It’s Summer Lovin’ Week here at Mashable, which means things are getting steamy. In honor of the release of Crazy Rich Asians, we’re celebrating onscreen love and romance, looking at everything from our favorite fictional couples to how Hollywood’s love stories are evolving. Think of it as our love letter to, well, love.
In hindsight, Zosia and I were never meant to be.
We met one night at a friend’s party and had one of those mutual lightning crash moments. Instant connection. I liked her free spirit and her nerdy librarian vibe, and she was drawn to my long, blonde hair and my laugh.
When we met the next day for our first real date, it was immediately apparent that we had backed into an “opposites attract” kind of scenario. I just wanted a nice, quiet lunch where we could sit and talk. She wanted to have us act like tourists and see the sights.
Still, the relationship developed from there. We had plenty of happy moments, far fewer sad moments, some knockdown arguments and tense showdowns. Typical relationship stuff. But in the end, we didn’t make it. Our life goals, or destinies, as some might say, didn’t quite align. And that was that.
That failed love story isn’t an event pulled from my own life (my hair is neither long nor blonde, for starters). It was actually the “Sunday Morning Date” tutorial scenario from an intriguing tabletop game called Fog of Love.
This “romantic comedy as a board game” (as the website describes it) is a two-player game that mixes role-playing with the randomness of card draws and blind mutual decision-making. Each player assume the role of a character they create and role-play in the context of a relationship driven by shifting desires and secret goals, defined in the game as “Destiny.”
It’s a neat idea on the surface: Most adults can relate on some level to the experience of leaping into and nurturing a love relationship. Fog of Love turns that into an actual story-driven game, with each scenario broken into chapters made up of multiple, randomly selected scenes.
A typical scene presents one or both players with a choice to make. When both choose, they do so blindly. Each scene is resolved using a multiple-choice format, and the relationship typically benefits when both players land on the same choice — though that doesn’t also mean that at-odds choices are a dealbreaker.
A full scenario plays out across the arc of a love relationship. Winning is a matter of fulfilling one’s Destiny, a goal that can change over the course of a game (though your choices narrow as you reach later chapters). One or both players can win, or lose, just like real life.
Fog of Love is a two-player game that mixes role-playing with the randomness of card draws and blind decision-making.
The actual game is more complex to play than I’m describing here, and that’s where Fog of Love‘s tremendous tutorial comes in. I’ve frankly never seen anything like it in another tabletop game. The tutorial is printed across a set of 30 numbered cards, all sprinkled into the various card decks that make up the core of the game.
The first time you play, it’s best to set up the board and place the card decks down without shuffling them; all the cards are arranged in a specific order for your first playthrough. Once everything’s set, ditch the instruction manual and grab the first tutorial card on top of the “Sweet” deck.
The game takes care of the rest from there. On the first card, you’ll learn how players assemble the collection of scene cards they can choose from whenever it’s their turn. The next tutorial card, which the first one will tell you is on top of the “Traits” deck, begins teaching the process of character creation.
During this early stretch, you’re encountering tutorial cards every few minutes, as different aspects of the game setup — card selection and character creation — play out. Once the actual game starts, the tutorial loosens up, letting you play multiple scenes at a time before hitting you with new rules to factor in.
All throughout, the language on the cards constantly encourages players to use their imaginations and come up with details that fill out the different aspects of their individual and shared lives.
For example, when you get to Features — literally, the physical features that led to an initial mutual attraction — the tutorial card emphasizes the fact that you should “tell what it was about this Feature that your character fell for.” (Fittingly, you choose your partner’s features rather than your own by selecting five cards from that deck and choosing the three you like most.)
The tutorial continues all the way through its 30th card, which congratulates you on finishing your first scenario. It also tells you to shuffle all the card decks (sans tutorial cards, of course) for future games, and suggests the best order in which to tackle the game’s three included story scenarios.
The tutorial is unbelievably player-friendly, even for those whose tabletop background goes no further than Monopoly. That said, Fog of Love is a difficult game to master. The reason became clear to me only after my IRL wife and I finished our first game together, and we both lost: It’s so easy to play this game wrong.
At its core, Fog of Love is a role-playing game. Too often, my wife and I both let our own, personal impulses rule the moment as we made choices from scene to scene. The key is remembering to play the character you’ve created as she or he is defined by the cards on the table and the Destiny you’re chasing.
This is something that started to click as the tutorial game wound on, but it was a situation where we’d both effectively sabotaged ourselves in the long run by making bad choices early on in the relationship. We didn’t build up a strong enough foundation for our love, and so when the finale eventually arrived, we weren’t satisfied enough — either individually or as a couple — to make our relationship last.
But isn’t that just how things are? The choices we made too often sprung out of our IRL identities, neither of which much resembled our in-game personae. Again and again, playing against the character we’d created worked against us.
Or to put it more succinctly: We weren’t our authentic selves, and the relationship suffered as a result. That’s as true in real life as it is in Fog of Love.