Designer: Christopher K Lees, Jordan E Perme
Artist: Jordan E Perme
Publisher: Horrible Adorables
Year Published: 2022
No. of Players: 1-5
Playing Time: 20 - 90 min
Main mechanic / Theme: Cooperative / Wave Battles
Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com / Kickstarter
Disclaimer: Publisher provided a copy of the game for this review.
“The Good Witches and Wizards of Joralee have been kidnapped by a horde of evil Foes! The only hope is for their Familiars to dutifully band together on a quest to overthrow the Foes and save their spell-casting partners. They’ll bumble their way through new spells, unleash ancient artifacts, and craft crazy combo attacks to succeed. They may just surprise their Witches and Wizards with a few tricks (and Familiars) of their own!”
This cooperative game will have you fighting waves of foes and rescuing your witches/wizards from capture. You play either solo or as part of a team and will have your own unique character with its own element, attack, artifact, special ability, and spells.
Gameplay and mechanics:
The game bases itself heavily on luck that determines both the actions of the foes and the outcomes of your selected action. This leads me to believe it is geared towards a younger audience or new gamer that is still learning the fundamentals of board games like following rules, making short term decisions, and light probability, positioning itself as “my first skirmish battler.” As is for most board games, the amount of randomness can be polarizing for veteran gamers and can lead to both epic moments and unfortunate wipeouts. Keeping the level of chance in mind, you as the player will make one action per turn weighing the probability of dice. There is a light bit of teamwork in the form of support-style spells that can help, heal, and revive allies, but nothing as complex as engine/deck-building.
Theme, Artwork and Illustration, Graphic Design and Layout:
This game immediately catches attention with its unique brand of cutesy occult that is broadly attractive to all ages, but especially so for the young. The details of the art are cheeky, subtle, and consistent throughout. The flavor is also well woven into the world and it feels visually consistent throughout. As a professional in visual communications, I can say the graphics are strong and effective.
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The nice thing about anthropomorphising animals is that your characters can speak a more inclusive language by avoiding ascribing as many specific human traits. The abstracted art style allows the wizards/witches to leave space for imagination as well. Personally, I appreciate the character of Akasha (Sanskrit) and the fez on Mistral as just some of the cultural symbols that I caught with the casual eye.
You level up your familiar with the “training scroll” that encourages you to try out all of your actions and organically expand your options as you become more familiar (pun intended) with the game. This was a well implemented and memorable part of the game. The components are also very memorable and flavorful.
Familiars and Foes is a solid light game for newcomers. In my opinion, this game could lower the minimum age down to as young as 10 years old and still hit target audience. The decision making is very simple and rolling dice is a familiar way of adding spice without much complication. Unfortunately the same reliance on dice means there is always the chance of a “feels bad” moments where either nothing happens or worse you hurt yourself. Consistency and effective planning are a weak point in games of this type overall. Though as of my review, the game is still undergoing some tweaks, I think it could ship today and see success with a young/new gamer audience.