Well, it’s that time of year again: that time of year when TLDP goes alliterative. This marks my fifth year of bringing you the D for December, and I decided to go with board games. Welcome to Disconnected December!
This week I present to you all of the cute with Stuffed Fables.
Time Played: The box says 90 minutes, but it took us longer.
Sponsored By: 2 to 4 players
Are you looking for a way to get your kids into tabletop RPGs but don’t necessarily think they’re ready for Fifth Edition?
You’re in luck!
I’d like to take a moment to praise the fine folks at Plaid Hat games. I’ve always been a big fan of board games with molded plastic game pieces, and the ones included in Stuffed Fables are the highest quality miniatures I’ve ever seen. I’m seriously tempted to trot out my Reaper paints and do them up right. That’s how good they are: I’d almost rather paint them than the Grot Fanatics I’ve got primed and waiting.
It’s not just the miniatures, though. The game is polished like nobody’s business. From the miniatures to the beautiful art in the storybook and character sheets, to the writing in the campaign, everything about Stuffed Fables screams “We care about production value!”
And it’s not even that expensive! MSRP is $70, and that’s a steal. The fact that you can get it in some places for $55 is almost a crime, considering what’s in the box.
But miniatures and art only get you so far, and it would be shallow and wrong to recommend a game based on looks alone. The real question – the important one, anyway – is whether it’s fun to play. I’m happy to report that yes, Stuffed Fables is fun to play.
Stuffed Fables is a series of tabletop RPG campaigns that follows the exploits of a team of stuffed animals as they protect their child from the monsters that come from under the bed at night. Each campaign is contained in a spiral-bound storybook, which also serves as the rules book and game-board. Each campaign is broken into chapters, which take up two pages of the book. To play, you simply open the book to the chapter you’re in and lay it flat on the table, taking care to follow the setup instructions for that chapter.
You assemble a team of up to four stuffed animals from the available six, though some stories dictate which stuffed animals (or “stuffies” as they’re unfortunately called in the manual) are for which campaigns. Each “stuffie” has a character card that dictates what abilities they have and how much health they start with. As you play, you can earn hearts, which are used to unlock additional abilities and serves as the game's version of increasing your character’s level.
It’s difficult to explain what you’ll be doing on a given turn, because every page in the book is slightly different. You might be fighting monsters, or you might be searching for a hidden object, or you might be riding a little red wagon as it careens over a cliff. Each of those has specific rules that are explained in the campaign text. There are, however, a few core mechanics that are common among the different pages.
The first is the dice. Every action you take, whether it’s combat or otherwise, depends on colored dice. Stuffed Fables comes with a bag full of six-sided dice that come in seven colors. At the start of every turn, you draw five dice from the bag. Each color means something different. If you draw a white die, for example, you get to add stuffing to your character card, which is the game’s analog for health. A black die means you advance a marker at the top of the board that serves as a countdown to when something bad happens, which is determined by the page you’re on. The other colors are used to perform specific actions. Red dice are for melee attacks, green for ranged attacks. Yellow dice allow you to search an area and hopefully find useful items or weapons. Blue dice are context specific, and purple dice are wildcards that can be used in place of other colors.
You’re allowed to keep one die on your player card for subsequent turns. I usually try to hold onto a purple one, but that’s not always the right play.
The other core mechanic is the sleep deck. Everything you’re doing must be done before your child wakes up. Whether she wakes up is determined by the sleep deck, which has three types of cards in it. Most of them are simple “Sleep” which means nothing happens. There are also a number of “Restless” cards, which will trigger some kind of event in the game, depending on the chapter. There is also one “Waking” card, which is placed randomly into the bottom three cards of the sleep deck. If you draw the Waking card, you have to abandon your quest to return to your child and it’s game over.
All of the mechanics wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans, though, if it weren’t for the writing. The actual campaign is by turns cute, touching, exciting, and clever. The box says it’s for ages seven and up, but adults can easily find a lot to love about Stuffed Fables.
Will I adventure on?
I’ve only played the first campaign in the game, and I very much want to continue the story. The only downside is the game does take a long time to play. The box says it takes ninety minutes, but we took more than two hours to finish the first campaign. Most of that was probably just learning the game, but it’s still daunting to try and set aside that much time.
In a world where I didn’t have grownup responsibilities, like home maintenance and parenting and Monster Hunter, I’d definitely spend more time with Stuffed Fables.
Is it the Dark Souls of RPGs?
There is nothing about this game that’s even attempting to be the Dark Souls of its kind. On our first playthrough of the first campaign, at least, we were never in much danger of a party wipe, or even of failing to meet optional objectives. The boss fights were more challenging, but not excessively so.
I’d say there’s an appropriate level of challenge for a patient seven year old, but it’s not Dark Souls hard by any stretch. If you’re looking for a fun introduction to role playing games, I can’t recommend Stuffed Fables highly enough.