We’ve discussed on the Table Talk podcast how I love games that I lose regularly. It’s not that I love them because I lose regularly, just that the losing doesn’t bother me very much. One of those that I’ve taught to many people only to immediately lose every game after the first is Uwe Rosenberg’s Fairy Trails. And I’m delighted every time.
Fairy Trails is a two-person, tile-laying, route-building game. Like Framework or Nova Luna, other Uwe Rosenberg joints, the goal is to complete things and use up your personal supply of tokens first. Here, you complete roads of your color and then place your tokens on little fairy or gnome huts to offload them.
Players can make roads branch almost infinitely, which they can use to attack their opponents to make routes virtually impossible to close, or to make their own routes more complex and thus heavy on points. Players can also try to close shorter, simpler routes and nickel-and-dime their opponent. Players can also, as friends Isaac and Cole Finley do, create a Mega-Mono-Road™, focusing on a single many-branched road and completely ignoring their opponent’s work. Having had this strategy deployed against me multiple times, I can say it is very effective. Just this morning, I was down to a single token remaining, about to claim my thrilling victory, assured that CF’s complex route couldn’t be finished, when he played a single card and placed every one of his tokens. Excellent and infuriating move.
Here’s the thing: whether or not you play to win, what’s deeply entertaining about Fairy Trails is how grumpy I personally can get when someone complexifies my route that I’m just about done with. “What, wait, are you firetrucking kidding me?!” is my general mode of operation. For such a tiny game, I can get incredibly miffed.
In my quest to play everything Uwe Rosenberg has designed, I have not yet played any of his weirdly-gendered, probably available only in Germany games like The Difference Between Women and Men. At GenCon I played the awkwardly-Asian-themed At the Gates of Loyang which has charming vegetable bits and an intriguing card-drafting mechanic. I hear Bohnanza is both a classic and just a touch racist. So, let’s say that Rosenberg has designed a few perhaps problematic games. This one, though, is just about perfect. The weirdly bright colors, the tiny foxes and stumps in the forest, the conciseness of the game components and play, the meanness players can engage in–it’s all so so good. If I had any criticism, it’s only that the box and liner could be just a tad smaller. There’s not much empty space, but for a game that is literally a deck of cards and two small handfuls of tokens, the box could be half the size. Reason to not buy it? Absolutely not.