Saturday, July 14, 2018

Clans Vs Fae - Comparing an Original and a Reimplementation

The boxes for Clans (artwork showing some prehistoric people on a hill looking down into a valley with several huts in various colours) and Fae (artwork showing a cloaked figure with a primitive staff holding his arm up towards a faerie creature).

Many years ago, I saw a game called Clans being sold in a game store. I read some reviews online, and thought it looked like a good investment, so I bought it. I played it, and I loved it. You can see what I thought of it in my review.

A couple of months ago, I noticed that there was a listing on Board Game Geek for a reimplementation of this game called Fae. I was apprehensive, yet excited. Clans had been out of print for some time, so I was pleased to see that it would be available again, although I was concerned that they had complety changed the theme.

I finally got my hands on a copy of it. So today, I'm going to compare the original game, Clans, to its reimplementation, Fae.

Comparing Themes

In Clans, players are moving wooden huts around a board to represent prehistoric settlers gathering into villages to maximise their chances of survival.

In Fae, players represent a faction of the fair folk, trying to move druids into groups where they can perform rituals that will be beneficial to their factions. The pieces are plastic druid figurines that are being moved amongst various terrain types which, depending on the current flow of magical energy, may be blessed or cursed for the current rituals.

Similarities

The game itself is identical. The mechanics are the same, scoring is the same, even the layout of the terrain has not changed, as can be seen by comparing the two game boards:

The board for Clans above the board for Fae. The main play area has the same layout, just with different terrain colours and textures. The board for Clans has the scoring track along the right edge of the board around the spaces indicating the favoured and unfavoured terrain. The board for Fae has the scoring track running from the upper left corner down the left edge and across the bottom edge, with no spaces for blessed or cursed terrain.

Differences

Aside from the theme, the visual feel of the game is radically different. In Clans, the game took place in phases called 'epochs,' which were measured on the board using plain yellow discs that doubled as bonus point chits. In Fae, however, they replaced the discs with cards that sit beside the board. Both the scoring chits from Clans and the ritual cards from Fae can be seen here:

On top, five cards representing the rituals and their blessed or cursed terrain types from Fae. On the bottom, a row of plain yellow discs, about the size of pennies, from Clans.

Rather than the plain coloured hut tiles used to assign player colours in Clans, Fae uses cards:

On top are the five colour cards from Fae: Purple (the art showing a goat man - the Pooka), Red (a hovering woman with a ball of flame in her hand), Yellow (A tree person - an dryad), blue (a mer creature), and black (a watery horse - the kelpie). Below that are the five tiles from Clans, which have identical art displaying a round stone hut with conical thatched roof, the roofs being in different colours: green, red, yellow, blue, and black.

And, of course, the playing pieces themselves. You can see these here with the scoring discs for each colour (don't forget that you can click on the images for a larger version):

On the left are the pieces from Clans: wooden pieces resembling round huts with conical roofs, in each of the five colours. The pieces use basic, bold primary colours. On the right are pieces from Fae, plastic figurines which resemble small hooded figures with their hands clasped in front of them. The colours are more muted. In front of each piece on both sides are the scoring discs for the corresponding colour. The ones from Clans are wooden, and are slightly larger than the ones from Fae, which are plastic.

My thoughts on the two versions

Mechanically, the two games are identical. From a purely gameplay and strategy perspective, there is no difference whatsoever.

Thematically, Clans holds together a little better in my opinion. Moving small groups of settlers together to form villages makes a little more sense than bringing druids together to perform rituals. That being said, of course I do like the theme of Fae, being a fan as I am of faerie mythos.

Fae is somewhat prettier. The colours are more muted, but along with the artwork (especially on the cards that accompany the board), it's more visually appealing than Clans. However, I will say that the muted colours will probably make Fae more difficult for colour-blind players.

In fact, I ran my photos of the two boards through a colour blindness simulator to see how they hold up. Although the light green and the yellow from Clans were hard to differentiate for many types of colour blindness, the board from that game was still better, overall, than the board from Fae in terms of accessibility for colour blind gamers.

The druid figurines from Fae are very nice, but I tend to prefer the wooden huts. Something about components made from wood appeals to me in a way that plastic does not. As lovely as the druids are, I find I like the huts better.

So, whereas I rated the attractiveness of Clans at 'Useful' (that is, it is neither beautiful nor ugly, but it makes gameplay easier), I would rate Fae at 'Nice' (the design is beautiful, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be). I rank it thusly for three reasons:
  1. The aforementioned issues with colour blindness.
  2. Having stacks of cards to measure phases of the game instead of spaces on the board makes it harder to tell how long until the next phase begins.
  3. It can be harder to determine adjacency in Fae. The rivers that separate terrain spaces into regions for purposes of game setup are uneven and larger than they really need to be. It is sometimes hard to tell what is a lake (which can't be crossed) and what is a river (which can). I've read reports of some players having a lot of trouble knowing which spaces are adjacent and which aren't.
There is one area in which Fae is objectively better than Clans, however: the rules. The Clans rulebook is a densely worded document which, whilst it leaves no room for misinterpretation, can be harder to get through for someone who has never played before. Fae's rulebook, however, is better organised so that it's easier to read, and shorter overall. And best of all, it does this without sacrificing any of the clarity.

Fae does leave out the tactical suggestions that were included in the Clans rulebook, however.

So which is better? Clans? Or Fae?

Honestly, I think it's a wash. They both have advantages and disadvantages that, in my opinion, balance each other out. Clans is better in that:
  • It's not plagued by artistic ambiguities that affect gameplay.
  • I like wooden pieces better than plastic ones.
  • The theme works a little better.
  • The epoch spaces on the board are functionally better than the ritual cards from Fae.
But Fae is better in that:
  • It is prettier, overall.
  • The rules are better organised.
  • The theme, though not as well suited to the game, is perhaps more appealing.
However, Fae has one very distinct advantage over Clans
  • It's currently in print.
So there you have it. I hope you have enjoyed reading this article, and I humbly beseech you to come back next week for more gaming goodness. In the meantime, remember to

Game on!

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