Updated: Oct 19, 2019
Muddy battlefields can make for dull game boards, so at first sight Farsight isn’t a great looker. The game board represents a grim post-apocalyptic landscape divided into sectors, each with its own base. Players control troops aided by ‘specialists’ and are fighting each other to eliminate their opponents’ battlefield units or to control eight of the 12 bases (or three of the four bases nearest the enemy).
Farsight is designed by Jamie Jolly and published by Braincrack Games. Players each select the mix of units they want to deploy: each unit has a points value and players are allocated the same number of points to spend in any way they choose. One of the key elements that make this game interesting is that battlefield units come onto the board face down: opponents do not know what unit has been placed out until it is flipped over and revealed – usually because it is engaged in battle. Players always have an added incentive to keep their units ‘hidden’ because all hidden units have a movement range of three squares whereas most revealed units can only move two squares.
Thanks to its key emphasis on position in combat, Farsight offers an accessible introduction to tabletop wargaming. When resolving combat in this game, account is taken not just of terrain but also whether the attacker is facing the defending unit head on, from the flank or from the rear. At the end of a unit’s move, players can change that unit’s heading, and that can prove key to successful defence or subsequent attack.
The game comes with a ton of bright lemon dice. The six-sided dice are used to resolve combat; each offering a 1 in 3 chance of a hit. For those that complain that dice are too random, Braincrack have helpfully included a variant in the rules that allows players to resolve combat without any use of dice. We thought the dice worked fine though, especially as the terrain and position effects help greatly to mitigate the element of raw luck. Additionally, 10- and 12-sided dice are used to generate random locations on the 9 x 12 grid that makes up the map board. These are needed for many of the Event cards that are turned over at the start of each turn. These can include lightning strikes, tornadoes and plague; although there are also cards that generate tunnels linking two or more points on the board. This latter can quite literally be a game changer, so managing and responding effectively to the Events can be crucial to success.
This is one of the areas where ‘specialists’ can come in handy. These are cards whose value has to be included in a player’s spending total but who are not placed out as units on the main board. Each has special ability. If a player has recruited a Seer, for example, they can draw two Event cards rather than one and can choose which to activate and which to discard. They can also reroll one combat or Events die once per turn. Spies and Saboteurs are positioned on the player’s ‘shadow map’. This is a blank wipeable grid which each player has and on which they mark their specialists’ positions using one of the marker pens provided. If a Spy is no more than two squares away from a hidden enemy unit, the Spy can require that unit to be revealed. A Saboteur can cause a unit within range to be frozen in position and unable to initiate combat for the rest of the turn.
Meanwhile, an Assassin can be used to eliminate an enemy specialist. This involves playing what inevitably feels like a version of Battleships. The player using an Assassin names a category of enemy specialist and a grid reference. If the nominated specialist is in that square, it is eliminated. If it is not, the player being targeted has to report the lowest number of moves it would take to reach such a specialist. Players can use this information and any information they gather from successful Spy or Saboteur actions to home in on the specialists’ positions. This all makes for an entertaining side game. It’s just a pity that the ‘shadow maps’ don’t include the A–L and 1–9 labelling that’s on the main board: this would have better guaranteed the accuracy of players’ grid references.
Farsight works well as a two-player game and it makes for a very good four-player game with two equally balanced teams. There are rules included for three players (a single player with double the number of units against a team of two). This works but we found it less satisfying: perhaps we were being short sighted but each side complained that the other had an unfair advantage! In any event, the way in which players can put together their own armies, and the option to flip the map board and play on a board you can customise yourself with the supplied terrain tiles, all make Farsight a game with strong replayability.
You’ll have noticed that we’ve not yet mentioned the minis. They don’t in fact come with the basic game but are an added extra that come in their own ‘War Chest’. They are beautiful minis, including detailed mechs that look great when they are on the board and would look even better when painted. As they are an optional extra, you wouldn’t expect them to add anything to game play, and they don’t. Remember, this is game that makes extensive use of hidden movement. That means you can’t use the minis at all until a unit is revealed, and even then you’ll still want to refer to the stats on the card. The minis look so good that it pains us to say this, but, unless you have some other use for all the mechs, if you’re buying Farsight then you probably shouldn’t bother with the War Chest add-on, especially as that doubles the price of the game.