What is your favorite game of all time? What was your favorite demo game at Essen this year? What exactly have you done to your hair?
These are just three questions that are often put to me. I thought now was the right time to address the important one. I want to look like Aragorn, OK?!
Right, with that out of the way. The number one demo that I played at Essen was unquestionably The FOG, a delightfully constructed two-phase game for 1-6 players, set on a mysterious island where an unknown fog is mysteriously making the islanders disappear.
I sat down and spoke with designer Robert Müller-Reinwarth from XOLLOX Games at the stand to discuss the design, his ideas for the development of the game, and his hopes for the kickstarter next year. It was clear from playing the game that thousands of hours had gone into the mechanics of the game. It felt incredibly balanced and well thought out.
The game starts with the board filled with villagers, all looking to race down the beach to the safety of the boats. In the first phase of the game, players will take it in turns to place their colored discs under one villager. When you do so, you are claiming them as being under your control for the second phase of the game. The villagers at the front will score points quicker, and are often claimed first. But each villager has their own special power, and ones from the middle or back could fight their way forward as the game develops.
Once this is done, players will then take it in turns, in a snake draft order, to take their actions in the second phase of the game. Each player has a board with an equal set amount of movement actions available to them each turn. Each action costs a different amount of movement points based on its relative strength. Moving forward one space costs less than jumping, squeezing through two other villagers, or pulling others back and taking their place. Each villager can do all available actions, but they will all have one action that they can do for less movement points based on their own abilities. You can move any of your villagers but have hugely restricted movement points. Lots you want to do plus not a lot you are allowed to do, generally equals a lot of fun tension for me. It is very much the case of this here in The Fog.
As the villagers escape the island and walk onto the boats, there will be certain seats that will score more points. Where you sit on the boat, which boat you are on, which villager you are embarking, all these factors will contribute towards the total points available. There is a race element strongly present here, where you will want to get certain villagers to certain seats first. It is not always about what the best thing to do, but what you think you may need to do before it's too late!
All the while, the fog is ever advancing. All villagers at the back of the beach are at risk of being taken. After a few rounds where you will feel invincible, the fog will move forward. Any villagers still within this row are out of the game. You will score minus points for each one of your villagers still stuck back here. The minus points are big! And after the first time you are caught out, you will work very hard to try and avoid this happening again!
During this second phase, there is a delicate balance to be found between moving your villagers forward into the most profitable seats on the boat, whilst not neglecting anyone trailing at the back. With such limited movement points, and so little time before each advance from the fog, there is a brilliant sense of urgency and tension as you try to prioritise and strategise the best way to maximise your points and move your villages forward.
Through the entire game, you will feel like every decision is critical. There are no 'down turns'. You are always thinking about what you should do and trying to figure out the puzzle in front of you. Other players can and will affect your turn, but this is not frustrating. The theme oozes out of this game. In a situation of villagers fleeing for their lives, do you really think you will have things your own way all the time?
The game starts with various obstacles randomly set-up to block your villagers path. These all do the same thing, the differences are purely aesthetic. But the prototype components are gorgeous and I want them for my dungeons and dragons!
I think I would enjoy playing this game over and over. The game won't change that much each time, but the tension and challenge set by The Fog would be enough to make each game fun, and make you come back for more. This is a game that works simply as it is good. No gimmicks. No extended campaign mode. No real narrative. All the things that usually attract me. But the theme is fantastic and well through out. The art is gorgeous.But the star of the show here is the game play. It's just a great game and one I cannot wait to see more of when it comes to kickstarter soon.
You can follow the progress here.