The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

Fairy Tale Strategy

Now that 7 Wonders snagged the IGA, I’m playing Fairy Tale. (That’s the kind of cutting-trailing-edge gamer I am). Casting my eyes on the geek, I wipe away a tear seeing that there are zero strategy articles. Let us rectify that situation.

The path to victory comes by accumulating VP. No shock there. Higher numbers are better, but you can win by denying everyone else a good score. But saying “Score more than everyone else” doesn’t help. What should you aim for? My personal belief is that you’ll need a 40-50 point score to win most games. That works out to 3.5-4 points per card played. That’s the base metric. You could win with 3 points per card played, but that’s rare. Sometimes you lose with high forties.

If you could force everyone to play crappy cards, then you could win with a much lower score. But you can’t. Anyway, for now my thoughts will be directed towards the 5 player game, so assume that.

How The Draft affects Play

In 7 Wonders, you draft 18 cards. Up to 3 go into your Wonder. Some get pitched for money, although if you cash in more than 1-2 cards you typically lose. For those cards and those cards only you draft defensively, It doesn’t matter what the card is. You play cards instantly on drafting; so you decide right then.  Sometimes you play a slightly sub-optimal card to really stick it to your neighbor, but in a large game you focus on optimizing your score (unless your downstream neighbor is the leader).

There are also temporal issues in 7 Wonders. The big VP cards happen in Era III, so you don’t want to be playing defensively then …. you need to score points.  In Fairy Tale, cards don’t cost resources & you draft your big point cards as they come. You play exactly 60% of your drafts. Once you draft 3 great cards in a round, you pick defensively.  If you have two great scorers, you can risk drafting a mediocre card to deny your neighbor a windfall. Since your last last card is always luck of the draw you should expect it to be poor, so realistically plan for one defensive draft a round, three offensive (scoring) draws, and one random card.

Given that players will mainly (but not exclusively) focus on offensive drafting means that you should look for opportunities to rejigger a card value so that it’s good for you, but not for anyone else. If it’s fantastic, you risk a defensive draft. But pushing cards into the “Better, but not overwhelming” category may see it slip by.

Early on, flexibility matters. If you draft a card that combines well with cards available later, you may get lucky.  Draft a Story-9 point card which requires the Hero (3 point card that hunts) of that suit to score and you burn one pick unless you get the matching hero later the same hand (or have the trickster). Odds are — a zero point play. Drafting the Hero is a different story — he’s worth 3 points and has an effect. It’s a flexible draft (in fact, it’s good). Now if you get the 9-conditional, that’s huge; if not, you aren’t down much. Drafting the hero has good implied odds early on. The story is (hopefully) still in the deck. Nobody else will want the payoff (barring the trickster) so you’ll get it, or force a defensive draft.

I rate picks on flexibility; I rate Tableaus on robustness. With that hero and story-9, you’ve got 12 points. But if you have to close a card of that suit and don’t have a spare, you are back to 3. Have the hero, story and a friend in that suit, you have 15 points. Your average fell from 6 per card to 5, but now an attacking close only costs you a bit. If you have many cards in a (non-shadow) suit, you tend to be robust, unless every card is absolutely necessary. The spare provides robustness. It’s insurance, a premium against disaster. You can’t always take insurance, and sometimes it isn’t necessary. Which brings us to our first card…

Card Analysis

I’m starting with the shadow cards, as they provide direct player interactions.

The key cards are the closers (the Demon, Werewolf and Vampire, which force all players to close a Dragon, Holy Empire or Fairywood card, respectively). They tie in with robustness/fragility. If you don’t have cards in a suit you are safe, and can pick & play a closer with impunity. Its only 2 points, but will cost every other player (with a card in that suit) at least a point. If they aren’t robust, you cost them dearly. Assuming that each other player has a card in that suit, this makes closers 3+ point plays. A solid, not great round 1 draft. Late in the game they often force a defensive draft by a fragile tableau (assuming it gets to him). If you see both closers played/gone, then that suit is safe, and you don’t need to take out insurance anymore. Also note that if you hit a fragile tableau with a closer, it’s not a horrible loss if they play the opener in that suit (they get back their scorer, but the opener itself is only a point) Note that the order is Hunt-Open-Close, so a closer played as the 12th card can’t be responded to.

The Dark Angel costs you a point, but lets you open two cards. This is obviously a conditional draft … pick her if you have two face down cards (or maybe if you have one and expect another to be attacked this round …). If you combine this with two locations (the 6 point cards that force you to close a card) you have 11 points in 3 cards.

The Magic Circle forces you to close a face up card, but it’s worth five points. That makes it and any other card worth 2.5 points, which isn’t great. If you could close a Dark Angel that would be a 6 point swing, to be sure. More realistically, you have probably drafted a risky card (a story you don’t expect to fulfill, or one of the asterisk cards) and you are making the most of a bad situation.

The Trickster … ah the Trickster. Negative one point, but able to make a name for himself. If you play the Trickster, you can draft any (one) Story-9 in safety. You can combine him with a large friend stack, or the squares. You’d rather have the real card, of course, but it’s a solid play. Early on, taking the trickster provides great flexibility, at a cost.

The shadow story cards are straight forward. Chapter 1 scores 6 points if you have the most shadow cards. Chapter 2 scores 7 points for the most home cards, Chapter 3 scores 7 points if you hve the most story cards, and Chapter 4 scores 8 for the most stories.

The “Good” factions

Remember that the good factions are all mirrors, so we discuss them as one.

