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Low Fantasy (but, like, very low)

Would you ever consider buying a game with a 4.3 rating? Knowingly? New, and not on sale? I hope not, for your sake - but that's exactly what I did anyway. And it gets worse: the game looks absolutely gross, featuring an evil overlord throwing toilet paper at goofy-looking adventurers. What was I thinking?

The game - Awful Fantasy Adventures - has an interesting backstory. A few years ago, a game named Epic Adventure Fantasy went to crowdfunding on Kickstarter. It was designed by the Sadler brothers, at the time not yet renowned for the Blacklist Games disaster, but proud of one neat little success: Warhammer Quest The Adventure Card Game.

Epic Awful Fantasy was supposed to be a new version of Warhammer Quest ACG. One featuring more content, a campaign, and the promise of expansions - if you don't know that already, Warhammer Quest ACG was cut short on its promise to offer variety over the years, due to Fantasy Flight Games and the Warhammer license parting ways. People were therefore excited by the prospect of that new game - not so much by the fart jokes and low-level humor of the Awful Fantasy universe. They went vocal, and the campaign failed, but still, there was hope.

A few months later, the game was relaunched on Kickstarter, now called Awful Fantasy Adventures. Except it was exactly the opposite of what backers had wanted: it was still a game in the parodic Awful Fantasy universe, but it was no longer a remake of Warhammer Quest ACG. Backers were angry, but possibly, they had no reason to be: the Sadler duo granted them their wish and went through with their design in the more classical and conventional Terrinoth Fantasy setting - that would become Heroes of Terrinoth.

What was the new game about, then? Well, I don't know if backers bothered watching the playthrough video, but if they did, they should have been warned enough. The playthrough video was absolutely terrible, reeking of a poorly tested hastily scraped-together design. After all, the Sadler brothers did come up with it in less than two months between the two campaigns, and that included printing a proper prototype with updated graphic design...

Still, the campaign was a success, mostly thanks to a very low price point and a more reachable funding goal. When the backers received their game, they expected Warhammer Quest ACG, and they got a dumb game of playing colored cards to match symbols. Outrage ensued. Bad ratings fell down. The game was dead.

So, I was curious and ordered it online...

Here is what I got. The rubber duck die is not part of the game.

The first thing that struck me is that the humor is not that bad. I was afraid it would be constantly gross, and I don't like that. But it turns out that there are a few cards and rulebook lines that genuinely made me smile. It's more silly than gross, most of the time, and I do enjoy silliness.

The next thing that I noticed is that the end product is surprisingly polished. The rules are very clear, the game system very simple (maybe too much), and indeed quite different from what had been shown on the playthrough video - which seems to be the result of actual playtesting. So, in the end, the game plays quite well, even though it is almost unforgivably simplistic. I also enjoyed the idea of unlocking new rules progressively, in a way slightly reminiscent of the Dorfromantik campaign (except you open the packs whenever you want). It was exciting, and I can tell you: my biggest regret with the game is that the stretch goal for the fourth "adventure pack" was never met.

Batbat is possibly the most powerful hero in the game!

So, you start by picking a hero, a quest, and a villain (once you've unlocked the villain module, at least). You also have a hand of "skill cards", that is, cards that come in four colors and with values 1-3 - these will be your only adventuring tools for the rest of the game. All the quests are the same: beat four threats of the requested colors, and then play skill cards matching the two background colors until you reach 10. I would have wished for more variety in this respect. And, yes, the goal of the game is to fulfill the quest, as expected. The Villain is just a passive negative ability to throw a wrench in your plans across the game, and the one I drew there was not very menacing.

The core loop is pretty simple. You first reveal a threat, which gets added to your play area - unless there is already a threat of that color. In which case, you either take 1 damage or discard one matching card, and the threat card got discarded as well. Next, you select two actions from a small list. You'll nearly always use one action to draw, and you can use another action to play cards matching a threat to defeat it (hopefully fulfilling a quest requirement in the process) or to replace one of your cards with one from the draw pile.

No red cards in my hand - I can't defeat that overgrown hobbit!

If the threat is "epic", it cannot be used as a quest requirement, but you get a treasure card. You can only own one at a time but they may be very powerful.

You also have a search action where you can draw a card from a deck of six cards: one is a treasure, one adds a threat to your play area, the other four are just empty, and the deck is replenished with every draw. I call that a die, hence the rubber duck d6 replacement. But in truth, I never took that action and it felt like a complete waste. Actually, I always used "draw and defeat" or "draw and swap one". Is it repetitive? Yes, terribly so.

That Propeller Hat is an absolute killer. That's me winning the game, by the way.

So, what to make of it? First of all, I played much worse games, but not many games that had a worse rating. That feels a bit unfair - it's only because people had the wrong expectations. The game is very similar to 5-minute Dungeon and Legends of Hellas, and while the former is way more fun (although its real-time hecticness does not make it very suitable for solo play), I deem the latter more tedious and boring than Awful Fantasy Adventures. The KS was transparent about the complete change of design, and if the game ended up more streamlined than what was shown in the playthrough video, the latter was so much garbage that the publisher is only to be commended for that. The game is clear, the rules are clean, and the art is fun. Sure, as for the gameplay, it's bland, and it's dumb. I'm not sure you make actual decisions. All of your plays will feel alike. And it's very much probably better multiplayer, even though the rules would be mostly identical.

Another day, another game:

Father Darrol must Scavenge for Supplies under the looming threat of the Dark Lord.

That's not a good game I would recommend, but it's not the radioactive waste I could have expected.

I had forgotten to put it back in the box and my son found it:

"Daddy, why is there a baggie full of eyes on the couch?"

Because daddy is a board game addict, that's why.

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Jan 13

I must say that I'm a little bit jealous that you own this. I didn't back it as I was afraid the humour wouldn't be to my sophisticated tastes. 😄 Who was I fooling.

Jan 13
Replying to

You are not missing out on anything, be assured!

And if you really feel jealous, I can get another copy and send it to you, but even though it's not overly expensive, I'm sure you prefer not wasting money like this.

I went soft in this post but there are many things that could make me complain:

- many, many of the threat cards are duplicates, so you see the same "jokes" over and over ad nauseam.

- there is this annoying design laziness in which one card effect relies on one specific card color and therefore gets duplicated identically for each color to give the semblance of variety (e.g. all four base heroes have the same ability, only in…

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