- For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
- For 1 to 6 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Pattern/Color Matching
- Strategy & Tactics
- Hand/Resource Management
- Child – Easy
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- Search for authentic religious manuscripts and letters in a heap that is littered with fakes
- Gamer Geek rejected!
- Parent Geek mixed!
- Child Geek mixed!
Regardless of one’s belief, the existing religious-based documentation influences modern-day faith and the faithful. Church doctrine, ceremony, and even an individual’s definition of morality are based on manuscripts and letters written by individuals long ago. It’s of little wonder why men and women today dedicate their personal and professional lives to seeking out documentation and examining its authenticity. Such information can change the minds and spirits of the faithful. You are such an individual in this game, and searching for truth is a messy affair.
Fragments and Fakes, designed by Ken Searle and published by Bible Board Games via the Game Crafter, is comprised of six Player Mat cards, 32 City Objective cards, 54 Fragments and Fakes cards, and 35 Fake Marks (glass stones). The cards are as thick and as durable as your standard playing card, and the glass beads are smooth with just the right amount of weight. Illustrations on the cards are minimal and do a good job of further supporting what the card represents.
Preparing for Your Investigation
To set up the game, complete the following steps:
First, give each player one Player Mat card, placing any not used back in the game box. The Player Mat cards are two-sided. Make sure the players put the “End of Hand Points” side of the Player Mat card face-down in front of them.
Second, shuffle the Fragments and Fakes cards and deal eight to each player face-down. These cards are the player’s private hand. These cards should be hidden from their opponents until played to the table. Place the remaining Fragments and Fakes cards face-down in the middle of the playing area to create the Fragments and Fakes draw deck. Leave room for a discard pile.
Third, find and set aside the “Collect Fakes” City Objectives cards. Shuffle the remaining City Objective cards and deal three to each player face-down. Then give each player one “Collect Fakes” City Objective card. Have each player shuffle their City Objective cards and place them face-down next to them. Place the remaining “Collect Fakes” City Objective cards back in the game box. Place the remaining City Objective cards face-down next to the Fragments and Fakes draw deck. This is the City Objectives draw deck for the duration of the game.
Fourth, draw and place the topmost card from the Fragments and Fakes draw deck in the discard pile. This card creates the discard pile and reveals to the players the starting suit.
Fifth, place the marks in a small pile in the middle of the playing area and within easy reach of all the players.
That’s it for the game setup. The player who dealt the cards goes first.
Proving the Past
Fragments and Fakes is played in hands and turns with no set number of hands per game. A single hand is summarized here.
Step One: Choose City Objective
At the start of the hand, each player will select one of their City Objective cards, placing it face-down at the top of their Player Mat. The City Objective card represents points to be earned for each Fragments and Fakes card that matches the displayed suit and becomes, in essence, the goal for the player to pursue the duration of the hand. Players can look at their hidden City Objective card as often as they like, but they cannot change it once it’s played.
Step Two: Play Those Cards and Win Tricks
There are four suits in this game. They are “Old Testament,” “New Testament,” “Church,” and “Fakes.” It doesn’t take much to see that this game gives the nod to Christianity. However, there isn’t any religious dogma past the thinly placed narrative and thematic elements that set the stage for the game.
Players will now take turns in sequential order playing cards to the table in front of them. If this is the first trick of the hand, the player who dealt the cards goes first. This is referred to as the “starting card.” After that, the player who won the previous trick will always place the next starting card.
If playing a starting card, any card will do. However, if you are playing a card, there are a few rules you must follow:
- You must play a card that matches the suit of the starting card if you have it.
- You may play any card in your hand if you do not have a card that matches the suit of the starting card.
- Special cards can be played at certain times only.
After all the players play their cards, who won the trick is determined. By default, this is the player who played the card with the LOWEST number that matched the starting card’s suit. Thematically speaking, you win because you found the oldest (and therefore most valuable) manuscript or historical fragment.
When the player wins the trick, they take all the cards played and place them face-down on their Player Mat. Once placed, no player may look at these cards. This includes the player who won them!
Four Special cards in the game have a red waxed seal on their face. They are played differently than the other cards in the game.
- Old Testament Trump – This card can be played any time to win the trick, allowing the player to disregard any cards currently in play. Optionally, the player may play the Old Testament Trump card as a “normal” card, announcing to the table that they will not be using its unique ability.
- New Testament Trump – This card can be played like the Old Testament Trump card in every way. In addition, it supersedes the Old Testament Trump if played with its unique ability.
- Church Negative Fake – If this card is in the trick, the player who wins the trick first removes all the Fakes and discards them in the discard pile.
- Super Fake – This card immediately deals a Mark to whoever wins the trick. This mark is set aside by their Player Mat.
Normal “Fakes” can be played as the starting card or when a player cannot play to the starting card suite. “Fakes” should not be considered negative cards, although they can cost the player their victory.
Interestingly, one “City Objective” card requires the player to collect Fakes. Thematically speaking, the player is going out of their way to find fake manuscripts and documentation to ensure they don’t get into any libraries.
Step Three: Continue Play and Ending the Hand
Play continues as noted above, with starting cards being played for each trick and one card played per player. Eventually, all the cards in the player’s hand will be played out. When this happens, the hand ends.
