Familiar Tales: Familiar Troubles
Take the role of a wizard’s familiar and play a story filled with magical adventure. Complete each challenge and avoid misfortune. Protect and help raise a young girl to become a powerful magic user!
Familiar tropes blend with gorgeous visuals and a fully narrated and voice acted companion app to make Familiar Tales from Plaid Hat Games a rich, engaging multimedia experience on your table. 1-4 players can pour their time into this tactical strategy game.
Familiar Tales has its roots in games like Mice and Mystics and Forgotten Waters. Indeed, this is the latest offering from Jerry Hawthorne, the master of weaving together these narrative adventures. So much is going for this wonderful title, but we got a little tripped up in the chase. We’ll explain as we go.
There are a lot of pieces in the box for Familiar Tales, but any confusion about what to do can be easily mitigated by using the companion app (which is really just a website). The expertly tailored app will walk you through setting up your campaign and your play area. The team at Plaid Hat has even developed a clever “saving” system in the app. You’ll be given a unique code when you begin your campaign that you can plug in later. You’ll only need to watch the setup a second time if you want to.
The setup instructions are clear and contain plenty of images and references to allow you and your co-familiars to get the game set up in no time.
Once you’ve set everything up (you’ll probably need a 3’x5′ table or larger for a four player game) you’re ready to go. Fire up the narrative and set off on your adventure. You’ll play as Flicker, Blaze, Gribbert, and Chalk, four familiars of the wizard Merilious. You’re charged with protecting the Princess of Principalia from the evil forces of Lord Perish.
At the beginning of the game, the young princess is a baby. Combined with the normal exercises of fighting off or avoiding villains, you’ll need to scavenge for supplies to ease the child’s discomfort. If you’re successful in keeping the baby cheerful, you’ll reap the rewards in later eras where she can actually contribute to the party’s adventures.
Much like Stuffed Fables before it, you’ll be placing your familiar miniatures on pages of the Location Book to play the game. Your party will move from section to section, avoiding or defeating enemies.
Each encounter has some special rules that go along with it, and various anchor points trigger additional narration in the app. When your character enters a space with a three digit number, simply plug it into the app and listen.
Regardless of the player count, all four familiars are in the game. Whenever an encounter begins, you’ll have the option to change the turn order of the familiars.
On each familiar’s turn, you’ll choose any number of actions. Play cards with the appropriate symbols to match what you want to do. If you’re moving, use the movement number. If you’re performing a melee or ranged attack, use the might or agility numbers. To forage, look at the insight number.
You can play as many cards as you want and sum the numbers together. But if you spend all your cards, you won’t be able to defend yourself from attack or assist your fellow familiars this round.
Each card may also have additional actions that will fire off when you use them.
Building up your Familiar
As you gather power and resources, you can spend them to acquire more items or abilities. Spend power from your character to “train”, or gain another skill card for your deck. This soft deckbuilding aspect allows you some ability to customize your player. There are also “Bond” and “Story Craft” cards familiars can spend power on. These strengthen their individual relationship with the child or enhance the story in some way.
Similarly, you may elect to use the resources you’ve foraged to acquire items that may provide perks or better weapons. Or spend them to care for the child and ease her discomfort.
Mix all of these mechanics together, and you have a guided dungeon crawl with maintenance mechanics and stunning presentation. Move through the story and learn what the story holds for the future of Principalia!
Familiar Tales is a wonderfully crafted game. Like many cooperative games, the party must carefully balance their objectives. Here, it’s moving through the encounter and taking care of the princess. The app integration offers an additional complexity in its danger calculation – you’re never entirely sure if you’re out of danger, just because the enemies of the encounter are defeated.
Plaid Hat paced Familiar Tales well, so each encounter can be a complete play session. Wrapping up a given page nearly always provides the group the opportunity to assess whether or not they want to press on right away, or pack the game up for later.
They also helpfully provided deck boxes for each familiar and setup/save instructions within the app. They know nobody is going to play this game start-to-finish in a single session.
Our gameplay description above glossed over much of the rules and mechanics of Familiar Tales. This was because, like its predecessors, there’s a lot to them. Familiar Tales has a fair amount of iconography, combat rules, and special cases. Simply put, the game requires patience. Players work through their moves, and it takes time. We frequently consulted the rulebook, and this lengthened the play experience.
This means the less time between play sessions, the better. But unless your family is completely and totally entranced by the story, real life dictates it’s a hard sell to get a family around the table the 25 or so times it will take to finish the story.
These confounding factors make Familiar Tales a tough sell to many (like us) in the family demographic. Transparently, we had similar concerns as we worked through Stuffed Fables, but that may just be because our family runs through so many games at once.
We love the art and the minis, and the voice acting and special effects are second-to-none. There is a lot of game in this box. If it hooks your family, you can look forward to a solid 10-15 hours of gameplay. Just don’t wait too long before getting it back to the table. If you keep the rules fresh in your minds, you’ll love this adventure. Pick it up at Amazon or at your friendly local game store, today.
Plaid Hat Games provided The Famliy Gamers with a complimentary copy of Familiar Tales for this review.
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Familiar Tales - Familiar Troubles
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 1-4
Playtime: 45+ minutes