Fiasco: What's New

Published on 2018-07-05

Fiasco has been out for almost a decade, and we’ve learned a lot since publishing it. Other than errata and minor revisions, the game is unchanged, an artifact of where my design sensibility was in 2007-2008, when the game was developed. I think it is solid and people still love it, and yet there are some things that a decade of play has shown us. 

Here are my thoughts on the Fiasco revision as it exists right now. This is all likely to change—in fact, some of the elements I describe below are already in flux. We wanted to share the broad outline, though, since there was so much general interest.

Some of the changes we have in mind are small stuff— for example, in a four player game, have two Needs, but don’t place those needs adjacent to one another unless you want the game to be all about one character. Similarly, instead of having a bunch of little vignettes for each character in the Aftermath, let each player have one last little epilogue. That's how we've been playing ourselves for a while now. 

Some of it is a little bigger, and has to do with the game’s format and overall accessibility. I designed it at a time when it made sense to package it as a 128 page book, and to record play with index cards and sharpies, and require people to rustle up twenty dice in two colors. This no longer seems optimal. I think we can do better, and refactoring Fiasco opens up all kinds of interesting new possibilities at the same time.

I approached this task the same way I approached designing Fiasco in the first place—by setting some hard boundaries and rejecting any solution that strayed outside them. My new parameters were:

1. Incorporate lessons learned from playing the game a million times.

2. Don’t fundamentally change game play where it isn’t broken. Keep it familiar and, if possible, interoperable with “classic” Fiasco. Setup, two Acts, a Tilt, an Aftermath.

3. (The real design-y bits) Remove excess components. Reduce the possibility space. Speed up play and make it more accessible. Think about new players and the first experience of play.

So the new version is going to be leaner and meaner and ditch the dice and index cards and sharpies and 128 page book. In their place will be poker-sized playing cards, and a little booklet, in a box. Inside BPG the project’s code name is Fiasco In A Box. A Playset is now a small deck of cards, and dice are replaced with positive and negative outcome cards with Tilt elements on the reverse. 

Playing cards offer some useful and fun affordances. They have two sides, so the current iteration of the Setup has the four categorical elements you’d expect, and on the back of each card is a surname (for Needs) and a given name (for everything else). The unused elements can quickly be sorted to form colorful, playset-appropriate character names that sit in front of each player. 

The positive and negative outcome cards work just like black and white dice (and are apportioned identically based on the number of players), and you flip whatever you’ve earned over after Act One to figure out the Tilt. On the back are the numbers (currently represented by black and white dice, but this will likely change), as well as the Tilt elements. This works great and is very fast in play. 

In terms of cool affordances, here are some things we can do with outcome/Tilt cards: Tune the Tilt by introducing new cards with new playsets. Easily adjust scene outcome ratios. Make deciding the Tilt about twice as fast. 

One of the things I’m particularly excited about is the possibility of easily “tuning” your own deck, mashing up, say, Poppleton Mall and Main Street (or even weirder combinations). Since playsets are now a deck of numbered cards, you can share your “build” for others to play. I’m positive the new format will have other really interesting possibilities clever players will discover. 

The new format doesn’t obviate the old and, for some people, I suspect the old, tried and true format may actually be preferable. For a lot of people, however, Fiasco In A Box is going to be the incremental improvement they’ve been waiting for—the same core experience with some subtle scaffolding to make it smoother, faster, and punchier. We can’t wait to share it with you!

--Jason