Radio Review #15 – A Fool’s Fortune


(2012 – Rio Grande)


“And the eyes in his head see the world spinning ’round…”


The mechanics and basic gameplay of Rummy-style card games have been around for quite some time, most moderately dated to the early to mid-19th Century. The idea of using suits and numerical values on cards to complete sets has spawned an enormous amount of Rummy-style games over the years. First time designers, Justin Pilla and Jason Pilla Cannoncro have taken this familiar mechanic and turned it up a notch, blending in features of Magic: The Gathering and special abilities to create a unique, fantasy-driven take on the Rummy genre.

In A Fool’s Fortune, players will attempt to complete Sets of Fortune Cards, acquired from a Fate Deck (Draw Pile) in order to win the game. There are a variety of ways to complete these Sets, and the game can be surprisingly complex in the options that are given to do so. Because of this, A Fool’s Fortune is split into 3 Acts that each walk a player through new mechanics and options along the way. Remembering the vocabulary and number of various options can be quite daunting to go over all at once, so before we get into all of these abilities, let’s first look at the different types of Cards, what defines a Set, and general setup of the play area.




There are two different types of Cards in A Fool’s Fortune:


Fortune Cards






Character Cards




Fortune Cards:

Fortune Cards are the cards that are used to complete Sets in the game. Fortune cards provide a Realm type: Coastal (blue), Forest (green), Mountain (gray), Desert (red), and City (purple), and a Resource type: Location, Nature, Treasure, Supernatural, and Folk. A particular combination of Realm type and Resource type make up each Fortune card.


For instance, the Old Oak Grove card is a Fortune card defined as Forest-Nature, because of its green color and printed Nature icon (paw print).

When placing Fortune cards into a Set, an Open Set is defined by a Set of Fortune Cards that is not yet complete, while a Closed Set is defined by a complete Set of 5 Fortune Cards. There are two different types of Closed Sets; a Set made up of all one Realm color while containing 5 different Resources(seen below on the left), and a Set made up of all one Resource type while containing 5 different Realm colors(see below on the right).



Note the following:

– A player can never have more than 3 Open and/or Closed Sets at any point during the game.

– An Open Set can never have less than 3 Fortune cards.

– A Set can never have 2 of the same Realm / Resource combinations, but all cards in a set must be aligned by either Realm (all the same color, 5 different Resources) or Resource (all the same Resource, 5 different colors).



Character Cards:

Characters Cards can be used by players for special abilities. Two Fortunes cards in the form of Fees must be paid in order to recruit a Character into play. These are placed horizontally underneath the Character card. Whenever a Character is used for an ability, the Character card is faced horizontally as well to show that it has been used for that turn. This is referred to as being Engaged. At the beginning of the next turn, the Character card is turned back to its Vertical facing, and is considered Active.


Characters can be broken up into two categories; Savvy Characters and Skilled Characters. Savvy Characters will allow certain abilities depending on their alignment to other Fortune Cards, while skill Characters provide specific text-based Engaged abilities.


– Fortunes played as Fees must be aligned to each other (meaning that either their Realm color or Resource type match).

– A player can never have more than 3 Characters in play at any given time.

– The Character enters play Engaged and can not be used until the following turn.


We’ll go over the special abilities (both universal and specific) for Characters a bit later.



General Setup:

There are 2 different play areas in the game. A play area specific to each player called a Stage, and a central play area called the Field. The Stage area is where a player will play and use his Characters (the Crew area) and Sets (the Cache). There is also an area below the Crew and Cache called the Camp. The Camp is an area designed for keeping cards that a player controls, but are not in his Hand, Crew or Cache.


(The Stage)


The Field area is comprised of the Draw Pile (Fate Deck), where players will draw cards into their Hand. It also includes the Road area where Characters go when they are discarded, and the Faire, where Fortune cards go when they are discarded.


(The Field)




Each player’s turn is comprised of 3 phases; the Morning Phase, the Afternoon Phase, and the Night Phase.

Morning Phase

1.) The player draws cards from the Draw Pile until he has 3 cards in his Hand (if a player starts the Round with 3 cards, he will draw 0 cards during this step).

2.) Next, the player will Activate any of his Engaged Characters from the previous Round.

3.) The player will now draw 1 additional card from the Draw Pile as his Allowance. If a player has no cards in their Cache or Crew, they can instead choose to gain 1 card from the central Faire area (where Fortune cards are discarded to throughout the game).


