Fairy Tile has players retelling a fairy tale by moving a trio of characters around a board made up of… tiles. It may have a clever name, but how does the game itself hold up? Read on to find out!
At the beginning of each game of Fairy Tile, every player is dealt a deck of page cards which make up their book. Each player always has a single card making up their hand and every card has a different objective on it which must be met so that the adventure on the page can be recounted. These objectives are met by moving characters around the board and having them in different situations, from meeting other characters in specific terrain, to visiting terrain made up of a larger number of hexes. The first player to recount the adventures on all the pages of their book wins the game.
The characters in Fairy Tile are represented by painted miniatures which are reminiscent of a child’s toys. The knight is armoured and in a fighting stance; the princess is a regally posed, slender model; the dragon is proud and intimidating – its red colouring is in stark contrast to the mostly green surroundings. These models look brilliant, standing out on the board and feeling satisfying to move around.
The world which these characters move around in is presented as a series of double-sided tiles. These tiles are made up of 3 hexes, each with a different terrain on them. The mountains, plains, forests, rivers, and castles are all wonderfully illustrated and really sell the fairy tale world which players are part of.
Players also receive a player aid which details their available options, as well as breaking down the key words which appear on the page cards.
On each turn of Fairy Tile, players will have the choice of either developing their story or turning a page.
Developing the story is what most turns will be spent doing and involves either moving one of the characters on the board or adding a new tile to the board.
Each of the characters moves differently. The princess can move one space in any direction, but if she is on a castle she may jump to any other castle on the board. The knight must move two spaces away from where he currently is. The dragon moves in a straight line until it reaches the edge of the board.
If, after moving a character or placing a tile, the objective on a player’s page has been completed, they read the flavour text aloud and then draw the next page from their book.
Alternatively, players can turn a page. This means that they place their current page at the bottom of their book and draw a new one. When doing this, they can flip over their magic token. The magic token is a small wooden disc with a gold star on one side. When the gold side is showing, the player effectively has a second turn banked. When developing their story, they may make a second move by flipping the token back to its blank side.
Bed Time Fairy Tile
Most of the puzzle of Fairy Tile comes from working out the best way to get the characters in the correct positions. Getting a single character to a location can be simple enough but getting two characters to meet in a place can take some thought. Overall, though, the movement is transparent enough that this is not too challenging. The problem arises when your opponent moves that knight you have been getting into position for the past 3 turns!
In fact, all the conflict in Fairy Tile comes from players sharing the same playing pieces with different objectives. This means players must consider how to complete their own objectives, but also what their opponents might be trying to achieve. If your opponent seems to want the characters on the opposite side of the board to you, it may be best to turn a page and bank a second turn for later.
The turning a page mechanic is the biggest way players can mitigate bad luck in Fairy Tile. Knowing when to bank a turn for later is key to getting ahead of your opponents and deal with any cards which just are not possible to achieve right away.
Once Upon a Tile
Unfortunately, the back and forth between players almost feels hands-off. Decisions are often not made with your opponents in mind, but regularly will result in exasperated sighs as you ruin their plans. This aspect just is not fun, since the person making the move has not blocked their opponent intentionally, or because they have played better. The frustration has just occurred because of both players attempting to complete their own objectives.
That said, the toothless nature of the conflict in Fairy Tile makes it much easier to stomach for less experienced players. In Risk, for example, conflict is a direct decision to try and stop another player’s progress. This can feel bad for the target of the attack and leave a negative atmosphere around the table. The more passive nature in Fairy Tile negates the feeling of being targeted and so eases younger or newer players into the experience.
When completing an objective, players have to read out the flavour text on their card. This is intended to give the feeling of building your own story, but in reality the pages will never come in an order which is particularly cohesive. One turn you will recount the princess being rescued by the knight, only for the next page to announce that she is languishing in captivity! This can lead to some funny moments, but generally only works as a story with some imaginative thinking to fill in the gaps.
Fairy Tile is dripping with charm. Every component is illustrated in a way which is reminiscent of a children’s story book. Placing tiles to build up the world is all the more satisfying thanks to the gorgeous images adorning the hexes.
Sadly, there isn’t quite enough going on with Fairy Tile’s gameplay to engage players looking for a more intense experience. It is difficult to directly impact your opponents’ game and some objectives are harder than others, resulting in unlucky draws ruining a player’s chances.
That’s not to say there is nothing here for more experienced gamers. The visuals alone make this game worth a look and there are certainly fun moments to be had, like attempting to predict your opponents’ moves or trying to weave a narrative around the disjointed adventures.
In my opinion, Fairy Tile is best suited to families. The lack of bad-faith confrontation, as well as the story book aesthetic, makes it an appealing prospect to a younger audience. The relatively simple rules and helpful player aid certainly don’t hurt here either.