Sometimes starting a new RPG game can feel like a daunting challenge. There are a host of rules to learn, characters to build, stories to craft. The award-winning Fiasco 2nd Edition Box Set feels as if it was specially crafted to combat this issue. The average game takes only two hours and is designed for 3 to 5 players. However, instructions have been included to extend this to further players.
For those unfamiliar with Fiasco 1st Edition, imagine acting out a darkly comedic movie, specifically one such as Fargo or Burn After Reading. With each scene, the players are driven to what can often be a bleak, but amusing end. The 1st Edition of Fiasco was written as a more standard RPG book, working with dice and index cards, and being somewhat more complex, if more detailed. However, the new 2nd Edition, after a successful Kickstarter campaign by publisher Bully Pulpit and Jason Morningstar, is simple. Gone are the dice and books, replaced by a single box set.
What's In The box
1 Folding Game Board
1 Fiasco Engine Deck containing 54 cards
3 Playset Decks (Dragon Slayers, Poppleton Mall, Tales from Suburbia) containing 54 cards each
5 Player Reference Cards
Beginner Friendly Set-Up
As someone who enjoys tabletop RPGs of all kinds, I can agree with the boast that Fiasco 2nd Edition is simple to set up. In addition to long hours of character creation, a normal session of a game such as Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Cthulhu requires several books, maps and dice. It is part of the charm of those games, allowing for complex stories that can last for months, if not years. In contrast, Fiasco took me mere minutes to set up, and perhaps fifteen minutes of character creation before we were ready to begin.
First, the Engine deck is used to set up the board, with the cards shuffled and placed in their respective boxes. Then the group choose a Playset deck. In our case that was Dragon Slayers. The cards within are consequently shuffled and divided between the players.
Each player around the table must be connected via a Relationship card with the players on either side of them. These can be become intricate and amusing, forming the basis of each player's character. In our first three-player game, for example, the card dictated that I was in the same guild as another player. He was also a bounty hunter and the player on his left was his bounty. That player who was the bounty was also connected to me by a card. That card said that he was a magical automaton and I his creator. From there we discussed the intricacies of our characters. From within our hands, we selected a single Need card, Object card, and a Location to help further flavour the story.
And that was it: the setup in its entirety. With our framework in mind, we were ready to play.
The prompts within the decks are deliciously fun, and can be combined in all kinds of ways, giving the game a good deal of replayability value. The game also encourages players to combine cards between the playsets for even stranger adventures.
Fiasco 2nd Edition is described as a storytelling game of small-time capers gone disastrously wrong. It refers to ordinary people with powerful ambitions and poor impulse control. Upon their turn, players act out scenes forming an ongoing cinematic tale.
A particular benefit to the game is its lack of a game master or GM. This role normally gives one player more responsibility, but Fiasco allows for straightforward democracy in play. All players have equal accountability for the game and its story. Thus upon their turn, a player may choose to either establish or resolve a scene. Whichever they choose, their fellow players do the other for them. Each scene must be resolved either positively or negatively, and the player takes the corresponding card.
The game, therefore, allows for massive amounts of creativity and flexibility in scenes. Without conventional rules or dice rolling, the players in Fiasco can be as wild or wacky as they like. The freedom is refreshing, and the lack of rules meant that my players picked up the game within minutes.
Each player gets two scenes in the first half, and then a tilt card is selected, providing a dramatic drive for the second half. Once all scenes are acted out, the numbers upon the positive and negative cards are added together. This, therefore, creates a final score for each player which grants them a conclusion card. Personally, I found this mechanic a little confusing. Often the scores, and corresponding conclusions, didn't seem to fit with how our stories had unfolded. Occasionally, we struggled to make them fit for our epilogues, but this is a small issue in a very fun and flexible game.
Like many modern RPGs, Fiasco 2nd Edition contains safety tools. The game can touch upon dark themes, and thus includes Let's Not cards for if a player feels uncomfortable. It is a simple mechanic, but an important one. These cards are placed near the centre of the board, and if tapped, the story should be changed immediately, and without question.
I can happily recommend Fiasco 2nd Edition as a rules-light game, and believe it will become a staple of my own gaming group. The playsets in this base game can be combined to create more combinations of cards. Furthermore, as well as the sets provided, several expansion packs have already been published.
Fiasco: Unknown Monsters contains stories pertaining to a wedding, and also to a mysterious beast in Sucker Creek. Alternatively, Fiasco: Teen Angst is filled with high school stories, and the lethal Camp Death. Fiasco: Feel the Rush takes players into the world of the food industry and also into that of crime families. Fiasco: USA plays upon fears of alien invasion, and also the combative world of local news stations. Finally, the Build-A-Fiasco pack includes two blank decks so that players can create their own playsets from scratch.
With so much to play, and likely more to be published in the future, Fiasco is a great game for RPG beginners and veterans alike.