Notionally set during the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s, the 2-4 players in Fled have all been imprisoned for stealing food out of desperation. Needless to say, the object of this tile-laying hand management game is to escape, tho' you'll also want to rack up the most victory points in the process. Indeed, it's possible to win (have the most victory points) without actually managing to escape.
In Fled, players each have a hand of five tiles. These show rooms and yards within the prison but they also carry icons that can be collected as tools to help you escape. Each turn you have to add one tile to the central tableau that makes up the prison. If the tile has a warder icon on it, you place out another warder. Tiles may also have a moon icon on them, which triggers action on the prison governor's Roll Call tile track. Having added a tile to the prison, you must then play two more tiles. This may be to move your prisoner meeple or a warder, depending on the small item icon on the tile. A whistle icon lets you move a warder; other icons allow you to move but only if the icon is the one that matches the exit you are trying to use: you'll need a key to move through a door, a shoe to move through an archway, a file to move through a (barred) window and a spoon to use a tunnel. Tiles can also be added to the Governor's inventory, where they are available to be drawn on a subsequent turn (by other players tho' as well as by you).
The tiles in the Governor's Roll Call track show specific items of contraband and room types. If your prisoner is in a room that matches one of those on the tile on which the Governor's whistle is placed, you can play a tile with a matching contraband item to your personal inventory. Likewise, you can add tiles with tool items to your inventory if your meeple is in a warder's quarters location or is in the same room as the Chaplain. Building your inventory is key to both making your escape and racking up all-important victory points.
Of course the warders are intent on frustrating prison breaks. When a warder moves into a room occupied by a prisoner, that prisoner is 'shackled' and takes a -1 victory point penalty. Prisoners can also be placed in solitary confinement. Naturally then, players will be moving warders so that they threaten other prisoners rather than themselves.
Aside from stashing contraband, you're mostly scoring points advantage at the expense of other players, so there is no 'prisoners' dilemma' in this game: in Fled, it's every man for themselves! You're almost certainly going to have to set the warders on other prisoners in order to have any chance of making your own escape. Expect much 'take that' interaction then, if only in the interests of self preservation.
Designer Mark Swanson is probably best known for Feudum (Odd Bird Games): a quirky game that was fantastic in the very literal sense of the word. Fled is more down to earth and a more manageable game but it too has its quirks, in that some rules may seem overly fiddly on first play. However, with its art from Klemens Franz, the game certainly oozes charm and that helps to ensure players stick with it until they've mastered the fiddly detail involved in moving the Governor's whistle along the track in order to benefit from specific contraband items at specific locations, and in order to take best advantage of the open window on the Governor's track showing the moonlit night. Tho' the tool icons on the tiles are quite small, they aren't hard to distinguish, and players have all been wowed by the beautiful full-colour minis representing the four prisoners, the warders and the Chaplain.
The version of Fled that we've been playing and that we're showing here on Board's Eye View is a prototype ahead of Odd Bird Games upcoming campaign for the game on Kickstarter. We'll endeavour to add a link to Fled's Kickstarter campaign when it goes live.