Updated: May 12, 2020
This is an attractively produced fast-playing game designed by Masato Uesugi, published by Catch Up Games and distributed by Blackrock. Players lay out in front of them tableaus of characters and buildings, collecting cash and ‘legend points’. In play, Paper Tales will initially put players in mind of 7 Wonders (Repos) but, as the game develops, you appreciate that it has its own very distinct flavour.
As in 7 Wonders, card drafting is the key mechanic in Paper Tales. Players are each dealt a hand of character cards. They keep one and pass the remainder to their neighbour. This is repeated until each has selected a hand of five cards. Players then deploy their characters face down in a 2 x 2 grid (they can retain one card for possible future use). Cards are then simultaneously revealed. At this point, they have to be paid for: on their initial placement, players need to pay gold to the value indicated on the cards.
In the ‘war’ phase, players tot up the combat values of characters in the front row and add any in the second row who can make ranged attack. This total is then compared with the totals of the players to the left and to the right, with legend points scored for having equal or higher strength than a neighbour. In the income phase, players collect gold as indicated on their cards and in the construction phase, players can erect or upgrade buildings provided their units have produced the requisite resources and they can afford to pay the escalating gold cost.
A novel feature of Paper Tales is that characters ‘age’, which means they will usually die after two turns. This forces players to adapt their strategies as the game progresses. Though combat is a significant aspect of the game, players can focus on alternative aspects to develop point scoring card combos. This is very much a game where the more you play it, the more you admire the elegant simplicity of its design and the subtlety of the gameplay options available to you.
The artwork by Christine Alcouffe and the range of different character cards in the deck add greatly to this game’s appeal. The quality of the design extends also to the iconography. Even though some of the cards have quite elaborate special abilities, the clarity of the text and icons mean that, with this game, you will rarely have to thumb through the rulebook to work out what a card can do.
Paper Tales works best with three to five players but it is playable with two if special rules are applied, particularly to make the card drafting work. Even with five players, however, this game plays quickly. The four rounds can be completed comfortably within 30 minutes, yet you are left feeling that you have played not a ‘filler’ but a very satisfying game.