Preview: Fidelitas

Note: This post originally appeared over on my blog, The Ox Pen. It’s exactly what you see below.

About a month ago, Jason Kotarski contacted me about previewing his upcoming card game Fidelitas, which he co-designed with Philip duBarry. As I backed The Great Heartland Hauling Co. and have played (and enjoyed) Revolution and Kingdom of Solomon, I was happy to check out this little game of theirs.

Fidelitas Box Art
Fidelitas Box Art

By the way, I am going to be using Scott King’s [amazing as always] photos for this post. Before I ventured off to Maine, I was under the impression close up photos of the game were off limits, so I didn’t take any. Now that I’m back (and writing about it the night before it hits Kickstarter – procrastination is one of the few things I’m good at), I’m just going to stea–borrow Scott’s photos (with Jason’s permission). He also has an informative Preview article you should check out. The pictures will look familiar. 😉 Anyway, back to Fidelitas.

The Back Story

It’s the age-old story of medieval woe. It’s a long time ago. It’s far away. There’s a town. It’s corrupt. As you might suspect, the elitist types aren’t being very nice, so a bunch of “faithful citizens” have decided to swing the balance of power back in their favor. Only, they drank too much. What’s the saying? When in a corrupt, medieval town, do as the medievals do? Because these well-meaning citizens imbibed a bit too much, players pick up where the lushes left off and try to complete secret objectives to exert the most influence and win the game.

The Quick Version

Fidelitas, a game of medieval meddling, is a 2-4 player hand management game that plays in about 30 minutes. There’s a central City made of five location cards. Virtus Cards are action cards played to the locations in the City. Missio Cards are scored when their respective objectives are met. Once a certain amount of points is reached, the game ends and the person with the most points wins.

The Longer Version

Components: The game comes with 75 cards: 5 location cards, 20 Missio Cards (objectives), and 50 Virtus (action) Cards.

Hand overlooking play area.
Hand overlooking play area.

Setup: There are five location cards that are placed in the middle of the table in a specific order creating the City. Each card has two locations on either side, effectively giving you ten places to play the Virtus cards. One Virtus card is placed at each location, everyone gets two Virtus and two Missio cards, and the rest of the cards are placed in two separate piles.

Game Play: A turn consists of three actions: playing Virtus Cards, scoring Missio Cards, and drawing a replacement card.

1) Play a Virtus Card

Virtus Cards are played to one of the locations in the City. Each Virtus Card has a Guild symbol and an action associated with them. If they belong to a Guild that has an established location in the City, they must be played to that location. If the Guild is not represented in the City, they can be played anywhere not restricted by the card.

Virtus Cards can always be played to the Tavern, regardless of Guild affiliation, allowing the active player to discard one of their Missio Cards and replace it with a new Missio Card instead of activating the card’s action. Once this is done, a Virtus Card is pulled from the Virtus draw pile and placed on the side of the opposite side of the Tavern. There’s a special note in the rules stating: “It’s never a good idea to drink alone.” This is sound life advice but pertains to the game as well because it allows for more face-up cards to be available for drawing or moving to another location.

Getting ready to play The Minstrel to the Judiciary location.

2) Score one or more Missio Cards (if possible)

After playing a Virtus Card, the active player may then score one or more Missio Cards assuming the objectives are met in full. Scored Missio Cards are placed face up in front the player and her hand is refilled to two Missio Cards.

3) Draw a replacement card (unless a card says otherwise)

Once Virtus Cards are played and Missio Cards are scored, the active player draws a new Virtus Card from either the Virtus deck or either side of the Tavern. If she played a card to the Tavern on this turn, she must pull from the side of the Tavern she didn’t originally play her card.

Game End: The game ends in one of two ways. The first way is based on reaching a certain number of points at which point the current round finishes. The second happens immediately when the Virtus deck is exhausted for the second time.

