It’s hard being alone during social distancing but it’s also tough when you’re not. Being stuck in a house with one person for weeks on end, facing limited contact with the outside world, can put a strain on a relationship—no matter how strong it is. It’s times like this we have to be creative in how we communicate, feel, and play. That’s what Fog of Love is for.
Fog of Love, from Hush Hush Projects, is a “romantic comedy” board game where two players explore the ups and downs of a relationship, determining by the end whether it’s a love story worth fighting for. For the most part, the game is about exploring the edges of normalcy—whether it’s trying to surprise your loved one with flowers, figuring out how to respond to an aunt’s tasteless social media post, or deciding whether or not you ever want to have kids. As much as that may or may not reflect your actual relationship, it’s all still fantasy because your character is a fantasy, created through a combination of cards that secretly define your personality goals for self-satisfaction and happiness in the relationship.
The game comes with four scenarios, and three additional expansions are available. Over the course of a few rounds, players run through a variety of scenes that can be sweet, serious, or dramatic. The goal is to pick answers that reflect your character’s needs while trying to predict what your partner is going to say (regardless of whether or not you’re going to mirror their decision). Players secretly choose one of the multiple-choice responses to a prompt and see if their characters are aligned. If they are, compatibility goes up. Otherwise, you might gain personally but your relationship will suffer.
Upon first glance, Fog of Love looks beautiful but intimidating. Much like a new relationship, there are many elements and details to try and figure out. I mean, just look at the card above. What are all those symbols? It would take a little too long to explain here but luckily, this game is blessed with one of the most comprehensive tutorials I’ve ever experienced in a game. It was so good I kept proclaiming to my husband: “I can’t believe how good this tutorial is!”
Using a set of numbered tutorial cards, the game gently walks you through the first session, teaching you about the different mechanics as you’re using them. By the time we were finished with our first game, we felt almost totally comfortable with the rules and mechanics (though you’ll probably have to return to the rulebook a couple of times for a refresher). There are also video tutorials for those who prefer learning from another person, but I found the in-game system to be far more effective.
Much of Fog of Love is about accessibility; players can choose their gender identity and all the cards use gender-neutral language. But what really makes it accessible is how it tackles roleplaying. No, I’m not talking about that kind of roleplay, but rather the art of character work during a game. Tabletop roleplaying games can be a challenge, especially for folks who’ve never played them before or don’t have a background in performance art. Fog of Love has simplified the process by using metrics to define personality traits.
Instead of saying “My character is sensitive so I don’t think they’d like that,” the trait will reward or punish you by making choices that work for or against your personality. This creates a system that encourages people to think like their characters but doesn’t require it. You can simply play it like any other game if you want to, scoring points to increase your individual score, raise compatibility, or ideally do both (unless your plan is to break up or dominate the relationship, you really need a solid combo score). But all the parameters are in place to help you think and even communicate like your character, which I’ve found not only makes it a great relationship guide but also a training tool for people wanting to get into tabletop RPGs. In fact, my husband and I are planning on using the trait cards to build characters in future one-shot tabletop roleplaying games.
But making your character is only part of the Fog of Love experience, the other is trying to figure out who the two of you are together. That’s not easy…mostly because you don’t really know who the other person is. Players can’t see one another’s traits, so if two characters are incompatible it would affect the gameplay. As you can see above, my character, a non-binary athlete named Barry, was kind and secure, which meant a strong gentleness trait and a weak sensitivity trait. Compare that to my husband’s character, a politician named Rosie, who was greedy and irresponsible (and also supes relaxed?). Their traits sort of aligned but not entirely, which meant extra work on our part. And don’t get me started on characters with opposite needs. That happened in our first attempt at Fog of Love, aka the worst relationship in human history.
As mentioned earlier, the core game comes with four scenarios that can be played more than once, which cover several types of relationships. They can delve into uncomfortable subjects like affairs and accidental pregnancy, so I recommend being open about discarding or even throwing out cards that make you feel uncomfortable. There are a few expansions that I’ve yet to try that include more scenarios, traits, and scene cards. I bought a couple of them and they’re in the mail right now, including one that focuses on paranormal romance (sci-fi angle!). If you’re interested in trying out Fog of Love, the game is available on Hush Hush Projects’ website and the company is currently donating 20 per cent of proceeds to the local game shop of your choice.
We’re all trying to find ways to entertain ourselves during a difficult time. It might be binging Battlestar Galactica, visiting your Animal Crossing island, or pretending to get into Isaac Asimov while secretly reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the fifth time. Hell, maybe it’s all three (or is that just me?). We’re also trying to navigate interpersonal relationships during an unprecedented time, which means having to be creative with the time you have together.
Fog of Love is a great way to help you or your partner learn the basics of tabletop roleplaying games, improv, or board games in general. But it’s also a beautiful communication tool, something that will put you outside of your comfort zone to figure out how to make a new relationship work. You can laugh, you can fight, you can even break up—all of it will be over when the box is put back on the shelf, and the two of you will still be strong. It’s not a lesson all of us may need right now but it’s a good one to have on hand.