Game Buzz – Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game

There are some publishers where you can just look at one of their games and know who did it.  But probably no one has been as consistent in their presentation as Flying Frog Productions, a company whose games all have a definite style that is uniquely theirs.  Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, A Touch of Evil: The Supernatural Game, and Invasion from Outer Space: The Martian Game all share mechanical similarities and a B-Movie feel, as well as photographic art that really give them their own visual flair.  The only game to buck this trend was Conquest of Planet Earth: The Space Alien Game, which featured cartoon art.  Still, they’re back on the photography bandwagon with their next release:

image by BGG user jshill

Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game was designed by Jason C. Hill, with art by his brother Jack Scott Hill.  The brothers are the team behind all of the games in Flying Frog’s catalog.  F&G is playable by 1-8 players aged 12 and up and takes around 90 minutes to play.  As you can probably tell from the cover, this game is in the style of a pulp adventure from the 1930s.  Much like The Adventurers, it kind of evokes an Indiana Jones feel as you hunt for treasure and avoid danger.

Typically for a Flying Frog game, there’s a lot of stuff in the box (which is of a longer style than the square boxes they usually use).  The game comes with a board, 16 small dice (green and white), 60 gold plastic fortune pieces (1 and 5 value), 60 blue plastic glory pieces (1 and 5 value), 16 plastic Nazis (there have to be Nazis), 8 plastic mobsters, 6 plastic villains (with corresponding cards), 8 plastic heroes (with corresponding character sheets), 8 plastic temple pieces, a plastic zeppelin, 2 Vile Organization record sheets, 2 tactics/outpost charts, one zeppelin record sheet, a 20 card Allies deck, a 20 card gear deck, a 20 card enemies deck, a 20 card Nazi enemy deck, a 45 card event deck, a 40 card city deck, a 25 card artifact deck, a 25 card adventure deck, a 45 card locations deck, a 40 card dangers deck, a 30 card villain event deck, a 12 card common item stack, various reference cards, 3 sheets of counters, and their obligatory soundtrack CD (a mainstay in Flying Frog games, and one of the attributes I appreciate the most).

It must be said that, of the Flying Frog games, I’ve only played A Touch of Evil.  However, there was a similar feel to the set up of the rules – there’s a basic competitive style of play, followed by a more advanced cooperative variant.  There’s also a set of cards that gets removed for your first game or so, at least until you are familiar with the mechanics.  Since my usual format in these posts is to go through the rules, I’ll at least take a look at advanced style, but I think I might just look primarily at the basic game to see what I think.

Sample Character Sheet - image by BGG user jshill

The game board shows a map of the earth, divided into a bunch of land and sea regions, with specially marked major and minor city spaces.  Each player begins with a hero, and each hero has a starting location.  Four artifact and adventure cards are drawn and paired, then placed in four random locations around the board (drawn from the Location deck).  These provide various challenges for you throughout the game.

The game is played in a series of rounds.  Each round has four phases: initiative, move, adventure, end.  During the initiative phase, all players roll to see who goes first (the high roll, with ties rolling off).  If anyone rolls a one, they draw a free Event card, which may be played strategically if they don’t have to be played immediately.  You also refresh any cards used in the previous round.

Sample Enemy Card - image by BGG user jshill

For the move phase, you roll one die and move up to that many spaces (with ones drawing a free Event card).  This is done clockwise from the first player.  Land and city spaces take one point to enter, while sea spaces have a printed cost.  You’ll want to be moving towards a space with an Artifact.  Enemy Henchmen may pop up on the board, and if you enter a space with one of them, you stop moving and have to fight.  Fighting basically involves rolling a certain number of dice simultaneously with your Enemy, scoring a hit for each 4-5-6 rolled.  It continues until one or both sides are defeated.  If the Hero wins, they collect Glory.  It is possible to escape from fights.  It should be noted that if you are in the middle of a Cliffhanger, you can’t move, but you still roll to see if you get an Event.

Like movement, the adventure phase is resolved clockwise from the first player, but not until after everyone has moved.  If you find yourself in a land or sea space with no artifact, you roll a die.  On a 4-5-6, you draw an Event card.  On a 1, you are attacked, and must draw an Enemies card to resolve.  A 2-3 results in nothing happening.