The Team Variant for Four Players: Teammates ist across from each other. Setup happens normally with each player receiving two Virtus Cards and two Missio Cards. The teams are allowed to talk to each other about colors and locations but not the specifics of the objectives on their Missio Cards. After one member of the team plays a Virtus Card, both members are allowed to score Missio Cards. The end game is triggered when one team reaches eight points or immediately when the Virtus deck is exhaust the second time.

The Solo Variant: Remove the Tavern from the game, setting up the City from left to right as usual. The Thief card is played immediately and you have to discard a Virtus Card immediately if you have more than two in your hand. The game ends when the Virtus deck runs out.

The Probably Not Necessary but You’re Getting It Anyway Information

Assortment of Guild Symbols
Assortment of Guild Symbols

Guilds: There are nine Guilds, each represented by a color and a symbol: Commerce, Artisan, Academic, Judiciary, Military, Church, Entertainers, Harbor, and Miscreant. There are four Guilds located in the City: Judiciary, Academic, Artisan, and Commerce.

Virtus Cards: There are fifteen different action cards; eight of them correspond to locations on the board: The Shopkeeper, The Broker, The Butcher, The Baker, The Professor, The Student, The Clerk, The Barrister, The Soldier, The Priest, The Minstrel, The Thief, The Dockmaster, and The Swindler.

Missio Cards: There are 20, unique Missio Cards with a condition that needs to be met and a number of victory points (ranging from 1-4 points) for meeting the condition. The conditions involve having a certain cast of characters at a given location in the City.

The “Here’s What I Think About It In Case You Care” Section

Learning Curve: It’s a text-based game, so the first game means familiarizing yourself with each card. My mother, who is a non-gamer but wants to be a gamer, was able to talk through the first few games. My 10-year-old son stopped asking questions after the second game. My mother’s boyfriend, who is not a gamer and likes it that way, decided the rules were too complicated and went to bed. My husband and I spent the first game trying to figure out how to use the Virtus Cards effectively to meet the conditions on the Missio Cards but had no problems after that. (Well, that’s not true. My husband tries to make things more difficult with some of his questions. Luckily, Jason was kind enough to respond promptly and polite enough to not call my husband an idiot; the same cannot be said for me.)

Pile of Virtus Cards

Repeated Gameplay: The more familiar you become with the cards, the faster the game will flow. My mother enjoyed the game more with each play because she started to “finally understand how the game works”. My son became increasingly more confident in his ability to link the actions to meet the objectives, increasing his fondness of the game. My husband and I can knock out two games in thirty minutes; that’s two times too many for him but about right for the amount of time(s) I want to play it one night.

Theme-to-Mechanic Integration: It’s a hand management game. The theme is medieval meddling. The Virtus Cards represent characters carrying out their attempts to gain influence, so the constant playing of actions certainly makes it feel like meddling. The Missio Cards are people you’re trying to “earn the trust of” or “hold sway over”; the characters you’re assembling to do so seem like the company the person in question would like to keep. Finally (and most importantly), the assigned victory points are proportionate to the amount of work needed to accomplish the objective/change the minds of the masses.

Optimal Gameplay: Word on [the City] street is that the game shines with two, plays best with two or three, and should be played as partners with four. Yes. Two is where I’d invest my time. Three is okay but can shift a lot between turns (sometimes this is in your favor though, so it balances out). Unfortunately, I was unable to play the Team or Solo Variant. I imagine the Team Variant would need to have equally devious partnerships for it to be enjoyable for everyone. I don’t doubt that the Solo Variant would reflect what it must feel like to plan a revolution all by your lonesome surrounded by a bunch of inebriates.

The Kickstarter

Link to the Kickstarter campaign.

Launch Date: August 1, 2014

Campaign End Date:

PnP Price: $5

Pledge Levels: $19 (US), $24 (Canada), $28 (EU), and $32 (anywhere else).

What They Get You: One copy of the game plus all stretch rewards. Shipping.