Gloom of Kilforth: NinjaDorg's Fortune And Glory: The Cliffhanger Game Review

Thursday, January 05, 2012

NinjaDorg's Fortune And Glory: The Cliffhanger Game Review




Prelude:

Flying Frog Productions bring us another attention-grabbing genre movie, sorry game, with Fortune and Glory: the Cliffhanger Game.  The same PhotoShop -> Filter -> Artistic -> Drybrush effect is used once again throughout the design of the game on a series of photos of actors, models and friends of the game’s makers in period outfits, posing at various locations with lots of interesting props.  Some people might not like this design format, and whilst I usually prefer digital/painted artwork I must say I like it a lot, and think it nicely fits that B-movie feel FFP’s games have, whilst also letting their games stand out from the crowd.
Biases - I love A Touch Of Evil and Last Night On Earth, but don’t like the look or theme of Conquest of Planet Earth or Invasion From Outer Space.


What is it?

‘Indiana Jones: the Board Game’ without the appropriate licensing.  No getting around this glaring comparison.  FANG homages old school pulp adventure stories/comics/movies and lets the players become have-a-go heroes who take on the evil Nazis (or the curiously worldwide mob if you prefer) in a race around the planet to accumulate allies and gear and find artifacts of great power that will save or destroy the world.


How does it play?

Roll for initiative, roll for move, draw a (usually) nice Event card if you get a 1 on either roll, move to a location, flip a card, try to find an artefact by overcoming a series of dangers/encounters, gain Glory for successful encounters, use Glory to buy stuff, take artifact back to a city to sell it for Fortune, repeat until you get 15 Fortune and win.  This is not a Euro.

The main element is that you’re chasing artifacts which are “dynamically generated” - two cards are put together to determine the artifact’s type and object, e.g. ‘The Eyes’ artifact with ‘of Medusa’ adventure.  Each has a number of dangers you must overcome and if you fail one you flip the danger card over to reveal a ‘Cliffhanger’.  Your turn ends and you must overcome this more deadly danger on your next go or get KO’d and lose stuff.


What are the bits like?

For the most part, Glorious:

The map of the earth is a really beautiful board – on a par with the Tales of the Arabian Nights earth map, which I feel is really saying something.  It evokes the unexplored, exaggerated feel of the time with an emphasis on theme with countries like “The Heart of Africa” and “Amazon Falls” rather than geographical accuracy/consistency.  Also feels pretty sturdy.
The minis are really great quality and are what you have come to expect from FFP, with a range of heroes and villains and their henchmen, some temples, and a nice Zeppelin to boot.
FFP’s cards – and there are hundreds of them in FANG - might actually be my favourite in any board game.  They feel so sturdy I haven’t yet sleeved an FFP game.  Love them.  They also look great too, really like how they’ve captured all the different elements.  And there is lots of replayability in there – you’ll barely touch most of the decks in a given game and there are a lot: Events, City events, Enemies, Nazi Enemies, Gear, Allies, Adventure/Artifacts.
Great tokens, nicely designed, tactile, thick and generally easy to see on the board.  Again, a great standard maintained by FFP.
16 dice.  Can’t have too many dice.  You get 8 white for the heroes, and 8 green for the villains.  Though having rolled better with the greens repeatedly, I switched em around.  Scientific logic that.

But occasionally, UnFortunate:

Over 100 plastic coins!  This was a big mistake I feel, the ‘5’s can be hard to distinguish from the ‘1’s at a glance, and the plastic is ugly, garish blue and off-yellow/gold and pointless.  It looks like it’s from my two year old’s cash register toy.  Cardboard tokens like the Investigation tokens from ATOE would have been much better and prettier, and presumably less costly for all involved.  Worst of all, the box cover advertises “over 160 plastic bits” without the addendum “most of which are these garbage toy coins”.
Music – the included CD is the same quality as the other FFP games.  And love it or hate it, my strong feeling is that these should be optional, rather than included in the box.
Massive – the box is really massive, and doesn’t really warrant the space.  Only the board fills it, so if that had come in two parts or something they could have made it LNOE/ATOE sized, or maybe the size of the D&D Adventure System games.  As it is the thing is pretty unwieldy and difficult to store.


What’s new for FFP?

