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Subject: A First Play Review of Fantastiqa rss

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Michael Sweazey
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We received our Kickstarter copy of Fantastiqa yesterday which includes the Adventurers and the Treasure Hunter Expansions as well as all promo cards. Unfortunately, it arrived after I was already at someone's house playing other games. So it had to sit patiently at my house until this evening.

Fantastiqa is designed by Alf Seegert, designer of Trollhalla and Road to Canterbury. I have never played Trollhalla, but I became a big fan of Mr. Seegert's with Canterbury. Upon seeing the marketing videos for Fantastiqa, I suspected that I would enjoy his new game as much.

Basically, you are an adventurer in the land of Fantastiqa. You have been transported to Fantastiqa in a Narnia fashion with a rucksack full of seemingly mundane household items. However, when you arrive in Fantastiqa, you find that your items have been transformed from spatulas, toothbrushes, and washcloths, etc into swords, magic wands, and magic carpets, etc. The board has six locations in which you will have either a tower where you can purchase artifacts (cards that can aid you in many ways or can provide a welcomed amount of screwage in the game), a Beast Bazaar where you can purchase more beasts (cards) to add to your deck, or Quests Chests where you obtain more quests to complete. It is by completing these quests that you gain the necessary points to win the game. In between these locations, you will travel via roads that have a creature on them. You must have the required items to play that successfully subdue the beast to bring them into your deck and let you pass by. In the meantime, there are also events that come into play that might help or hinder one or more player.

Components

Upon receiving the box,it is apparent that Gryphon was as conscientious with the packaging of Fantastiqa as they were with Canterbury. The box is extremely thick with a nice linen texture. Upon opening the box, you find thick boards and tokens with very attractive artwork. (Considering that the art is from classical artists, this is understandable.) The cards have a pleasant linen texture. However, for a deck-building game, I would have liked them to be thicker. The insert in the box, just as with Canterbury, is very well designed with good indentations for each of the boards. My only complaint with this is that it does not appear that the slots for the cards are wide enough to fit FFG sleeves. (The shorter Mayday sleeves will probably be fine, but my own preference is for FFG.) Even if I wasn't a compulsive sleever, I would sleeve these cards since they will be shuffled and manipulated repeatedly, and they are easily bent or creased due to being thin. However, given that I can always remove the insert and store everything in the box if necessary, I can't get too bent out of shape about a slightly too form-fitting insert.

The wooden chalices, towers, and gryphons (squirrels) are very nice additions to the components. And yes, they will always be squirrels!

Theme

I admit it. I am at heart an Ameritrasher. I am all about theme. And not the if-I-squint-real-hard-and-drink-a-twelve-pack-I-can-fool-myself-into-thinking-the-black-cube-is-a-mage-while-the-orange-cube-is-a-barbarian kind of theme. With many deck-building games, I find myself simply concentrating on the math - can I buy that card, and do the cards in my hand add up to enough to accomplish something. For instance, I enjoy Ascension, but I rarely feel I am participating in the story related on the back of the box.

However, Mr. Seegert is an excellent story-teller in games. With Canterbury, let's face it, he had great source material. However, book-to-movie conversions have repeatedly shown us that source material doesn't always help. Mr. Seegert did an excellent job of interpreting the theme of the Canterbury Tales into an enjoyable game. The mechanics enhanced your immersion in the story, and the writing gave it a suitably Monty Pythonesque feel. He has accomplished the same goal with Fantastiqa. The rules and the fairly simplistic design of the cards never interfere with the theme. The beasts are placed on roads that you have to travel on to arrive at locations. The items needed to subdue a creature make sense given their strengths and weaknesses. The gameplay never devolved into my feeling while playing Thunderstone where I no longer feel I am going to the village to recruit assistance or buy equipment, but I am just going to a stack to buy something that boosted the value of my deck.

Gameplay

The gameplay is excellent, as I inferred in the theme section. The game hits a sweet spot for those days when you want to play a thoughtful game that isn't TOO thinky. There are many choices, though sometimes you can feel trapped by the requirements needed to move to another location. However, I suspect much of the occasional claustrophobia will be cured with improved strategy while playing. In the meantime, Mr. Seegert has given players just enough means to escape the situation where they truly are stuck by way of free but limited actions as well as purchased teleportation.

The rules are quick and easy to learn. There are a few things that it is easy to forget the first time you play, but not many. (In our case, the fact that doubles of an item become wild was remembered about halfway through the game.) However, the rulebook is extremely thorough and does not assume prior play of deck-building games. In addition, the gameplay is very intuitive.