Afternoon Phase

This 2nd Phase is where most of the actions take place during a Round, and these actions can be taken in any order that a player chooses. Here are the options available:

– Place a Character into their Crew (remember that in order to place a Character, 2 aligned Fortunes are required to be placed with it in the form of Fees).

– Play, Add, or Remove Fortune cards to and from Sets (cards removed from a Set go to the player’s Camp)

– Engage Characters and use their Abilities (we’ll discuss these abilities in more detail in a bit).


Night Phase

1.) The player must discard 1 card from his Hand or Camp. This is called “Paying his Dues”. If a player can not pay their Dues, they automatically lose the game. So make sure there is always at least 1 card in your Hand or Camp to discard. Character cards are discarded to the Road, while Fortune cards are discarded to the Faire.

2.) At this point in the final Phase, any Sets that have less that 3 cards will be discarded to the Faire. Also, any cards still remaining in a player’s Camp are discarded.

3.) After paying their Dues, if a player still has more than 3 cards in their Hand, they will discard down to 3 cards.

After the Night Phase is over, the opposing player will begin his Morning Phase. This will continue back and forth until one of the player’s has met the particular winning condition depending on the level in which they are paying.



Act & Abilities:

A Fool’s Fortune breaks down its gameplay into 3 different levels of play, entitled Acts. Each succeeding level expands on the rules from the previous Act.


Act 1:

Winning Condition – The 1st player to have 3 Closed Sets and 1 Active Character, after paying their dues.

Introduced Character Abilities: Fetch & Cut

In the beginning Act of the game, only 2 basic abilities are introduced for the Character cards and are universal to all Character cards (text and icons on Character cards are not introduced until the later Acts). These 2 abilities are known as Fetch and Cut.





A player can use the Fetch ability to claim a Fortune card from the Faire (central area). This Fortune card is then placed in the player’s Camp to be used this turn, whether it be for playing it as part of a set or using it as a fee for a Character card. This fetched card however, can not be used to pay Dues at the end of the Round and must be discarded if it is not used during the Round in which it was fetched. In order to Fetch a card, the player must Engage a Character card (turning a Character card to its horizontal side). The player can then claim a card from the Faire that is aligned to either the Resource or Realm color of either of the 2 fee cards associated with that Character.


So for instance, if Player A has the Assassin in play with the Lonely Lighthouse (Blue – Location) and the Whales of the Deep (Blue – Nature) as its associated Fees, he can use the Assassin to Fetch the Cathedral card from the Faire, because its Resource (Location icon) matches the icon on the Lonely Lighthouse. He may instead however choose to Fetch the Sea Chalice (Blue) card, because its Realm color matches that of either fee cards. Player A would not be able to Fetch the Sentinels Fortune card though, because neither its Resource icon nor its Realm color matches either Fee associated with the Assassin.





A player can use the Cut ability in order to discard a Character, thus making its Fee cards available to be used elsewhere. This is helpful when you need to rearrange Fortune cards associated with your Character’s as Fees and place them into your Sets. In order to Cut a Character card, the player must Engage the Character card and then discard it to the Road area (left of the Draw Pile). This Character is no longer available to the player, however the Fortune cards that were associated with it as Fees, are now moved to the player’s Camp area and free to be used elsewhere.


So for instance, if Player A decides to Cut his Assassin from play on his next turn, he will discard him to the Road. This will free up his Lonely Lighthouse and Whales of the Deep fortune cards, as they are moved to his Camp. He can then choose to play a Sirens of the Moontide card along with these two, and beginning a new open Blue Realm Set (remember that it takes a minimum of 3 Fortune cards to being an Open Set).



Act 2:

Winning Condition – The 1st player to have 3 Closed Sets and 2 Active Characters, after paying their dues.

Introduced Character Abilities: Kickback, Barter, Savvy-Fetch, Savvy-Barter, Savvy-Refuse, Charmed-Fate, Charmed-Bargain, & Flash

A wide range of abilities are introduced at the 2nd level of the game and revolve around more player interaction than was seen in the initial Act. While some of these abilities are universally available to all Character cards, some are available to only particular Character cards.




