Good morning, it’s Valentine’s Day (actually the evening of Feb 13, 2023 as I write this) and I feel obligated to talk about Fog of Love.
Fog of Love by Jacob Jaskov and currently published by Floodgate Games but originally published by Hush Hush Projects, is a 2 player role-playing game. You and your partner will create and play as two characters who meet, fall in love, and try to complete your own hidden objectives, which may end with a happily ever after, or, a tragic break-up.
How to Play
The main board in Fog of Love is a stark white colour with two sections along the sides for each player to create their character, and track their satisfaction. The centre of the board features 6 colourful personality traits that will track how a player develops over the course of the game. Each player is given 5 trait cards and choose to keep 3, forming the bedrock of their personality, and will provide some satisfaction if your trait goals are realized by the end of the game. An occupation card for each character adds a bit more flavour, then players introduce each other by playing a few feature cards for their partner, representing the aspects that first attracted each player to the other.
Great, setup is completed. During the setup, as you reveal features and occupations, you’re encouraged to start role-playing. Tell each other what you noticed about each other. As you place those cards in your character slots, you also place your personality tokens on the colourful personality traits. The board offers suggestions to what these traits mean, like having a high curiosity score means you’re curious, creative, and unconventional, while having a low curiosity score means you’re close-minded, prosaic, or conventional.
Fog of Love contains 4 scenarios that will set up the story and guide it through its arcs. There are expansion packs if you want more variety in the stories, but honestly, the variety comes from you and your partner. It’s up to you to make this narrative tense and exciting! Swapping occupations and traits, embodying your favourite sitcom characters, is much more interesting than a new story framework.
Like most romantic comedies, the first act is filled with the feel-good, exciting scenes. Going to a masquerade party together, or pulling your partner into a fortune-tellers’ booth. The events give players a prompt, and it’s up to the players to role-play and use their improv skills to weave a narrative. The scene cards generally explain what to do, most often, they offer a multiple choice. You hold the scene card in your hand and describe the situation to your partner, then tell them what their choices are. One or both players place their chosen answer in the centre of the board, then reveal their answers, filling out the rest of the scene on their own. The choices will generally have you place more tokens on the personality trait sections of the board and/or affect your and your partners’ satisfaction levels.
As the game goes on and scene by scene gets completed, the story continues in the form of chapters. After a number of scenes have been completed, you flip a chapter card, resolve the effect, and draw new cards from the serious and the drama decks. These cards depict dramatic situations that will put your newly formed relationship to the test. Switching Jobs, affairs, and surprising reveals are all potential scenes in your romantic comedy. In addition to these new scenes, you’ll also be winnowing your destiny deck, which represents your end-game goal. Perhaps you realize that being equal partners is unachievable with a partner who’s so undisciplined, so you discard that destiny and start working toward the goal of self-realization. Once all the chapters are completed, each player reveals their destiny, and the player(s) who have fulfilled their destiny have ‘won’ the game!
I’ll be upfront and say that I’ve only played Fog of Love twice, both times with my partner. The first time, we were able to submerge ourselves in the storytelling and acting portion of the game, making up wild stories based off the prompts the game provided. I was a baker with odd socks and bedroom eyes (whatever that means), while she was a slow-speaking athlete with perfect teeth and worn out jewellery. Back and forth, we played scenes and spun a tale that ended with both of us fulfilling our destiny and living happily ever after.
I had middling feelings about the game itself, but my partner really enjoyed it, and said she’d like to play it again soon. The overall experience was enjoyable enough that I kept Fog of Love in my collection, surviving the upcoming purges and trades that the year would bring.
Our second play was exactly one year later. This time, it fell flat. Perhaps we were both tired that evening, or maybe it was just the wrong pick for the night, but the creative juices just weren’t flowing, and if one or both partners aren’t able to keep up the improv, Fog of Love turns into a hedgehog. A prickly game of little rules with a soft underbelly, and an adorable face.
Fog of Love requires what I call an ‘above the board’ attitude. The fun of the game occurs between the players, the actual mechanics of the game itself is mediocre, bordering on frustrating. The personal traits that you keep hidden can be at odds with the features your partner chooses for you. Trying to work in your sense of justice and get a high sincerity score is impossible when your partner’s goals are directly opposite to yours. Narratively, some couples just aren’t meant to end up together, but from a gameplay perspective, it’s frustrating to play scene after scene only to have your partner wipe out the progress you make on your turn. Bitterness and resentment forms as you struggle to make your partner bend to your goals. At some point you start to eye those other destiny cards, the ones that focus on your own satisfaction, eschewing your partner’s desires. Maybe you just can’t see how you can ever make this work, and decide you’re breaking up with them. Maybe more like a real relationship than I initially gave it credit for.
If you are mechanical minded and come to board games for interesting rulesets and elegant designs, this will leave you wanting. Instead, if you’re hyper and excited, you’ll have a great time just making stuff up just to make your partner laugh. If you like to tell stories, Fog of Love gives you a framework and prompts to do so. But as a board game, with all its rules and seeing who comes out a winner, it’s lacking.
The tutorial for Fog of Love is excellent, it eases you into playing the game and what all the decks of cards are meant to do, and how and why you’re tracking all of your character stats. It’s unique and makes a great first impression. If you and your partner hit your groove, you’ll likely walk away with a smile on your face. And that’s the charm! Not everyone wants to learn a whole new game every Friday night; just how many farming games can one brain sustain!? Fog of Love mixes up the play we’re used to, encourages board gamers to flex the creative muscles and ham it up with one another. As the story goes on, serious and dramatic scenes steal the energy away. Even though we both are acting, and we know we’re playing a game, I never want to even pretend that either of us would be unfaithful. Some of the event cards that come up that can trigger some baggage in your past, that can sour your experience. That said, no one is forcing you to play uncomfortable cards. Toss them across the room and focus your attention on what makes you happy.
There’s a delicate balance in Fog of Love. It’s trying to both be a game with mechanics and a score, as well as be a role-playing experience. I’m glad we played it, it showed me that my partner and I enjoy embodying characters and improv and gave us a real high experience. Once that was established, the game mechanics pulled us back down. The goal of ‘winning’ by achieving our destinies had us sabotage our relationship and left us deflated. Fog of Love isn’t for us anymore, if we want to be creative, we’ll do something that allows us to flex our creative muscles unhindered. If we want to play a game, we’ll play a game that really focuses on what makes games fun for us. I know this is the point, designer Jacob Jaskov says the point of Fog of Love was to fill the void of romantic games that would draw his romantic comedy loving partner into his hobby. I applaud Jacob, he’s designed a unique experience in Fog of Love. But ultimately, it doesn’t do either of it’s two roles well for me to fall in love with it.