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Familiar Tales Review

Familiar Tales Review

Familiar Tales Review

Welcome to our review of Plaid Hat Games‘ Familiar Tales! This narrative-based adventure game uses a location book and fully narrated audio with an excellent voice cast to immerse you in the story. We love story-based adventure games here at DHG and recently played Forgotten Waters and loved it. So we thought we’d dive into this new game and see what all the commotion was about.

Game Overview – Familiar Tales 

In Familiar Tales, you play a group of familiars who belong to Merilious the wizard. The game is an epic campaign played out over nine chapters consisting of three eras spanning time that tells how these familiars saved the kingdom of Principalia. 1 – 4 players can play the game, and all four familiars are used regardless of the number of players. A spiral-bound book provides the location maps and special rules for your adventure. On each turn, you play cards from your hand to do various actions, including moving, fighting, crafting, and foraging. You perform skill tests with assistance from your fellow players for each action.

The whole game is tied together with a web-based app that tracks your group’s story. You will encounter a three-digit number either printed in the location book or on cards at various points throughout the story. You enter this into the app, and the audio narrative will play the next scene. Different actors voice all the characters, which adds to the immersive experience. The app offers you choices to make from time to time, which alter how your specific campaign plays out. 

If you are saying now, “I don’t want to play a game with an app,” I want to assure you, you won’t constantly be looking at a screen during this game. Playing the actual board game is key to the experience and is something Plaid Hat Games has said themselves. The app tracks danger, which determines when the enemies take their turn and when the misfortune and discontent trackers are adjusted. Danger increases and decreases based on the cards you play and the chance die roll.

Game Components 

The components in Familiar Tales are entertaining. The illustrations on the cards and the location book give a whimsical vibe appropriate to the story. The miniatures provided in the game are pretty detailed. I especially like the miniature for Chalk, one of the familiars. His character has been created from earth and rock as a golem, and his miniature reflects that. I love the detail of Tweets, the bird sitting on his shoulder. Chalk in the game audio doesn’t speak, but Tweets speaks on his behalf. It’s fantastic that the designers added details such as Tweets, to all the miniatures. Each of the familiars has a detailed miniature along with a number of the enemies you’ll encounter. 

Besides the miniatures, the skill cards have excellent illustrations on them. I love the iconography used to denote the various skills, Might, Agility, Insight, and Resilience. The only note I’d offer here is that some of the icons are similar. For instance, Resilience and Defense are both shields. I know that they are two halves of the same coin in what they do. Resilience is how a familiar defends, while defense is how an enemy defends. Still, the similarities of these can cause confusion, especially when you are starting to learn the game.

Game Setup

Setting up Familiar Tales for a campaign is more involved than setting up for an individual game. The campaign setup includes sorting the skill cards by familiar and placing them into the familiar’s deck box, which is included in the game. You’ll do the same with the second and third-era cards into their respective boxes. We love that Plaid Hat Games thought about creating these card boxes. They help with storage. Speaking of storage, the first run comes with some beautiful storage for the foraged items. It looks like a market stall with various shops… I love the illustrations here. Again this is exclusive to the first print run.

The individual game setup is pretty straightforward. There is a location book and side board for tracking misfortune and discontent. You’ll also lay out training skill cards, item cards for crafting, the forage tokens affliction tokens, and enemy health trackers (which look like Pandemic cubes! 🙂 )

Once all of that is laid out, each player takes their familiar’s health dial, familiar card, miniature, and skill cards and sets them in front of them. The app also provides the setup for games with 1-4 players, involving different players taking on multiple familiar roles. The unique thing in this game is you don’t keep your skill decks separate for each character. You shuffle the skill decks for each familiar you control to form a single deck. 

To begin the game, you also need to open up the app at https://www.familiartalesgame.com/ and click on Start a new Game. You’ll name your game, and the app will guide you through the setup. When you are ready to go, you fill in the first bubble on the Campaign Journal Map (the first location the familiars’ visit) and then type 101 into the app. You have the prologue written in the app and a play button to have the story narrated by professional voice actors. We linked our phone to our Apple TV and our surround sound, and that was awesome to hear the entire story surrounding us. 

Game Play

Familiar Tales plays over a series of turns, with each familiar taking a turn. As they complete their turns, the danger level automatically increases in the app. Once it reaches a specific threshold, it triggers the enemy’s turn. That way, it’s a bit more dynamic than all familiars taking a turn, and then all enemies taking a turn. 

As the players move through the adventure, the game tells you what page to turn to in the location book as you make decisions throughout the story. Each location is a “battle Map” of sorts where you have multiple spaces to move through and different objectives to achieve.

There are points in the story where the familiars will decide how you move you down a different path of the story. 

