Full disclosure: A copy of Fog of Love was provided for review by Hush Hush Projects.
I think I’m finally at the point where I can just straight-up admit that theme tends to be the first thing to catch my eye in a game. If it’s off-the-wall or weird or fun I tend to take note, like Ice Cool or Millennium Blades, two games I always talk about. There’s also a special place in my heart for games with a narrative, like Near and Far or Above and Below. As you can imagine, this made me particularly interested in Fog of Love, the first game from Hush Hush Projects (and a Walmart.com exclusive, strangely enough).
In Fog of Love, you play a couple in a romantic comedy trying to figure out what their destiny is. Are you high school sweethearts, destined to stay together? Or is your relationship a tumultuous one defined by dramatic conflict and headed straight for the rocks? Well, only one way to find out.
No matter what you do next, you’ll need to set out the board, first:
For your first game, you should play using the tutorial. It will teach you everything you need to know and present game concepts in a way that makes a ton of sense, in my opinion. Look for this card:
Flip it and follow the instructions on the back.
For non-tutorial games, just do what I do. Give both players a character card:
With apparently a few exceptions in a specific scenario, your character’s gender doesn’t have any effect on gameplay, so whatever you want your character to be. Also, you get matching card holders:
As for the Destiny cards, don’t worry about them, for now:
You’ll need to figure out which ones you need once you pick a Scenario:
There are four in the base game, with more coming soon. Give each player the tokens matching their player color:
Have each player put a token on the 0 on their Character card, to represent that they currently have 0 satisfaction with the relationship (that’s fine; it hasn’t started yet). Now set out the Events. There are three types: Sweet, Serious, and Drama:
You’ll note that they have symbols in the bottom-left corner that match the icons on the board, so put them on their respective piles. Similarly, there are Trait, Occupation, and Feature cards:
So put them on their respective spaces on the board. Usually this setup would involve a bit more, but since that requires some understanding of how the game works, I’ll include that in Gameplay. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re pretty much ready to start!
So, Fog of Love is a sort-of-roleplaying game with some “resource” management aspects, in that the resource that you’re managing is your personality and how that affects your relationship. In order to have the most fun, you’ll want to spend some effort playing your character, not necessarily playing you, the player.
The best way to do this is to start by understanding how your personality “works” in the game.
On the board, you’ll notice six different areas of your personality: Discipline, Curiosity, Extroversion, Sensitivity, Gentleness, and Sincerity. They each have a different color and symbol as well as up and down arrows. Over the course of the game, certain cards will push you in one direction or another (symbolized by an up or down arrow with that color and symbol). To represent that, put one of your tokens on either the up or down arrow, like so:
These contribute toward what’s called your balance, which can be individual or shared, depending on the card asking about it. For your individual balance in a personality dimension, add your up arrow tokens and subtract your down arrow tokens. For your shared balance, as you might suspect, add your partner’s and your up tokens and subtract your parter’s and your down tokens.
To use this to segway into the last bit of setup, you’ll need to be at certain levels in certain personality dimensions to make your Trait Cards work. Deal each player 5 Trait cards and let them choose 3 to keep hidden from the other player on the helpfully-included card holders:
Fulfilling these Traits by the end of the game will earn you satisfaction, whereas failing to do so will lose you satisfaction. How much is determined by the Scenario Card, which I’ll cover in a bit. Note that, as you might guess, picking two Traits with opposite goals means one of them is literally impossible to get. There is another thing: picking two Traits with the same goals means that one of them is doubled at the end of the game. Thankfully, you get to pick which one, but it’s still one of them. Be careful.
Other cards will give you points in your personality dimensions, like your Occupation:
Deal each player 3 and let them pick one.
Now this is about where you should start the roleplaying part of this game. The third set of cards you draw are the Features, yes:
But you don’t play them. Instead, you draw 5 and you must play three on your co-player. These are things you first noticed about the player when you fell for each other. Add a bit of flavor! Tell your co-player why you noticed these features. Your co-player should update their personality dimensions for each card, but take turns playing them on each other.