Each player now reveals their City Objective card, which identifies the suit that will score points. Then the players organize their cards in their Trick Stack accordingly, adding five points for each card they have that matches the City Objective card requirements. However, the players don’t score these points unless they meet the minimum requirement, which must exceed the number on the player’s City Objective card. If they exceed the value, they keep the points earned. However, if they fail to exceed the needed points, they record fewer numbers on the City Objective card.
In addition, the player will receive one Fake Mark token for each Fake card they have in their Trick stack. These are not good. If a player has one or more Fake Mark tokens, they can never win the game and will need to get rid of them by either collecting all the Fakes in a hand or winning the hand with no Fakes.
All remaining cards are ignored as they are not Fakes and do not match the player’s City Objective card.
To help keep track of points, stack the City Objective cards, so the points earned are at the top of the card. The Fake Marks are kept by the player’s cards, as well.
Winning the Game
The game continues after counting the points of each completed hand, dealing new hands to all the players (including each player playing a new City Objective card). The first player to score 50 or more points and not have any Fake Markers at the end of the round wins the game.
You can play Fragments and Fakes as a solo game, where the player competes against the deck of cards. The goal is to score as many points as possible, but the player will not get new City Objective cards each hand.
To learn more about Fragments and Fakes, visit the game’s web page.
The Child Geeks had little issue learning how to play the game. The rulebook is not the easiest to navigate, but demonstrating how one hand of cards is played is all that is necessary to teach new players all they need to know how to play, compete, and if they are crafty enough, win. According to one Child Geek, “The game is OK, and I like card games. I think the game was a little confusing with keeping track of all my points and how to score points. I think I like simpler card games better.” Another Child Geek said, “I liked the game a lot. It taught me to think about all my cards and how to play them so I could get the points I knew I wanted to get. I like this game!” When all the votes were in, the Child Geeks gave Fragments and Fakes a mixed endorsement.
The Parent Geeks were similar in their commentary. While they all agreed the card game was of interest, they were of a mixed minds regarding the game’s merit at their gaming table. According to one Parent Geek, “I like trick-taking games, and I don’t know why for certain, but this game didn’t do it for me. Maybe it was because it felt busy, or maybe because the way the game is played is familiar but oddly not. Either way, I liked learning how to play but don’t t think I want to play it again.” Another Parent Geek said, “I enjoyed this game! It was wonderful to see a game theme about finding religious documentation and searching for the truth. It allowed our family to have some fascinating conversations around the dinner table, and then we played the game on our gaming table. Great game, and I look forward to playing it again with my family and friends!” When the last manuscript was found, dusted off, and sent to the experts, it was revealed that the authenticity of the game – and the general interest from the Parent Geeks – was a mixed bag.
The Gamer Geeks were not overly impressed with the game. They had played games similar to Fragments and Fakes before and found nothing of interest in its execution. According to one Gamer Geek, “A solid trick-taking game with rules I’ve seen before and gameplay that is very, very old and overdone. I don’t think I like this game mostly because it feels like other games with a new theme. I don’t find that interesting or engaging.” Another Gamer Geek said, “The hidden objectives, the need to dodge fakes and get rid of fake markers, was an interesting addition, but it felt like additional and unwanted weight. I get what the designer was doing and respect them for it, but the game wasn’t my jam.” When the Gamer Geeks had finished investigating all the cards, played all the games, and took all the votes, they declared Fragments and Fakes to be of little interest to them.
Fragments and Fakes has its charm. It takes the simple trick-taking games we’ve all grown up with and adds a new twist that hides what each player is attempting to score. I liked this, as it added a sense of mystery each time we played a hand, not knowing if the cards I saw or played were there to bait or inform me. Most of the time, however, I just played to the suit and worked my way through other players’ cards to control the hand and get what I wanted for points.
This worked, but as other players who joined me for the games noted, it wasn’t all that interesting as the game continued. It became just part of the backdrop and a necessity to the gameplay. Which – I should add – isn’t bad, nor did it hook and draw you in. Felt more like a limitation at times than a challenge.
The special cards did little, in my opinion, other than throwing in a possible unavoidable action each time a card was played.
What I did enjoy were the Fakes. I liked how these cards could be used to buy you time to get the cards you needed and slow down opponents who were getting ahead of you. I should also mention that this made the game go longer than it felt it really should be. A player could be right at the cusp of winning the game, but all of their opponents could be throwing Fakes to slow them down. All it takes is on Fake Marker to ensure you can’t win the game. One isn’t that hard to get rid of. Two or more, you feel like your game has become work. It was a real downer for some of our players.
On a silly note, this game took much longer to review than we ever anticipated. Due to the game’s religious theme and context, it was attractive to some of our Parent Geeks who taught Sunday School. The game was taken by them to share with their groups. It was consequently lost, found, lost again, and then returned to us with a nice note that said, “Sorry.”
I think Fragments and Fakes does an excellent job of trying to take a well-known gameplay style and add a few additional twists to liven it up. For the right crowd, it worked. Try to see if this game feels genuinely entertaining to you or if it’s just another imitation.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.