If you’ve ever wanted to be Indiana Jones, collecting artifacts from around the world and fighting off the likes of Nazis, mobsters, and evil cults, you’re in luck. Fortune & Glory is a “pulp adventure” board game from Flying Frog that tries to capture the feel of classic adventure fiction using a combination of press-your-luck mechanics, dice-based combat and (of course) a CD soundtrack.
Fortune & Glory has been around for about two years now, but this year saw the release of two expansions—Rise of the Crimson Hand and Treasure Hunters—which each add some new mechanics to the mix. I’ll give you an overview of the base game, and then talk about what’s included in the expansions.
First, a word about Flying Frog Productions. I’ve written about several of their games in the past (including, most recently, their current Kickstarter campaign for Shadows of Brimstone). What you need to know about their games is that they’re all about the theme, whether it’s zombies or aliens or pulpy adventure. I wouldn’t usually describe their game mechanics as elegant—there’s a lot of dice-rolling and tons of cards with lots of text—but once you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with their games, the play can suck you in.
Fortune & Glory is for 1 to 8 players, ages 12 and up (mostly for the theme, I think). The box says it takes 90-180 minutes to play, and it really depends on both the number of players and the mode you’re playing: solo, competitive, competitive with teams, or cooperative. For what it’s worth, I did play one solo game in about 45 minutes, but I think I got lucky that time. It retails for $99.95 but you can probably find it for less. Both of the expansions retail for $39.95. When you order directly from Flying Frog (or buy from them at conventions) you get a couple of promo cards thrown in.
I won’t provide the entire components list here because there’s just so much. There’s a very large tri-fold board (which is part of the reason the box is so enormous), nearly 50 plastic figurines (heroes, villains, temples) and piles of plastic coins (the eponymous fortune and glory), dice, and piles and piles of cards as you can see from the photo below. In addition, there are large cardboard character boards, villain boards, and oodles of cardboard punch-out tokens, including some that don’t have specific uses but could be used for homebrew rules or future scenarios. Oh, and finally, Flying Frog’s signature: a CD soundtrack.
The cardboard components are all top-notch: sturdy with a glossy finish. The dice are small six-sided dice, nothing special. The plastic bits are pretty nice—unique figurines for each hero and villain, plus a bunch of Nazi soldiers and mobster thugs—but a few of mine have bent gun barrels. The cards, like most of Flying Frog’s games, have photo illustrations featuring the various characters and scenes. There does tend to be a good amount of text on them, some pretty tiny (particularly the flavor text), but they’re generally pretty easy to figure out. However, for some reason all of Flying Frog’s games use these really stiff, glossy cards that have a tendency to stick to each other and are hard to shuffle. If I could change one thing about the game, it’d be to switch these to something else. The one advantage is that they’re really durable, but I’d trade that for easier handling.
The CD soundtrack is about 35 minutes long with original music by Mary Beth Magallanes. It’s fun to have playing in the background while you play, though its length means that you’ll have it repeating a few times before you finish the game. If you want something longer, I might suggest the Indiana Jones movie soundtracks.
A warning up front: there are a lot of rules in Fortune & Glory. The rulebook is 30 pages long, and the first few times you play you will be looking up information frequently. Even trying to summarize the game, as I’m doing here, takes a lot of text. If you’re mostly interested in the expansions, you can skip down below (look for the photos), and at the end is “The Verdict” where I give you my impressions of the game.
You can play the game in several modes: the default is competitive, where you’re each out to collect 15 Fortune (gold) and get back to your home city before everyone else. You can also play on teams, which is basically the same thing except you can work together against dangers. The cooperative mode brings in a “Vile Organization” (the Nazis or the Mob) that has its own rules that work against you as you play, and the solo game is just playing the co-op version by yourself. There are also basic and advanced rules, so that you can get started and add in other features later, like the Nazi zeppelin that flies around the world collecting gold and dropping off soldiers.
Each person gets a hero character—the card tells you your starting city, your special abilities, and your stats: Combat, Agility, Cunning, and Lore, plus the number of Wounds you can take and your Defense level. They include folks like Jake Zane, flying ace; Sharon Hunter, daring photographer; Dr. Zhukov, master of science; and Li Mei Chen, night club singer.
There are always four treasures on the board. These are made of an Artifact and an Adventure, which randomizes the amount the treasure is worth and the number of dangers you must survive to collect it. Some of the Adventure cards also have special text that adds specific rules for that treasure. The treasures are placed around the board by drawing from the Locations deck, and you use little colored skulls to mark where they are.
The basic idea is that you roll to move around the board, and then you “adventure” wherever it is you end up. If you’re not in a space with a treasure or an enemy, you roll a die to see if you get an Event card (usually good), fight an enemy (bad), or if it’s just uneventful travel. If you’re in a City, you’ll draw a card from the City deck, which might be a danger to overcome or may be extra Gear or an Ally, or even a secret mission you can take on. Cities are also where you can sell treasures you’ve collected, and spend your hard-earned Glory on gear, allies, and healing wounds.
