Year Published: Upcoming(2015)
Publisher: Robert Burke Games
Playtime: 10-30 minutes
Robert Burke is a design name most people who are into hobby board gaming have probably heard of. He is the mind behind Gnomes: The Great Sweeping of Ammowan, Battle for Souls, and, most recently, the successfully Kickstarted Draco Magi which is set to deliver to backers this fall.
My game group recently had the opportunity to sit down with Robert’s next venture, Operation F.A.U.S.T (Fine Arts Underground and Stolen Treasures), which is currently undergoing playtesting. Each player takes on the role of an art collector/dealer during World War II and attempts to save famous works of art from destruction by Hitler’s Third Reich. Although the game’s theme ties in very well with the recent The Monuments Men movie release, it was actually conceived before the film hit theaters.
Operation F.A.U.S.T is a fast, card-based bluffing game that plays with up to 8 people, with each person taking consecutive turns until one person saves/acquires $1 million in non-forged art(unless they’ve picked up a forged document card, which allows a player to pass a forgery off as a real piece). Setup for the game is very easy; the decks of art and plot(action) cards are shuffled, forged document cards are placed in the middle of the play area for purchase along with tokens for the bank, and players are dealt 2 plot cards for their initial hands and given 5 Occupation Currency. Additionally, players may choose to each select a persona which gives them a unique ability throughout the game.
On his/her turn, a player may take one of the following actions:
1. Fundraise to take 1 OC from the bank
2. Recruit to pay 5 OC to the bank to draw a new plot card
3. Purchase Art by paying 10 OC to the bank
4. Forge to pay 6 OC to the bank to buy a forged art card
5. “Clean” to pay 5 OC to get rid of an art card you hold
6. Plot to use one card’s ability.
Most of the game revolves around the sixth option, which allows a player to use one card’s ability. Players have a choice here for most cards in the game, as many include both a ‘hand’ ability which can be claimed by the player without discarding the card, as well as a ‘table’ ability which requires the player place the card face-down on the table to claim its ability, and then discard it after the card’s resolution. This feature injects a nice bit of strategy into the game as players must determine whether a card is more helpful remaining in their hand for continued use, or whether it’s time to part ways with the card and use its one-shot ability.
Since this is a bluffing game, however, players may claim to have any of the cards in the game in an attempt to use one of the abilities listed on that card. The game strikes a good balance here in terms of the number of unique plot cards, including enough to keep the game interesting while not overwhelming people trying to keep track of what each one does for bluffing purposes. Our group had the cards more-or-less memorized after a few play-throughs, resulting in our bluffing strategies becoming much more effective. The final product will likely have some version of the reference sheet that Robert included in the print ‘n play testing file that gives players quick-glance information for each card in the game.
That’s not where the bluffing aspect ends, of course; Operation F.A.U.S.T wouldn’t be much of a bluffing game if it didn’t allow you to call other people on their BS. Any player holding 2 OC, a piece of art, or a forged document card may challenge another person claiming to have a certain card. If the player does not, in fact, have the card they’re claiming, that person does not get to use the card’s ability and must give the challenging player either all of their OC, a piece of art, or a forged document. Likewise, if the player does have the card they claim then not only does the card’s effect still happen, but the person who challenged must choose one of those three options to give them as recompense. Even if they have the card, however, the player using it must discard the card; this allows you to strategically take a card away from players if you determine it’s going to be too beneficial for them to continue holding.
As with any game in this stage of development there are some balance inconsistencies my group ran into during our sessions. A couple of the cards ended up being extremely powerful during our games, and people were challenged almost immediately each time they claimed to have one just to force them to discard it if they did hold the card. After a few games it became obviously unwise to claim to have these cards if you actually didn’t since the chances of getting called on the bluff were 90%+, and that effectively removed the bluffing aspect from the game for those cards. Conversely, we would have liked one of the more common cards in the deck to have a little more utility than it did. Additionally, as the game currently stands I would not recommend the 2-player variant which, at least for us, always turned into an OC race. I doubt many people would want to play a game like this with less than 3 anyway, and it really shines in terms of player interaction with 5-6.
Robert has already contacted us with some rules updates, and being familiar with a couple of his previous projects I have no reservations about his ability to make the adjustments he needs to end up with a great product. He also recently posted the below preliminary art layout, and I have to say I love what I’m seeing so far. Granted, I’d expect nothing less considering the incredible art production of both Battle for Souls and Draco Magi.
For more information about Operation F.A.U.S.T. check out its Board Game Geek page here.
Have you played it yet and have thoughts to share? We’d love to hear your comments and feedback!