[GR] Fairy Tale
- There was a very positive, loud buzz when Fairy Tale (Z-man Games and
Yuhodo, 2004 - Satoshi Nakamura) was first published in Japan.
Japanese games usually tend to fly under the radar, but Fairy Tale was
so popular that eventually Z-man Games picked it up for republishing.
It was lauded as a "filler", a game that could be played easily in
fifteen or twenty minutes, so I was eager to get my hands on it for
many reasons. When I first opened it up, however, I was rather
surprised to see what appeared to be complicated cards with multiple
symbols on them. Reading the rules didn't really seem to make the
game any more appealing, and I put it off for a bit before playing.
After the first game, however, I was hooked immediately. The
drafting mechanic, which is more prevalent in the game than I thought,
worked like a charm and was in fact the most important part of the
game. Combined with a variety of cards that were very well balanced,
the game just flew by in an interesting and fascinating fashion. I
enjoy both the basic and the advanced game, and Fairy Tale is one of
the few games that I want to play over and over again. It is indeed a
short game, but it is extremely enjoyable and uses a few simple
mechanics to keep players entertained.
In the basic game, a deck of eighty cards is shuffled - made up of
four major factions (Dragonvale - green; Fairywood - orange; Holy
Empire - yellow; and Shadow - black). Cards are further split up into
different types, giving out a certain number of points at the end of
the game. Cards also show information on them as to how many of them
are in the deck; whether or not they flip or unflip cards, and whether
they are a "character", "home", or "story" card. The game takes place
in four rounds - each of which consists of a draft and then playing of
For each draft, the dealer gives five cards to each player. Players
examine the cards and decide which one to keep, passing the remaining
four cards to the next player (direction depends on what round it is).
Players then keep one of the four cards they receive and pass three
to the next person, etc. - until all players have five cards.
During the playing of the cards each player will play three cards,
one at a time. All players place a card face down and reveal them
simultaneously. Any "unflip" effects on cards are then resolved, then
any "flip" effects (forcing some cards to be turned face down). After
three cards have been played, players discard the remaining two cards
and begin another drafting round. After four rounds of play, players
have twelve cards in front of them and total up their score, using
only the face up cards. The player with the highest score is the
Examples of cards include:
- Staff-Bearing Sage: Only one point, but unflips a Holy Empire card
of the player.
- Werewolf: Two points, and causes everyone (including the player who
placed the card) to flip over a Holy Empire card.
- Fairy Ring: Six points, but causes the player to flip over a
Fairywood card - even if it must be the Fairy Ring that is played!
- Homesteader: Each homesteader is worth points equal to the number
of homesteaders a player has placed. (1 Homesteader = 1 point; 2 = 4
points; 3 = 9 points, etc.
- Knight of the Round Table: Three points, and is a "friend" of the
- Bronze Dragon: Worth points equal to three times the number of
Knights of the Round Table that are placed.
- Dark Angel: Is actually worth "-1" points, but allows the player to
unflip two of their cards.
- Eight other similar types of cards.
In the advanced version of the game, twenty extra cards are added to
the deck. These cards include conditional cards - cards that award a
certain amount of points if the player accomplishes a certain goal.
For example, the Shadowking's Tale - Chapter 1 card gives a player six
points if they have the most Shadow cards at the end of the game, and
the Dragon's Tale - Chapter 2 card gives a player seven points if they
have on Silver Dragon card and one Dragon's Lair card at the end of
the game. Another card, the "Almighty" is worth negative one point
but can have its name changed to any card in the deck, so as to affect
the point value of other cards. Also, three cards "hunt" Shadow
cards, which means if they are flipped at the same time a Shadow Card
is flipped, then that Shadow card comes into play face down.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The cards have a definite Japanese flair with their
artwork and are actually quite serious and well drawn for fantasy.
The card quality is very good, although I've played the game so many
times that small bits of wear and tear are noticeable on the colored
edges of the cards. Each type of card is a different colored
background, and the symbols for flipping and unflipping are easy to
tell apart. At first I thought that the symbols would be confusing,
as each card has at least two; but it's actually very simple, and I've
run into nobody who has had a problem with it. Everything fits in a
small purple box with a lid that just barely holds the cards.
2.) Rules: The rules are on two sides of a long, unfolded piece of
paper with full color illustrations and examples. I found the game
easy to digest, although I did miss one major rule - that a card can
actually cause itself to be flipped, which does change the game quite
a bit. I think that the advanced game could be taught to new players,
but it seems much easier to play with just the basic game, as there
are only fifteen different cards instead of thirty-five. The rules
also allow for partner play, which is an interesting variant (although
I prefer single player) - and the name Richard Garfield is thrown in
there (the creator of Magic: the Gathering) with a variant that allows
players to exchange a card in play for one of their partners.
