Fog of Love: A Fleeting Romance
So, unless you've been living under a rock – or were hitherto oblivious to the world of tabletop/hobby gaming – you've probably heard of a game called 'Fog of Love.' And no wonder. The game has been widely praised by fans and critics alike, presents itself in a slick, minimalist art style, and explores a theme that is wholly unorthodox within gaming – romantic relationships.
Quirky games like this one always catch my attention, particularly when story is heavily involved. So, when Josh told me about this bizarre game that was receiving widespread praise from critics – that the Shut Up and Sit Down lads said they would never play with their wives! - I was determined to get a copy. As I say, I love story telling games and this weird concept struck me as a recipe for hilarity.
I was extremely disappointed with Fog of Love. I was Destiny 2 levels of disappointed with Fog of Love. And I'm going to tell you why in fine detail.
Let's start things off with the first part of the game – its tutorial. Now, this tutorial is nothing if not detailed, and it's more than apparent that a lot of thought has gone into it. Taking a leaf from video game design's book, whenever you draw a card from a new deck the first time you flip it over and – surprise! It's an explanation of the rules. When Josh and myself sat down to play this game for the first time, we were really impressed with this.
But then it when on. And on. And on. I'm fairly certain there's a CIA outpost somewhere out there where they're making people play that tutorial over and over. Eventually, we had amassed a number of tutorial cards that exceeded the count for many card games. It's always interesting to see tabletop gaming – which once informed so much design in video gaming – borrow cues from video games (which in Fog of Love takes the form of tutorial cards emulating pop-up hints and tips). What's slightly horrifying is watching tabletop gaming repeat mistakes that video gaming has already made and moved on from. Japanese video games in particular were, until recently, crippled by painstakingly detailed tutorials that took the good, old joy of discovery round the back of the shed and shot it in the head with pin-point accuracy.
Don't get me wrong – I'm all for tutorials. Regular listeners to our podcast will be aware that accessibility in gaming is very important to us. But Games Workshop – who until recently were horrible at writing rules, by the way – manages to walk you through a Warhammer Underworlds: Shadespire tutorial in one page, and leaves discovering all the fun card combinations and moves to the players. You do not need a 30+ deck of cards to introduce the core concepts of the game. I should have a BA in Fog of Love after that.
It Doesn't Deliver
Once you've gotten through the tutorial, you finally get to create your characters. I will say that I was impressed that even this process was made interactive, with each player choosing traits for the other's character that represent what attracted their characters to one another in first place. And there are potentially a lot of laughs to be had here when you bequeath things like body odour or bedroom eyes onto your friend/partner/wife/husband's character.
But that is the extent of the character development.
What follows is essentially an exercise in hot seating where encounters are played and players get to pick a response to them, perhaps trying to find something that benefits them most. And there is no sense of continuity between these encounters. You can go from your first date straight to having a fight at the in-laws that you suddenly realise you have met and have a relationship with. It's here that the game trips, falls flat on its face and splatters mud all over its perfectly white, 3-piece suit. You're not so much playing through a romantic comedy as observing a weirdly disjointed montage that is occasionally funny but completely abandons character development as you struggle to place where your character fits into all of this.
Fog of Love is a beautifully presented game. Aesthetically, it's one of the slickest out there. But if you're in a restaurant and you order a rib-eye steak and are instead given seafood linguine – it doesn't matter how good that linguine is – you've still not been presented with what you thought you were getting.
Fog of Love is a beautiful game to look at. The personality spectrum is a very interesting concept that epitomises its slick design. The game definitely has value as a gateway game, especially as it’s a departure from the fantasy and sci-fi themes that dominate so much of our hobby. As an ambassador for tabletop gaming to those who think that board games do not extend beyond Monopoly and its ilk, Fog of Love definitely has value.
But it fails to do what it said it was going to do. It does some other things along the way, yes, but if you think you'll be going into this game to get a story-rich experience you're going to be disappointed.
Incidentally, if you're looking to buy a copy, drop me a line.
Article by Ben Porter