Fantasy Realms: Deluxe Edition
We've previously reviewed variants of Fantasy Realms on Board's Eye View - for example, Star Trek: Missions (WizKids) - but, curiously, we've not yet featured Fantasy Realms itself. It's a game that will make a great stocking filler, so this is an opportune time to remedy the omission.
First published in 2017, Fantasy Realms is a card game where 2-6 players are trying to build hands of usually seven cards that will score them the maximum number of points. Cards all have a category (Wizard, Leader, Beast, Artifact, etc) denoted on the side by text and distinguished by colour. Cards also have a headline value and name. Finally, there will be text on each card that sets out the specific cards and/or card types that it must be with or must not be with in order to score a bonus or take a penalty. The game, then, is about building high-scoring combos and eschewing cards that don't dovetail comfortably with those you are collecting.
Play could hardly be simpler: you just draw a card and discard a card. The discards all go into an open display, and players can freely draw from this display. When the display reaches 10 cards, the game ends and players score their hands.
Within these simple mechanics, there's quite a tight tactical game with a strong push-your-luck element. As the display fills, you'll be evaluating how strong you think your hand is in comparison with others; your assessment influenced by the cards you see opponents taking from the display. If you reckon you're doing better than others, you will want to hasten the game's finish by avoiding draws from the display and so driving the game towards the 10-card game-end trigger. When you draw blind from the deck you risk drawing a card that might incur penalties with cards in your hand but you can of course simply discard the card you just drew.
There are some combos that could potentially net you a massive points bonus but the gamble there is whether to hang on in the hope that you can pick up the one specific card that you need to get you that bonus, knowing that if you don't manage to pick up that card then the card you are holding will be relatively worthless...
The fantasy theme has been criticised as generic but Bruce Glassco's design for Fantasy Realms has given us a game that we find ourselves returning to time and time again. The more we play it, the fonder we become - possibly because of our growing familiarity with the way in which the cards interact with each other. Parsing the text on all the cards and checking how the card you draw each turn fits in or clashes with those you already have in hand can be an initially daunting prospect on a first play, but two or three games in and you'll be flying. You may tho' find it easier to keep tabs on all the card text if you use card racks rather than relying on fanning the cards in your hand.
Fantasy Realms plays quickly: little more than a filler length 5-10 minutes - so a game where you'll probably want to play two or three rounds back to back. Our one gripe is that the rules for the size of the discard display make no allowances for the number of players. In our numerous plays at Board's Eye View, we never had any problem with the 10-card limit in a two or three-player game but if you take the player count up to its maximum of six (seven if you play the 'Chaos Realm' variant offered in the rulebook) then the 10-card game-end trigger can make an already short game too quick. At the higher player counts you could end up getting only one or two turns before the display reaches 10 cards; and it's not much of a game if you've had little opportunity to sculpt your hand and are just scoring the cards you happened to be dealt. If you find this becomes an issue, however, it's simple enough to house rule a higher game-end trigger for higher player counts.
The Deluxe edition of Fantasy Realms shown here on Board's Eye View also includes the Cursed Hoard and Extra Suits expansions, plus two new promo cards. With Cursed Hoard, there's an extra deck of cursed items and everyone starts off with a card from that deck face up in front of them. You can play the card for its text effect - often one that allows you to manipulate the draw deck - but its score (usually negative points) will contribute to your end-game total. When you play a Cursed Hoard card, you replace it with another. The Extra Suits add three additional categories of card, including Undead, some of whom can score for cards in the discard display. When you incorporate the Extra Suits into the deck, the game-end trigger is increased to a discard display of 12 and players have base hands of eight rather than seven cards.
You can play with just the base game cards or mix and match the expansions and promos in any combination. What's more, Wizkids' Deluxe Edition also comes complete with custom printed sleeves. It's the full package for a great Christmas gift!
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