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FAIRY TALE

Reviewed by Al Newman

(Yuhodo, Inc., 2-5 players, ages 8 and up. about 30-60 minutes; about $25)

 

Fairy Tale is a card game by Satoshi Nakamura that is for 2 to 5 players said to last up to an hour but will typically take less than a half-hour to play. The principal mechanic is identical to “Booster Draft” used in many Magic: The Gathering tournaments and explained later in our review. For several years, the opening round of the US Nationals Magic Championships has been booster draft, probably because the procedure minimizes the luck factor. There is a lot of skill involved in not only choosing the right cards for yourself but in choosing which cards to deny your opponents. The double edged strategies get you thinking and the accompanying decisions are hard but fun.

The deck consists of four suits, Shadow, Holy Empire, Dragonvale and Fairywood. The “basic” deck is 80 cards and another 20 are added for the expert rules. Our first game was played with just the basic deck to get an idea of what the game was all about and then we added the 20 expert cards, but most players would probably be able to wade right in at the expert level.fairytale

The Shadow suit has only 16 cards and tends to have effects to screw those who play cards in the other suits. The other three suits each have 28 cards and although the cards in the suits are unique, the powers and effects of the cards are identical for each suit.

At the end of the game, each player will have 12 cards played, hopefully all face up but possibly, a few face down. Only the face up cards will score. Most of the cards have numbers in the upper left hand corner and your score for the game will be the numbers on your face up cards plus your score for any “conditional” cards you have. Many of the conditional cards are marked with an asterisk. For example, Children of the Dragon, Homesteaders and Mischievous Fairy score X number of points for each of that particular card a player has in play. Thus, if you have 5 Homesteaders and 3 Children of the Dragon face up at the end of the game, the Homesteaders will score 25 (5×5) and the Children of the Dragon will score 9 (3×3). Other conditional cards include those with a number on a Star background and you score them only if a certain condition is met. For instance, “Fairy Tale – Chapter 4” will score a very hefty 9 points ONLY if you have the “Fairy Queen” in play face up at the end of the game. Remember, face down cards will not score!

So, how does one accumulate cards? The answer is the booster draft mechanic cited previously. The deck is shuffled and each player is dealt five cards. The players look at their cards, choose one to keep and pass the others to the left. This process is repeated until each player receives 5 cards. Then, one at a time are placed face down to the center of the table and simultaneously turned up.fairytalecards

There are certain effects that may occur when cards are placed face up, beginning in priority with “Hunt.” Certain cards can “Hunt” others that are placed in the center. If a card is successfully hunted when it is revealed, its owner must turn it face down immediately.

The second effect is “Open” and the effect typically turns one of your previously placed face down cards to a face up state. This is good, since face up means you can score the card!

The third effect is “Close” and typically turns one of your previously played face up cards to a face down state. This is bad, since face down means zero points! So, why would you ever play a Close card? Most of the Close cards have a 1 value and can open something that has a great scoring number or a card you might need to score a valuable card combination.

At the end of the first draft and play round, each player will have three cards in front of him. The other two are discarded out of the game. The entire procedure is then repeated four times. In the first draft, cards are passed to the left, in the second draft they are passed to the right, the third to the left again and the fourth and final time, cards are passed to the right again.

Since you only get to play 3 of every 5 cards that you draft, you can affect others and screw with their plans since you have the possibility of taking two cards that you know someone may need.

Other pluses are very neat Japanese artwork as the accompanying pictures show and the cards have iconic information that makes the game easier to play and understand, such as how many of each particular card are in the deck. The sole drawback is that although each suit is colored, the inset icons of the suits are black-and-white and that can be confusing. Once you know the symbols, it’s not a problem, but since the cards are multi-color anyway, it would have made sense to make the icons colored as well.

If there is a problem with the game, it might be in the novice player having some problems remembering or identifying what certain cards do, what combinations are needed to score, and scanning the table to see what can hurt or help the opponents. The only remedy is to play again and again, until one is familiar with the deck. There is a player aid that can be photocopied but even then, the lack of color makes it an effort to play at a fast pace for the first few games.

The game has quickly become a favorite for our group since we can play as many as three games in an hour. This, of course, gives each player a better chance of winning rather than if we had played only once. All told, Fairy Tale is a game that should stand the test of time and provide many hours of fun. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Al Newman


 

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