My partner spotted a game in the very small Valentine’s Day corner at our FLGS over the weekend when we went to pick up our Magic: the Gathering Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty pre-release pre-orders. Called Fog of Love, it billed itself as a “romantic comedy as a board game.” We didn’t have any particular plans for V-day (#thanksCOVID), so I thought we should pick it up and try it out.
The Amazon reviews seem to tend toward it’s “difficult to understand the rules” but that might be coming from the perspective of folks who aren’t familiar with role-playing or who tried to play without playing through the tutorial (which literally walks you through all the mechanics and everything in the rulebook while you’re playing the game.
I think how much of a rom-com it ends up being probably depends on the players, as does the outcome. It’s an interesting, fun game that can be played as a couple (or with a friend and likely alcohol) but it doesn’t venture into any “fade to black” or R-rated territory (at least, it didn’t for us during the tutorial, but this review implies that that might come out later). It’s definitely more of a role-playing game than a traditional board game. While there is a board, the game is mostly played through “choose your own adventure”-style” choices presented through “scenes”. Many scenes comprise a “chapter”, and the “chapters” determine which deck of scenes to draw cards from (“sweet”, “serious” and “drama” are the three options, with a “custom” deck that may be added to by expansions). For each choice, there’s generally some amount of role play that happens which I believe is where the fun comes in. I can’t imagine the game being very fun if all you’re doing is making choices that are optimized for your particular character build. Collectively, as a couple, you have different “destinies” — your destinies might be different, but the goal is that they at least align with each other for a successful relationship. Of course, a successful relationship might not be the point of the story that you’re playing, and there’s no real winning or losing, just like in a traditional role playing game.
The premise is that you are playing as a couple entering a relationship. The first “love story” sets you up as a couple who is going on their first date. Other “love stories” have different setups (e.g. high school sweethearts, in an established relationship, etc) and the later (more “advanced”) love stories have break up options that aren’t possible with the beginning scenarios. While the players assume binary gendered character cards, both cards have a male/female side, so no assumption is made about sexual preference and the rules explicitly state that gender really doesn’t play a role in the actual game itself. So, the only relationship-related thing that the game is not inclusive of is non-monogamous relationships. (Although, there was an implication that you could play with more than 2 players with the expansions, so maybe?)
To start, you each set up characters. This is done by taking one of the two-sided character cards, and then drawing a number of occupations, features and traits and then choosing which ones to keep and which to discard. Each player chooses an occupation (I was a TV Star and she was a Wedding Planner) and three traits. The traits are kept secret throughout the game and influence what sorts of choices you might make for your character throughout the game. My traits were “insecure”, “perfectionist” and “fun loving”. The features you draw are the features of the other player’s character that first drew you to them. I don’t remember what all of my traits were, but these were things ranging from “stoned” to “bedroom eyes” to “nerdy glasses” to “muscular” and “seductive scent”.
Once you have your occupation, traits and features, you choose a name for your character and “introduce them”. “My name is Dirk Gently. I was a TV weatherman but my agent found me a recurring role on a daytime television show because, apparently, I have really good ‘bedroom eyes’, and I’ve been doing soap operas for the last couple years.” After you’ve both introduced your characters, you can start the first chapter.
Chapters define the decks you can choose from and the number of scenes you play. You take turns playing scenes, making choices and applying the effects of those choices. Those effects can increase or decrease your satisfaction score in the relationship or your “personality dimensions”. Personality Dimensions are identified on the board and relate to your personality traits — e.g. my “insecure” trait had an individual goal of having a “balance” of +3 points in Sensitivity. To get there, I would need to make specific decisions in scenes that give me Sensitivity points and I need to make sure that the positive sensitivity points are at least 3 greater than any negative sensitivity points I may have. I also had shared goals which required a certain combined total balance in one of the personality dimensions be reached to accomplish. The other five “personality dimensions” are Discipline, Curiosity, Extroversion, Gentleness and Sincerity. You never lose points in either direction, you only add counters based on the choices you make in your scenes.
My partner said after the game that she wasn’t able to fulfill many of her goals from her personality traits. However, I was able to fulfill all of my goals through careful selection of scenes, anticipating what she might choose based on her character’s past choices. We also aligned on our destinies and, while my character’s satisfaction score was pretty far behind hers throughout the game, it got bumped up to match hers exactly by having completed my trait goals, which also allowed us to meet the criteria of our shared destiny of “equal partners” (which has a requirement of no more than a 3 point satisfaction score difference), securing a positive relationship outcome of these characters we were playing.
I think that part of the outcome of this initial game was influenced by playing the characters the way we would approach these choices, and I was certainly banking on that when I chose which destiny to pursue. I suspect if we played more against type, we might have come into conflict more and it might have had more wacky hijinks. (I’m basing this on the aforementioned review on BGG which includes an anecdote about playing this game with a stranger at a game con.)
All in all, the game is definitely worth picking up if you’re looking for something to do with your sweetie other than sit in front of the TV on the couch. With three different “love stories” as a base, hundreds of scenes and multiple expansions available, there’s no shortage of options for replaying, although I think if you went into each session with a similar goal or expectation in mind, it might get repetitive if you keep doing the same sorts of things. Like all roleplaying, the fun is playing someone different from yourself.