Full disclosure: A review copy of Fairy Tile was provided by IELLO.
More Gen Con games! At this point I legitimately do not know how many I’ve played or how many I’ve reviewed; I’ve just kinda been cycling on them for a few weeks (almost 4, I think) and churning out reviews as I can. It’s been fun, but I should probably think about like, taking a break soon (which I will, as soon as Spider-Man comes out for the PS4). In the meantime, let’s talk about Fairy Tile, a recent release from IELLO. It’s not technically a Gen Con game, but I got it at Gen Con, so in my mind, it counts for my Gen Con list.
In Fairy Tile, a mighty dragon (not named Rugarth; that’s taken) has awoken to invade the realm, capture the princess, and probably burninate the countryside or something. You are not really participants in this; you’re more telling the tale of what happened between the Princess, the Knight, and the Dragon. Will you be able to most successfully weave a classic tale? Will your story fail to pan out? Or, worst of all, will you be caught telling a story that never ends?
Not a whole lot to set up. Take out the tiles:
Find the three with a white corner, and line up the white corners to form a circle (and the River runs through those tiles:
You can shuffle the rest (flipping a few over, so that you randomize which side of the tile you use, as well.
Shuffle the story cards, and divide them evenly among the players:
Set the Princess, Knight, and Dragon on the Castle, Forest, and Mountain (respectively) with their emblems:
Finally, give each player a Magic Token (face-down):
You should be ready to start!
So, a game of Fairy Tile is a retelling of a classic tale of a knight saving a princess from a dragon (and saving the Kingdom, to boot). On your turn, you’re going to try to set the stage for part of that tale while trying to fulfill your story cards, trying to tell the whole story (in … some ordering, I guess). On your turn, you’ll do one of the following: Develop Your Story, or Turn a Page. I’ll cover each.
Develop Your Story
When you Develop Your Story, you do two things, in order, if you can:
- Go on an Adventure
- Recount the Adventure (optional)
When you Go on an Adventure, you can either move a Character or add a Land Tile.
Sort of like Magic Maze, you don’t control a particular character in Fairy Tile. Instead, you may move any character on your turn, if you want. Moving a Character depends on the Character:
- The Princess may move one space in any direction and warp between Castles, in either order. This means that if you move onto a Castle, you may optionally move to any other Castle. If you start on a Castle, you may optionally move to any other Castle and then move one space in any direction.
- The Knight moves two spaces in any direction, with one caveat: he cannot end his movement on the space he started on or on any space adjacent to his starting space. This might throw you off, a bit.
- The Dragon just flies in a straight line over existing tiles (perpendicular to the edge of the tile) until he hits the edge of the Kingdom. He cannot stop before then, and he cannot move over empty spaces. There must be tiles, there.
Unlike a fair number of games, you can have as many characters as you want on a space. They may not all fit, but they’re allowed to all three be on one space.
Adding a Land Tile is generally easy. You take the top tile from the stack and (without flipping it over) add it anywhere in the Kingdom, with these restrictions:
- The new tile must be adjacent to two continuous edges. This is mostly to prevent weird placements, in my opinion.
- You may create new rivers, but you cannot block off existing ones. Think of it like Carcassonne; you can’t place a tile adjacent to a feature that doesn’t continue it.
Either way, after placing, you may attempt to Recount the Adventure unless you placed a Land Tile and your condition is Meet or Visit. In order to Recount the Adventure for those, you must have moved one of the Characters mentioned on the card, rather than just placing a tile. Recounting the Adventure requires you to check the condition on your card; if it is currently fulfilled, you may reveal it to turn it face-up and draw a new page! You may only Recount the Adventure once per turn, so even if you draw another fulfilled condition, you have to wait until next turn to complete it. Also, read the story bit on your card; it’s a bit of fun flavor text for your first game.
Conditions refer to a few different things:
- Large (Plain / Mountain / Forest / River): This is a larger grouping of adjacent spaces of the same type. For the River, it must be 5 continuous spaces; for other space types, it only needs to be 3.
- Meet: You have moved one of the named Characters onto the same space as the other named Character(s) on your turn.
- Visit: You have moved the named Character onto the listed space on your turn.
- Move Over: You have moved the named Character onto or through the listed space on your turn.
- See: A character has a straight line-of-sight to the thing specified on the card. If it’s Location spaces, they don’t need to be adjacent, but they must be visible by looking in one direction. Characters, as you might guess, can see the space that they’re standing on.
If you cannot or do not want to Go on an Adventure, you may Turn the Page.
Turn a Page
If you’d prefer to wait (or cannot fulfill the requirement on your card right now), you may Turn a Page to place that card at the bottom of your deck and draw a new one.
When you do this, flip your Magic token face-up. You may flip it face-down on a subsequent turn to take two Go on an Adventure actions. (You still only Recount the Adventure once, though.)
The rules state that it’s possible (and it is; it happened to me) for an objective to be unfulfillable. If that’s the case, you lose. If that happens to everyone, everyone loses. That’s kind of crappy, so we’ve been testing out potential variants but none of us are game designers so we haven’t made much headway. If you have a good house rule for getting around it, let me know in the comments!