Once you’ve done that, you’re about ready! Introduce your character to your co-player, and have them do the same. Now, check the Scenario Synopsis card to see what you need to do. It’ll tell you not only how much satisfaction you get (or lose!) from traits, but also what your starting hand will be. Draw the Event cards specified and then you’re ready to play!
The actual gameplay portion of this is pretty straightforward: You start by flipping Chapter One face-up onto the board, and then you progress from there. Generally, Chapter One is an Event that’s a Both Choose event, which is pretty fun. For Both Choose, both players take their choice tokens:
They choose one of the options and place it face-down on the Choice space on the board. When they’re ready, they reveal! You resolve the card by checking the conditions on the lower half.
The other type of Event is Partner Chooses, in which your co-player makes the decision. For both event types, CHOOSER is typically the person making the choice, and OTHER is the person who did not make the choice. Note that on a Both Choose event you can be CHOOSER and OTHER (as your co-player is the OTHER relative to your CHOOSER and vice-versa).
Anyways, you’ll play Events in turn until you reach the Chapter Limit, specified on the Chapter card. Place the events such that you can see the bottom part (stagger them somewhat), as it’s useful to see the names and if they’re certain kinds of events.
Some Events are played in different ways:
- Secret Events have a key in the bottom-right corner, and rather than being played to the Play Area, they simply get stuck underneath the board where it says “Secrets”. These do not count towards the Chapter Limit, but they do use your turn.
- Minor Events can be played in a few different ways, sometimes even if it’s not your turn. They generally do not count towards the Chapter Limit, and you can discard them at the start of your turn and draw new ones, if you don’t like them or don’t want to use them.
- Special Events are usually scenario-specific and have a variety of triggers. Check the Scenario Card to see what Special Events you need to play with.
Some Event Cards (and some Chapter Cards) will affect your Destiny Cards. They will have some words on them that you need to know:
- Retrieve: Pull a Destiny (any, if none is specifically named) from your Personal Discard.
- Discard: Put a Destiny (any, if none is specifically named) face-down in your Personal Discard.
- Swap In: Take the named Destiny from your Personal Discard and put it in your hand, discarding another Destiny of your choice.
- Swap Out: Take the named Destiny in your hand and put it into your Personal Discard, taking another Destiny of your choice from your Personal Discard.
As you might guess, if you don’t have the named Destiny in your hand or in your discard, relative to the event, nothing happens. One important thing is that you can never have fewer than two Destiny cards in your hand. If you were to discard a Destiny when you only have two in hand, ignore that effect. Gotta keep your options at least somewhat open.
At the end of each turn, draw back up until you have 5 Events in hand. If you’re not sure which pile to take from, check the Chapter.
Play continues back-and-forth like this until the Chapter Limit is hit, at which point you discard the Chapter card and all the Events played on it. Now, reveal the next Chapter and resolve that. Continue playing until you hit the Finale!
When you hit the Finale, players reveal their Final Destiny — this is the goal they’ve been working towards. It might be Unconditional Love, it might be Equal Partners, or if you’ve been deceiving your co-player the entire game, it might be Heartbreaker. Next, reveal your Secrets and resolve them, and reveal your Traits and resolve those. Were you able to fulfill your Destiny?
Player Count Differences
It’s a two-player game, yo.
- Plan. You need to be flexible and prepare for whatever your rom-com throws at you, but you should have a general sense of what cards you want to play to advance your personality and Trait Goals. Plus, you shouldn’t discard Destiny cards that you need to play, especially if they’re the only ones that you can fulfill.
- Try to figure out what your co-player wants. If you can help them succeed, they can help you succeed and you two can mutually win together. That said, if they have Trait Goals that are diametrically opposed to yours (and shared), one of y’all is going to have to change. The best way to do this is to watch to see which traits they choose to boost (usually play some Partner Chooses Events to start) and then try to follow suit on that. They can’t tell you anything; you have to listen and try to understand.