Each faction has one Hero who scores 3 points and is required for the 9 point story card of that faction (“Chapter 4”). As discussed above, that makes a good play, since the story card becomes great … for you. Additionally, heroes hunt. When in doubt, I play the hero card 3rd, particularly in the first draft. That’s because a player holding a shadow closer will typically wait to let other players get into a faction they haven’t started. (Later on, the player may look for a moment when that particular faction is fragile, since waiting may let a spare card make it robust). Dark Angels also tend to appear in the 3rd round, after dropping a few  homes. As your group starts to save heroes, shadow cards will tend to move to the 2nd round, so this becomes a “You know I know” situation…

The Homes for each faction are worth 6 points, but close one card of that faction.  The obvious combo is to play the location, then play that faction’s opener (1 point character which opens a card of that faction). That earns 7 points in 2 cards, and are ready to play the 7-point story (“Chapter 2”) which requires one of each. That’s a decent (fragile) combination worth 14 in 3 cards. If you don’t get the story card, the 1 character makes your tableau robust. If you just drop down the 6-1 combination in all three suits, you can also go for the 8-point story cards (“Chapter 3,” requires two cards in the other suits). Exceedingly fragile, but you’d average 5.5 points a card with no conditionals outside your control. There are 4 of each home & opener.

Each suit has 4 friends, which provide 3 points each. The next suit up the line also has 4 allies that score 3 points for each friend. So if you get four matching friends and all four allies, you’ll earn a whopping 60 points (in 8 mere cards). If you get a respectable set of 3 and 3, that’s 36 points in 6 cards, still great. If you only manage one friend of a suit, allies are a slightly inferior 3 points. That makes drafting and playing an ally with only one friend slightly risky, but means that any later friend becomes worth 6(+) points. As always, the key is to remember what you’ve seen go by.

The Square cards are worth the number of that card you played (so the total points equal the squares). There are seven of them in each suit. The first card you play is terrible, 1 point. The next card is 3 points, the next is five. So if you get to 3, you are doing OK. The fourth card is 7 points, and now things look start looking good. Still, when you draft squares you’ll need a spare card in the suit. Exactly how valuable these are depend on group think, and whether the players next to you are drafting them.

You can also play your first square as a sacrificial lamb towards that faction’s home. If you get a few more squares, then you worry about opening the card. The *-6 combo isn’t as great as the 6-1 (it doesn’t help for as many stories, and scores a point less) but sometimes it’s what you are dealt. More so than any plan, squares depend on groupthink. If your group doesn’t like them, you’ll get a few big wins. And then you’ll find drafting them harder.

The faction stories — Chapter 1 scores 6 if you have the most cards of that faction. Straightforward, although note that the lead can’t change because of the closer. (Really, the Dark Angel is the only way you suddenly lose the lead …. or a drought of cards to draft). Chapter 2 scores 7 if you have the home + opener combination. Chapter 3 scores 8 for having 2 cards in the other two suits, and Chapter 4 scores 9 with the hero.

No doubt there’s more strategy than what I’ve described, but having a good grasp of the deck and options provide a necessary basis.


Written by taogaming

October 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Specific Games, Strategy

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4 Responses

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  1. In my experience, the three ‘faction’ Chapter 3 cards tend to score almost all the time: they don’t rely on specific cards, and they combine well with friends/allies. As an added bonus, if you get multiple Chapter 3s, they count for each other.

    I’m fond of the 2v2 team game: it gives you a lot more opportunity to draft defensively.


    October 3, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  2. I think you should take friends if they’re available over everything else until the last turn, at which point they might still be valuable (if only as a defensive draft). They’re a minimum of 3 points with a lot of potential for growth. In an ideal outcome, several allies get drawn in the last round and only you have the corresponding friends.


    October 3, 2011 at 11:52 pm

  3. I agree with Tucker’s comment on the Chapter 3 cards. They are always good picks and very easy to meet the conditions in most cases (except maybe late in the game if you don’t have the other factions). The game is well balanced overall and strategies are tough as it is very dependent on “group think” and following a strategy that the other players are not.

    The shadow closer cards in general have lower value early in the game where their impact is less since many players will not have the needed faction cards in their tableau. The threat of Hunt cards also restricts shadow heavy strategies. As you pointed out the Trickster is a great flexible play and can really combo well with 9 pt stories, allies, or squares. Dark Angels and Circles are okay and can be great in certain situations.

    For faction cards: 6 and 8 point story cards are strong while 7 and 9 point ones are very restrictive but good with the right tableau. The squares rarely get to more than 4 cards in our games (most are 4 player) but the ally strategies have more successes. I have seen the castle strategy work but it is more risky and usually vulnerable to closers IMHO.

    Also on 7 wonders defensive drafting is not only limited to money conversions. They are also used for building wonder stages.


    October 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

  4. I’ve played mostly 2v2 (which IMO is the most fun) and in this case, the friends and Chapter 3s are the best point-scorers. Basically it’s too easy to counterdraft the squares so they are terrible in 2v2, and the focus on friends over squares tends to make people have mixed-color boards. Hunters and mass closers are great (and first-picking them is valuable as your opponents won’t know they’re coming). And the Most Shadows and especially the Most Stories stories are excellent since they count for themselves.

    When I teach the game to random new people we often play 3- or 5-player (obviously without teams) and I find myself losing because my valuations are all tuned to 2v2s.

    Sean McCarthy

    October 6, 2011 at 1:04 am

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