The Kickback ability is a variation of the Cut ability and can be used to move cards associated with a Character’s Fees, to be used elsewhere by the player. Unlike the Cut ability however, Kickback does not require the Character card to be discarded to use this ability. But, as the Cut ability frees up both cards associated with the Character’s Fee, Kickback only allows for 1 of these cards to be moved. In order to use Kickback, the player must Engage the Character and can move 1 of the associated Fees beneath the Character into the player’s Camp. The player must then repay the Fee with another card. This replacement card must be aligned with the remaining Fee card that was left behind.


So for instance, if Player A only wanted 1 of the 2 cards associated as Fees of the Assassin Character card, he could use the Kickback ability as opposed to the Cut. Player A could engage the Assassin and move the Lonely Lighthouse to his Camp area. He would then need to replace this Fee with another Fortune card that is aligned to the remaining Fee (Whales of the Deep) card. He could replace it with the Royal Hounds card, since this card’s Resource (nature) matches the Resource of the Whales of the Deep card. Or he could replace it with any other blue card since the Realm colors would match.





The Barter ability allows a player to Engage a Character and then gain a Fortune card from another player’s Set, as long as they replace it with another card that can be aligned with that player‘s Set. Barters however, can be refused. The opposing player can choose to refuse the Barter by Engaging an Active Character of their own. Of course, remember that Engaged Character’s are not placed to their Active side until the beginning of that player’s Turn. So a player would want to keep at least 1 Character Active after their turn is over if they plan on having the option of refusing a Barter during the other player’s turn.


So for example, Player A chooses to Engage his Captain character and plans to Barter his Citadel of the Sun card (Red-Location) from his hand, with Player B’s Standing Stones card (Green-Location), in order to complete his open Green Realm Set. This is allowed since the Citadel of the Sun card would align to Player B’s Location Set in which it is being placed. Player B could choose however, to refuse this Barter by Engaging any Active Characters that he has.





As mentioned before, Character types are broken up into Savvy Characters and Skilled Characters. While these titles weren’t used in Act 1 of A Fool’s Fortune, they start to distinguish themselves in Act 2. The 1st special type of ability for Savvy Characters is called a Savvy-Fetch. This works exactly like a regular Fetch, except that now instead of being limited to taking a card from the Faire area that is aligned to 1 of the 2 Fees associated with the Engaged Character, the player can choose to take a card that if is aligned to either Fee or the Savvy Character itself. Each Savvy Character has a particular Resource or Realm color that they are aligned to.


So for instance, Player A chooses to Fetch a card from the Faire. Even though the Fees associated with the Mystic in this scenario (Lonely Lighthouse and Whales of the Deep) would normally only allow him to Fetch a Blue, Location, or Nature card, he would also be able to take any card with a Supernatural Resource icon, since the Mystic is considered Savvy with that icon. So he could choose the Djinni (Red-Supernatural) if he wanted to by using the Savvy-Fetch ability.





A Savvy-Barter works in the same way as a regular Barter except for the following rule. If the Engaged Character is aligned (Savvy) to the card that is being gained from the opposing player, this Barter can not be refused. So for instance, Player A engages his Captain to use the Savvy-Barter ability with Player B. Since the Captain is a Savvy Character and aligned to the Blue Realm color, if Player A chooses to gain a Blue Realm card from Player B, this Savvy-Barter can not be refused.




The Savvy-Refuse ability also works in the same way as a regular Refuse. However, if the Engaged Character that is used to refuse the Barter is aligned to the card that is being used for the Barter, the opposing player can no longer make any other Barters for the rest of the turn. If the Bartering player used a Savvy-Barter however, the only way that this ability can be refused is for the opposing Player to use a Savvy-Refuse. This means that both the Character used for the Barter and the Character used to refuse the Barter would be aligned (Savvy) to the card being Bartered.


For instance, Player A engages his Captain to use the Savvy-Barter ability to gain the Sirens of the Moontide (Blue-Supernatural) card from Player B. Player B would normally not be able to refuse this Savvy-Barter ability. However, Player B has an Active Mystic Character, whom is also Savvy to the Supernatural Resource. Because of this, he may choose to Engage his Mystic and refuse the Savvy-Barter. (However, since the Savvy-Refuse did not block a regular Barter and instead blocked a Savvy-Barter, more Barters may be attempted by Player A this turn.)