Anyways, play continues until one player has fulfilled all of their Page Cards. That player immediately wins!
Player Count Differences
I’d probably most strongly recommend it at 2 and 3; I worry that at 4 players, it’s too easy for a character to really get away from you, as there are so many turns between yours. You could potentially see the Dragon or the Knight just disappear from your scope by other players accidentally teaming up to take them to the other side of the map. Beyond that, no real preference; maybe a slight preference for three players because it’s a bit more chaotic?
- Try to complete Dragon objectives early. The map will be at its smallest, so it’s easiest to move the Dragon around. If you’re not careful, you may hit points where you actually can’t complete Dragon objectives.
- Similarly, the “Meet” objectives can be tough if you wait too long. The map will get larger over time (at least, a bit). You do not want to have to try to connect the Princess and the Knight if the Princess has somehow gotten to a bad corner of the map.
- Try to figure out what other players want. If you can figure out what they want (and their incentives line up with yours), you can likely get them to do your work for you, which is nice.
- Try to make sure one of each major feature exists. You’ll need a Large Mountain, Large Forest, Large River, and Large Plans; you should endeavor to make sure that you have at least one of each unless you’re positive you don’t need any of those for your cards.
- Don’t forget the Knight’s restrictions. He cannot end his movement in a space adjacent to where he started, which makes your moves a bit less clever, on average, in my opinion. That’s not bad, just, not amazing.
- Try not to get the Princess too far from a Castle. Her warping ability is really great, but her movement ability is pretty mediocre. Just one hop, every time; not going to be able to move very fast.
- Turning a Page is not a bad move. Some people shy away from it because you’re effectively “passing your turn”, but I disagree. You’re cycling a card through your deck and deferring your action to the next turn. That’s not a loss, at all. You may end up with something that’s more doable (or harder, but that’s how things go, sometimes)!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Nice components. The minis in particular are very nice, but the tiles are a very good quality and the magic tokens are particularly excellent. It’s nice to see that they took the production of the game pretty seriously and pushed out a quality product.
- The shared movement mechanic is really interesting. It does the same things for my brain that Magic Maze does, which I like. Blocking feels less personal since you also need that piece for your own objectives, potentially (or you just like blocking).
- Pretty simple. I feel like this is a pretty solid family game that you can tweak slightly to make it into a fun improv game, as well. The idea of “move shared pieces to collect objectives” isn’t a terribly intense one. It’s also Shrek-adjacent, since it’s pretty easy to make a Shrek re-theme of this, if you’re into that. I know some people who would love that.
- Plays quickly. It’s 20 – 30 minutes, tops, and I imagine you can play even more quickly once you know the game.
- Seems expandable. I feel like an expansion would actually be pretty awesome, also! Hopefully add more variety to the story and add a new character or something.
- It could probably use a rule disallowing you to “undo” a previous player’s move. You can get into a stalemate decently easily if both players need to accomplish an objective with the same character and don’t want to move that character in the same direction. It seems like it would make sense to disallow that in some way.
- Getting eliminated for bad luck is kind of a bummer. I’m surprised there’s not a fix for that. Hoping for an expansion with something beyond “you lose”, to be honest.
- A pretty significant clarification on Recounting an Adventure is in a “Note” on a Clarifications Page, rather than under the rule itself. That’s kind of … not great; I definitely got that rule wrong at least once because of that. If you’ve got a significant rules change, put it with the rule that it modifies, rather than on an FAQ page.
- The Story Cards are kind of underwhelming. I was kind of hoping for a more Above and Below-style adventure where you only get vignettes every time, but instead we have kind of a cohesive narrative broken up into parts and then mixed around, so it comes out as kind of nonsense? My group’s fix for this has always been to just force players to improv the storyline; whenever you Recount an Adventure, you must advance the plot of the game by any means necessary, usually by featuring the character(s) named in the objective. This has vastly improved my enjoyment of the game.
Overall: 7.25 / 10
Overall, Fairy Tile is solid! I think it’s a pretty enjoyable and pretty light game. My major point in this game’s favor is that the movement mechanics combined with the tile-placement make for pretty interesting games, since you end up relying on your opponents to inadvertently help you more often than not, and trying to balance how likely that it is that they’ll help you with how easy it is to just do it yourself is the central tension of the game. It’s a good schtick! I could see re-themes of this in various context (heist, pirates, space) also doing really well, with some variant mechanics to accommodate the new theme. My major problem with it is that I kind of had hoped it would be more Choose Your Own Adventure-esque, but the narrative is fairly linear (making getting it out of order confusing). I think that’s a writing issue more than a gameplay issue, and I believe it could be fixed. That’s kind of why I’m hoping for an expansion, but it’s still a very pleasant game that probably would be solid with families (though I might favor Kingdomino for the same audience). Either way, if you’re looking for a fun fantasy tile-laying game or you want to try your hand at some improv (in flagrant violation of the game’s rules [sort of]), I had fun with Fairy Tile; maybe you will, too!