Designed by Bruce Glassco
Release Year: 2017 Complexity: Low-Medium
👥 2-6 Players ⏰ 20 min 💸 ~$20 🔗 Buy
In Fantasy Realms, you are a ruler trying to build the greatest realm, represented by the 7 cards in your hand. The turns are simple: you draw a card and then discard a card. The card you draw can either be from the top of the deck, or from the selection of cards that have been already discarded. All discarded cards remain available, so the available options will grow as the game progresses. Once the 10th card has been added to the discard pile, the game ends and players score their realms!
Fantasy Realms is a game all about combos. Each card has a base scoring value, but then includes a wide variety of effects that score or penalize based on other cards in your hand. You are constantly evaluating which card abilities will work together to generate the most points. With each new card that you see, you will question whether it has a place in your strategy, or even consider abandoning your strategy to go in a completely new direction. Some of the card combinations can score huge amounts of points, so there is an excitement as you upgrade your hand with better and better combinations. However, the end of the game can come quickly, so you need to be careful not to get caught off guard with an incomplete strategy. As the game gets closer to the end, you face the tension of whether you should draw from the deck and push the end of the game, or stall just a little bit longer with the hopes of improving your hand by grabbing from the discard pile?
Player Counts - Fantasy Realms works well across a broad range of player counts from 2-6 players, though higher player counts lead to a little more downtime and fewer turns overall.
Abstract vs. Thematic - The fantasy theme is really generic, and while the card abilities are roughly inspired by the theme, it is a fairly abstract game that is more about scoring points.
Multiplayer Solitaire vs. Highly Interactive - The gameplay centers around the puzzle of your own hand of cards, and while the cards other players discard give you new options to consider, the direct player interaction is fairly minimal.
Short Setup vs. Long Setup - The setup couldn’t be much quicker, just shuffle the deck and deal everyone 7 cards.
Easy to Teach vs. Hard to Teach - Teaching Fantasy Realms is quick and relatively easy, though it can depend on how familiar the players are with games that have card effects that combo together.
Low Setup Variability vs. High Setup Variability - Even though each game will have a similar feel, the setup variability is relatively high as your initial 7 cards will always be completely randomized.
Things to Like
✅ Exciting Card Combos - The best part of Fantasy Realms is the excitement of perfecting the combos in your hand. Each new card you see opens up new possibilities. You are rewarded for a well-crafted hand as many of the best combinations lead to large amounts of points. It is a satisfying experience with great variety that makes you want to play it again and again.
✅ One Player’s Trash is Another’s Treasure - Another positive is how one player’s trash is another’s treasure. Every card in the game can be good in the right situation, and very often what one player discards as the worst card in their hand is the perfect card for another player’s strategy. This can cause you to be cautious about what you discard and leads to great entertainment as players keep swapping cards in the discard area without anyone drawing from the deck.
✅ Great “Gamer’s Filler” - Finally, Fantasy Realms is a great “gamer’s filler.” The type of card combinations in Fantasy Realms are more commonly found in longer and more strategic games, but Fantasy Realms is able to scratch that same itch in just 20 minutes. This makes it perfect for when you have a group that enjoys more complex games and you want to close a night of heavy gaming or just don’t have enough time for something longer.
Things to Dislike
❌ Lots of Randomness - However, randomness has a huge role in Fantasy Realms, and some players are simply going to have more luck in the cards they acquire throughout the game. This isn’t a huge downside given the game length, but players shouldn’t expect the playing field to be even.
❌ Tedious Scoring - The scoring can also be rather tedious, since you need to manually tally the points generated by all the cards while keeping in mind all of the various interactions. It isn’t uncommon for scoring to take almost half as long as the game itself. While a scoring app does exist that removes having to tally it yourself, you do lose some of the fun of seeing how players earned their points when an app just spits out a final number.
❌ Game Can End Suddenly - Since it only takes ten cards drawn from the top of the deck to end the game, it can often finish suddenly. Especially at higher player counts, a few players drawing from the deck in a row can really escalate the game more quickly than you anticipated. It isn’t a huge problem, but it can be less fun when you feel like you didn’t have the opportunity to tune your hand as much as you would have liked.
❌ Copying Requires Specific Card Knowledge - Lastly, there are a few cards that can “copy” other cards in the game. While this helps in achieving specific combos, there are also times where you would need to remember the suit of a specific card in the game, and it is annoying when that scenario comes up, especially with new players. We have also had games where a player thought they could copy a card, but didn’t realize until scoring that the card wasn’t actually the right suit, which ruined their strategy. Overall, it’s a minor thing, but we wish it had been handled better.
Ryan (13 Plays) - 8 Daniel (11 Plays) - 8
Is It For You?
If you don’t enjoy reading a bunch of cards and performing constant mental calculations to identify the strongest combinations, or you are really bothered by randomness, then Fantasy Realms might not be the game for you. 👎
However, If you enjoy games with card interactions such as Dominion or Magic: The Gathering, and are looking for a quick game and easy-to-teach game that works in a lot of situations, then we think Fantasy Realms is a great choice. 👍