Overview: Everyone thinks their hero is great at killing monsters and collecting loot. In Gauntlet of Fools, you get to boast about your heroes before entering the dungeon: go in blindfolded or hopping on one leg or with one arm tied behind your back, and we’ll see how great you really are. Gauntlet of Fools was funded on Kickstarter in September.
Ages: 13 and up
Playing Time: 30 minutes
Rating: Foolhardy … but amusing.
Who Will Like It? If you feel like fantasy adventure games need more humor, Gauntlet of Fools has that, plus lots of die-rolling and plenty of monsters. Not really a lot of deep strategy, but more of a funny lightweight dice-fest.
The game is sort of a dungeon crawl, but before you go in and slay monsters you get to make some outrageous claims, which result in penalties in the dungeon. The abilities do tie in well with the characters thematically. However, it does seem a little weird that each hero faces off against the monster simultaneously. Just because I killed that Giant Toad doesn’t mean that you don’t face an identical Giant Toad.
It’s also a little odd that you basically get one swing at the monster and the monster gets one swing at you — and then you move on. In that sense, I suppose it’s more about running a gauntlet than crawling through a dungeon.
The boasts are pretty funny and are tied to appropriate penalties. Probably the reason the age recommendation is higher is because of the “with a hangover” boast, because the rest of the game seems okay for younger kids.
- 20 Class cards
- 20 Weapon cards
- 50 Encounter cards
- 36 Boast tokens (6 each of 6 types of boasts)
- Boasts board
- 30 six-sided dice
- 20 wound tokens
- 50 gold tokens
- 41 ability tokens
- 28 penalty tokens
- 30 bonus tokens
The components are decent quality: the six-sided dice are smallish and you get plenty of them to pass around. There are tons of tokens to help keep track of all the various abilities and effects on your heroes.
The artwork is nicely done, and it’s made to look like classic RPG illustrations, straightforward and not goofy for the most part. But there is humor in what the cards are — the Sack of Loot weapon, for instance, which does more damage the more loot you collect.
The iconography is pretty easy to understand. The only thing that seems out of place is the gear icon, which is used to represent an ability. Class abilities show a face with a gear, and weapon abilities show a sword with a gear. It’s not really clear why the gear is necessary.
The Boasts board holds the tokens for the six boasts and includes the names and effects — the boast tokens just have an illustration and some icons representing the effects. Since it’s only used at the beginning of the game, the board seems a little unnecessary to me. It would have been fine just to have the names printed on the backs of the tokens with the effects spelled out.
The goal of the game is to die with the most gold — because you’ll keep going until everyone is dead. Staying alive the longest isn’t enough to win the game.
To begin, deal out as many class cards as there are players, and then place one weapon card with each class. The rest of the weapons and classes won’t be used in the game.
First, you play the Boasting Phase. Players take turns taking a class (with its paired weapon). You can either take an unclaimed one from the center, or take one from another player. However, if you take one from another player, you must add at least one boast to it. “Your Alchemist might be pretty great, but my Alchemist can slay monsters while blindfolded.” When taking a class from the center, you don’t have to add any boasts, but you may if you desire. Each class can only have one of each boast, and any previously made boasts stay with the class. The weapons also stay with the class and are never transferred to another class.
Here are the types of boasts:
While Juggling: you subtract one from your total attack power, and you start with half as many weapon ability tokens
With a Hangover: you start with -4 defense and one fewer dice, but the hangover goes away after you kill your first monster
With One Arm Tied Behind Your Back: 1s and 2s rolled during an attack don’t count.
While Blindfolded: if you kill and dodge a monster, you’ll get 1 less gold from it.
While Standing on One Leg: You have -2 defense.
Without Breakfast: You start with one wound.
During the Boasting Phase, if you already have a class then you pass, but if yours gets taken then you’ll get another turn. The phase ends when everyone has one class with its weapon. Then each player gets their ability tokens: the number of class ability tokens is shown on the class card, and the number of weapon ability tokens is on the weapon card. (The “while juggling” boast reduces the number of weapon ability tokens by half.)