- Don’t bend over backwards to always do what your co-player wants. Sometimes you need to focus on you if you want to make this work. Furthermore, sometimes you really need to play certain choices to boost your traits. It’s consistent with your character.
- Watch out for really bad consequences. There are a few Events that will either remove all of your tokens from a Personality Dimension or cause you to change Occupations or Traits. Those aren’t too bad early game, but they’re rough late-game. Don’t do this if you want to keep your co-player happy.
- Don’t take two of the same Trait Goal. That doubling can really wreck you if you’re not careful.
- Don’t take two opposing Trait Goals. As you might guess, trying to make your Character “secure” and “insecure” at the same time isn’t exactly what I’d call “feasible”. It won’t end well.
- Try to mix your draws up. If you can, you don’t really want to have only Sweet Events or only Drama Events in your hand; that’ll make your life a bit difficult, as Sweet is nice but lacks consequences, and Drama consequences tend to be somewhat severe. Mixing it up isn’t ever a bad plan.
- If you want to be a Heartbreaker, you’re going to have to keep some secrets. If you clearly telegraph that you’re going to be a Heartbreaker, then your co-player (now opponent, mind you) should just finish up with Honorable Exit and fulfill their Destiny, leaving you with nothing. If you keep secrets, though, you might be able to convince them you’re going for Equal Partners or Love Team, only to turn the tables on them at the last second. I … can’t recommend this strategy, either in this game or in real life.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- The art is really nice. It definitely conveys the sense of a rom-com title card. It’s got all the bokeh and everything.
- The graphic design is also really nice. The board looks really good, and they’ve done well making the icons consistent with expectations. It all makes a lot of sense, which is great. I also like the color scheme, though I could have gone without the use of blue and pink everywhere. It seems like the original color scheme relied more heavily on the dark cobalt color (rather than that + pink), which, secretly, is one of my favorite colors, so I have a soft spot for that. I do appreciate that it’s not always assigned to one character or the other, though.
- It’s kind of a spectator sport. The last few times I’ve played it I’ve had people stop the game they were playing and just watch us play, even getting a bit invested in the outcome of the game. It’s a really interesting experience that I haven’t had with a lot of games I’ve played.
- It’s solidly replayable. Even if you’re in the same scenario, a different co-player (or the same co-player playing as a new character) may not react the same way, and you’ll definitely not get the same scenes or configurations / orderings of scenes, which is really good. I’ve revisited a scenario already with a new player and it’s been a lot of fun. Having different Traits each game helps a lot with driving new choices.
- The tutorial is really good. It presents just the right amount of information with the correct context to help you learn the game quickly. My only critique is that I am a bit confused about how some aspects of the game work for subsequent games, but learning the first game makes pretty much perfect sense and I really appreciate that. That said, the later games make more sense, I just wish that it were a bit more clear that you don’t use certain Destiny cards in certain scenarios, even if they’re unlocked.
- A decent introduction to roleplaying / narrative-driven games. I think the game does a good amount of hand-holding (in that it will often give you cues as to what to talk about or how to frame certain conversations), which is nice to help players get adjusted to roleplaying or acting as a character in a narrative. That said, I think that the theme might be difficult for someone who’s never played any kind of roleplaying game before, but, willing to give it credit for being easy enough to get into.
- I like that the scenario packs are sealed and labeled to allow for a certain progression. I think it’s good to not let players access all the material straight out of the gate (unless they want to), as they can take the recommended path through the game or they can run totally off the rails, if they want.
- The resource management problem is really interesting. You have to spend most of the game trying to intuit what your co-player needs and try to support them, but if you spend too much time supporting them then you’re not going to have enough time to accomplish your personal goals and you’ll fall short of your own personal destiny. Maybe that’s a metaphor for something? Who knows; I just play board games.
