A slightly hard creation to describe or define, Fog of Love bills itself as “Romantic Comedy the Board Game” can it deliver on the Romance? The Comedy? Or even the Game? Let’s find out!
Fog of Love – What’s in the Box?
Fog of Love comes in a reasonably large and sturdy box, with one of these side-opening, drawer-type constructions that seem to be becoming popular. The box insert is (thankfully) clearly designed for long-term use, with obvious places to store all of the various components, and functional dividers.
The majority of the game is composed of various decks of cards, most of them either very large or very small. The quality is good, and everything felt fairly useable. Even with such large cards, some of the text is a bit small, and they’ve chosen a silvery-grey rather than black for most text, so this was definitely a game where I needed to remember my glasses and do a bit of peering.
My biggest component gripe with Fog of Love, was with the coloured components. Each player gets a card-holder, a set of wooden tokens, and labelled poker chips for simultaneous decision selection (the poker chips are nice and weighty). Perhaps it’s not surprising for a game that bills itself as “Romantic Comedy” but I was rather disappointed by the overwhelming wash of powder blue and baby pink. My wife still deeply resents not having been allowed the blue tokens as a child, and always plays with blue, meaning that for our games of Fog of Love I was lumbered with the rather unsightly pink (For clarity, I don’t object to pink because it’s “girly” I just think it’s a nasty colour).
Colour-palette aside, everything was very well-produced, and it looks like it will last for a good while to come.
The fact that all scenarios past the tutorial come in little foil packets that you need to open felt like a fairly needless attempt to tap in to the ‘Legacy’ vibe, but once the packs are open everything stores nicely in the main part of the box, so it’s not really a problem.
Ok, so how does it play? Well…
the tutorial does do a good job of introducing things gradually and logically – it’s just a shame it couldn’t do it more quickly
Fog of Love is a slightly difficult game to explain, in large part because it’s so different from most other things out there. My opening description – “a 2-player asymmetrical semi-cooperative social deduction game” is accurate, but it may not tell you that much. The game recommends that you start with a tutorial that walks you through the experience, just figuring out the rules as you go – a nice idea that would be a lot more palatable if the tutorial didn’t take 1.5-2 hours!
Just give me the basics then!
Broadly speaking, Fog of Love represents a relationship. Each player plays as a character, with a job role, a number of personality traits, and a selection of features. Each game involves playing through a Story – in the tutorial/introductory games, you are a couple who have just met and been on a first date. Other stories in the box involve High School Sweethearts, or more established couples whose relationships are on the rocks.
Setting the scene
The yellow box shows the length of the chapter, and which deck you can draw scenes from during it
Each story in Fog of Love is divided into chapters which provide the overall structure. It will describe the situation, or what has changed, and most crucially it will determine how many – and what type of – scenes your characters draw and play.
Players take it in turns to play a scene face-up onto the board, each of which will describe a situation, and require a decision, either from the partner (i.e. the person who didn’t play the scene) or from both players.
There are three different types of Scene in Fog of Love – “Sweet” “Serious” or “Drama” – you can generally play scenes of any kind, but the current chapter may restrict what deck you can draw scenes from when you re-fill your hand at the end of your turn. As you can probably tell from the names, the scenes will (broadly) vary in intensity and seriousness based on which deck they came from.
The things you choose will have different consequences. For one thing, they provide opportunities to increase (or decrease) Satisfaction (either for yourself or for your partner), an overall measure of how happy that character is in the relationship.
It will also adjust players’ scores in relation to six sets of paired Personality Dimensions: Discipline, Curiosity, Extroversion, Sensitivity, Gentleness, Sincerity. The Fog of Love board has 6 double-headed arrows and you will add tokens to them throughout the game, sometimes to the up-side, sometimes to the down. At the end of the game, you’ll be looking at the overall “balance” (i.e. the difference between the two totals) to see how Disciplined, Gentle, Sincere etc your characters – and your couple – have become.
One of the things I found odd about Fog of Love was the choices that had been made about which Personality Dimension a particular card would influence, and how. For example, in one game, my wife decided that my character had tattoos. Personally I would expect Tattoos to increase a character’s Curiosity or Extroversion score, but the makers of Fog of Love decided that this was a mark of lower Sincerity. It was just one of many little points where the mechanics and the theme of the game felt out of sync, and made it hard to get into the role-play aspect of things.
