…and so I trundle off to the woods in search of a fellow fox… Now woods don’t worry me under normal circumstances, but rumors have it there are some nasty things hiding behind trees in the twilight, not least a wolf… and I don’t really fancy an entanglement with a glorified pooch…
So What’s All The Fuss About?
“ Zev, the great grey wolf, caught little Scarlet with the help of Puffer, the treacherous badger. Will her brother Indigo be able to save her without falling into a trap?”
The current fuss will shortly be occuring on Kickstarter… Fox on the Run, a competititive game played on a randomised 5×5 tiled grid of woodland, is played out with two opposing factions of animals. Each team comprising characters each with unique traits and abilities. it allows for team vs team or player vs player. However, as simple as this outline appears, does it mean we will be offered an entertaining experience or just a drab half hour taken out of our lives?
Immersion or Subversion?
The game itself is a semi-abstract affair, being fundamentally puzzle solving in nature. However, there is a backstory to the four protagonists and the gameplay/imagery carry a nicely illustrative woodland motif throughout.
So, immersion or not? Well, each faction has a unique win condition which drives their main decision making. Beyond that, the game focuses primarily on manipulation of the environment (in this case, the series of 25 face down location tiles) It is not Ameritrash glossy themes pasted over a card game. It is a focused, puzzle solving venture that definitely draws upon team cooperation in order to achieve success in the victory department. With that said, it is possible for us to slide into the shoes of the foxes or wolf & badger… assuming said creatures do, in fact, wear shoes. I found that, although the theme provides reason for the game, I was very much focused on trying to manipulate the board to achieve a victory before my opponents. The working space is small, and movement has to be very carefully planned thought out the game… So where are my meandering thought leading us… well, the game is definitely immersive. The gameplay and asymmetric win conditions force us to focus very hard on making ideal decisions every turn, but I will touch upon this later
The basic premise here is simple movement of pawns about a 5×5 grid playing area but there is certainly far more to the game than this.
Firstly the players are in opposing teams, guiding two foxes or a badger and a wolf, about their business within the woodland. Now add to this a set of asymmetric win conditions, and unique individual abilities, and we have the start of something interesting. To win, for example, team fox require one fox to occupy the same square as the other (in effect rescuing the fox from entrapment) team badger-wolf, however, require the wolf to occupy the same square as one specific fox (in addition, if all tiles are revealed team fox lose)
Now movement is simple. Orthogonal movement to an adjacent tile thus revealing it. This may sound tedious and somewhat pointless, and you’d be correct in making this assumption if this is all the game had to offer. However, once revealed a location has a tree with a certain directional arrow illustrated on it. What happens during movement onto a revealed tile is forced automated movement in the direction of the indicated arrow (unless a few subsidiary rule conditions governing tile occupation, occur). This can move a character onto an additional previously revealed tile, and force subsequent moves. Basically, careful revealing and manipulation (through character abilities) of tiles can result in long chains of automated movement. This can be fortuitous or catastrophic depending on the move options left to a player and on how the play area has been previously rearranged. This movement/reveal/automated movement is both the driving force of the game and the source of all strategic planning. The environment is small and limited space can pose us some pretty taxing conundrums. As only one character from each team can force a win condition, it is hugely important for the team mate to use movement and special abilities to either hinder opponents or aid the team mate by tactically altering the location tiles. A simple concept but offers some really difficult decisions.
Wood Chits And Cardboard Bits:
I have a print and play prototype made from a file sent to me by Beezarre Games, but I suspect the art style and suggested components look close to finalised. As for quality of production, I assume this will be a topic of discussion during the up coming Kickstarter campaign.
Meeples and Standees:
Game Design: Salvo Guastella/Starseeker games
Publisher: Beezarre Games
Gangs of One: 2-4 players
Playtime: 10-20 minutes
Age of Consent:
This is definitely not a project I see finding a ready solution to solo play. At least not whilst maintaining the multiplayer feel. The highly competitive, quick turn taking, decision making made by live players would take a master genius to replicate this in logic flowcharts for an AI… but one never says never.
The Real Nitty Gritty
- Winners and Losers: By goodness, this game can be quick and brutal but can be very cat and mouse too, with high tactical decision making. Laps in focus for a moment and one could quite easily feel the bitter taste of defeat. As it is so fast paced, a tragic defeat can easily be replaced by a string of victories in less time than a heavy euro can take to set up
- Rules is Rules is Rules: The rule book is simple to fathom and, with illustrated examples of play, consists of five pages and clearly introduces us to the key concepts and win conditions
- Lucky Bugger Buggers: There is a huge amount of luck needed in this game, but not the random luck those cuboid dice bestow upon us, that makes a game a thing of hate. No. The random distribution of the movement tiles, the unpredictability of how an opponent might manipulate or rearrange the tiles add to the frantic nature of play are what I make my reference to. These elements force us to constantly reevaluate our strategies, and it is this that makes the game so exciting.
- Lows and Highs: As tension can always be pretty high, there is no time to feel low, and even defeat is not so devastating as we want to get straight back into things.
- Footprints All Over My Table: The current coy I use incorporates a grid of square tiles about 5cm across on a grid of 5×5… little more than half a meter squared will comfortably accommodate everything
- Set It Up Just To tear It All Down Again: As the component count is pretty small, four pawns, and 29 tiles, set up and packing away is a matter of moments to lay out the playing surface grid
Me, Myself and I:
I have to say that when I first received the files to make a pnp copy, I had reservations. Myself and I concurred. It did not, on first viewing, instill confidence in an engaging game… but I am happy to report my initial thought was unfounded. There is a lot of play in just a few tiles and throw into the mix the variable win conditions, playing each team requires some very different skills, ideas and strategies. I think the speed of play, ease of play, decisions offered and the constant threat of making a wrong move that would, ultimately, be of benefit to the opposition, keeps the game alive. It will obviously not be as deep and thought provoking as a heavy analysis paralysis Euro, and as such, players who view this genre as the only creditable form of board game may not like the game. For the rest of us, it is light, fun and offers a level of involvement from the young or novice gamer to the experienced grognard. I definitely enjoyed my games with a non-gamer and probably won less than 50% of my games, which is about typical for me, be it an AI or novice live player… d’oh!
Yay or Nay?
As this is not soloable, it would not normally be a first call, but having had the opportunity to play a good number of games now, I have to say that it is a lot of challenging fun and as the sneaky foxes slink about in the shadows of the trees, the badger and wolf trap a creditable 7/8 on the BSoMT 1d8 die
So I’ve been running round this wood like a headless chicken for hours, which has a strange irony to it because, as a fox, I’d be my own dinner…
I can’t believe I have been given the runaround by a badger and a wolf… a badge. I tell you… Out foxed by a walking pedestrian crossing
Something For The Weekend Sir?
(links coming very soon )
Kickstarter Link: (Project goes live on 16th June) Fox on the Run
Fox on the Run Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/foxontherungame