How many games are there about immigration and the racist attitudes towards this? Yeah, none is my guess too? I was very interested to talk to the team behind Flee Fi Fo From when they contacted me and told me they would were set up at the Essen Spiel of 2021.
Speaking with Hash at the fair, it’s clear that the team behind this don’t want Flee Fi Fo From to be seen as a controversial game, or even overtly about immigration. But it is. This does not stop this being fun. This is a really enjoyable game despite the serious theme. And the game handles it very well. It doesn't take this serious matter and disrespect it or make light of the matter. Nor does it throw it in your face. It just raises the debate.
Playing Flee Fi Fo From… actually, before I get to that, I have to cover the name. It’s obviously a bit of a play on words. And I get the idea behind it, but I am not a fan. I hope the name doesn’t affect the games chances of success. But I fear it may. There is a tenuous giant theme in the game which this name builds on, but there are no actual giants seen or used when you play this game. It's more the threat they are bringing. However, I played a very early prototype so maybe this will change. But even if giants do appear, I still worry about this name. It is too much of a gimmick for me.
Ok, onto the game. But before I do, I must say the board is an early pro-type and does not include final artwork.
In Flee Fi Fo From, you play as an all-seeing clan leader, trying to re-order the entry of various villages, fleeing the never seen giants, to seek safety within the confounds of the town walls. During set up, various meeples of different colours are randomly set up in a pyramid shape, gathered outside the doors to the city. On your turn, you will be able to choose from a variety of actions depending on if you are in the action or reset phase. Players will take it in turns in these two roles, a clever way the game makes one player do the game admin but make it feel like part of the game. This works very well.
If you are in the Action phase, you can choose to take two actions from four options. This is largely about authorising villagers to come into the city and swapping villages positions in the queue outside to make sure you let the right ones in. A key part of the game, and the underlying theme is the colour of the meeples. There will be a “priority” set up which will determine the class structure in the game based on the meeples colour. This can change throughout but if you ever break priority, in that you move a lower-class citizen before you move a higher class one, you will be penalised. Sound familiar (insert name of localised and relevant politician to where you live here)!
If you can manipulate three meeples of the same colour to be in a group, you can then use the riot action to move them all into the castle. Again, the priority rules will come into effect here. You can always break priority, but the penalty will affect your rating shown on the top of the board which has a swing of points from positive 12 to negative 12. You are punished if you don't follow the law and prioritise the higher class citizens.
As you move the meeples on the board, players will also be looking to complete objectives, dealt to them at the start of the game. This could be certain marching orders of meeples on the board, attaining a certain order to the priority positions, or getting a certain colour of meeples into the castle. As you move the meeples through he different actions, you will be trying to maintain the order set in the priority to avoid being penalised, whilst fulfilling objectives, and rescuing villagers. The first player to do set numbers of these will also score additional points.
The Reset player will then run through two of four options themselves. They can maintain the flow of the villages or bring the knights into play by adding them to the board. This could be as it is a side objective for them or they want to change the order of the meeples.
The game ends when either all villagers have been saved or too many knights have retreated from the battlefield. Players score based on their completed objectives, end game bonuses, their penalty or positive points based on the priority, and the total amount of villagers saved.
Playing this game feels familiar and fresh at the same time. I love games where I am thinking about different things at the same time. The private objectives you are looking to complete are simple enough to rattle through a good few in a game, but not so easy they don't give you that little endorphin rush each time you tick another off. The movement of the meeples and the patterns you try and create feels a little abstract in parts, but the theme is always present. It is hard to pin this game down. It has parts of many different games and mechanics within it. But the overall package is one that I very much enjoyed playing.
I look forward to seeing what the final art for this looks like, and if the team behind this stick with the name. They certainly seem like smart bunch and have come a long way already with this clever and enjoyable game. I hope it does well and successfully funds. Not just for the fun it will bring to many tables around the world, but the conversations it will start too.
When the kickstarter goes live I will add a link here.