Jacob Jaskov had a problem. He loved boardgames–but his girlfriend, not so much. She just didn’t find the themes of being a medieval trader changing cubes from one colour into another colour, or using cards to buy other cards, or pushing little plastic toys around on a board very exciting.
No, what she loved was romantic comedies. So Jacob set out to do what many of us have probably dreamed about doing: making a board game his partner would love–and that he would enjoy playing as well.
The result, after three years of development, trying to interest publishers, and finally Kickstarting himself, is Fog of Love. And it just might be the Holy Grail game for gamers who want to assimilate interest their beloveds in tabletop gaming.
When I first saw it advertised back at the beginning of 2017 I was single, and the KS campaign had ended, but they were taking pre-orders. And I thought, “Huh. That could be a good game for a fourth or fifth date, even if it’s horrible.” And then when I watched the promo video, I thought, “Huh. This may even be a good game.” Then I forgot about it. Then I started going out with Claire, and she remembers me telling her about it and thinking, “Huh. A game about romcoms? This guy may be the guy for me!” So that was good.
After that, knowing about the slow pace of self-published games, I kept my expectations low (caveat emptor and all that). But lo and behold, as promised after some delays, on literally the last possible day before Xmas, it arrived.
The production design was gorgeous. Sturdy box, high-quality cardstock, poker-chip choice tokens, and everything done in friendly pastel shades–bright but not garish. Yes, the player colours were blue and pink (bleh) but, to my delight, and despite the box art, I saw not only was player colour not tied to gender (so the guy could be pink if he wanted) but that indeed the game was explicitly not hetero-normative: it was totally possible to play as a same-sex couple, and indeed some of the scenes actually resonated more deeply that way.
Leave it to a Dane to strike a mighty blow for diversity in boardgames and romcoms. Sir, I tip my hat.
But let me back up and explain a bit about the game. Fog of Love is a two-player game where you play a couple falling in love and then living through all the trials and tribulations of a relationship. The putative object of the game is to fulfill your own destiny (in tabletop terms, to achieve the secret goal you have picked for yourself from among four Destiny Cards with which you start the game). That destiny may or may not involve staying in the relationship. (Get your box of kleenex ready.)
You achieve your destiny by attaining a certain level of Satisfaction (possibly an absolute amount, possibly relative to your partner) and usually other requirements as well. The game plays out over three Chapters and a Finale. Each Chapter consists of a set number of Scenes represented by Scene Cards you will both play from your hands. These cards present a scenario (“Let’s Go to IKEA!”, “Silly Argument”, “I Was Married Before”) and usually present one or both of you with choices A, B, C, etc, each of which has in-game consequences and all of which should definitely be acted out in-character for maximum enjoyment.
Speaking of character, you definitely do not play yourself in Fog of Love. Instead, you randomly generate an Occupation and some personality Traits, and your partner chooses some of your notable Features (“crooked nose”, “seductive smell”). With these few scraps you need to put together a plausible identity for yourself. By the time you start the game you’ve got the opening lines of the trailer for the movie: “He’s an arrogant, insecure, short security guard. She’s a loving, dainty, hardened criminal. Watch what happens when they meet at a friend’s wedding!”
(Parenthetical note: I haven’t dug through all the cards yet, but it might be possible to recreate your favorite actual romcom and see whether you can do better than Meg and Billy, or Cary and Kate. I plan to investigate this, I most definitely do.)
Being roleplay-positive is definitely a bonus in this game–but never fear, Euro-lovers, everything is quantified and game-ified, too! You see, your Occupation and Features each give you a starting position on various Personality scales, and your Traits give you secret mini-goals of attaining certain thresholds on those scales, so if you’re Disorganized, for example, you’re trying to end the game with a very negative Discpline score. And sometimes, your Trait goals depend on your combined score, so it’s not all me, me, me. Achieving your Trait goals (or not) affects your final Satisfaction, thus helping guide your choices through the game.
I’m not going to go too much more into the specific mechanics of the game; suffice to say that the designer has managed to incorporate many ways to change the game state in very thematic and entertaining ways. Reading a fortune cookie can change your life goals! Crying during an argument can help change your partner’s mind! You can run to the airport to try to stop Rachel getting on that plane!
In the end, Fog of Love really is a unique mix of storytelling, role-playing, bluff, and strategy. And the replayability is through the roof because of the gazillion different characters you can generate, even though the base game only comes with three basic scenarios. (The KS version has three more.)
Another user-friendly inclusion is the Tutorial scenario, which you can (and should) literally play as you open the box and set things up for the first time. So as with more and more games these days, you don’t have to read and digest the whole rulebook at once, but instead absorb each rule bit by bit, like popping Ferrero Rochers out of a box. The tutorial can be reset, too, in case you need to relearn or reteach the game.
Although Fog of Love is just hitting backers and stores now, it has already captured a slew of ecstatic reviews from everyone from Rahdo to Tom Vasel to Forbes Magazine. I’m also here to tell you that despite being designed for two it can be played in teams for a somewhat more chaotic if not more uproarious experience.
Fog of Love is one of those rare games where finding out whether you’ve “won” or “lost” is actually kind of anti-climactic, if you’ve played it right. But it’s not as light as your usual party game; right now it’s weight rating on BGG is 1.92 (out of 5) which I think is a bit low. I think it’s up there with High Treason: The Trial of Louis Riel–not that the two are similar, though they have some aspects in common. I’m just saying it takes a bigger investment of time and brain than your typical casual date kind of game.
I’ll go back to what I hoped for at the top–Fog of Love is the perfect fourth- or fifth-date game, when you want to make your new best friend understand what makes tabletop gaming so much fun. And if you play your cards right, you can end up playing sequel after sequel.