Fog of Love is a two-player game where you are trying to manage life and a relationship. Not the most compelling of pitches I admit. Most people play games to get away from the complexity of life and relationships. However, I have found Fog of Love to be a surprising and wonderfully engaging game to play. Fog of Love is designed by first time designer Jacob Jaskov and published by Hush Hush Projects. Fog of Love is not a competitive game any more than it is a cooperative game; even semi-coop does not clearly describe how this game plays. You work with your partner towards relationship goals as well as individual goals. You want to be fulfilled in life but you want to build a meaningful relationship in the meantime, unless, of course, your personal goal involves ruining the relationship. But ruining your relationship may not be as easy as you hope. Like so many good Romantic Comedies you may just find yourself accidentally in love.
Straight out of the box you get a sense of the care and attention put into this game. The packaging is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The high-quality insert will satisfy many gamers with how easy it is to set up and pack away. The components are no different with a board and pieces that allow for an intuitive setup and gameplay. While I do not usually focus on components I always appreciate it when they have been made well. The attention to detail demonstrates genuine consideration for the player and the overall aesthetic and immersion of the game.
You start Fog of War with a number of trait cards that indicate what will leave you personally fulfilled in life. To find fulfilment you need to add counters to the Personality Dimensions Tracker. In addition, you will also have Destiny Cards that indicate the nature of the relationship and the direction you want it to go. As the game progresses you will be forced to discard Destiny Cards until the final round of the game when you must decide on one. This means that as the game progresses you can, as is common in life, change your goals as you go. The game keeps you in this tension of trying to work towards your individual goals while shaping your relationship. I used the word “shaping” because not all relationship goals are about ending the game together. You may want to break up. This design provides complexity and tension to your decisions. It also means that you never know what type of person you will be when you play the game or how you will develop the relationship. Replayability is slowly becoming a non-factor in modern gaming with Legacy and Exit style games growing in popularity. Yet Fog of War is a game I want to keep playing and this variability guarantees a new and exciting adventure each time.
Each round will involve navigating a series of relationship encounters. In the style of a Romantic Comedy, these are small “scenes” that will create fun and tension for you and your lover. You must make active decision to determine how the scene resolves. You may have to decide on a date or try to resolve an argument, or just try to align future plans with each other. And as you are playing a character and not yourself you get to explore any number of possible options. You will find yourself choosing something that you would never do in real life because it advances the traits of your character. Alternatively, you may need to better the relationship and must try and choose the option that is best for your partner. Adding to the complication is a number of instances where you will have to choose in conjunction with your lover. To do this both of you secretly vote. When you reveal your vote, you will receive positive and negative consequences based on your alignment to each other. Both vote the same and often this will strengthen your bonds, vote contrary and you may put a strain on the relationship. This means you must not only be interested in your goals but in the development of your partner. You will need to watch how they make choices and develop the Personality Trait bar to determine how to be in sync with their needs. When you make your way through each scene for the chapter you progress to the next with the game concluding after 3 chapters.
Before I discuss my experience of the game I have to give full credit to Jacob Jaskov for creating the best tutorial I have ever experienced. That is not hyperbole. The game comes with cards that teach you to set up the game and then get you playing as you learn. You are playing a full game in such a smooth easy manner you will not even realise that you have not read the rulebook. The only time we picked the rule book up was to examine the pictures to check out the board set up. The tutorial will set a standard in the gaming hobby that just might change the way games teach us to play. I certainly hope it does anyway.
This game blew away all my expectations. When I looked at the box I will admit that this was not my first option of game to play. But at each stage, from opening the box to following the tutorial, to playing our first game I was awed by the care and thoughtfulness in the design and tension in the play. The thing that surprised me most was how faithfully it was to its claim of playing like a Romantic Comedy. Within the first chapter, my partner and I were roleplaying our characters, adding introductions to each scene, discussing our relationship, and laughing at our votes and failure to satisfy each other. We laughed, and we laughed a lot. That remained with us both after our game. I know in time there will be much to discuss surrounding the statement this game makes regarding relationships and the options it provides, which will prove for rich and interesting discussion. However, in the meantime I am excited just to play. For those who are interested, the game is designed so that if you want to do a traditional or progressive relationship you may. There are a few cards that refer to a specific gender for specific reasons, but the game encourages you to read them as you want. For the majority of the game, no gender is used in the language at all leaving you to play the relationship how you see fit.
Fog of Love is an innovative two player game that I hope will get game designers thinking differently about incentivising play and creating win conditions. In the meantime, I think it is worth playing and just enjoying the fun and interactive experience it offers.