As a ruler in a far-away land, you must build up the mightiest realm ever known. How you do this is up to you. Do you create a massive army to clear away all opposition from before you? Do you instead recruit powerful wizards and use magic to increase your greatness. Another pathway could be to use the natural environment to your benefit with volcanoes and hurricanes to defeat your foes. This is your kingdom so make it the greatest of the Fantasy Realms.
What Is Fantasy Realms?
Fantasy Realms is a hand-building card game for 3-6 players, ages 14 and up, and takes about 20 minutes to play. The game consists of players drawing cards from a deck or discard pile in order to form the best combos and score the highest points. Fantasy Realms was designed by Bruce Glassco and published by Wizkids, with illustrations by Octographics.net. It’s currently available from your friendly local game store as well as through online retailers such as Amazon and has a suggested retail price of $19.99 for a copy of the game.
Fantasy Realms Components
Here is what you get in the box:
- 53 Cards
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Score Pad
There are 53 cards in the game. They are divided into 10 suits of five cards each with three cards that are wild rather than in one of the suits. Each card has a unique name at the top, a suit listed along the left side, a base strength in the top left corner which can be from 0 to 40, and bonus or penalty text that explain how the card interacts with other cards.
At the end of the game, the score pad is used to calculate each player’s score. WizKids also offers an app on iOs and Android that will calculate scores automatically. Just select the cards in each players hands and the app takes care of all the math.
How to Play Fantasy Realms
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to earn the most points with the combination of cards in your hand at the end of the game.
Fantasy Realms is extremely easy to setup and start playing. Shuffle the deck of 53 cards and deal seven cards to each player. Then take the remaining cards and place the deck in the center of the play area along with open space to place discarded cards next to it. Randomly choose a starting player and then begin play.
During a player’s turn, they can either draw facedown card from the deck or select one of the faceup discarded cards. The first player must draw from the deck since there are no discards yet. After drawing a card, the player then discards one of the cards from there hand and places it faceup near the deck. Be sure to spread out the discarded cards so that all players can see these cards. Players can discard any card, including the one they just drew. The player to the left then takes their turn and play continues in a clockwise direction with each player taking a card and discarding a card during their turn.
As players are drawing and discarding, they are trying to create combos to maximize their points. Therefore, it is important to understand how they bonus and penalty text works. There are five main terms used in these texts on the cards. ‘With’ refers to a bonus you get when this card is with a card of the designated type. The bonus is only applied once. On the other hand, ‘For Each’ would provide that bonus or penalty multiple times if there are more than one card of the type listed. ‘Blanks’ can be a tough concept at first. If a card says it blanks other cards, those blanked cards have no suit, no base strength, and no bonuses or penalties. Essentially it wipes out everything for those cards. ‘Blanked Unless With’ applies the blanking unless one of the named cards is also in your hand. Finally, ‘Clears’ can get rid of a penalty or part of a penalty on a card. That card still keeps its suit and base strength.
The game ends as soon as there are 10 cards in the discard area. Players then calculate their scores using the score pad (or the app). On the score pad, players list the base strength of each card. They then list the bonus or penalty depending on the cards in their hand. More than one card can affect a card’s bonus or penalty. Add the base strength to the bonus/penalty to get a subtotal for that card. Finally, add up the subtotals for all 7 cards to get the final total. The player with the highest total score is the winner. In case of a tie, the hand with the lowest total base strength is the winner.
Let’s look at a couple examples of combinations of cards in players’ hands at the end of the game.
In this first example, the player had a Hydra and a Mountain at the start. They both have some good bonuses. At the end, the Hydra is worth 40 pts. The Mountain gets the bonus for a total of 59 points. The swamp is worth 18 because Mountain clears its penalty. Wildfire is worth 40. Island is needed to clear the Wildfire penalty which would blank most of the cards in the hand. Island and Smoke are worth their base strengths of 14 and 27 respectively. Finally, Fountain of Life is worth 41 because it takes the base strength of Wildfire. The total for this hand is 239.
This player decided to go for the 7 card run found on the Gem of Order. This is risky but can be rewarding. The Princess is worth 34 since there are four other cards that each provide a bonus. The Necromancer is worth 3, but allows the player to grab the Light Cavalry from the discard pile at the end and add it as an eight card. The Shield of Keth is 44 points and the Sword of Keth is 47 points since they are together with a leader. The Queen is worth 26 and the King is 28 because they are together with an army. The Light Cavalry is worth its base score of 17. However,the Gem of Order is worth 155 due to having a 7 card run of base scores in the hand (2 through 8). This hand scores in at 354 points.
Fantasy Realms is GeekDad Approved!
Why You Should Play Fantasy Realms
Let me start off by saying I absolutely love Fantasy Realms. It is one of my favorite games. I first played in when it was originally released in 2017 and have been playing it ever since. A new version of the game was released this year and it was one of the three finalist nominees for the 2021 Kennerspiel de Jahres which recognizes the expert or connoisseur tabletop game of the year which are usually aimed at more experienced players. While the suggested age range is 14 year and up, I have played this game with my children when they were 12 years old and they were able to do well. Scoring and understanding bonuses and penalties are what make this game difficult for younger children. In addition to playing with 3-6 players, there are also rules for playing with two players where players start with no cards and then can either take one from the discard pile or two cards from the deck and discard one. After both players have 7 cards in their hands, play continues as normal. The Chaos Realms rules for 3-7 players has players taking their initial hand of 7 cards and then they walk around and trade cards with other players on a one-to-one basis. When the time is up, players then score their hands.
There are several reasons I like this game. First, it is fast to setup and easy to teach to new players. The toughest part for beginners is understanding what blank means and I explain that it essentially erases all of the values and information on that card. While blanks can seem bad, there are other cards that have exceptions to those blanks. Another reason to enjoy this game is because it is different every time. Everyone gets seven random cards at the start. Therefore, it is hard to have a pre-arranged strategy. Players have to see what they get and then change their strategy on the fly depending on what cards they draw and what cards other players discard. In many games, I will come up with a plan at the start only to change it when something better is revealed during play. There is also an element of push-your-luck as you might hold onto a high value card that is only valuable if you can find another card that gets rid of a penalty that affects it. As a result, when the number of cards discarded begins to approach 10, you have to decide whether to ditch those cards or push on. The interaction between cards is amazing. While some cards have a bonus with just one or two other cards, others can benefit, or penalize, several cards. You really have to pay attention to both names as well as suits. Finally, a game of Fantasy Realms goes rather quickly. This makes it great for a quick game to start a game night, for playing during a lunch break. Since the box is not that big, you can also take it easily with you while travelling or camping, though I would suggest putting sleeves on the cards.
Everyone with whom I have played Fantasy Realms has enjoyed it. For the many reasons I have already stated, it has definitely earned the GeekDad approval. I highly recommend without any reservation Fantasy Realms as a vital addition to any game collection.
For more information, visit the Fantasy Realms webpage!
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.