The writing within the game is often humorous, and there are many references to Monty Python, etc that are funny but subtle enough that I suspect they won't lose their luster a few games down the road.

One advantage that Fantastiqa has over Canterbury is that, while Canterbury had 572 ways to score victory points, Fantastiqa's victory points are obtained in a very straightforward way. This will greatly help to enhance the enjoyment of the game when a new player is playing with experienced players. Canterbury required a couple of plays (as with many Eurogames) to assimilate all the ways of getting points and thus gave experienced players a great advantage. Fantastiqa's base game has eliminated this issue. I suspect the expansions will add variety and challenge, but we just wanted to start with the basic, no variations game for the first play.

Overall

I believe that Fantastiqa will be a great niche-filler in my collection. When I don't want to spend four hours in a game, don't want to fry my brain, but I still want a thoughtful game that lets me feel the adventure of the game, Fantastiqa will be the choice. The added feature that I can probably teach it to someone in about fifteen minutes, and they can be fairly competent a few turns into the game guarantees that this will hit the table often. There may be some who would like a deeper game, but Fantastiqa is what it is. If you want a very lengthy, deep game, I would suggest pulling another box off the shelf. However, if you want an hour-and-change-long game that provides you with plenty of interaction, choices, and theme, Fantastiqa is the game you want.

Cheers!
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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msweazey wrote:
I am all about theme. And not the if-I-squint-real-hard-and-drink-a-twelve-pack-I-can-fool-myself-into-thinking-the-black-cube-is-a-mage-while-the-orange-cube-is-a-barbarian kind of theme.


A marvelous review, and one that pretty much convinces me I want this game!
A little geekgold tip for the comment that I've highlighted. You've expressed my opinions quite soundly, sir!
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Michael Sweazey
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amacleod wrote:
msweazey wrote:
I am all about theme. And not the if-I-squint-real-hard-and-drink-a-twelve-pack-I-can-fool-myself-into-thinking-the-black-cube-is-a-mage-while-the-orange-cube-is-a-barbarian kind of theme.


A marvelous review, and one that pretty much convinces me I want this game!
A little geekgold tip for the comment that I've highlighted. You've expressed my opinions quite soundly, sir!


Thanks for the tip and the comments! That was the comment I was expecting to get flamed on! (Of course the day is still young!)devil
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Pablo Schulman
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msweazey wrote:
amacleod wrote:
msweazey wrote:
I am all about theme. And not the if-I-squint-real-hard-and-drink-a-twelve-pack-I-can-fool-myself-into-thinking-the-black-cube-is-a-mage-while-the-orange-cube-is-a-barbarian kind of theme.


A marvelous review, and one that pretty much convinces me I want this game!
A little geekgold tip for the comment that I've highlighted. You've expressed my opinions quite soundly, sir!


Thanks for the tip and the comments! That was the comment I was expecting to get flamed on! (Of course the day is still young!)devil


Well, you'll have a little more for the harsh comments, because I agree with your quote as well! Thumbed up just because of it lol.

Nice review, by the way.
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Pap Qaq
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My thought on this game after one play is that it is too long for a filler, too simple for a strategy game, and too much tail chasing (you follow a series of fairly obvious and repetitive actions). That being said, the components are gorgeous.

I guess there's some strategy in there - you need to trash cards to make your deck more efficient, buy artifacts to make it more powerful / card draw effects, etc. Unfortunately the deck building aspect of the game feels like a bad version of dominion and the symbol matching a more complicated version of Lord of the Rings (which many love but which I don't like much at all).

I really wanted to like and I'm hoping it grows on me, but I think it's a bad version of two or three other games. For gateway fantasy Euros I'd recommend Lords of Waterdeep and for deck building I'd recommend Dominion. This game tries to do a number of things and while it does them prettily it feels a bit long for the amount of thought involved.
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Andrew MacLeod
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And when, exactly, are we playing Churchill again?
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p1q0 wrote:
Unfortunately the deck building aspect of the game feels like a bad version of dominion.....


That's kinda funny, because I've been telling people that Dominion is a bad version of Fantastiqa!
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p1q0 wrote:
(you follow a series of fairly obvious and repetitive actions)

This alone shows that you have not played the game enough. If you have a choice to subdue 4 creatures, will you subdue all of them? Given a choice between subduing a creature with a gem and creature with a "key" power which would you choose? These are far from obvious choices which create subtle but significant changes in the long run.

I can understand your other points though. Fantastiqa is a hybrid design that some people might not like.
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