Most of the action, of course, happens when you reach a treasure. In this case, you have to overcome dangers to get the treasure. The red shield icon on the Adventure card shows how many dangers you have to overcome in order to collect the treasure; the gold coin on the Artifact shows how much Fortune that treasure is worth.
To pass a danger, you have to succeed at the test listed—some allow you to pick a skill to use (or optionally get in a fight with an enemy), but some just force you to pick one or more. Each test shows the number on the die you’ll need for a success, and the Xs indicate how many successes you need. For example, if it says “Agility 4+ xxx” then you need to get three dice showing 4 or higher. The number of dice you roll depends on your stats. As long as you get one success on the dice you roll, you can bank it and roll all of them again. Once you’ve gotten sufficient successes, you get a danger token, and you get to make a choice: press on, or camp down.
Camping down lets you heal all of your wounds, and you collect the Glory (blue coins) shown on all of the dangers you’ve overcome this turn. Press on, and you get to draw another Dangers card, putting you closer to getting the treasure but also risking the glory you may have earned so far.
If you fail a Dangers test, then it flips over and becomes a Cliffhanger—until next time. Yep, you failed at a car chase and now there’s a fiery explosion. Will you survive? We’ll find out on your next turn. Cliffhangers may have other tests, or you may just take wounds. Either way, if you survive the cliffhanger then you also earn a danger token and can again press on or camp down. Fail a Cliffhanger, and you get knocked out and sent home, potentially losing cards or coins and any artifacts you’ve collected.
If there are multiple people at the same treasure adventure, then they take turns encountering dangers. Each player attempts a test, decides whether to camp down or press on, and then the next player draws a card. So it may be that you decide to press on, but then somebody else claims the treasure before you get a chance—well, you pressed on, so you still have to survive a danger even though there’s nothing to collect at the end. (You still get your Glory, though.)
Getting a treasure isn’t enough, though—then you have to get to a city, survive whatever happens there, and then sell it to get the Fortune. Collect 15 Fortune and survive a turn in your home city, and you win!
Now, I’ve left out all the stuff about getting into fights, but there are various ways that bad guys show up—some get scattered around the board and you’ll have to fight them if you’re in the same space. Some go on adventures themselves, and can steal the loot right out from under you. And sometimes you’ll be told to draw an enemies card, indicating somebody you’ll have to fight. At any rate, fights are resolved by rolling dice, and there are also ways to run away from a fight.
If you play the cooperative (or solo) mode, you’ll face off against either the Nazis or the Mob. In this case, there are other Villain Event cards that come into play, and on each round the villains get a turn to establish outposts and go after the treasures. Your goal is to collect enough gold before the villains score a set number of points. The Nazis have strength in numbers, plus a War Zeppelin that flies around. The Mobsters establish hideouts that earn money and send thugs around the world.
Rise of the Crimson Hand
The first expansion adds a new Vile Organization, the occult Order of the Crimson Hand. There are three new villains (with figurines) plus 8 Acolyte figurines that can go around collecting artifacts. The Crimson Hand’s strengths are that they can draw extra power from treasures they’ve collected, allowing them to roll more dice, fight better, take more wounds, and so on. Because of its powerful influence, the Crimson Hand also has the ability to corrupt your Allies and turn them against you.
The expansion also includes a bunch of cards that can be shuffled into the various decks: new dangers, common items, gear, allies, enemies, cities, artifacts, adventures, villains, and villain events.
If you’re not playing the cooperative game, there’s still a bunch of new stuff that gets added. For one, there are “epic events” in major cities. In the base game, there are City cards that say “Just Another Day in the City,” and nothing happens. Now, if you draw that card while you’re in a major city, you roll a die and consult a chart that has city-specific events. You might wind up in an opium den in Hong Kong, or be followed by secret police in Moscow, or visit the Chicago World’s Fair.
This expansion also adds deadly tests—these show red Xs instead of the grey ones (like the High Speed Boat Chase pictured earlier). Basically it means you have to get all of your successes in a single roll rather than getting to roll multiple times.
When the Acolytes show up (usually when you draw a particular Event card), they are placed directly on an Artifact card, and at the end of each round they automatically get a success toward collecting the treasure. If they get enough successes you, then they take the treasure and leave you with nothing.
For those of you who already have the base game, this has modified rules for dealing with collapsing temples, and it also has some replacement Adventure cards that have the text highlighted to make it easier to read.
The Treasure Hunters expansion adds four new heroes, two Mob villains, and two new elements for the advanced game. The new heroes include Nigel Harrington the big game hunter, Jenny Butler the actress, Angel Espinoza the grease monkey, and Grant Jackson the mercenary.
The first new element is the Personal Missions. Each player has a secret personal mission which they can accomplish while doing other things—some require you to spend time in a particular city, or win a fight against Nazi soldiers—which will award you fortune or glory. When you finish a mission, you get to draw another one.
