Review: Farsight

Game Name: Farsight Published Year: 2017
Game Publisher: Braincrack Games Player Scale: 2 – 4
Game Designer: Jamie Jolly Run Time: 60 mins

Governments have fallen.  States have collapsed.  Kings, Presidents, and Emperors have been deposed.  The corporations rule now, vying for control of markets, customers, resources and land.  What started in the mid twenty-first century as acquisitions and mergers soon became monolithic hostile take-overs; it wasn’t long after, that the hostility spilt from the boardroom and the stock-markets to the streets; to the ruins of the fallen towns and cities.  Farsight puts players in control of a small army, made up of general infantry, giant mechanoids and highly skilled specialist soldiers.  It is with this force of men and machines that they seek to take control of key battlefield objectives and to do so at any cost.

Screenshot 2017-02-25 00.03This is a quick-play wargame, bringing you all the deep strategy you would expect from a wargame, but with far less set-up and far less faff, with the game being started almost immediately out of the box.  Common attributes, such as hit points, movement and unit differences have been stripped down to their essentials so there are no charts or tables of figures, all the information you need is on each troop card.

The game is broken down into four phases: Events, Deployment, Specialist and Battlefield.  Event cards are drawn from the Event Deck which can range from unearthing a network of hidden tunnels, to a meteor shower or tornado, and all of which impact the following phases in some way.  Deployment, unsurprisingly, is when each player, in turn, adds another unit to the battlefield.

specialistsThe Specialist phase is where this game really starts shaking things up and the big “Unique Feature” stamp is applied refreshingly, interestingly, and liberally.  These units don’t appear on the board, instead, they are deployed on the enigmatically named Shadow Map – a dry-erase mini version of the battlefield.  Specialists Units have, as their name suggests; special abilities: Spies are used to neutralise the “Fog of War”, forcing an opponent to reveal their otherwise hidden unit and Saboteurs sabotage units as they come in range.  To combat these there are Assassins – guess what they do?  They hunt out opposing Specialists and, well, they assassinate them.  Obviously.  This phase is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the game, watching as an Assassin slowly closes in on your lone Saboteur and the cool, smug satisfaction that comes with chalking up another “kill” is grimly fulfilling.

infantryThe Battlefield Phase is where all the movement and action takes place and this is where the streamlined warfare mechanic in Farsight really shows off.  All units are deployed as cards, face down – to represent the fact the enemy doesn’t know what type of unit it is.  Whilst in this hidden state a unit may move up to three squares – once revealed this become two squares.   Units can’t move diagonally and one unit per square.  Easy.  Simple. Elegant.  Combat is dealt with in an equally efficient manner.  Number of dice equal to Attack strength against number of dice equal to Defence Strength are rolled with applicable modifiers.  Each hit is a wound.  After three wounds/hits the unit is destroyed.

Not to make this game sound like a German car, but it is the mechanical efficiency of
Farsight that makes the game so engaging; so quick out of the box, and to play.  Unit types, movement and combat are so uncomplicated and intuitive you won’t be faced with a situation where you don’t know what do to.  The “unnecessary” considerations that bog and slow down traditional tabletop wargames have been replaced by no-nonsense board game mechanics, merging these two game formats to create something with both a tactical and strategic depth, but also with a very short set-up, tear-down and run time.
Now, I’m not a fan of dicey games so the fact that this game comes with Seerdiceless rules is a big ol’ tick in the win column, placing Farsight very securely away in the strategy corner of the chance vs. strategy showdown.  It also has a semi-co-op play mode, playable as
one-on-one, two-on-one, or two-on-two, as well as the ability to build customisable armies.  The artwork from Brian Coughlan, Volkan Kucukemre, and Jakub Vykoukal is top notch and helps transports players visually to the grim and dreary dystopian future. The miniatures (by Toby O’Hara) that will be an optional extra look jaw-droppingly-flippin’ fantastic too.  However; the look and lore of Farsight don’t transcend from the artwork and graphics into the game, which of the four factions a player chooses having little effect on army build, tactics, or strategy.

smolThis simplification of war gaming I think is one step too far, with the reduction in asymmetry meaning a fundamental aspect of war gaming: my orcs versus your elves, isn’t there.  This does mean that each and every win, will be down to your ability to manage select and coordinate your troops, as opposed to any army or racial traits.  It is the player that wins rather than the army, as all information is universal it arguably achieves Jolly’s goal of finely blending the big rolling battles of war gaming, with the stripped back, open, and game of chess.

Leaving much of the rigmarole usually associated with tabletop war gaming behind, Farsight provides an accessible, engaging and strategic wargame, and it does so quickly, elegantly, and effortlessly.  Stunning miniatures and artwork alongside simple mechanics means getting this to the table again and again will be easy and rewarding.

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