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All You Need is Love

by | Jun 19, 2019 | Blog, First Impression, Reviews

Let it be known that when it comes to board games, I love immersion and storytelling. Thematically, I often veer towards “Sword and Sorcery” style fantasy games because they generally make it easier to enter into role-play and therefore provide some of that aforementioned storytelling immersion.

I’ve only played Fog of Love a few times now, but in just those three plays, the game has told some of the most immersive and touching stories I’ve ever encountered in a board game.  

Allow me to walk you through those stories. I’ll touch on some of the mechanics, but I’ll be mostly focusing on the different narratives that were created during the three games I’ve played thus far. One is a typical romantic comedy story, another is an open-minded and inspirational tale while the third is a surprisingly disturbing narrative.  As the rule book states: “In the end, the game is all about creating a good story.”

CHAPTER 1 
I got you babe

As my wife and I were setting up our first game of Fog of Love, there was some apprehension. My wife, a casual gamer who is playing more and more new releases with me, felt a little nervous about a game that seemingly relied on role-playing (something that she had limited experience with). I, on the other hand, was excited about the role-playing aspect but, I was wary that the mechanics would reduce the immersion for me. I worried that I would begin to “game” the experience instead and would try to use math to come out with a win. Our apprehensions proved to be for naught. The game allows for the player to do as much or as little role-playing as they feel necessary and the mechanics add, rather than detract from the immersion.

My wife played as a wedding planner who told me her name was Jenny. She didn’t need to say a whole lot more. The game then brilliantly had us assign each other three character Features. The Features I assigned to Jenny (Stoned, with Nerdy Glasses and Old Fashioned Clothes), meant that my wife had to take a moment and think about who she actually was. These Features provide the first instance of improvisation in Fog of Love as the character you just named and created has now changed right in front of you.

Photograph by @green_meeple

“The game has told some of the most immersive and touching stories I’ve ever encountered in a board game.

The same proved to be true when I told her I was a security guard named Jeremy. She gave me a Nose Piercing, Tattoos, and a Booming Voice. I initially wanted Jeremy to be a straight-shooting, nine to fiver. A “working for the weekend” type. When my wife assigned me the above cards, Jeremy suddenly changed. He had some character. He morphed into a bass playing punk who had to force himself to settle down and pay the bills. His tattoos and piercings are all that he’s held onto from his life of late nights and anarchy. Again, the game gives you little guidance and some room to breathe here. I didn’t need to write a page of backstory for who Jeremy was and how he reacted to the world around him. As a player, you get to choose three Traits (from five) that will help guide your decision making. So, even though I improvisationally decided that Jeremy was an ex-punk, he was still Nervous, Calm and Disorganized. These Traits meant that for the majority of the game, I was going to be making decisions for Jeremy that emphasized his nervousness, calmness, and disorganization. That didn’t mean that all my decisions were being made for me though. I had to constantly balance trying to keep myself happy while attempting to meet shared goals and keep my partner happy as well.

The games tutorial gently guided us through nearly twenty “snapshot moments” in Jeremy and Jenny’s life.  I was blown away at how every decision Jenny made, told me a little more about who she was. By the end of the game, we knew each other quite a bit better. We were happy and we agreed on most life decisions. Like a lot of real couples who can weather the storm, our relationship wasn’t all about drama and adventure. We went on vacation and made each other breakfast in bed. We shared stories and shopped at IKEA. We ended the game by both completing the Destiny, “Equal Partners.” Jenny and Jeremy’s relationship was a perfect introduction to the game and seemed like it played out exactly as the tutorial intended it to. I was impressed and hooked. The game’s design was elegant and rewarded me with the soft incentive of storytelling and imagining without compromising the mechanics.  I wondered, however, if every game was going to play out similarly to Jeremy and Jenny’s. That the dynamic my wife and I had as a couple was going to make subsequent playthroughs of Fog of Love feel too similar. Then, my wife and I opened up the “High School Sweethearts” scenario and we were introduced to Becky and Tony.

CHAPTER 2  
I want to break free

Tony and Becky had been together since high school. Tony was a curious and adventurous dancer who had known Becky long before she was a chemist. Becky was a science-minded lab rat who pulled Tony in with her long leather gloves while she fell for Tony’s blond hair and athleticism.  I was playing the role of Tony and I imagined him as a fit and nimble athlete who joined the high school cheer-leading squad when that extracurricular group needed a little more muscle.

Things changed when I found out that Tony had flowing, blonde hair, giggled often and liked to wear high heels. Tony was starting to feel like a cliche. Or maybe the socially constructed stereotypes in my head were making Tony feel like a cliche.  Someone who was falling outside of gender norms and, because he was a male who liked to dance and wear high heels, that he might be gay.  I thought to myself that perhaps Tony was just very comfortable with himself and was raised by progressive parents who helped him defy socio-normative expectations. He was a male who liked to dance, wear whatever he felt like and love whomever he chose to love. Just like that, the game had me wondering who Tony was. Gay, straight, bi-sexual, pansexual or none of the above. I was excited by the possibilities of who he was and how his high school relationship was going to turn out.

