Updated: Feb 10, 2021
It’s a beautiful bank holiday weekend here in the UK but even when the sun is shining we still find the time to play some games. This weekend we went on an adventure, my usual gaming buddies were doing grown up things, like attending weddings or working away so this weekend I was playing games with my little brother and we decided to play Stuffed Fables.
Stuffed Fables is a storytelling game with a dice driven action system. Each story takes place in a storybook, a spiral bound tome which sits in the centre of the play area and drives the game as well as providing the boards for the players to play on. There are seven stories and each one takes around 2 hours to play through. We played through stories 1 & 2 and there will be some minor spoilers as I talk about the experiences we had playing story one, however as each story has multiple paths you might find that you have a completely different adventure.
Each of us chose a Stuffy and we began our adventure. I was playing Theodora, a brave Teddy and leader of the Stuffies. Our goal was to protect our little girl as she spent her first night alone in her big girl bed. However the evil Crepitus had other ideas, sending the creepy Crawlies out of the Fall (a glowing purple light under the bed) to steal our girls red baby blanket.
Naturally we followed the mechanical crabs into the world beneath the bed. Falling down into a scrap heap filled with abandoned toys we saw the blanket being loaded onto a train. We all rushed to catch the train but Flops, our inquisitive cunicular stuffy, was distracted by something shiny and the train pulled away just as a group of minions showed up to fight us. Trying to make up for her mistake Flops tried to free a little red cart from beneath the mountain of toys so we could chase after the speeding train but she was not strong enough.
We defeated our enemies and travelled onwards to Bramblebum where we met a grumpy old corn husk doll who sent us packing and onwards to the marketplace where we found the blanket, but not before trouble found us! Defeating our enemies we returned home, victorious but shaken. However our adventures were not over yet…
As I said each story offers branching paths and our path through the first story is not the only one. Unfortunately they do all end in the same place, so you might need to adapt the ending slightly to account for actual events, if you happened to take a different path and saw different things. However I am impressed with the replayability. I have played Story 1 twice and each time I went a different way and saw different things, and I know that there is at least one more path I haven’t yet travelled.
The game has very simple mechanics, you draw 5 dice from a bag and they can be used for different things. Any dice can be used for movement. Red dice can be used for melee and strength tasks, green for ranged and agility. Yellow can be used for searching and blue can be used for specific character affects. The Purple dice can be used in place of any other coloured dice, while white dice are used to gain more stuffing and black are used to activate bad guys.
The game has a very child friendly theme and deals with some complex issues that face young children. However the game does not shy away from the grim and the scary at times. For example there is a river that is formed from the tears of crying children, however the toys in the story do point out that not all tears are of sadness, some are tears of joy or laughter and some tears, while sad, help us learn valuable lessons.
In this way the stories are really great, even if you aren’t playing with children. When playing with just adults the stories serve as a cute and thematic reminder of the characters we are playing. Some gamers may find that off-putting but for me I just took it as a role playing opportunity. In the world of the stuffies protecting the little girl as she sleeps is a sacred duty and a doll’s head with crab legs is a terrifying sight, so if you can embody those characters then the threats and the dangers become as real as facing a horde of goblins in any tabletop dungeon crawler.
The game mechanics and language really help out here. Your health is your stuffing, your currency is buttons, the status effects that can affect your characters are things like Torn and Soggy. The game is fully immersive and I have to say I am enamoured with it.
If I was to say anything negative about the game it would be this… It’s a little long. A story takes about 2 hours to play through, which, especially with kids, can be a bit much. And, there are only seven stories. If they had each been 90 minutes and there had been 9 stories I think it might have been a better balance. Regardless, each story is broken down into several chapters so if you want a shorter experience just get some large ziplock bags and put all the components for each character in their own bag between plays and just play one or two chapters in a sitting.
And if I was being really picky… The rules are a little wishy washy. However I understand that this IS intentional. The designer deliberately didn't define Line of Sight, or cover every possible rules interaction in the rulebook because first and foremost the game is about having fun. If you want detailed LOS rules you can add them, if you want to be able to just make it up to suit the story you can do that too. At the end of the day what the game wants is to keep moving, not to have you going back and forth to the rulebook. If a question arises house rule it and keep moving, do what feels right for the story at that point.
I really have no other gripes with Stuffed Fables. The minis are great, the art is beautiful, the components are fantastic. They even took a leaf out of Dead of Winter’s playbook, introducing cards with hidden choices. This is a fantastic storytelling game that works great with kids and adults who are still kids at heart.
P.s. The miniatures in the photos were painted by The Duke from our sister site The Duke of the Blood Keep. Click here to see a series of articles on how he painted them.