So what’s the aim? It’s Destiny!
A selection of Destinies
To win a game of Fog of Love, your character needs to fulfil their destiny. There are multiple different destinies in play, with more added as you explore the scenarios in the box. Broadly speaking you’ll start off with “nice” Destinies – you stay in the relationship, and you win if you are both sufficiently happy, or if your partner is sufficiently happy.
The later scenarios introduce less altruistic Destinies – ones that only work if you are happier than your partner, or destinies that mean you will actually break up with your partner.
This game can get downright nasty…
To get the full breadth of Fog of Love, you probably need all the different destinies in the mix, but we really didn’t feel any inclination to use any of the nastier ones – we’d picked up Fog of Love as a co-op game, and this level of self-centredness felt a bit jarring.
You can still play Fog of Love with just the ‘nice’ destinies, whether that be what you physically include, or simply what you choose to discard/swap out as the game goes on. I’m not sure that we’ll be playing the game enough to say with certainty how complete an experience that would provide.
I can’t get no Satisfaction
Whatever Destiny you are working toward (and this is likely to change over time), you probably want someone, at least, to be happy in the relationship. There are various options that Fog of Love gives you to increase (or decrease) satisfaction, and working out how to exploit them is key to the game.
For one thing, lots of cards will ask both players to make a decision, and reward you for matching choices. This makes a lot of sense – if the question is “what do I get you as a gift / what do you want as a gift” then matching answers will make us both happy (I got you thing you wanted, and got a positive reaction when you opened it). Sometimes mis-matched answers can still give a slight boost in satisfaction – if one of you choose “let’s do X” and the other chooses “ok, whatever” for example.
That’s some big potential for disagreement
Of course, every opportunity for success is a chance for failure. If one of you says “let’s do this” and the other says “ugh, that’s disgusting, you’re joking right” then nobody’s going to be too thrilled.
So the question is, how do you guess what your partner is going to choose? You’re not supposed to discuss your choices so, theoretically, it should be the role-playing that drives decisions. However, we found the structuring of the scenes didn’t really give us much space for this. Instead, it all just boiled down to trait goals.
Traits? The true goal!
You may remember that I mentioned earlier 3 traits that you get at the start of the game – to be precise, you get a hand of five, and pick 3 to keep. These are kept secret from your partner, but they provide the key shape of what you are trying to do. Each one will give you a target and the personality area in which you are trying to achieve it.
For example you might need an individual balance of +3 openness (i.e. 3 more tokens on the positive side of the Openness arrow than the downside), or a shared balance of -5 sensitivity. At game end, if you have met these goals you will gain satisfaction, and if you haven’t then you will lose some. More to the point, they will drive your choices in scenes, and as a pattern starts to develop on the board, this in turn will give your partner clues of what you are trying to do.
Lost in the Fog
Fog of Love is a very interesting idea for a game – completely different to anything else I’ve played, and doubtless it will appeal to some people for whom the games market wasn’t really offering much before.
That said, it felt like a bit of a mess for us. Things which have a minimal impact on what you are trying to do are sat in front of you for two hours, whilst the key things driving you are hidden. In an early game we played, I was a workaholic, trying to get productivity up as high as possible, but my wife kept mis-matching my choices because she had decided that my character was stoned when we first met, and this kept influencing her decisions.
The scenes system in Fog of Love also seems poorly set up to adapt to changes or fit into narrative context. In another game our characters got married early in chapter two, but half an hour later, we were still being faced with “dilemmas” about whether we should pretend to her disapproving aunt that we were “just friends,” or whether we should get a joint bank account. Something as simple as “If you are married you may discard this card and draw another” would have gone a long way to smoothing things out.
Fog of Love – final thoughts
I like what they’ve tried to do with Fog of Love, but the execution feels like a mess. There are too many bits pulling in too many directions, and too many things just feel clunky. Ultimately, it kept turning into an exercise in spotting which traits your partner was trying to raise/lower, and doing your best to match them in order to score points: the roleplaying aspect just gets pushed aside, and what you are left with is a slightly strange mechanical exercise.
I know that there are a lot of people out there who love this, and maybe it’s better for those who manage to commit more wholeheartedly to the role-play side of thing, and are prepared to ignore the kinks. Personally if I’m going to get that imaginative, I’d rather play D&D.
I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.