- The scenes are a lot of fun, if you’re willing to get into them. Sure, maybe you have to pick a fight at a party or yell at your co-player about their in-laws, but you have to get into the scene as your character. What would they pick? What would they want to do in this specific scenario? How would they react? Once you start doing that, it becomes easier for your co-player to help you since they can react to your character, in my opinion.
- The box opens weirdly. The lid doesn’t come off like most normal games — it slides out the side like some kind of rotated VHS.
- I don’t understand how the dividers are supposed to work. The cards are too tall to stand up in the box, so they just kinda lean, I guess? They’re there to separate the cards and they do so, but I can’t figure out how to make them fit in the box upright. It’s a bit frustrating.
- I understand why this needs to happen, but cards making reference to cards not in play confuses newer players. For instance, there are several Destiny cards that aren’t “unlocked” until later scenarios, but they’re referenced on Event cards. I have to field a lot of questions about them.
- It can be easy to get frustrated. There’s an interesting narrative element in that you could be fundamentally incompatible people (in that your shared Trait Goals are diametrically opposed) and still be playing through the relationship. Players with more experience might catch on to this faster, but it can sometimes be difficult to notice and you’ll be playing a game where your co-player is seemingly trying to thwart you at every turn, making the game seem much more antagonistic.
- I’m not sure how I feel about the Destiny cards that let you surprise your opponent and dump them. It turns this from a hidden information cooperative game into a long-form deduction / bluffing game, and that’s a pretty significant shift. I think that will frustrate a lot of people, but the nice thing is that I believe you can just avoid scenarios with those Destiny cards if you don’t particularly care for the style of gameplay they might create. Even when they’re presented in later scenarios, I kind of shied away from using them. You can make it work if you draw the right cards, but that seems like a rough way to play.
- You must play this with the right people. If you play this with someone uninterested in the theme or unwilling to roleplay the character a bit, it’s going to fall flat and fall hard. That’s always something you should be aware of before going into a game, but other games with a less significant roleplaying component may be better received by certain players.
- You may need to remove some events depending on where or when you’re playing. Some are mildly NSFW (in that they talk about sex, a commonly NSFW topic). That said, if you’re playing a romantic comedy storytelling simulation game at work, you’re probably already going to run afoul of your HR. Might as well double down at that point, right? (Editor’s Note: What’s Eric Playing? does not recommend this course of action.)
- Games that force restricted communication vaguely incentivize players to cheat slightly. I typically refer to this as “The Hanabi Problem”, in that it commonly arises there. Since you are not allowed to suggest choices, some players will find that they should try to suggest things “in character” or imply certain things to try and get around the communication rules. I’d recommend not doing that, since there’s not really a “win” or “lose” condition as much as there is completing the narrative. That said, it’s your game, so play it however you want. I generally try to avoid suggesting choices in order to see how the story progresses, which is … the point of the game, I think. I’d argue it should be somewhat clear
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, Fog of Love isn’t quite like any game I’ve ever played. Sure, it has things I love about games (great art, superb graphic design, a rock-solid tutorial), but this isn’t like a “X, but with Y” that you often see in the gaming sphere. The closest comparison I’d draw is to Near and Far, but even there the narrative isn’t quite as much of the game as it is in Fog of Love. That’s a significant advantage if you enjoy narrative-driven games, as you can roleplay your character and dig very deep into their motivations. On the other hand, if that’s not to your liking, then this will very much not be the game for you. In Near and Far / Above and Below, you can mostly ignore the narrative if you’d like and focus on the game, but in Fog of Love the narrative is the game. To play the game is to buy into the narrative, and to ignore the narrative is to fundamentally not participate in the world the game seeks to create. I think that’s a really interesting premise and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played of it (a lot!), but I can wholeheartedly say this is not a game for everyone.
But you know what? No game really is, and that’s okay.