Player Actions

Each turn consists of the familiar’s actions, including Move, Fight, Forage, Crafting, and Care (for the child). You can take as many actions as you want in a turn but are limited by the number of cards you have in your hand. Each round, you have five cards that help with the skill tests needed to complete those actions. Each card you put down for a skill test has additional effects such as adding health, adding danger, or activating weapon skills. 

One interesting aspect of the game is the care action. We didn’t take this too seriously at first, but we found that if you don’t do this action, it can cause problems later in the game. The care action allows you to take care of the child. Before I get into how you do that, let me explain the sideboard. The sideboard contains two dials – misfortune and discontent. The misfortune dial tracks the bad events that happen in the game and ultimately this influences how the child evolves over each era. Will she be good or evil essentially? Misfortune can increase in many different ways, but one way is to have the second dial, discontent reach the 4 or 5 level. The discontent dial represents how happy or sad the child is.

At the time of this review, we’d only played the first chapter and working through the second. These chapters have the child as a baby. After the third chapter, she becomes a child and after the sixth chapter she becomes a young adult. As the baby, though, her discontent will rise and fall as you play. Besides doing all the adventuring type actions, you will also need to care for the baby. That means spending a food token to feed her, spending a material token to change her diaper and performing an insight test to soothe the baby for example. We didn’t take this action too seriously at first, but we ended chapter one with 8 misfortune which is not good.

Skill Tests

Skill Tests such as the insight test performed to soothe the baby are an essential aspect of the game. They consist of a player looking at the cards in their hand. Each card uses iconography to identify Might, Agility, Insight, and Resilience. These are the four skills you will use to complete skill tests. The number next to each skill is the card’s amount for that skill the card grants. The cards also show a Move Icon, which is the number of move points you get if you use the card in that way. When played, cards in your hand are discarded, so there is a fair amount of hand management needed in this game. You only get five cards per turn.

While playing, we had one question, and we tried to find the answer: Can we draw back to 5 cards in the middle of a multiple enemy turn? We were a little confused about whether the only time we can draw cards is at the Draw Phase of each familiar’s turn. 

During the first chapter, we drew cards after each enemy attack, but we felt that we were doing it wrong instead of using our cards more sparingly. 

Location Book

Besides the cards, the location book also plays a crucial role in the game. When directed by the app, you open the location book to a specific page and lay it on the table. Most pages have the map on the left side with the instructions on the right. However, this is not always the case, and sometimes the layout will be different. The map has spaces delineated by dashed or solid lines, each with a different meaning. Dashed cost one movement point to cross, and a single solid line is only accessible by flying creatures.

The map also has symbols in most spaces. Some of these direct you to an entry in the app with additional narration, while others allow you to forage for specific resources, like wood and food. In most maps, there is a space A or B – these have particular instructions printed on the right side of the book and usually are how you leave the specific location. Other symbols are specific to locations, and their instructions are also listed. 

One nice thing is that the page also lists the enemies in this location, and there is a space to track their health individually. We love the layout of the book. It is very intuitive and easy to navigate. 

Overall Impressions

We enjoyed Familiar Tales. We haven’t played through it entirely, but we feel like we will. Typically for campaign-based reviews, we play the first few scenarios and then maybe play the rest of the game. Still, honestly, when we review a game a week, that can be hard to find the time. With Familiar Tales, we are determined to continue to play this through to the end. It is immersive gameplay at its best. 

One of the the aspects we really love is the branching narrative of the game. You are not going to see all aspects of the story. The app will provide you with a choice and that will determine your path on the included campaign map. Also the choices you make in the game do affect how future encounters play out. Without spoiling the story, we made a decision to not fight something in one chapter and it turned out to be a great decision. Later on, when we encountered those enemies again, they were not enemies and actually helped us. That was pretty amazing!

I’d also like to call out the cast and audio engineering as being top-notch. The fact that the game is fully voice acted is fantastic and something we enjoyed. We played Forgotten Waters, and that was voice acted and well done. Here though, it’s much more cohesive as it’s a continuing story with the same characters throughout. You become invested in the characters and want to know what happens next. 

If anything could be better, we noticed that playing a two-person game is more challenging than playing a four-person game. This difficulty is specifically because generally other players can assist you in your skill tests. In a four-person game, there are twenty cards in play at any one time. There are only ten cards in play in a two-person game, which provides fewer opportunities to help the others. We were playing a two-person game and found that there were times when we needed help but couldn’t get it. As always, this is not a significant complaint. It’s just a bit imbalanced gameplay here.

Overall, we love the characters, the gameplay, and the audio. You should check this out if you love a good adventure game!

If you enjoyed this review and want to get your own copy, we have it available in the store!