Fog of Love had a great deal of buzz about it when it was released in 2017. With its sleek graphic style, its unashamedly two-player yet non-filler nature, and still even now practically unique theming (outside a few light party games) of playing out a romantic relationship, it’s easy to see why it turned heads. But is the game just a somewhat expensive fling, or something for the long term?
What is Fog of Love like?
Mechanically, Fog of Love is fairly simple. Throughout the game both players’ satisfaction scores (the closest thing the game has to victory points) go up and down depending on how the relationship goes. There are also 6 different personality dimensions in which players can accumulate both positive and negative points to give a personality score in each of these dimensions. For instance, Sincerity is a dimension, where the players can reveal themselves to be more honest and fair by getting positive points, or deceitful and selfish by getting negative points.
The game is played out over several chapters, in which players take turns to play cards called scenes. Scenes give the players a scenario their characters are in, and usually some associated choice. They come in three types, sweet, serious and drama. Resolving the scenes is the main part of the game. The choice is made either by the player who didn’t play the card, or secretly by both players at the same time. The card then tells the players the results of the choices. What the result is can vary a lot depending on the card. Satisfaction points may be generated if the choices were good for the player, or conversely lost if not. Personality points can be shifted. Various cards might be swapped or replaced. Or the players might be given an opportunity to tell their partner something about their character, requiring a bit of roleplaying. Through these scenes, the story of the relationship is developed. There is some variety in the cards, but nothing (mechanically) complicated.
For me, the most interesting, mechanical aspect of the game is the destiny cards. At the beginning of the game the players are given a hand of destiny cards, based on the scenario chosen. During the game cards can be swapped in or out, and this hand of cards will be gradually reduced, until at the end the players will have to choose one. This card tells the players what their victory condition for the game will be. Usually this is to achieve a certain satisfaction score, either for themselves, for their partner or some mix of both, and often there will also be some requirement on the personality dimensions. The card also tells you whether your character wants to stay in the relationship, or will end it. If your partner wants to break up, and you don’t, then your destiny is not fulfilled (i.e. you lose). For instance, one destiny card is ‘Equal Partners’, where a player wins if both players have about the same satisfaction score at the end of the game and they don’t break up. For the ‘Unconditional Love’ destiny, only your partner’s satisfaction counts. Conversely, if you pick the ‘Heartbreaker’ destiny, you’ll want to make your partner miserable before you break up with them. The players also have traits, which are sort of mini-goals related to the personality dimensions.
I was initially a little disappointed when I started to hear details of the rules for Fog of Love. I’m generally not a fan of the ”play a card, do what it says on the card” style of game. I’m also pretty sceptical of any game that simply orders me to roleplay out parts of the game. It’s usually a sign that the game wants my gaming group to provide the fun in the game via silly voices, to make up for a lack of “game” in the box. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fog of Love really does use these elements quite well. The glue that holds these elements together is the destiny cards.
What the destiny cards allow the players to do is dynamically choose what goal they are aiming for in the game. Do they want to dominate the relationship, or be part of a couple of equals? And what they want might change during the game, particularly as some options start to seem unlikely.
The roleplaying does very much serve a purpose in the game, and allows you to learn about your partner, and then pick the scenes where you can (hopefully!) have a good idea of what and how they will act, and so keep on course to your destiny. That destinies are chosen dynamically during the game means that this game revolves around social deduction, and the roleplaying drives some of that process.
All of this matches the theme extremely well. In this game about building a relationship, one of the main ways to do well is to get to know your partner’s character as well as possible! It’s also a game where the vast majority of the time, the players will essentially be playing a co-operative game, even when a friendly break-up is the aim. Some of the destiny cards will be functionally the equivalent of traitor cards in a co-op game, and many of the scenes certainly allow for the possibility of betrayal. So, you could put all your trust in your partner and hope not to get hurt. But, maybe it’s best for you to also hold on to one or two those ‘traitor’ destinies as well, just in case things go a bit sour.
Sounds a bit like a relationship doesn’t it?
Fog of Love is certainly not going to be for everyone. It’s a very specific style of game. In particular, the game will probably fall very flat with a couple only interested in engaging with a game primarily through mastering it’s mechanics. Similarly, I think on the other end of the scale, people buying this purely as a role playing or story game might also be disappointed. It still has rigid formal board game-like rules set, rather than a loose approach to rules usually found in these other types of game.
But the way Fog of Love blends its various elements together makes it a delight to play if you like all these component parts. The push-and-pull between these aspects creates the kind of back and forth flow that is absolutely vital for a two-player game. Its design aesthetic, theme and mix of mechanics make it unique. If any of this peaks your curiosity, I highly recommend tracking down a copy and giving it a go.
- Unique gaming experience
- Creates memorable stories
- Gives the dynamic of a social deduction game for 2-players
- Attractive minimalist design aesthetic
- Requires a high level of player buy-in
- Only for 2-players
- Very specific theme and scenarios in the game will not be for everyone
A quick word of caution here. For the same reason that the roleplaying decisions are important, it’s also important to have some distance from your character. For those who play role playing games, you’ve probably experienced the issues that can happen when someone gets a little too attached to their character. This is certainly a problem that can come up in Fog of Love too, particularly given how personal some of the scenarios in the scenes can be. That goes double if one player decides to go for the less pleasant destinies! If you associate too closely with your characters, the in-game drama could quickly move to out of game drama.
Fog of Love is mechanically quite simple. But to get the most out of the game, both players need to be very clear on how the game works and be willing to roleplay a little.
- Players: 2
- Playing time: 60-120 minutes
- Suggested age: 17+
This review was written by guest contributor Andrew Dolphin and a review copy of the game was supplied by Hush Hush Projects.