- Designers: Christopher K Lees and Jordan E Perme
- Artist: Jordan E Perme
- Release Year: 2022
- Mechanics: Cooperative, Dice Rolling Combat, Variable Player Powers
- Players: 1 to 5
A prototype copy of the game was provided for review purposes
How to Play
Familiars and Foes is a 1 to 5 player cooperative boss battling game where you play as an elemental fox familiar on a quest to save the good witches and wizards of Joralee. A game of Familiars and Foes lasts for 4 waves, and pits players against a variety of enemy monsters.
To begin the game, all players chose an asymmetric familiar, and their corresponding spell cards. One will be the basic spells that you can use right from the start of the game, and the other will be the advanced spells that need to be unlocked by completing a variety of basic actions. The back of the rule book has a chart that seeds the board with a number of foes based on your player count, and chosen difficulty level.
To begin a round of Familiars and Foes, players first draw the witch or wizard they’re rescuing. If the element of the sorcerer matches one of the familiars, great! They have access to an extra special power during this wave. If the mage in distress doesn’t have a matching familiar in play, they’re simply discarded.
The foes for the wave are set into their slots, with their health dependent on the number of players at the table. The turn order is set, and the game begins. Players on their turn can either preform a physical attack, cast a spell, or play their artifact.
Physical attacks tables are listed on each player’s sheet, with a varying threshold for successes and failures for each character. One character would hurt themselves if you rolled 6 or under, but would do 4 damage if the die exceeded 16. Another character had easier thresholds, but lower rewards.
Each character has their own set of spells, although the basic spells are all pretty similar. On your turn if you chose to play a spell you simply select which one you’d like to cast, pay the required mana, and roll the die, hoping to earn a success by exceeding the threshold, which is different for each spell. Again, higher risks mean higher rewards. If you manage to land a hit using a basic attack, each other player at the table had the opportunity to pile on, using the Ballyhoo mechanic. They pay a single magic point, then flip a coin. Heads, they deal two damage. Tails, they take one damage. If the Ballyhoo succeeds, the next player can pile on too. The Ballyhoo either continues until all players have piled on, or someone fails the coin flip.
At the beginning of the game, each familiar draws an artifact card that offers a powerful onetime bonus. On your turn, you can choose to use your artifact, but then it’s gone for the rest of the game. Each player also has a special ability that they can use 3 times during the game. Again, once those charges are gone, so is the ability.
Play continues from character to character as dictated by the turn order tracker, until it finally reaches the enemy. All the foes that are still alive at this point roll a die, and act according to their table.
Once all the foes are defeated, players restore their magic points to full health, and proceed with the next wave. Finish 4 waves and you’ve won! If all players have their health points reduced to 0, the Familiars have failed.
I was not prepared for how adorable Familiars and Foes was. This game exudes charm and character. I absolutely adore the art all over everything. The Familiars are cute, and I desperately want their pushes to adorn my shelves, the enemies are charming and clever, and the little artist flourishes left me absolutely charmed. Even the Familiars’ Familiars, the frogs, are adorable. I’ll say it loud and proud right now, I would die for Spike.
The copy I got to play is a prototype copy, and the designers assure me that every component that I had my hands on will be upgraded during the course of their crowdfunding campaign. Everything physical was fine, but I am looking forward to higher quality card stock. The tarot sized cards I got were a little bowed during my first play, which is only slightly disappointing. All the cards sit on the table for the entire game, meaning the bending isn’t a big deal, but it’s a minor annoyance with the physical production.
That being said, I love the large cards. It makes it easy to read the text from across the table, and gives the artist lots of room to display their charming foes. Seriously, Familiars and Foes art direction has absolutely charmed me. The heroes, the villains, everything is a joy to look at.
The gameplay is fast and simple, which is good for a game you plan on playing with your family. On your turn you choose to either do a physical attack, or cast a spell, then roll the die to determine if you were successful or not. In some cases, a low roll would see you suffering self-damage, while high rolls would deal critical hits.
The spells each character can cast are listed on their player sheet, and generally ask players how much risk they’re willing to take on, in return for how much damage they want to deal to the foe. The choices are straightforward and simple. Once you’ve made your choice, you roll the die and let fate decide if you made the right choice or not. There are precious few chances to re-roll a bad result, meaning sometimes the game might be a cakewalk, while other times you’ll find yourself getting crippled by the first Foe.
I’ve often talked about how I like progression in games, how I want to get stronger as the game goes on instead of trying to just survive a series of attritional battles. In this regard, I wish there were ways to earn more artifacts during the gameplay instead of only having one at the beginning. That said, I do enjoy the achievement system that unlocks your stronger spells. It’s also a helpful teaching tool, reducing the number of actions each player needs to consider at the start of the turn, and gives players a reason to try all their basic actions first, before giving them the real juicy attacks. I also appreciate that each witch or wizard you manage to rescue offers a boon to their corresponding familiar, potentially giving you a game-saving benefit.
I’m a fan of the Rougelike genre. Rogue Legacy, Enter the Gungeon, Wizard of Legend, and Slay the Spire are some of my favourite video games. Familiars and Foes has aspects that remind me of those rougelike games. Each time you set the game up, you’ll be in for a different combination of monsters and different artifacts that can drastically change how you will approach the wave. I really enjoy this variability, and I am looking forward to seeing more foes, more artifacts, and more familiars, hopefully in the form of stretch goals or future expansions. I would like to see the asymmetry in the characters expanded on even further, or having different ‘advance spell builds’ available for each Familiar to increase the replayability.
I enjoyed Familiars and Foes more than I expected. The charming art captured my heart and helped build a narrative in my head. The game-play is simplistic; choose an attack and roll a die to see if you hit, but I’m okay with that. I’m sure this would be a hit with my 6-year-old niece, even if she needs an adult to help her manage the game system. The cute art draws her in, the simple rule set doesn’t scare her away, and the pure joy that comes from rolling the die and scoring that critical hit is unparalleled. Familiars and Foes is a great cooperative game to introduce younger members of the family to the joy of board games.