I was a bit surprised with Fantasy Realms as it comes from a company known for collectible games and miniatures such as HeroClicks and Dice Masters. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to play a demo at Origins this summer. The game was unassuming, the art was decent but not spectacular, it wasn’t thematic, and it is a 3-6 player game. Ordinarily, a game like this wouldn’t make it into my collection. What was it about Fantasy Realms that made me pick up a copy at a Convention?
Components / Set-Up
Fantasy Realms is a small box game that comes with fifty-three cards and a scoring pad. There are ten suits of cards and three wild cards. The suits are army, leader, beast, land, flood, flame, wizard, artifact, weather, and weapon. To set-up, you merely deal each player seven cards and place the remaining cards as a draw pile in the center of the table.
Each card in the game has a unique name, a suit color, base strength from 0 to 40, and the bonus or penalty.
Fantasy Realms is easy to learn and quick to play, a game takes about fifteen to twenty minutes.
On their turn, the player chooses to draw the top card of the deck, or take a card from the discard pile. Next, they discard a card from their hand. The first player only has the choice to draw from the deck. Once there are ten cards in the discard area the game ends.
Players score their hands and the player with the highest score wins. To score you add the base strengths, applying any bonuses and penalties of the cards. The score pad makes it much easier to score, so be sure to use it.
There are a few key words that you should know when scoring and playing the game.
With: To score the bonus of a card that says with you must have a particular card or type of card. For example, you must have any wizard to score the dragon, or you must have the Swamp card to score the bonus for the hydra.
For Each: For each cards can give either a bonus or penalty for each particular card you have in your hand. For example, the Rangers give you a bonus for each land you have in your hand, but the light cavalry gives a -2 for each land.
Blanks: Some cards say they Blank certain other cards which means those cards have no suit, no bonus or penalty, and no base strength. For example, the Blizzard blanks all floods you may have in your hand.
Clears: Clear is a bonus that takes away penalties. The cleared card still keeps its suit, base strength and bonus, it just loses the penalty. For example, the Warship clears the word army from all penalties of all floods.
Two Player Variant
While the game box lists three to six players, the rules include a two player variant. Players don’t start with any cards but rather conduct a draft at the beginning of the game. A player can either take two cards from the deck or one face-up card from the discard area. If they take two cards from the deck, they must discard one. Once a player has seven cards, they continue tuns the same as a standard game. The game does not end until there are at least twelve cards in the discard area.
Fantasy Realms just clicked with me even after the first play. I love playing it and figuring out the combinations and trying out different strategies. The rules are so simple, the game play so fast, but there is a lot of depth to this game.
Components / Artwork
I appreciate that the game comes in a small box that is the perfect size, it easily fits into our collection. A card game needs to have good quality cards, and these cards are quality. They lay flat on the table, shuffle well and don’t’ get chipped. I don’t like sleeving my cards, but I know many people would want to sleeve this game as the cards are handled and shuffled a lot.
The graphic design is also well done, and the cards are easy to read, though the text could be a bit small for some people. There is a lot of text, and you will be reading and rereading the cards as you learn the game. Each suit has a specific color; luckily they also have the name to be colorblind friendly.
I like the artwork and think it is well done with a bit a detail for each picture. It gives me a nostalgic feel and adds to the fantasy theme.
The rules are organized, easy to read, have picture examples, scoring examples, a break down of terms, variants, a question and answer section, and a suit breakdown, and is only eight pages. It has everything I look for in a rule book. It gets a pass for not having a player aid because the game play is so simple. The suit breakdown on the back is far more useful.
I enjoy games that have simple rules but great depth of play and Fantasy Realms certainly is that type of game. There are both strategic and tactical decisions to make during the game. Building combos is the heart of the game. Do you keep Wildfire that is worth a lot of points but blanks so many other cards or do you go for the lower point cards like the candle that give a bonus of 100 points if you get the specific cards listed. There are many paths to victory, a bit of a push your luck, and bit of a race element in the game. Having many paths to victory and the push your luck factor keeps me wanting to play and replay the game to figure out the combinations. We haven’t found a game breaking combination yet! There is also a bit of a race as you need to make your hand before there are ten cards in the discard pile. Even if you are building up to a big combo you may not be able to get everything you need before time runs out and the game is over.
The game isn’t dripping in theme, but the interplay of the cards does add to it. It’s the combos the bring out the theme; for instance, the cavern has gets a bonus with the dwarfish infantry or the dragon. The combos make sense in a fantasy realm and make it easier for someone unfamiliar with the game but familiar with fantasy to understand the interplay.
There isn’t a lot of interaction in the game, yet you still need to keep an eye on your opponents. Knowing what they may be going for may prevent you from discarding a card that will be useful to them. We found the game plays well with three, but I’m not confident it wouldn’t overstay its welcome with five or six players.
Two Player Variant
Without the two-player variant, the game would be too dependent on luck. The draft at the beginning gives you a bit more control over your hand at the start of the game. Having the game go until there are twelve instead of ten cards in the discard pile helps you build a better hand. This variant makes it playable with two, but most will prefer playing it with more players.
The fast play, interesting decisions, combos, and small size make it a natural choice for any collection. Figuring out all the possible combinations will keep you coming back. Wizkids have a great little card game, and I wish it would get more love.
Designers: Bruce Glassco
Players: 3-6 (Includes Variants for 2 and 7 players)
Game Length: 20 minutes
Ages: 14 and up