Review: Friends or Fortune

In Short…

Friends or Fortune is Dave Cleaver’s game of a Dutch sailing voyage to the far east. An interesting blend of full-on storygame style and boardgame-like presentation, I found myself intrigued by the game, but not convinced that gameplay would have the results that Dave had in mind when writing the game.

Incorporation Of Images

I found the inline images, from Adam Dray’s image set, to be nicely enough placed in the text to break up the pages of text. The game was certainly inspired by the images, with the emphasis on the “inspired” and not as much on the “image.” However, I totally and completely love the map that tracks the ships progress, either to its destination or to its destruction. It’s something that makes me want to put it on the table and play with it, which is great.

I think further development should definitely include finding portraits of 16th and 17th century sailors and using them in the background of the crew cards. And popout ships.


The rules are simple enough and clearly explained. Most of my questions about them would require some playtesting in order to answer, I think. I have one over-riding concern which cuts right to the heart of the game, however – where’s the tension? I see no consequences or payoff (flip sides of the same coin) at the end of the game for the choices and sacrifices made during the game. It is left ambiguous in the text whether one or the other result (destination or disaster) constitutes “winning” the game, and with the board-game element of the map, I found myself searching for these kinds of concrete, game elements.

As is, I see little reason for the Companion to push for saving sailors, as there is no consequence for killing off your crewmates, other than fictional onces that each group may or may not impose. Basically, I see little reason for anyone to play hard and push for hard choices, as there is no difference in the end (again, unless the group is grooving on a certain kind of play, which may or may not be being affected by this game in particular).

Finally, I really, really wanted Ghosts to have a bigger role in the game, especially with the link between nautical tales and ghost stories.


I dig the concept, but I fear that the lack of mechanical tension in the rules will lead to lackluster, “parlor narration” style play, with little staying power. I love that it’s designed for three players and how Bonds and Anchors work, but I don’t really see an overarching reward cycle or mechanical engine for dynamic play. I see the potential for a really strong narrative boardgame here, but playtesting certainly needs to happen to see if my concerns are on the mark.

Further Thoughts

Production model: Small boxed set, fold-out map, glossy character cards, booklet with the rules, one-session play set of rules in addition to “full” rules. Hells, yes.

I really think you should take a hard look at why people should be making hard choices for their characters. Where’s the motivation? What’s the payoff? The rules are there to shape the interaction around the table, and right now I see the interaction being un-driven. If the people are into the material and their characters anyway, then they’ll have a good time – but what if they’re not?

Also, make Ghosts a bigger part of play. For me!


Published in: on March 13, 2007 at 1:59 am  Comments (1)  


By Guy Shalev. 

I’m done.

My game, Troll Lands, is done. I need to write about 3-5 more mythology stories as fiction-intro to my game, but mechanically, the game is done.

Published in: on February 22, 2007 at 6:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Game Save.

By Guy Shalev.

I feel like I have a good core, and I may fuck it up yet. So here is my basic structure, so if things get FUBARed, I’d just go back to this point instead of trying to salvage them:

  • Map level of Trolls who fight/deal with one another for more growth.
  • Village level where there’s RP. The Troll dice are allocated between important figures. Village sheet has areas like “Food” and “Spirituality”, to which characters belong.
  • You play a “Season”, like Winter, Spring, etc.
  • Above Seasons there are “Generations”, 15-20 years later, probably in the same community.
  • Every four Generations are an “Age”, because no one who lived four Generations ago is still alive now.
  • Troll-level of events occur at the Age-level, as they and the land are one, and anything less than an Age is of little consequence, personally.
  • There will be “Troll” burning where you pick the traits of the land, which give your dice configuration.
  • Resolution mechanics are to be based on courage and daring. No reward for cowardice.
Published in: on February 20, 2007 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Game Itself.

By Guy Shalev.

The game will have two levels, the “Village” level and the “Land” level.

The game is basically a god game on the Land level, with the Trolls being in direct contest with one another, it’s possible to do turn-by-turn of this, in a Risk/Dune the computer game kind of way, with the players choosing which area to advance to next. Another option is that on the Land level each player controls a different Troll, and once there’s conflict, the players zoom down to “Village” level, a different side’s each time and portray actual people there.

There will be different axes when you generate your Troll/Land, which are based on features of the land, such as bogs, volcanic activity, type of vegetation and so on and so forth, with them generating different colours of dice. You begin with 5 dice total, and each die colour can be spent elsewhere. Black dice from swamps, red dice from volcanic activity and blue dice from water sources can be spent in Magic, and show-case sacrifices at such locations, while you need Blue, Red(hunting game) or Green (fruits/agriculture) dice for sustenance.

Each Die represents one important person, with the players playing such personnae or them being important NPCs. Each session has each area accumulate coins equal in number to the dice located there, with these coins being spent in order to face hardships and narrate the survival and growth of the community.

The Trolls? They can be Norse Trolls or the Aesir, they can be dwarves or the Greek gods. They are an embodiment of the land, it may be that the important people are ridden by the Trolls like Voudounic Loas or that they channel them as they fly into berserkers’ rage.

And that is what the game is about, basically.

Published in: on February 17, 2007 at 4:16 pm  Comments (2)  

Adam Dray’s image set – First thoughts

So Adam’s images from Itinerario led me to investigate the author
Jan Huyghen van Linschoten. To make a long story short, he basically copied top-secret Portuguese navigation charts, that helped the Dutch to gain a foothold into the East Indies. Even with the charts the Dutch could get to the East Indies, but the trip was perilous and many expeditions didn’t return, and thus my inspiration was born.

I want to frame the game around a Dutch ship headed to the East Indies. The crew will likely be fixed. Players will each choose a character to play and establish their character’s Links to home. Links to home can be used to reinforce the Bonds that a PC has with other crewmembers. So for instance you could show the locket with a picture of your sister to another crewmember while the two of you are sharing a drink one night, and this would increase the Bond that you have with that crewmember.

The scenes in which Bonds are strengthened are alternated with scenes in which the ship encounters dangers (i.e. being blown off course, running aground, storms, possibly starvation, or even mutiny). In these scenes the PCs will each deal with some portion of the crisis in some form of conflict resolution. Players can utilize other crewmembers within the conflict resolution and this will likely pull in a die equal to their bond size. If the initial roll fails, a crewmember’s die can be rerolled but only if that crewmember dies as a result of the resolution.

I’m probably going to build further around this initial idea. A lot of the thoughts around having a fixed cast, with the NPCs at risk of death is influenced by carry’s PCs and fodder.

Crossposted at my blog.

Published in: on February 14, 2007 at 4:39 am  Comments (4)  

My Initial Idea.

By Guy Shalev. 

Note, I may get grounded to my base, with no internet access, for two weeks starting tomorrow.

If that happens, I’ll type the game on my non-internet army computer and use a floppy-disk to carry the data home. It’d be one day late technically, but I’m sure you’ll forgive me, if that would be my case.

Now, for my initial idea: Each Troll is a Titan-like entity, a manifestation of a location/type of place, and the last map showcases how the Trolls are trying to manipulate and battle for the earth, gaining control of it for their type of place and thus making it a habitat for their kin.

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  

Ten Images by Dave Cleaver


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Published in: on February 5, 2007 at 2:09 am  Comments (3)