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Preview of Robert Burke’s Upcoming “Operation F.A.U.S.T”



Year Published: Upcoming(2015)
Publisher: Robert Burke Games
Players: 2-8
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.

artOperation 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.

symbolsMost 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.

Examples of two prototype plot cards.

Examples of two prototype plot cards.

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.

F.A.U.S.T. ArtFor 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!


Author: bduerksen30 I have an m.a. in history focusing on naval and maritime history in the Atlantic from the seventeenth-early nineteenth centuries. I've worked as a website consultant, and am currently employed as an analyst. I also run the COG Gaming blog for board game reviews, news, and kickstarter highlights. COG Gaming also offers playesting and editing services for new designers, and we're in the process of developing a few titles of our own. Contact me if you're interested in having your game reviewed, previewed, or in one of our other services!

6 thoughts on “Preview of Robert Burke’s Upcoming “Operation F.A.U.S.T”

  1. This is a great writeup. I really appreciate it. Blind play testing can help us make a good game great.

    With that in mind would you mind if I picked your brain a bit about some of your comments?

    What card or cards did you feel were too powerful?
    How could it be addressed?
    We had another group that said they would not call a card out if they had too much money, did you find this to be an issue? It sounds like you had the opposite issue — always calling someone out if they had a particular card.

    The goal is we want to drive challenges. We think the more people challenge the more fun the game will be. in other words we want to drive interaction above all else. Did you find it interactive? How could we improve interaction?

    For the French Resistance, did player claim more than one to gain more money? Did any player buy cards to build a hand of resistance as a financial engine? Did players use the table ability of the Resistance to find cards they needed/wanted?

    Thanks again!

    Robert Burke

  2. Hey Robert- Thanks for commenting! I actually forwarded our game group’s feedback to you before posting this, so you’ve got the answers to some of your questions there. I’ll elaborate on the couple of things you asked about here:

    First, you’re right in the assessment that we basically had the opposite situation the other group had. We played with enough players that there was always at least 1 person with only a couple of OC, and they were always more than happy to burn those OC if it meant possibly taking one of the +3OC cards out of someone’s hand if they did have it, especially if they were claiming ERR or Allies. If a player was allowed to claim the hand ability on one of these for more than 1 turn, they effectively gained a turn over everyone else as far as OC went, so people really went after anyone claiming to have one (6 OC over 2 turns vs. 4 otherwise claiming FR, or a 12 OC swing in the case of ERR over 2 turns since theyd gain 6 at the expense of someone else unless claiming Allies).

    I’m not sure if maybe changing ERR and Allies so both abilities on each card were table abilities would help…knowing it was only going to happen once may make people less likely to challenge constantly against these cards, and at the same time give more opportunities for bluffing since that would also mean no one would be able to tell how many of those cards were ACTUALLY getting discarded. The Allies card could maintain its counter against the ERR as long as a player held onto it. I’m not sure if that change would also work on the Art Broker, or if tweaking its hand ability somehow would be a better option.

    For the French Resistance, we did have a couple of games where people attempted to build their hand up in order to at least claim they had lots of FR. However, the investment in OC to get their hand up crippled those players for the rest of the game as they tried to make up the 10-15 OC deficit from investing in their hand. Most people therefore used the FR to burn through the deck in an attempt to find whatever card they were looking for. Everyone also claimed to have at least 1 FR though each turn so they could get 2 OC, and it wasn’t worth challenging anyone over that generally speaking since the chances were very good they did, in fact, have a French Resistance. Reducing the cost of plot cards might make a multi-FR strategy more viable, but I’d be afraid that might unbalance the rate of deck turnover.

    We did find the game very interactive. Players were engaged with each other the entire time, and no one was able to just put their head down and just power through without interacting with everyone else.

    Thanks again for commenting and the questions! We look forward to seeing how the game evolves during development!

  3. Thanks! I must ask how many times have you played? We have play tested almost a hundred times at this point, and have not had anyone raise an issue of a card being “overpowered” until now. In fact, we spent a ton to time balancing the cards to their current form to maximize interaction.

    We want the game to be under 40 minutes. So it is designed so that money can be earned quickly. the ERR seems powerful because it can steal 3, but this is balanced by exactly what you state as an issue. Calling them out. We can’t have a bluffing game where all cards are equal, nor can we have a game where if someone is lucky enough to draw a good card they can run away with it. Here, players can call out an ERR if they are daring enough to steal when a player has only 2 to 4 OC. That is by design. Also, the ERR can be blocked by the targeted player if they claim Allies. So I suppose when you say the ERR is overpowered on one hand, and on the other hand say that the ERR was always called out to remove it, those statements don’t square. Is it really “overpowered” if players have the ability to remove it from play? The ERR is always best used to attack the money leader. Especially when all other players have something to lose, or when other players won’t mind that money moving. There is strategy on when to use certain cards, and this takes some time to figure out.

    We do want players to have the ability to “get a card out of a players hand” by challenging when they do not have much to lose. This makes challenges more likely, and driving interaction is the #1 design goal. It also makes good tactical use of cards like the ERR important.

    Also, you do not win the game with OC, you win with art value. So gaining information on who has the valuable art and stealing it or buying at a discount is important.

    I appreciate the feedback, but yours has been the only group, out of 6 so far, that has brought this up as an issue. So I really want to understand it. Especially after all the work we have done on balancing the cards.

    I will say we are testing something new. We are introducing “worthless forgeries” based on feedback from two other groups, but this would make challenging more likely, not less likely.

    I suppose, the crux of it is we WANT challenges to be more likely, not less likely. We want players to be on edge when the take more powerful actions. We want them to look for the opportune moment to play those cards. I hope you would play it some more with these things in mind.

    Thanks again!

  4. Had a big playtest with our group last night and introduced some stuff paying close attention to your points. I discovered that some players felt as you did, that the French Resistance were not as good as they could be. We heard this previously and added the table ability and the +1, but we can still go further I think.

    I’m going to be testing the following:
    Change the French Resistance from gaining 2 OC +1 OC for each additional, to be gain 2 OC for EVERY resistance member held.
    We talked about this a lot and think that it will make getting a pair of resistance feel much better, and increase the value of buying a card.

    If you get a pair you will earn 4 OC, 1 more than the better roles. If you get 3 you will earn 6, and that will really put on the pressure on players to get them out of your hand. I think it may speed the game up too. Anyway, we will be testing it thoroughly so thanks.

    The group still did not this the other cards were overpowered at all.

    • Thanks for the update Robert! I’ll be interested to see how the changes to FR play out, but it does sound like the change will be beneficial; not only does it encourage claiming multiple FRs, but it also may encourage people to challenge FR when that didn’t really happen previously. We unfortunately haven’t gotten a chance to table the game again to try and re-evaluate the +3 cards, but if no one else is having the issue i’d chalk it up to an anomaly having to do with how people we were playing with reacted to those cards initially, and then maintained those initial opinions throughout our 10ish games. I think the tweak to FR may solve part of the situation we experienced anyway.

  5. Thanks for the great input! First impressions after playing with the French Resistance change are very good.

    Players no longer feel that “oh bummer, I drew another French Resistance”
    It moves money quicker making the game quicker, which is a goal
    It spurs more challenges and this is our top priority, to drive interaction
    It make the Recruit action more valuable

    If you do play again, p,ay with the change and let me know what you think.

    Thanks again!

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