Period dramas have always been a staple on British television. From Downton Abbey to Bridgerton, we seem to be ‘obsessed’ with the goings-on of affluent, Victorian families. Thankfully, there is a board game that can certainly feed that ‘obsession’ and desire to live out your Victorian fantasy and one that really does impress all that play. I am of course talking about Obsession, a worker placement, hand building game in which you take the role of the head of a respected but very troubled family estate. Obsession aims to allow players to reconnect with influential families, residing in Derbyshire, who after years of misfortune, have finally turned the tide and are set on bettering their fortunes.
“Life Is A Game, Where The Player Must Appear Ridiculous”
Over the course of various turns (either 16 turns in a standard game or 20 in an extended game), you must work to host events, ensuring you can service said events effectively with your staff, and attract new guests to your estate, thus increasing your income and your reputation. The game plays over 4 seasons and at the end of each season, you compete for the affection of one of the Fairchilds, who will bring certain reputation and fortune in their wake.
The various events you can host range from playing bowls on the Bowling Green and picnics in the garden to grand events such as a great ball or even have a prestigious guest stay in your newly built Lionheart Suite. All of these activities require a certain member of your serving staff in order to complete the activity. These staff range from butlers to lady’s maids and they all play a role on your families estate. If you do not have staff available then you will not be able to service the activity that turn.
You then can invite a certain number of guests to the activity and they themselves may have certain staffing requirements that you must be able to fulfil. They will also provide favours (rewards) as well as the activity itself. Favours can vary from money from wealthy Earls, reputation or new guests to add to your hand. All of these will build upon your fortune and better your standing with the opportunity to court the Fairchilds.
“My Heart Burns For You, Obsession!”
Everyone I have spoken to that has played Obsession has said how fantastic the game is, not only in terms of it’s gameplay but in regards to it’s accuracy and portrayal of the era it is set in. Games can so often lightly dangle a theme over themselves without fully embracing it but Obsession does quite the opposite and the small details dotted throughout the game allow it to fully engage with the Victorian era setting. All the guests have certain flavour text that contributes to explaining why certain actions require different things or provide certain rewards.
I love the fact that some guests are branded as “gossips” and can be used to damage another families reputation but some of them are that unsavoury that you also damage your own reputation for simply being associated with the “gossip”. The grand monuments provide an ongoing reputation bonus, as you would imagine if you had them within your estate. You can build a Lionheart suite within your stately home and invite a prestigious guest to said suite and they are waited on hand and foot by the butler of the house. Their thanks is in the form of double rewards. Everything about Obsession has been meticulously thought out every single detail fits beautifully together like a gracious Victorian puzzle.
The families within the game are very well balanced in regards to their starting bonuses and there is a whole wealth of different guests that you can come across while playing the game. There is a real energy when it comes to balancing the various factors that better your fortune and the four courtship events that occur during the game will inevitably have you racing to secure new buildings and areas within your estate to attract one of the Fairchilds.
Many people may turn their noses up at the thought of a period-drama-themed board game but I beg you not to draw judgement so quickly. This game works so incredibly well that you don’t need to be an avid watcher of the aforementioned genre to enjoy Obsession. The game certainly takes some getting used to, as the various guests and rooms/activities offer up a massive amount of variation and strategy but it certainly doesn’t feel like a massively heavyweight game as it may first appear to be on the surface. I quickly became engrossed and we ended up playing a few games in quick succession just to try and improve on our previous result. That is a sign of a very good game for me!
“Everything Nourishes What Is Strong Already”
While there are expansions available for Obsession, I am yet to play with these added into the base game but I can safely say that the experience you get with just the base game itself and the amount of content available is certainly enough to keep you going for a good long while. Of course, if you are looking to play with more than 4 players, then you will want to look at getting the Upstairs Downstairs expansion that adds new families into the mix, as well as different service staff to utilise and complete activities. The Wessex expansion, as the name may suggest, adds the Wessex family into the mix, as well as new casual and prestige guests.
“Flawless My Dear”
Obsession, to me, pays homage to the classic, British period drama and does it in such a way that anyone who plays will enjoy it! It artfully weaves the Victorian theme into the gameplay and the variety of mechanics keeps the game interesting and exciting, while also opening up options for new strategies and approaches in future games. Since unboxing this game, we have played it five times in not so many days and that should indicate what an excellent, polished game this truly is. There has been a lot of love and attention poured into this offering and Dan Hallagan has done a fantastic job! Obsession gets a massive thumbs up from myself and I cannot wait to try the game out with the added features from the expansions.