Sample Danger/Cliffhanger Card - image by BGG user jshill

However, if you are in a space with an artifact, the race is on!  The Artifact card will tell you how much Fortune can be earned, while the Adventure card will tell you how many Dangers must be overcome.  To start working on the artifact, you draw a Danger card from the Danger deck.  These cards are double-sided, so you should pull from the bottom or middle of the deck, not the top.  The Danger card will give you a task to pass.  If you do, you place a danger marker next to your Hero.  You can then decide to Camp Down (end your turn, collect Glory, and fully heal) or Press On (encounter the next Danger in an attempt to move closer to the Artifact.  If you ever fail at defeating a Danger, you flip the card to its Cliffhanger side and must wait until your next turn to resolve it.  You also forfeit any Glory you may have stored up, making Pressing On a push-your-luck style mechanic.  If you fail the Cliffhanger, you are KO’d and lose all Danger markers acquired towards this Artifact (you also lose your Danger markers if you leave prematurely).  If you succeed, you collect Glory immediately, as well as a Danger token, and then can decide whether or not to Press On or Camp Down.  If you’ve collected enough Danger tokens, you get the Artifact as well as your Glory.

If you’re in a city during the adventure phase, you can head into town to sell Artifacts, get supplies, etc.  First, though, you have to draw and resolve a City card (which may be a Danger, or may be something helpful).  If you successfully resolve the City card, you can sell Artifacts (discard them for the Fortune listed [+1 in a major city]), or purchase Gear or Allies for 5 Glory each.  You can also spend one Glory per wound to heal.

The end phase consists of five steps that occur after everyone has completed the adventure phase.  First, move the zeppelin (if playing with the advanced rules).  Next, it’s time for villain adventures (also only used in the advanced game).  Next, you check to see if anyone has won the game – you need at least 15 Fortune, and you need to be in your home city.  If no one has won, replenish any collected Artifacts by drawing new combinations and placing them in a random location.  Finally, any KO’d Heroes stand back up so they can continue the next round.

The advanced game adds Deep Jungle (where artifacts are worth more, but there are added challenges), Temples (which has treasure to collect), Flying (which costs 2 Fortune but allows you to move across the board quickly), the Zeppelin (which might drop Nazis on the board), and Villains (who make life more difficult for you).  The cooperative game requires the players to get a certain amount of Fortune, depending on the number of players (15-60), before 2-3 Villains get up to 15 or 20 on the Villain track.  Fortune is shared, but Glory is individual (makes sense).  In addition to the standard initiative-move-adventure phases, there’s an additional Villain phase.

So, as always, the big question is: does this look like a game I’d be interested in?  It seems like there isn’t too much strategy – you have to roll before moving, what happens in the game is determined by drawing cards, and the outcome of just about everything, from the first player to combat, seems like it’s determined by a die roll.  Nevertheless, I am tremendously excited about playing this game.  It seems like almost a pure thematic experience.  I don’t think you have to be that familiar with pulp adventures to recognize all the tropes.  Really, just seeing one Indiana Jones movie will tell you all you need to know – rival adventurers, deadly challenges, and the ever-present possibility of someone letting you do all the work for them.  I love the addition of Cliffhangers to the Danger cards, giving you a second chance after failing once.  I’m not too crazy about having to roll the dice to determine the first player each time – you could NEVER get to go first, and with everyone going after the same artifacts, that could be a serious disadvantage.

The game I most thought about when looking at the rules here was Tales of the Arabian Nights.  That game seems like it has more choices, but results are still quite random.  It’s really about the story, and I think that will be the case here.  I think anyone looking for a strategic experience will be quite frustrated, but then, they don’t seem to have ever been Flying Frog’s target market.  Personally, I’m a little surprised at how interested I am in this game.  I was obviously interested enough to write a blog post, but now that I’m done, I REALLY want to play this game.  It’s way expensive (pre-orders cost $100), so I may have to wait to play someone else’s copy.  But definitely one that is high on my want-to-play list.  Thanks for reading!

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