Here’s a breakdown of how Barter, Refuse, Savvy-Barter, and Savvy-Refuse all interact with one another:

Barter vs. Refuse = Barter cancelled. Other barters may be performed.
Barter vs. Savvy-Refuse = Barter cancelled and no other barters can be performed this turn
Savvy Barter vs. Refuse = A regular refuse can not take effect if a Savvy-Barter has been performed
Savvy Barter vs. Savvy Refuse = Savvy Barter is cancelled. Other barters may still be performed.



Charmed Fate & Charmed Bargain

When discussing the 2 Fortune cards that are associated to each Character in the form of Fees, if both of these Fees have the same Realm color and Resource icon, they are considered a Charmed-Pair.


While a Charmed-Pair is not allowed in Open and Closed Sets, they are allowed in the form of Fees. Not only that, but when used as Fees, they will provide special abilities in the form of Charmed-Fates and Charmed-Bargains.

Whereas Savvy Characters are aligned to a particular Realm color or Resource, Skilled Characters are aligned to a particular Realm color/Resource combination.


So for instance, the Assassin Character is considered Skilled in relation to the Mountain-Supernatural combination.

Charmed-Fate and Charmed Bargain abilities allow an Engaged Character to Draw an additional card, though there are minor differences in the two abilities depending on whether the Character being used is Savvy or Skilled. A Charmed-Fate allows the player to Draw 1 card from the Draw Pile. A Charmed-Bargain also allows a player to Draw 1 card from the Draw Pile, however a player that uses a Charmed-Bargain will owe 1 additional Due at the end of their turn. When deciding which type of ability is earned when Engaging a Character, note the following:


– A Savvy Character earns a Charmed-Fate if that Character is aligned to its Fees that are a Charmed-Pair (Player Draws 1 card from the Draw Pile).



– A Skilled Character earns a Charmed-Fate if that Character has a Realm/Resource combination for its Charmed-Pair Fees that are the same combination as the Character card (Player Draws 1 card from the Draw Pile).



– A Savvy Character earns a Charmed-Bargain as long as that Character is aligned to both of its Fees. These Fees do not have to be a Charmed-Pair (Player Draws 1 card from the Draw Pile and will owe 1 additional Due at the end of the turn).



– A Skilled Character earns a Charmed-Bargain as long as 1 of their Fees has the same Realm/Resource combination as the Character card (Player Draws 1 card from the Draw Pile and will owe 1 additional Due at the end of the turn).



– Any Character whether it is Skilled or Savvy will earn a Charmed-Bargain as long as the Character’s Fees are a Charmed-Pair. The Character itself does not need to align in this case (Player Draws 1 card from the Draw Pile and will owe 1 additional Due at the end of the turn).




Players can discard Characters from their Hand or from their Crew to the Road in order to gain certain abilities. This is called a Flash. A player can use the Flash ability in order to gain a Bargain or Refuse ability. If a Savvy Character is discarded as a Flash, that player will immediately earn a Savvy-Fetch, Savvy-Barter, or Savvy-Refuse ability.

For instance, Player A wants to gain a Green Realm card from the central Faire area, but has no Green Fee or Savvy Character aligned to Green in play. He does have the Maiden (Savvy – Green Realm) Character card in his hand. Player A can use the Flash ability to discard the Maiden (Green Realm color) Character from his hand and onto the Road to gain a Savvy-Fetch that would be aligned to this Green Realm card. He would then be allowed to take a Green Realm card from the Faire.



Act 3:

Winning Condition – The 1st player to have 3 Closed Sets and 3 Active Characters, after paying their dues.

Introduced Character Abilities: Talents & Strikes

In the final Act (or level) of A Fool’s Fortune, Skilled Character’s special abilities printed on the text of the card comes into play. There are two different types of abilities for each Skilled Character; a Talent and a Strike.


Talents are noted on the card next to the “Engaged” symbol and can be used when a Skilled Character is Engaged. Strikes are printed below the Talent ability and can be used when Flashing a Character to the Road (Players may also use the regular Flash ability to use the Talent instead of the Strike, if they choose). Let’s take a look at some of the Talent and Strike abilities:



Rainbow Sets – A Rainbow Set is an Open or Closed Set where none of the Realm colors or Resources match. Therefore a Closed Rainbow Set would include 5 different Realm colors and 5 different Resource icons. The Journeyman Skilled Character allows for the player to start a Rainbow Set. The Fees associated to the Journeyman can also be Rainbow-Fees (different Realm colors and different Resource icons).



