Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Kickstarter Spotlight: The Big Fix - A Noir Card Game

Despite being listed in staff picks on Kickstarter for a while now, The Big Fix seems to be one of the more overlooked projects in the tabletop genre. Despite having been up or some time and with only a goal of $10,000 it is still just over the halfway mark towards its goal. With so many others getting a dozen times their required funding, it's odd to see something like this go so unnoticed. Somewhat sad as well considering the potential behind the idea.

Advertised as a strategic and psychological card game, The Big Fix wallows in noir tropes and cliches. From the Sam Spade style opening narration on the page to the stylised art on each card it's obviously playing to every late 30s crime tale possible. Requiring the players involved to become immersed within the atmosphere and embrace the tropes of the genre with each role they are given.

The game is intended to work by having each person playing take a vice, agenda and a role card at the beginning. Things which will serve as a weakness, goal and effectively a class; each with their own effects upon the player and influencing how they go about the game in some way. The P.I. role card the page uses as an example with the player holding it being permitted to stash two clues and gain a point every time another player's trait card is flipped over. Neither of which likely mean much to you at the moment so here's how the game would be played:

The objective of the overall game is to get the most points while accomplishing the tasks on their agenda and role cards. In the case of agenda cards, the example given show that could be getting away with a murder by the end. The person with the most points earned by the end wins, and in classic noir style "earn" means cheat, extort and steal them from others. Targeting your opposing players in specific ways and interacting with them via Moxie cards.

Moxies are listed cards in categories of duplicity, gumption and savvy; each turn each players hand of these are pitted against one another with the highest numbers in each one winning a bonus for that turn. The bonus being the chance to steal a clue card from another player or pick up a new one from the deck. Clue cards themselves are among the prizes within the game and will help the most towards victory.

Following the aforementioned opening phase the game move onto the bidding and battling over clue cards. Each group trying to play larger and larger Moxie cards to beat their opposition and take/keep hold of their prize. The winners of said clue cards are then granted the opportunity to bury it, keep it to themselves or reveal it for use to everyone.

Following this the final phase of the turn has each person setting down a card face down. Those with gumption and duplicity cards placed attempt to satisfy their vices; while players with savvy cards attempt to catch them and reveal hidden traits.

There are obviously more technical aspects to these phases but they are better explained on the Kickstarter page itself.

The game is ultimately about picking and choosing your battles above all, opting when to utilise your resources and who to go after in the right turn. Something common within card games but is ingrained within this one in such a way, giving more specific weaknesses to target and limited resources, that it works far better than many I have encountered. In things like Anima: Shadow of Omega direct competition is far more avoidable and half the time you are fighting the game more than one another. Here though the direct competition it offers and opportunities for constant acts of backstabbing, shifting alliances and revelations makes for a far more interesting experience.

The only real disappointment thus far is the artwork on the cards themselves. While the rules seem relatively solid and easy to keep track of, the cards themselves are fairly spartan. In the case of the Moxies this is excusable, with their dagger/hat/magnifying glass patterns intended to reflect the usual patterns on cards. Those on the agenda, role and vice cards however seem fairly simplistic. This is going only by the examples given admittedly, but while they're trying to replicate the classic art look of the noir films and pulp novels they lack some of the more defined elements to help them stand out.

That minor complaint aside the other big problem is the potential quality of the cards and sets as a result of shipping and printing. This is something the game's creator, Alexi Pros, has admitted might be a real problem as he has no direct control over it. While he is stated to have spoken with several reliable printing companies of a decent reputation, it remains to be seen just what quality the cards will be when produced.

As for shipping there is the obvious risk of damages while being delivered or shipments becoming lost in the mail. Something that is all too possible as those involved with its creation have never attempted to print or ship anything on this scale before. While some of the budget will be set aside to deal with such problems, it's still a concerning risk for someone lacking personal experience dealing with such a large scale project.

We also do not know what many of the additional goals might be. Beyond the 12,500 mark any rewards and expansions are only listed as "???" which means we don't know how large or expansive the game might become with additional funding. A detail which might understandably put off a few potential backers in the future.

Those problems aside the game does look solid. Between an often overlooked genre and very interesting mechanics, it would be worth a look to anyone after a competitive group card game. With twenty-two days to go it would be well worth looking at its mechanics in detail and exactly what it has to offer. The project's page can be found here with more information about the game.

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