Flying Frog Games is a new company on the board game scene, but in the space of a few years, they’ve produced a handful of interesting games. The thing I like about Flying Frog Games is that they aren’t afraid to be weird. Their first game, Last Night on Earth, was a fairly traditional zombie-themed board game. It’s a fun game, but I’ll admit it didn’t wow me. Then came A Touch of Evil, which won me over with its gothic sensibilities and the ability to pretend to be Ben Franklin fighting Dracula (more or less). And then came Invasion from Outer Space where Martians fight brave circus performers, and any game where a dancing bear can tackle ray gun aliens has got to be worthwhile.
But while Flying Frog’s games are always strange and unique, they are still a young company learning the ropes. Every game they make gets better and better, and while they have a default system of rules that they seem to rely on, that’s not really a bad thing. It certainly makes their games easy to learn, and it’s a flexible enough system that it works well for a variety of games.
The other thing I enjoy about Flying Frog is that they have ambition, and that ambition is front and center for their latest game, Fortune and Glory. This is a big production from a small company, and for their chutzpah alone, they deserve some credit. But that they’ve learned a lot from their previous games is obvious, and this is a solid fun experience.
Fortune and Glory is subtitled The Cliffhanger Game. It’s a thematic homage to classic pulp adventure tales where two-fisted heroes fight evil Nazis and bust the mob as they search the earth for ancient artifacts. If you’ve ever thrilled to the adventures of globe-trotting adventurers or enjoyed watching villains getting punched for justice, then this game could be right up your alley.
Every player takes on the role of a hero adventurer. It’s a wide cast of characters, ranging from Jacques the French Scoundrel to Li the Chinese Lounge Singer and Sharon the American Reporter. There’s also a Hemmingway homage, a daring pilot, a plucky race car driver, and an English lord. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses though given the random nature of the game, it’s not like one is noticeably stronger than the others.
The goal of the game is to gather a set amount of “Fortune” and return home a hero. Mostly heroes accomplish this by traveling the world and gathering lost treasures. Exploring hidden locations is basically a push-your-luck affair. The more daring you are, the faster you can gather those treasures. Unless your overconfidence gets you knocked back to your home city to lick your wounds.
The system is as simple as drawing a card and facing a danger. The dangers are all classic pulpy adventures. Things like sneaking aboard a Nazi blimp, deciphering ancient puzzles, fighting mobsters and monsters, car chases, and so on. Usually you’re presented a choice. If you’re exploring a dark cave, you can either try to use your cunning to avoid things lurking in the dark OR you can just go ahead and fight. If you succeed on your choice, you get some “Glory” and progress on your adventure. If you fail…
Here’s where the game is really very fun. Every danger card is double-sided. If you fail at your danger, the card is flipped over to reveal a cliffhanger that remains unresolved until your next turn. Not only does this fit very well with a classic serial atmosphere, it also gives every danger a sense of uncertainty. There are multiple versions of every danger, each with a different cliffhanger on its back. So you won’t really know if those strange statues are going to shoot darts poison darts OR if they’ll come alive and attack you.
The game offers several options to players. There’s the standard competitive mode where players are working against each other. This can be fun because heroes can’t directly attack each other, but they can certainly race each other to the valuable artifacts. It’s thrilling (well, as thrilling as a board game can be) to have two or more competing heroes braving dangers, one after the other, deciding whether to play it safe or try to get ahead of their opponent.
There’s also cooperative mode, where all the heroes work together to stop an evil organization from stealing enough artifacts to enact their nefarious schemes. There are two organizations: The Nazis and the Mob. Each functions in a different style, with their own henchmen and leaders. Not only does this put extra pressure on the heroes as they race to stop the villains from robbing secret temples, but it gives even more options. Heroes can storm enemy bases, steal back artifacts, and otherwise battle minions scattered on the board.
Finally, there’s the team game, where players divide into teams of heroes and try to beat each other. You can also play solo (with a lone or multiple heroes) and have a very fun experience.
There are optional rules as well to keep the game interesting and customizable. Even in the competitive game, you can have a zeppelin floating around the globe, scattering Nazis, while it gathers Fortune. And yes, you can go ahead and try to steal some of that back if you’re braving enough.
Fortune and Glory has a few weaknesses. For one, it’s an expensive game. Since Flying Frog is a small game company and this is a BIG game with lots of cards and plastic, it has a hefty price tag. Even if the theme appeals to you, it’s not something a casual game fan is going to consider. Add to this that it is a game full of ups and downs and a lot of randomization, many serious game players are going to find it too unpredictable.
Also, I’m not a fan of the cards Flying Frog uses. They’re a thick stock (which is good), but tend to stick together for the first few games.
Flying Frog uses photo art for its games, and it creates a peculiar visual style. I didn’t initially like it, but it did eventually win me over. But it might not be to everyone’s tastes.
But at the end of the day, Fortune and Glory is a fun, unique game with a lot going for it. The game really convinced me it was cool when I ran to South America to fight Icebox, the notorious mob hitman, for The Sword of the Monkey God. After a thrilling car chase and infiltrating a secret Nazi base, I managed to snatch it away from the mob just in the nick of time. And I got to punch a Nazi flamethrower team while I was at it.
If that sounds like something you might enjoy, then this could be the game for you.