The second new element is The Docks. There are a bunch of punch-out tokens that show “The Docks” on one side and have various other things on the other side. At the start of the game, you shuffle them and put one on each port city on the board. When you’re in a city with a Docks marker, you can choose to take your chances there after resolving your City card. You might get Shanghaied or double-crossed by an Ally. Or you might find some extra gear, earn some fortune, or even intercept a cargo crate containing a temple treasure. It’s another way to add some risk and reward to cities in the game.
As with Rise of the Crimson Hand, this expansion also throws in a lot of new cards that just get shuffled right into the various decks.
I first tried Fortune & Glory at PAX two years ago, and the demo was pretty fun. But when I brought it home to my gaming group, it didn’t go over as well. I didn’t realize how many of the rules I’d missed (and how many I’d need to look up) until we sat down to play. Perhaps most importantly, I missed the little note on the first page that said if you’re playing with more than 5 people you should play the Team Games variant—our 8-player game took much longer than expected. I played once more the next day and it went much better, but most of my friends had soured on it the first time and it sat on my shelf for a long time. It just seemed like too much effort to get it out and read all those rules again.
But since I’m a fan of the guys at Flying Frog, I wanted to give it a fair shake before writing it off. This year I gave the demo another try at PAX Prime, and paid a little more attention. I re-read the rules, and played it several more times—competitive, solo, co-op, and with expansions thrown in. It’s been a much better experience this time around, with some caveats.
Let’s start with the things that aren’t great. I’ve already mentioned the weird cardstock, which is my main gripe about the otherwise-excellent components. Because the dangers you encounter are completely random, sometimes you get really weird chains of events. For instance, in one game a player had to climb a mountain, then escape from quicksand, before winding up in a nightclub … on Antarctica. There are some modifiers on some cards, like if you’re on a jungle region then this danger might have a specific added effect, but it doesn’t prevent you from having some pretty ridiculous encounters. So far, no crystal skulls, though.
The other issue with the random encounters, though, is that you really can’t pick your battles. Let’s say, for instance, you’re playing the dastardly tomb robber Jacques Moreau (sort of an antihero, I guess). He has 5 Combat but only 2 Agility. Well, in some cases you’ll be able to choose to fight rather than run away from enemies, but what if you face a rope bridge? At some point you may run into tests that require Agility, and if you don’t roll well then you’re just out of luck. A combination of poor rolling and dangers that don’t match your abilities can put you out of the running, no matter how good your strategy may be.
Now, for what I liked: if you’re going to race around the world collecting treasures, you might as well do it in style. Having a massive board and piles of cards, bits, and figurines makes the experience feel epic. I’ve been a fan of Flying Frog’s photo-illustrations, too: they get actors with costumes and props and shoot them for the character sheets and event cards, and that adds a fun bit of flavor to the game. And the game succeeds thematically. From the dangers and cliffhangers you encounter to the characters (both heroes and villains) to the little flavor text on the cards, Fortune & Glory is filled with recognizable tropes from pulp adventure.
Where Fortune & Glory really shines, I think, is as a team or cooperative game. In those cases, you can have two (or more) characters with complementary skills working together. Now, if you know your Lore is terrible, you can decide whether you’re going to press on without your Lore expert, or if you want to team up and work together. Working together lets you decide which character will take each test, so you can play to your strengths. In this case (whether team or cooperative play), your decisions feel like they have more weight: you have to decide whether it’s worth splitting up to prevent villains or other teams from getting treasures, or sticking together so you’re less likely to botch a test.
Also, because each Vile Organization has different tactics, you’ll end up not just going after treasures and heading to a city, but rather trying to eliminate their outposts and take out henchmen as well. It feels like it gives everyone a little more to do, rather than just having four spaces on the board that matter (the treasures) and everything else being just space you have to travel through to get to the useful stuff.
As for the expansions, I think Rise of the Crimson Hand is a pretty good addition, especially if you’re playing the cooperative game, because the organization has some interesting rules. The Acolytes (which figure into any mode) throw another wrench into your artifact-hunting plans, since they function as a countdown timer before that treasure disappears. The Treasure Hunters expansion, of course, is fun if you want more characters to play, but the Personal Missions also provide a nice alternative to earning some fortune or glory when you just can’t manage to obtain a treasure. If you’re a fan of Fortune & Glory, they’re both worth adding in, but if you can only get one for now I’d suggest starting with the Rise of the Crimson Hand.
Because of the expense, I think Fortune & Glory works best for the sort of gaming group that likes to play the same game on a regular basis—and it seems that many of Flying Frog’s fans fit that definition. It’s probably less likely that you’d want to buy $180 worth of a game that you’re only planning to play once or twice a year. It’s definitely what I’d call an “event game”—that is, if you’re going to play it, you plan your game session around it; it’s not the type of game I’d just pull out on a whim during a game night unless I’m not planning to play much else that evening. Having enjoyed the cooperative game, though, I’m more likely to plan a few more Fortune & Glory sessions from now on.
Thanks to Flying Frog for providing a review copy of Fortune & Glory (two years ago!) and the expansions, and apologies for taking so long to review it!