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Kickstarter spotlight - Fate: Defenders of Grimheim

Our Kickstarter spotlight of the week - and my personal back this month, incidentally - is Fate: Defenders of Grimheim, and it was about time since the campaign will end in no less than three days.

When I first saw Fate, I thought about running away. Cartoony art with a parodic feel, big blonde Viking dudes, designed by one of the Fryxelius brothers, who don't inspire me lots of trust because I tend to be wary of family-run business (you tend to be soft with your relatives, the way a publisher wouldn't be soft with a designer). But then I read the Bjorn card, and it actually made me smile. The stitching illustration, although silly, was also pretty fun.

But still, I didn't think much about the game. It had ugly minis. And as I said, I had a negative prior towards anything from FryxGames. Still, I'll check the KS page, I thought. If only to know a bit more about the game.

What I saw was a setting weirdly reminiscent of Defenders of the Realm which, to my dismay, the designer didn't know prior to launching the KS. I have now come to understand that the Fryxelius brothers probably don't make market studies, don't own many games, and from what they told of the design process in the updates, they just design games as a hobby to have fun among themselves. Which is why some of their designs may sometimes seem oddly dated and do not show the hallmarks of modern gaming.

Still, when I see a hex map, I'm interested. When I realized that the ugly monster minis were 100% optional, I started to listen to what they had to tell me about the gameplay. As it turns out, it's a pretty simple game. Monsters move on roads toward the central city. On your turn, you move your heroes, fight the monsters with dice rolls, or rest to heal. The goal is to protect the city against the hordes of monsters. Pretty straightforward.

What really began to sway me over though were the quests. You mostly upgrade your characters through better equipment. And to get the equipment, you need to fulfill side quests - some little missions that send you on errands or have you kill some specific amount of monsters of a given kind (in the picture above, you need to enter 8 forest areas to get that belt). This is typically the kind of stuff that the former RPG video gamer in me could find appealing.

Then I read the rulebook. It was indeed pretty simple. The kind of game you can learn in half an hour and play straight away. I also read the designers' diaries. They were sincere, interesting, and sounded genuine - not the kind of pedantic stuff or marketing-filled advertising we sometimes find during KS campaigns. I also interacted with what I believe is the creator of the game and was quite surprised, again, at the sincerity of it all. After my timid crusade against hype and marketing, I found this unexpectedly comforting.

The price is good. The pledge is good. The gameplay checks all the marks of the kind of games I like: character upgrades, loot, a tight mechanical focus, a hex-based map, side quests. The marketing is nowhere near excessive. The rules are crystal clear. I came into this KS ridden with doubts and defiance, and now it's my first back of the year, and a very confident one with that. I could even go as far as saying I now long to play that game.

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