Fans of drafting in CCGs like Magic: The Gathering will probably be right at home with Fairy Tale, which uses the mechanic to produce a quick-playing set-making game. Fairy Tale consists of one hundred cards (twenty of which are not used under the Basic Rules) colorfully decorated with anime-styled fantasy artwork and large symbols. Although the game supports two to five players (the Basic Rules’ eighty-card deck can only accommodate a maximum of four), it doesn’t shine as much when there are only two. There are also rules included for two-on-two team play.
Each of the cards has a point value, although some cards’ values are dependent on what other cards you have in play. Several also have effects that cause you (or in some cases, everyone) to flip or unflip cards with a certain characteristic — only face-up cards count for the final scoring, so you have to consider this when selecting and playing cards for the round. The twenty Advanced cards include sixteen that have large point values but are worth zero if you don’t meet their conditions, plus four “hero” cards that have their own effects.
Each round consists of five cards being dealt to each player. You select one of these cards to keep and then pass the rest (to the left in the first and third rounds, to the right in the second and fourth). This process repeats until you have selected five cards. In the second half of the round, you select one of your cards and place it face down; each player reveals their selected card simultaneously and resolve any effects. A second and third card are played in the same manner, then the last two cards remaining in your hand are discarded face down. After the first three rounds, you begin the entire process again until a total of twelve cards have been played; after the forth round, you calculate the total score of your face-up cards and the highest total wins.
Drafting is not something most casual gamers have experienced, but even for CCG veterans, Fairy Tale provides unique dilemmas. After the first round, you have some idea of the strategy your opponents are hoping to employ — and they know yours as well — so you may have to choose between making a pick to help out your own position or “hate drafting” to deny them a crucial scoring opportunity. As the unplayed cards each round are discarded face down, there’s no way of knowing if the card you need has already passed you by, and unless you’re playing with the maximum mount of players, there’s also no guarantee that the card(s) you need will even be dealt. The other strategic choice is which three of your five cards to play, a decision that might change depending on what happens with the first card or two.
Fairy Tale is a lightning-fast game, as a complete four-round cycle can usually be completed in under half an hour. This, combined with its flexibility in both number of players and optional Advanced Rules, makes it an excellent addition to any gamer’s collection and a nice quick game for short stretches of downtime. There is usually some initial confusion as to the difference between “flip” and “unflip”, but that passes quickly; the other obstacle is the scoring, as while the cards are self-explanatory, there is an element of multiplication that may confuse younger players. Those hurdles aren’t too high, however, and soon everyone moves past the mechanics and on to the stragety, which is the way all good games should be.
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