Wayside – Both the Journeyman and the Fey-Child have Strike Abilities called Wayside. When the Wayside ability is taken, a number of cards from a player’s Crew and Cache are moved into their Camp. A player can then use a Fetch ability to gain these cards along with cards from the central Faire area.

For instance, Player A uses the Wayside Strike ability of the Journeyman (thus discarding the Journeyman to the Road) and moves Player B’s Royal Hounds (Purple-Nature) and Grand Ballroom (Purple-Location) cards to Player B’s Camp. Player A then Engages the Duchess (Purple Realm color) to Savvy-Fetch the Royal Hounds card from Player B’s Camp.



Weaken – The Weaken ability is one that delays a Character from becoming Active. A Character that has been Weakened is turned up-side down. When the Character would normally turn to its Active (vertical) side during the next Morning Phase, this Character card is only rotated 90 degrees to its Engaged position (horizontal). Therefore it will take 2 full turns for this Character to become Active again, once Weakened.



Spy – The Spy ability allows a player to look at the Hand of an opposing player. Depending on the Skilled Character (Assassin, Thief, and Mercenary), an extra action printed on the card can take effect after looking at the other player’s Hand. This could include Cutting another Character or stealing Fortunes.



Cross – The Guard has the Talent ability of refusing any ability that would Cross the player that controls him. This would include taking cards, Weakening, Refusing, Spying, Wayside, etc.



Lock – The Muse and Constable Character cards both have Strike abilities called Locks. Lock abilities can keep a certain feature of play from being available to that player until the following turn. For instance, Player A uses the Lock ability of the Constable (thus discarding the Constable because it is a Strike). This would keep Player B from using his Cache during his next turn, thus not allowing him play or use any of his Characters.



Fee-Swap – The Fee-Swap ability is similar to a Kickback, except that this interaction can be done between players instead of the central Faire area. All of the same rules apply to a Fee-Swap as with Kickback. Although this ability is normally limited to the Fey-Child Character card, Savvy Characters may do what is called a Savvy Fee-Swap. A Savvy Character can Engage or use a Flash ability in order to make a Fee-Swap as long as it is Savvy to either card being swapped. At the same time, A Savvy Character can Engage or use a Flash ability to Refuse a Savvy Fee-Swap as long as it is Savvy to either card being swapped.






A Fool’s Fortune is quite a beast to tame, though worth it. Learning all of the vocabulary and how the special abilities interact with each other can take a bit of time to explore, though the designers have intelligently broken down the 3 Acts in a way that each level can play as its own game. Players that want a more casual style game can enjoy Act 1 as a game on its own without feeling like they are playing a Prologue to a deeper, more immersive game found in later Acts.

The unique artwork found on the 77 different cards are quite beautiful and produce a fantasy-themed world in a game otherwise lacking in story. The introduction of Character abilities and the interaction between players found in Acts 2 and 3 will draw in players that enjoy and are familiar with Magic: the Gathering. The game lends itself well to those that have a consistent gaming partner, as A Fool’s Fortune is very skill driven in its approach to victory. Having an in-depth knowledge of how all the Character abilities interact with the optional actions each turn is the main strategy required. Because of this however, new players learning against a skilled veteran of the game should be prepared to go through a learning curve. If you have a consistent gaming partner however, it can be a great way to test your strategies against one another as you learn the nuisances of each ability.

Those that enjoy the mechanics revolved around Rummy-style card games, but are looking for deeper strategy, character-driven abilities, player interaction, all surrounded by a fantasy theme should take a closer look at A Fool’s Fortune.



2 thoughts on “Radio Review #15 – A Fool’s Fortune

  1. I just stumbled over this when looking for reviews, but I think you managed to explain the game way better than the rulebook even. So, thank you very much.

    Just a quick question, though: Is it possible that there’s a mistake in the image example for the “Any Character whether it is Skilled or Savvy will earn a Charmed-Bargain “-rule? because those two cards under The Messenger don’t look like a charmed pair… But maybe it’s me misunderstanding something?


    • Sorry it took me so long to respond. I missed the comment in my inbox. Jannes, you are correct, sorry for any confusion. The picture for that particular example does not show a Charmed-Pair, as a Charmed-Pair is one of the same color AND icon.

      Simply posted the wrong picture for that example. Thanks for the question! Take care.

      ~ Scott


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