The Few and Cursed – Board Game Review based on the comic book series

The Few and Cursed board game based on the hit comic book series is one great looking game. I noticed it immediately upon visiting my local game store (Game On in Warwick, RI – represent!) the box art just grabbed me with its artwork and title although I keep calling it The Few and the Cursed. I am a big western/horror fan (Deadlands/Doomtown being favorites of mine)and I just had to pick up the box to check it out and the comic artwork is really great. The back of the box shows off the giant board, miniatures for both the heroes and major monsters and just screamed “Buy Me!” so I did.

First off everything in the box is of the highest quality, it all looks and feels great. The gameboard is huge, the minis don’t need to be assembled, the cards are quality with good artwork and backs and the player cards are stiff cardboard with indentations where the cubes go so you cannot accidentally knock them around if you knock the board.

The game feels like a winner while setting it up and comments were made multiple times about how good this game was going to be based on the various mechanics and components. The designer took a lot of common mechanics and added them all into the game with various tweeks. The store, like most deck building games, has a row of purchasable items under the deck that you can buy if you are at the store but you also get one refresh action per visit which wipes all three cards into the discard pile and gives new cards to choose from. Great idea which allowed us to cycle through high cost cards early in the game that we couldn’t afford yet and didn’t clog down the play. You will notice a lot of these types of mechanics. Comments like “Oh, this reminds me of this Clank mechanic” or “This is like route cards in Ticket to Ride” will be spoken at a table of experienced board gamers. That is not a bad thing but combining different mechanics gives the game a very jerky flow.

So, lets break down a players turn:

* First off you Improvise which is you draw two cards from the main deck (which weirdly does not have a spot on the giant game board)and add one to your play hand while discarding the other. There are no costs associated with this, choose the best card and keep it. It was nice that you get to put it directly into your hand to use during your turn where many other games have you put newly acquired cards into your discard pile first and then you have to cycle the deck to draw them.

The downside to this is it slowed the game way down. In most deck building games you can plan you move for the most part so when it is your turn you can get going. By adding a potentially powerful card to your play hand immediately at the start of the turn it often changed the entire plan and we got many statements like “Oh, great card. I have to rethink what I want to do.” and poof, there goes the games momentum.

* Next you do an encounter. If you are outside of San Andreas you draw from two different piles depending on where your character is; in a cursed location or a non-cursed location. These are easy enough to follow and give the game nice variety with much of the games “thematic feel” coming from these cards. If you are in San Andreas you can shop the store to purchase reusable equipment for your character or check out the job board for easier mini-goals that you can work through as you play. This was where the poor instruction book really shows the need for an editor or another cycle of proof reading. We had a question about acquiring job cards so we naturally go to the rulebook section titled “Job Cards” but the text we needed was actually at the very bottom of the previous page which slowed us down a bit. This was repeated throughout the game, someone couldn’t find the information or it was not where you would have expected.

* Now you start the Action Phase which is where you play cards to generate resources and choose to do one of the six different actions available to the player. You can defeat a bounty, recover an artifact, rob a player at the same location, do another encounter, camp at your location to gain a health and shuffle your deck or use the action printed on you characters card. There were many times where a player would draw a killer card, decide their strategy for the turn and then start playing cards skipping the previous encounter phase. “Oh crap, I forgot to draw an encounter card” became a constant refrain from the players throughout the game. It just flows weird when you pick up a card to your hand then do something else before using cards from your hand. Maybe it is just us but we had to pass the quick reference on the back of the rulebook around so players could move through their turn correctly, usually by the second or third turn playing a new game we are good to go from memory.

* The final phase is Cleanup where you can discard, draw to four cards, etc. There is a mechanic that if you have to shuffle your deck during your turn to draw a card (without camping) you return to San Andreas at the end of your turn which felt odd as well. If one of the four monster minis are on the table they would move toward San Andreas and the game ends if they enter the city.

So, that is the game in a nutshell. So issues we ran into were that the monsters did not come into play. In games like Pandemic or Horrorfied there is a sense of dread that something bad is coming but here you can avoid the monsters completely. To get a monster on the board one of two things has to happen: you have to take out enough Most Wanted bounties to get to the bottom of the pile where the monster card is or a player has to get to 21 Grit (victory points) when one will appear. We focused on getting the artifacts (in a three player game their are 8 of them, two in each corner of the board) and wound up getting seven of them with the highest players grit getting to around 13. We could have won the game by collecting all the artifacts (or you can kill three monsters to win) without ever getting a monster of the playfield. There were enough cards that took away grit during the turns that it wouldn’t have happened without one of the players trying to get a monster out so he could at least see how it worked. The Most Wanted bounties did not seem worth the rewards compared to performing jobs and taking out regular bounties.

A game where the hook is to fight monsters should have some mechanic that requires the players to battle them at least once but The Few and Cursed makes it optional. We just did not target the Most Wanted bounties and would have won the game without the monster appearing at all, nevermind the three that we were supposed to defeat to win that way.

The game is full of little things that drive you crazy. The manual is very poor (look at the forum to see people struggling to find basic information in it) with lots of wasted space or weird design choices. Some pages feature a card taking up 3/4 of a page when that space could have been used for clarification or additional examples. The Quick Reference on the back has two inches of white space at the bottom, we could have used more information of some of the actions there. There are no player quick reference cards that should be standard in all games these days. The gameboard has space for every deck in the game except for the Improvise deck which was odd. Following paths around the map was easy enough except exiting San Andres to the west is an option but the map does no show a path which caused one player to not use that route despite it being the best way for her character to have moved. Oh, and the board has a Grit counter that runs around the outside of the map that is labeled “VP” which confused us for a second. The counter also goes to 154 when a normal game will cap out well before that. If you play co-op you will use the full range but sitting down for the first time gave us an odd felling when all three players we below 21 during gameplay. The Little things add up in a game like this.

At the end of the day it was a seventy dollar game so we will give it more plays to see if we can figure ways to improve the game. Some of the rough ideas were breaking the action phase into two sections: defeat a bounty and then chose from the remaining five actions. Another was if a complete round goes by and no Most Wanted bounties were claimed one would randomly be chosen (1D4) to be discarded bringing a monster closer to appearing. The ability to contribute resources to a player battling a monster if you were in the same location was tossed around. There are three/four tents at various desert spots on the board, they serve no purpose except for flavor but one player suggested allowing upgrades (but not store cards) to be purchased at these locations and say that the tents were traveling vendors.

The point being, this is a game we desperately want to like to the point of kicking around ideas to make it a better game. One player summed up his feelings by stating “This game needs a version 2” to correct the issues with it. As for me, I feel the sum of all the parts does not equal the potential of the game. There were too many mistakes made in the design and layout stages to truly allow this game to shine. As it stands, The Few and Cursed will remind you of many different games that you have played but not be as enjoyable as any of them.

About Author