3.) Drafting: For me, this is the meat of the game, and can be
incredibly interesting. Many times a player will draw five cards and
want to keep several of them, but you may only keep one and must pass
four to the next player. So which one to keep? Should a player keep
the one that gives them the most points? This seems logical, and often
happens; but what if that means giving their opponent a card, which
will allow them to score big? Many times I've seen players torn with
this decision, as to whether they should "bite the bullet" and keep
their opponent from getting yet another Homesteader card, or keep a
card that will really help them out. Players can also hope that
perhaps a card they pass will come back to them eventually, but it
seems as if it rarely does. In the advanced version, Drafting
actually becomes even more critical, as there are some high scoring
cards that may or may not work; and players must ascertain whether or
not they will reach the goal or not. For example, the Knights Tale -
Chapter 4 card awards nine points if you also have The Sword King
(only one in the deck) in play. Should I take the card, hoping that
the Sword King will eventually come to my hand? Or should I pass it
on, taking cards that are more of a "sure thing"? Mind you, drafting
involves making four choices, and they don't take too terribly long.
But their effect on the game is rather potent and thus makes the
4.) Points: Every card has its use, and it's often difficult to
formulate which ones to attempt to collect. A player can go for the
sure points and take many of the "6" cards, although they have to
sacrifice other cards to do so. However, clever play can mitigate
this. A player can play a six point Dragon's Lair, flipping it face
down to meet the requirements then play a single point Silver Dragon,
which allows the player to unflip the Dragon's Lair. They can then
play another Dragon's Lair, which makes me flip over the Silver
Dragon. Gaining twelve points for three cards is a pretty good deal!
At the same time, collecting sets of cards, like the Homesteaders, can
also be lucrative. Five of them will garnish a player twenty-five
points, which can swing the game for the player. The most powerful
cards, if left unchecked, seem to be the ones that depend on others.
The Bard, for example, which is worth three times the amount of Elven
Warriors, seems worthless at first glance. But if a player manages to
get three of those Elven Warriors on the table, each Bard is now worth
nine points to the player. All of this sounds slightly complicated;
but it's really rather simple, and players will quickly determine
which route to go.
5.) Interaction: The Shadow cards will sometimes cause other players
to flip certain of their cards face down and can be annoying (although
they award very few points, so players who go out of their way to be
antagonistic will most likely lose). Still, they're very few and far
between - most cards a player will flip are a result of cards that
they themselves have played (such as the Dragon's Lair). Where
interaction comes more into play is in the drafting, when players will
deliberately keep and discard cards that their opponents need. One
must concentrate on their own cards and scoring, to be sure; but
ignoring what your opponents are doing is quite deadly.
6.) Advanced Game: I personally enjoy the advanced game more, since
the cards that have conditional points are so tempting yet are risky.
It adds more tension to the game and more options. I can see how many
folk would simply be pleased with the basic game, however; since there
are only fifteen card types, and it moves at a slightly accelerated
7.) Fun Factor: Much of the enjoyment of Fairy Tale comes not only
from how quickly a game plays (most last around twenty minutes -
faster once all players are experienced.), but how players are
involved and absorbed the entire time. It's usually difficult to tell
who is winning until scoring occurs; and while there is luck involved
in what cards a player draws, losers can usually point to some mistake
they made while drafting that allowed their opponent to place a nice
combination of cards on the table. I'm not sure that the
"story-telling" theme comes through, as the game is all about points
for me, but the artwork does lend a nice background to the card
laying. Also, I've always enjoyed the card drafting mechanic that was
introduced with the collectible card game genre but always found it
too expensive to care about (players must buy cards each time they
play in a drafting tournament). Fairy Tale allows me to explore this
fascinating mechanic without having to expend money.
I cannot emphasize just how enjoyable Fairy Tale is, and think that
even those who are normally turned off by a fantasy theme will enjoy
the game. Any game that causes me to play it three times in a row
(very rare for me) is certainly one that I'm going to hang on to; and
very few games use the drafting mechanic, which is one of my favorite
things about the game. If this is the sort of game we'll see brought
over from Japan, then I hope that many more make their way to the
English speaking world. But for now, I'm quite content with this
truly excellent filler game.
"Real men play board games"