique universe with some terrific mechanisms. Ashes is a M:TG style game with its own unique ideas. And Dead of Winter is an interesting survival game. So I was willing to take a chance here.

And I am enjoying the heck out of it.

At its heart, Stuffed Fables is an adventure game, a board game equivalent of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. The rules are straightforward enough, and your heroes embark on a quest. Like those books, the path forks based on different outcomes, but it still has some rigidity. Still, most people reread Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books at least two or three times, exploring what they have to offer. Stuffed Fables has a gameplay aspect too, which makes replays fun even if you have seen the paths available.

Gameplay in a nutshell is straightforward. You draw dice from a bag. Some dice give you back stuffing. Some trigger threat. The rest you spend on actions, often depending on the color they are, though not always. You can encourage your teammates by passing them dice for use on their turn or sharing your stuffing (i.e. your health).

A simple strategy element is the option of rolling dice together or separately. It's not complicated, but it is a nice risk / reward system, something that allows kids to make risk assessment without being too punishing.

When bad guys move and attack it's as simple as rolling a threat die and following the action given. Most bad guys fall after a single hit, though bosses can be tougher.

Every Stuffie Hero has a special talent as well as special Heart talents that are more powerful but require spending Heart tokens (not easily earned). Each of the Heroes conforms to a die type and has abilities matching that color's theme. Lumpy the elephant can reroll blue dice (resistance) and is the tank of the team. Hopps the bunny can reroll green dice (agility) and is the slippery one. Stitch is yellow (perception) and Theodora is versatile (can switch dice) and is basically the leader. There's also Lionel and Piggle but I haven't played a story where they are available yet.

The roles are easy for kids to grasp while also being instantly accessible to anyone who has ever played a game of this type.

Gameplay involves picking a story, starting on its opening page, and following the twists and turns along the way. I have only played the opening story, but I have played it three times, and every time, it played out a little differently. I may have seen most of what the first story has to offer, but there are six more AND I would certainly not be averse to playing the first again if someone wanted to.

Theme is (forgive the pun) stuffed into Stuffed Fables. The first story is all about the Little Girl's first night in her Big Girl Bed and the brave toys that are there to defend her, their first foray into the Fall, land of lost things, and to find her stolen baby blanket. The second story, which I haven't played yet, is all about trying to help her not wet the bed and opens with a bunch of evil dark hearts turning on a dripping faucet to make that happen. (Those jerks!)

The stakes, at least at the beginning, are very small and yet, perfectly sized and relatable for a child or an adult who can relate to the struggles children go through.

I will add that I have played this with three different groups (all adults) and everyone enjoyed the heck out of it. Turns are quick. Actions matter. The game is challenging without being overwhelming. And the writing...

The writing is really great. Neither dumbed down nor overwritten. This is a game that doesn't worry about using bigger words or concepts and respects its audience. It isn't too kid-ified but neither is it afraid to be about kid things. It's a great balance, and if players aren't invested in the quest to explore a dangerous land in search of that baby blanket then that's a shame.

In the last few years, I've felt we have been going through an unremarked upon gaming renaissance as designers and companies experiment with what games can do and how they can play. From Spirit Island to Vast to Fog of Log to Charterstone and others, some incredibly innovative, accessible, and smart games are being made. Stuffed Fables is another one of those games.

So don't be afraid to step away from the grimdark and the Euro-style spreadsheets and dive into the world of Stuffed Fables. It's not the most complicated game, but it is a great gaming experience.

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Luke
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I'm enjoying this in a similar way for similar reasons. I have most of Heroscape.

I never get a chance to play it anymore though.
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Grant F.
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I have been reading a lot of posts about how adults would view this game. This helps a lot.
 
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Herefor Thecomments
Australia
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There's not enough game in this for me but I'm still picking it up to sit on the shelf for 6 years when I can start my Daughters indoctrination to the hobby.
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Robbie Taylor
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Yep same here! My daughter is 4 and I don't think she is quite ready for this, yet. Nevertheless, it arrives in the mail tomorrow!
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Adam Deverell
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I’m about to start it with my 10 and 16 year old. Don’t know what to expect. My son (10) has been playing Elder Sign for a few years now. Bit of a dofference between Cthulhu and stuffed teddies! My daughter will like the story. We’ve never played an adventure game before - should be fun.
 
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