Next you get the Encounter Phase, which lasts until all the players are dead.
Flip over the top Encounter card. If it’s an effect (like the Healing Pool) then follow the instructions and continue to the next card. If it’s a modifier (like “Extra Tough”), then it applies to the next monster flipped.
Once you get a monster, then each player will have a chance to kill the monster to collect loot, and then each player needs to dodge the monster or take damage. (The attacks happen simultaneously, so even if you kill a monster it can still do damage to you.)
Roll the number of dice shown on your weapon card. This, after applying any modifiers from your class or weapon abilities, is your attack value. If you match or exceed the monster’s defense (shown on the shield icon), then you defeat it and claim the reward (shown in the gold coin icon). To use class or weapon abilities, you typically need to spend a token.
The monster’s attack power is printed on the card in the sword icon — if this is equal to or greater than your defense (on your shield icon, plus any modifiers), then the monster hits you. Otherwise, you have dodged the monster. The damage it causes is shown in the blood drop icon — most monsters give you wounds, but some of them may cause other penalties, steal gold, etc.
If you have four wounds, you’ve been killed. (But don’t despair, if you had a lot of gold you might still win!) Once everyone has died, whoever has the most gold wins.
In the two-player game, each player gets two classes, and can decide in each encounter which class to send to the encounter. The ability tokens and bonus/penalty tokens apply only to the individual classes.
The key ingredient in Gauntlet of Fools is the boasting — without it, you’re basically playing a very simplified dungeon crawl that in itself isn’t very interesting. Sure, you have a few special abilities and you can decide when to use them, but otherwise it’s just the luck of the draw and how well you roll the dice. The boasts are what should balance out a strong class-weapon combination by giving it penalties, and the trick of the game is to put enough boasts to keep someone else from stealing your hero without crippling yourself.
However, as the rules are written, everyone could just take an available combination without boasting at all. You can still play the dungeon crawl, but then it’s just a Gauntlet, and not necessarily a very interesting one. There’s still humor in some of the encounters, but there’s less charm to it. We decided to throw in a house rule that you were required to make at least one boast, even when taking a class from the center.
With that rule, then, the Boasting Phase gets more interesting. Do you take the Hangover, which makes it a lot harder to kill a monster but is a temporary effect if you don’t die right away? Or do you take something like the blindfold, which doesn’t affect your ability to fight but reduces your gold, which you need to win the game? How many boasts do you make in order to get a class-weapon combination that seems really powerful?
It takes a few plays to figure out which combinations of classes and weapons work best together, because they aren’t all created equal. You have to judge when it’s worth boasting to take them from another player, and this is really the crux of the game. The Encounter phase is really just playing out the boasts, and while it can be amusing to see how a player’s arrogant boasts got them in trouble, there’s not much more you can do about that once you’ve already entered the dungeon.
The encounters can be pretty brutal: for the most part, it seemed like it wasn’t always hard to kill a monster to get a reward, but it was often impossible to avoid damage. Few of the classes have ways to boost defense, so you need to choose your class and boasts wisely. I suppose that may be so the game doesn’t drag on too long — after all, the point isn’t to survive longest, it’s to get the most gold — but it can feel odd with no die roll involved when the monster attacks.
The two-player game didn’t work as well, in my opinion. It’s basically like giving you an extra life, sending in one to collect money and one to take the hits. You might as well only have two heroes, but then there’s a not a lot of boasting and not as many combinations to choose from. Ultimately I’d recommend it for at least four players, but the more the better.
Overall, Gauntlet of Fools is a game that is meant for gamers who want to be a little silly and have fun with the roleplaying and boasting. If you’re looking for a game that has really strong dungeon crawl mechanics, it doesn’t work as well, and it also isn’t great if people aren’t willing to make boasts. Gamers who get into the theme are the ones who will enjoy this one the most — but if you like the idea of making outlandish claims (and then dying horribly because of them) you may be just the right type of fool for this particular gauntlet.
Wired: Boasting introduces a funny twist on this dungeon crawl.
Tired: Playing the game without boasting leaves you with a bland, untwisty dungeon crawl.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.