Fae is the reimplementation, retheming, of the board game Clans, released by Z-Man Games. The game is designed for 2- 4 players, taking around 30 minutes to play. In Fae monks instead of huts are moved to perform rituals, disappear from the map to score points. Parts of the map become cursed, others blessed and bodies of water break up the board. However, does the gameplay work with the new theming? Let’s find out!
The setup takes a few minutes as every single monk is added to an individual space on the board. There are 5 colours of monks with one of each being added onto the 5 terrain types in a region, though the two sets of 5 (monks and terrain) do not match up. At the offset of the game each player receives a player colour secretly via a card. During the game you will know which colour your want to score most but you’ll be left to only guess what colours others are. All colours are used, thus there is an interesting twist where even in a maximum player count game there is always one colour that no-one controls.
On a turn a player must move all the monks on a space into an adjacent space. There are two limitations to this that groups of 7 monks or more cannot be moved, but still moved onto, and monks cannot move onto empty spaces. After the movement has occured if a single monk or a group is adjacent to only empty spaces a ritual occurs, otherwise play moves to the next player.
Rituals are how the different colours score points. This is where the terrain type of space matters. A maximum of 12 rituals will occur, each based upon a ritual card. These cards have three properties: a blessed terrain type, a cursed terrain type and a value. If the ritual happens on cursed zone the monks just vanish and play continues. If the ritual is still going ahead then you must check if all 5 monk colours are involved. If all colours are present any colours which only have a single monk involved get removed. If there aren’t all 5 colours, or after the removal, points are scored. Regardless of the number of monks of each colour, the colours involved gain the number of points equal to the number of monks in the ritual. Bonus points, indicated by the card value, are then awarded if the ritual is taking place on the blessed terrain type. Then, the player that caused the ritual to occur gains the card, which counts as a bonus point at the end of the game.
There are a lot of ifs when it comes to rituals but when in play this does make sense after only a single ritual. After a few rituals the blessed/cursed ritual card changes and this is all known information to players. This means players can trigger rituals on cursed terrain spaces in order for the group of monks to score nothing at all. The issue with this is that it can in turn give away what colour you secretly are. The final ritual card has no cursed terrain type, instead awarding a whopping 5 point bonus for all terrain types. After this ritual or when no legal moves can be made the game ends. Players reveal which colours they were and bonus points gained from collecting ritual cards are added, with the winner being whomever has the most points.
As not all the colours are “controlled” secretly by players it is entirely possible for one colour to finish miles ahead of the rest yet not give anyone the victory. Depressing as this might seem, to be beaten by the game itself, just discounting non-player colours makes it easier to see who has actually won. This also can introduce an interesting bluffing element where a player appears to make a specific colour rocket up the point tracker to make others target that colour, though this can backfire if it turns out to be someone else’s secret colour.
One issue with Fae is the colour palet choice. It sits somewhere between pastel and bright colours and the colours result in nothing really popping from the board. With so many games using colours to entice players in, Fae almost does the opposite, making it look uninspiring. The art design of the map has also lead to confusion among newer players determining what spaces are classed as adjacent and which are separated by bodies of water. This issue is due to the rivers, that do not separate spaces, merging with the lakes, that do. Even after a couple of games some were still having to double check the board to make sure the move they were taking was legal and/or advantageous.
The production quality of the monks and the board itself are only let down but the colours, in terms of robustness and design they are strong. The monks are all cloaked up in mystery and this goes hand in hand with the ritual process theme. Art-wise aside from the colour choices for the board the amount is limited but nice. To the extent the only other art adorns the secret player cards, which are decent; though being secret aren’t even seen often during play.
Always scoring all colours might sound like an odd way of thinking, especially in a two player game, yet it works to allow players to never truly give away which colour they secretly are until the very end. There are a few strategies open to players in terms of forcing rituals to occur with all colours present or on cursed zones though there is limited change from one game to the next. Fae is therefore a game to play from time to time, not one that’ll hold players’ attentions for multiple games on the trot. My biggest problem is the colours used make it hard to read the board but this hasn’t been the case for all. Therefore, the best bet is to play or at least see the game on a table before you purchase.
[Editor’s note: Fae was provided to us by Z-Man Games for the review.]