I think scope is what they were going for with this one.  There’s a high-falutin’ sense of adventure as you race around the world hunting for ancient temples and treasures and fending off villains, racing down city streets or crashing cargo planes into mountains.  And the array of elements included in the gameplay such as various effects on artifacts you are pursuing (some positive, some negative), the spread of villainous henchmen across the world, collapsing temples, a roaming Zeppelin dispensing Nazis around the globe, evil hideouts to raid, the events and dangers of exploring cities, all these help feed the idea of a living world you’re exploring.  But it’s all very much an evolution of the A Touch Of Evil (and Last Night On Earth to a lesser extent) gameplay, so if you didn’t like that game then the chances are that this one won’t blow your mind.


How is it better than LNOE/ATOE?

More cards, feels like more variation and depth.
The best FFP board yet, puts the ATOE map board to absolute shame - and I liked it!
Feels more streamlined and fleshed out in its gameplay.
You can play cooperative, competitive, solo, or team games.
The Villains’ AI is simple but effective, and really puts the pressure on you when you’re racing for the same artifacts.
You can fight Nazis!  Just waiting for those LNOE Nazi zombies to turn up in LNOE now...


How is it worse than LNOE/ATOE?

FANG takes a longer time to play, and takes up more space.
It’s more expensive, and you don’t get significantly much more game for all that extra cash.  I got bought this as a great surprise Christmas pressie, but I probably wouldn’t have opted for it myself given the price point.  Which is a shame because I’d have missed out on a great game.
The Dangers are limited – as has been stated on the BGG forums before, there just aren’t enough Dangers, and these are the main challenges in the game.  For the first few games you won’t notice but when the same ones start emerging after repeated plays it can get samey, even if each has two possible Cliffhangers, chances are you (hopefully) won’t see them anyway.


If I only get one of the three games, which should it be?

Damn, why did I include this question??  It’s a tricky one, and probably comes down to which theme you prefer.  Which I think is a testament to FFP’s design skills.  I probably prefer A Touch Of Evil but I have all the expansions for that game so it’s an unfair comparison.
Pricewise ATOE and LNOE give probably as much game in the box, so it’s best to start with one of those first to see if you enjoy FFP’s design style, since it is very similar across all their games.  Unless your love for pulp adventures trumps zombies or gothic horror of course...


What’s the difference between Fortune and Glory?

I used to know before I played this game but now I don’t anymore!  For some reason you purchase things with Glory whilst your hero’s ultimate quest is to amass the most Fortune.  Which makes everyone seem more mercenary than heroic.  This has irked more than one or two people, and I still find the game designer Jason Hill’s explanation bewildering.  But seriously, you’ll soon get over this grammatical curiosity after a game or two and just get on with the adventuring.


Is it any good?

Yes.

There’s a lot going on in this game, and it feels like lessons have been learned from the previous releases even if they are mostly baby steps, like having the option of fixed movement for those who don’t like rolling to see ho far they can go, or making something potentially happen in every single space on the board.  The rules took a while to digest, and because there’s a lot going on it’s easy to miss or forget things on your first few plays.  And I still can’t find an explanation of the Fortune bonus on Location cards (we just stick the bonus under the artifact card if applicable). 

In a turn you have a decent choice of options – I’d read that people thought there was no skill involved and that you just go for the nearest artefact but I often found myself having to choose between different locations and whether or not to chance a city or event or an enemy, or try and pick up an event card en route to an adventure, or whether or not to try and camp down and heal instead of pressing on.

Overall: it’s a lot of fun!  It plays well and turns go quickly as downtime is spent watching others encounter a series of dangers and praying for their downfall (not played the coop version yet).  It can be a bit faltering as you get the rules down – there are a few more rules than I’d expected after A Touch Of Evil.  I’ve played a metric tonne of solo games and it’s still set up on our table for another multiplayer game tonight.  The solo game is hard to lose, you’ll soon want to ramp up the difficulty on that, similar for cooperative games.  But the competitive game is a heart pounding race to the finish.

It’s early to say but I reckon it’s up there with LNOE and ATOE, both of which I love.  And the soloable aspect is a huge bonus for me for when the wife is watching Eastenders, etc.


Summary

If money is no object, jump on in.  Otherwise you might want to consider your other options first.  Here’s a recap of the pros and cons...

Pros:

Fun game!
Really beautiful board
Brilliant cards
Cool minis
Great theme – really well implemented, smash those nazi scum!!
Lots of replayability in most of the card decks
Fast paced – actions are resolved quickly with a few dice rolls
Good choice of options in a turn
1-8 players
Option to play coop, solo, competitive, or in teams

Cons:

Price – very high for what you get (your country’s price may vary)
Rubbish plastic coins!
Music CD
Mahoossive box
Limited dangers









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