Ever have one of those days when one part of your brain wants to sing with joy, another part is ready to kick down the doors, and the rest just wants to drive for miles away from civilization? Sometimes it feels like your head is torn between the crystal clear goals you see dancing happily before you versus the hazy roads just around the bend.
A new game from Lost Age Games is coming to Kickstarter that promises to let you play out the battle for your mind with other players. As the Kickstarter page says: “Your mind has split, and it is at war with itself.” It’s time to join the battle with up to three of your friends for ultimate control of your mind.
Let’s take a look at Fugue, from Lost Age Games, an interesting set collection game with a lot of player interaction that explores the way our brains process experiences.
Fugue is billed as a “psychogenic game of creation”, and that comes across in the production. The artwork on the tiles and box are abstract in a way that sets the mood of the game. The game plays from 1-4 players, and takes about a half an hour, even with the teach. (Note, I have not tried the solo mode yet.) Adam at Lost Age Games was kind enough to chat with me at GEN CON about the progress of the project and let us have an advanced reviewer copy.
Players will attempt to create pairs of “Mind” tiles, called sets in the game, to score points by moving the tiles in and out of different areas of the mind. The player’s ultimate goal is to put scoring tiles in their own Passion areas in combinations that maximize their points. Players win by scoring the most points by the end of the game.
Each player arranges their three area tiles in front of them in a line toward the “depth” area tile (basically, the discard area). Each of the three areas of the mind are represented by the tiles: “Imagination”, “Vision” and “Passion”, and each are shown by color and pattern. The area tokens represent those different areas of the mind, and the tiles you play and move during the game show how your mind interacts with those areas.
Note: for a two player game, there will only be one long row of tiles, with the “depth” tile in the center, followed by Passion, Vision and Imagination in each direction. (Players share the depth area.)
Next, each player takes two random tiles from the bag, and places them at the end of the row next to the “imagination” area tile, which is the tile that is at the end of each side of the row. Put a cube of your color on your game card at score zero, and you are all set to begin.
Players will first move a tile of their choice from the Imagination stage of their mind to the Vision stage. By moving tiles into the Vision stage, players will be creating sets. The most they can have in this area is two sets, so if there are already two sets in place before moving a tile into the Vision area, that player will have to move one of the previous sets to the Depth area before moving the new tile into the Vision area.
Then, players can decide to use any or all of the completed sets. If players use a set, they will target a tile in the area of one of the tiles, and move it to the area represented by the other tile. For instance, a player can play Vision / Passion, and move a high scoring Imagination tile from another player’s Vision area right into their own Passion area.
The trick is to get good scoring tiles in your own “Passion” area (or move bad scoring tiles into your opponents Passion area) because that’s where the tiles will be scored. Anytime a player has two tiles in the “Passion” area, they are immediately scored by referencing the point value cheat sheet for that combination (for instance, Imagination / Imagination scores the most points, while Passion / Passion scores negative points). Then the two tiles are moved to the Depth area.
As you can see, ideas start as just the free form imagination, work through vision, and then become passion if you play the right combination of sets, which will score you points. Manipulating that slow march via combinations of sets is the key to winning.
Another key element is the injection of Spirit into your plans. If players draw “Spirit” tiles, they move just like regular tiles. But, when they create a set with the “spirit” tiles, players have the opportunity to create a small engine of sorts. Spirit sets have the added bonus of creating “fugues” — players grab a meeple of the color of the tile matched up with the spirit tile (There’s just one meeple for each color tile, so the competition to grab the best Fugue can be fierce). From now on, whenever a player plays a spirit tile, that tile can be used as that Fugue’s color, instead of the spirit. (You can even do this for your opponent.)
The choice of which Fugue to build is important, because you can only have one Fuge at a time! Sure, Passion is a key Fugue because you can move lots of scoring tiles into Passion with it — but watch out! It is worth negative points at the end of the game. That’s where destroying a Fugue can come in handy. Use the same spirit set that created the Fugue , and you can choose to destroy that Fugue — even if it is an opponent’s! (or use a Spirit / Spirit combo to destroy any Fugue!) Don’t worry — fugues can always be created again.
The final act of the turn is to draw back up to two tiles at the end of the row by drawing tiles from the back. (Alternatively, they can move a tile, and then discard a tile at the end of the row, to give them the opportunity to draw back up two tiles for the end of the row.)
Play continues back and forth between the players until the end of the game. When the tile bag is empty, players remove one of the spirit tiles and start over with the bag. Players continue doing this until the last spirit tile is removed, which triggers the last round. Once the bag is empty, the game ends immediately. Count up the points, including any positive or negative points earned for your Fugue, and the player with the most has conquered the wayward Mind the best!
BUT IS IT ANY FUN?
Well, our friends at Lost Age Games certainly know how to come up with unique themes for their games. In this case, the battle of a wayward mind is definitely something I have not come across before. I really like how the designer has incorporated the way that thought becomes action in a positive manner into both the game play and also the scoring, and I think the best way to teach the game is to focus in on the positive aspects of getting good tiles (hence, good ideas combined with action) into your brain’s passion.
I had play-tested an earlier version of the game that used a card drafting mechanic. We liked the interactive nature of the card play’s combinations, but the mechanic seemed a bit unwieldy and fiddly. The change to tiles shows how development of a game can really soften out the rough edges. Now, it is easy to see how the two, three or four brains line up, and the tug of war that results when players compete for the best scoring tiles.
Sure, essentially Fugue is an abstract game, but there is enough thematic elements in the way that the tiles interact with each other that we kind of lost sight of the abstractedness for a while. Plus, I really like the way that the spirit tiles ramp up the player interaction. Taking the passion fugue means negative points at the end of the game, but makes the spirit tiles very powerful for the player who has that Fugue, so much so that players will be tempted to burn turns keeping that fugue out of the other player’s hands. And yes, the imagination Fugue is worth the most points, but it is definitely the toughest to use to score quick points. It is all a good balancing act.
My favorite part of Fugue is the ability to chain combos. The instructions provided by Lost Age give a little breakdown in the back of the rule book that hints at why each combo is important in the game. Some of these sets can really lead into some interesting combos. For example, you could play a set that grabs a Depth tile from one of your opposing player’s areas. Then move that tile into your Vision area, where you just happen to have a great Passion tile waiting. Then combo that Depth tile with your Passion tile to score a juicy Imagination tile right out of the Depth area to add to the Imagination tile you already had in your Passion area. Bingo, big points! That kind of quick combolicious play happened pretty frequently in our games.
This is a Kickstarter preview of a game still in prototype form, although I think Lost Age is getting pretty close to the final version, so the artwork and production may change between now and the end of the project. The project is expected to run about $15 plus shipping. That price point makes for a very inexpensive experience, especially for people who like abstract games.
If you are always on the look out for small box games, with easy set up, quick teach, and an unusual theme, you should check out Fugue. The game has those cool moments when you feel clever after setting up a nice combo for your next turn. But be forewarned: the fight for control of your mind definitely comes with lots of player interaction — if you want there to be!
Until next time, laissez les bon temps rouler!
— BJ @boardgamegumbo