Photograph by @green_meeple

Throughout an hour or so of playtime, it became clear what kind of relationship Tony and Becky had. Tony was obviously searching for something. He was curious about a lot of things in life and was determined to keep dancing. He made strange decisions sometimes that didn’t gel with Becky, yet, the two remained happy. At one point, it became clear that the two seemed to have a pretty open sexual relationship. Becky also seemed to be the “breadwinner” of the relationship while Tony had a hard time finding paid work yet, made decisions that kept them in an expensive apartment downtown because it was closer to “the dance scene.”

Through it all, Becky supported Tony unconditionally. After some highs and lows, Tony achieved his Destiny of “Self-Realization”  that required him to be happy without much thought for his partner. I assumed that achieving this Destiny meant failure for the relationship but Becky achieved her Destiny too, that of unwavering “Unconditional Love” for her partner. Like most people, Tony and Becky’s relationship ended up somewhere unexpected. Tony needed Becky to help him find out who he truly was. They started out as best friends and ended up as best friends. A worthy outcome for any relationship.

CHAPTER 3  
My sweet lord

I was a priest. At least, I intended to be a priest. A man of the cloth who would have to consider his faith before his needs and before the needs of his partner. Someone who would have interesting choices to make when faced with relationship turmoil. When my partner admitted to me that she kissed another man, what would I do?  What would Jesus do? I was excited and intrigued at the complex decisions I was going to have to make. Tough decisions, yes, but ones I could overcome with humility and tact, as long as I had my God on my side. Like I said, I was a priest.

Then something interesting happened.

When reminiscing about what first attracted me to her, my partner said it was my nerdy glasses (fair enough), my giggling (ok) and my strange makeup. My strange makeup? For some reason, that changed everything. Of course, anyone can wear makeup. A touch of color to your cheeks, some foundation to cover a blemish, a bit of flair to add personality, but strange makeup? That implied some Ziggy Stardust bizarreness or some Cirque du Soleil aesthetics. In a manner of seconds, three character Features (one in particular) changed who I was. Seconds after my strange makeup was “revealed,” my new friend and I were going on a Sunday Morning Date where I was asked: “Will this date interfere with your work?” A fair question. It was a Sunday morning and I was a priest

I quickly replied, “Of course not, I hold mass on Wednesday nights.”

Just like that, I was not a priest. This small shift in expectations radically altered what kind of story was going to play out during this particular game of Fog of Love. My Wednesday night “masses” turned into occult gatherings in my head. I was not a priest, I was an occultist. I couldn’t care about another human, I only cared for my “god.” Something unimaginable and unspeakable that required sacrifice. Human sacrifice.

Wow. Things got dark fast.

Photograph by @green_meeple

The wealthy, city-loving architect I was courting could not quite figure out what the always giggling and shady “priest” was up to. She worshipped false idols and material goods but stuck beside me. However, through all my lies and deceit, she remained happy, while my happiness plummeted to zero (literally) by games end. The constant secrets and lies led to a very troubled couple.  The culmination of this tumultuous relationship was the Secret that I had been holding onto for the majority of the game: a Surprise Party. For this, I booked a cabin in the woods. Sadly, this party didn’t have any friends or balloons waiting. At this party, all secrets were exposed. I sacrificed my partner to an imagined deity that I believed existed outside of time and space.

The unofficial last scene in the game: Ritual Sacrifice. This, of course, was never stated on any of the cards but was an unspoken truth between the two of us.  Rather than the rom-com story that Fog of Love claims to simulate, our story turned out to be a psychological thriller. Gerald’s Game by way of The Call of Cthulhu.

 the  Finale  
I JUST DIED IN YOUR ARMS TONIGHT

Fog of Love is a triumph. I love game mechanics and designs that challenge me to think and burn my brain to no end. My favorite games, however,  tend to be those that offer soft incentives outside of the mechanics that allow me to have some fun and immerse myself in the story and characters of the game while exploring its design. Fog of Love provides this experience in spades. It begins in the imaginative space of character creation and the improvisational manner in which you respond to the Features assigned to you by the other player. It continues as you play scene after scene, trying to stay true to your character while attempting to figure out who your partner is and what they want. It culminates in the Finale as you witness the Destinies your characters have fulfilled while looking back at the stories that unfolded on your dining room table.

When you sit down to play Fog of Love, you start out as players but quickly become the people you have created. Unique individuals that have come alive through your choices. The game takes you on an immersive journey that has you exploring the depths of relationships. Along the way,  it also provides an engrossing story that creates lasting memories and a one-of-a-kind board gaming experience. 

Photograph by @green_meeple

About The Author

Steve

Steve Haley is a musician and high school teacher with a penchant for comic books, RPG video games and exploring the world of craft beers one (or two) bottles at a time. His favorite game mechanic is deck building and he gets a bit light headed when he is able to chain together more than three cards in a hand.