Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Fuzzy Heroes

Yesterday, I took my kids (age 7 and 5) to Pegasus Games for the first time, hoping to inspire some new interests. As expected, big brother was captivated by the wargaming minis, and sissy wanted to take home a pink sparkling d10. But what interested me most was this:


Fuzzy Heroes by Inner City Games designs is less a tabletop RPG than a "floortop" RPG. In its simplest form, it's a tactical miniatures game, using stuffed animals and other toys that you happen to already have in your home. After skimming through the rulebook and consulting with the staff on duty, I determined that it could be a nice intro to RPG's for my kids; and after bringing it home and playing a couple of sessions, I can confirm that it is indeed a game suitable for just about any age.

Part of the appeal of Fuzzy Heroes (FH) is its graded ruleset. An 18-page primer on combat basics will prepare players for their first session in a matter of minutes. All you need is a few d6's, some pencils and paper, and a tape measure. The basic rules don't allow for special attacks, saves, or ranged attacks; all combat is resolved when characters are positioned within 2" of each other. Facing makes a difference, however, as does size. My son's 73" stuffed dragon was a formidable attacker, but his long body was easily exposed for flanking by my daughter's two My Little Pony figures.

As you become more involved with the game, you can begin incorporating advanced rules. There's also a section on adding role-play elements. This game grows with your kids' interest.

Yesterday's first session was a 2-on-2 team deathmatch. Naturally, that's not what I called it; the rulebook described HP as "Energy Points," which, when depleted, cause the character to fall asleep. It ran about 45 minutes, just long enough for my 5 year-old to begin growing restless. Today we followed up with a scenario in which two renegade plushies had captured a magic ring, which the characters had to retrieve from the renegade base (a small structure the kids built from cushions). I expected a smash-and-grab operation, but the youngest suggested distracting the villains, a monkey and a weiner dog, with a banana and a hot dog, then having the winged pony of the group fly through an upstairs window to sneak in and grab the ring. This inspired a brief craft activity before the session, in which we made the food props. I improvised a sneak mechanic which used the PCs' avoid stat, and a rule of combat which allowed an attacker the choice of either dealing damage or gaining possession of the ring. When the scene was over, we discussed possibilities for how it might affect future sessions. Perhaps the bad guys might try to kidnap another character, demanding the ring as ransom. Or maybe the ring could bestow its user with an additional attack roll.

I am delighted at how FH inspires structured play using toys that otherwise might have remained in the corner of a closet. As an adult, I sometimes am overwhelmed when a child asks to play with action figures or dolls; but now I can lead my kids through a story using mechanics that help me form a solid narrative. I found myself adding color text to the results of die rolls, which kept the kids engaged in the story -- good practice for my adult RP'ing sessions. The villainous monkey, Booger, was screeching and "ooh-ahh"-ing with every failed attack, and the wiener dog whimpered and barked. Our second session was resolved without any character "falling asleep," but rather with two ponies making a break for the exit with the ring while their larger companions held the enemy off.

Our FH session in progress.


This doesn't have to be a family game; I can imagine the fun older players could have with it over a few adult beverages. A backyard deck could make a nice playing surface during a summer evening barbecue. Imagine the fun Mom, Dad, and their guests could have employing their kids' toys, or perhaps a garden gnome or a jack-o'-lantern, to foil some evil scheme, or play a yard-sized version of Capture the Flag.

Final Verdict: With an experienced gamer refereeing, this system is easy to dive into; but even in the hands of the RPG novice, FH's basic rules are easy to comprehend. I'm excited to try incorporating some of the advanced rules in future sessions, but only when I'm sure all players can stay focused. I want to bring mom on board for a session or two as well; in the right mood, I know she can bring life to the characters and elicit some laughs from the kids. The role-playing ideas presented in the book promise to offer a more immersive experience, but I'm not sure if most players will feel compelled to use them. If this were only a minis game it would be good enough, especially for people like myself who want to introduce their kids to role-playing a few years before they develop the attention span and comprehension skills that more popular systems demand.

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