You play as a group of adventurers visiting Mount Fuji, which just erupted! Now you must escape to the village before the lava catches up to you.
In Fuji, players are placed into the boots of adventurers out to hike the mighty Mount Fuji. The only problem? The mountain has just erupted, sending hot liquid magma pouring down the slopes! Grab your friends and run for the village, and try to make it out alive with your whole party. Read on to see if Fuji is erupting with fun, or if it’s pyroclastic flow is more of a dribble.
Players in Fuji must all get out alive. If anyone gets overtaken by the lava, or runs out of stamina completely, his character dies.
The first thing I want to talk about is the art of Fuji, because it’s amazing and what first caught my eye. Fuji has the kind of art that has the potential to make board game enthusiasts want to play it without even hearing about what kind of game it is—in other words: it has great shelf appeal. The components inside that box are also good quality, and each of the mountain cards are individually illustrated and frame-worthy, if not for the dice requirements at the bottom (more on that later). The locations all show spots on the mountain, from dilapidated pagodas to unkempt bridges and forests, all hauntingly beautiful. And, due to the oncoming flood of lava, thankfully abandoned. The four character cards have a bit of a comic book feel, in a good way, and the iconography is easy to learn.
The easy-to-learn iconography is good because the main objective (moving your character off of the mountain) is confusing to explain, or at least was difficult for me. First, players roll their dice behind their screen. Then they choose a tile 0-3 spaces away and place a destination token on it. Based on what a player rolls rolled, he’ll want to choose his prospective destination carefully.
Using the cards above as an example, the top left card indicates pink-colored dice or dice showing 5 pips count towards a player’s movement. Likewise, using the bottom right card as an example, only blue dice with 1 to 3 pips showing count. This is a player’s movement score, and in order to be able to move, players have to have a higher score on their destination card than their neighboring teammate’s scores. That is, a player’s pink and 5 dice need to be higher than the person on his left and on his right score with pink and 5-numbered dice.
Still with me? Ok so after a player moves, he calculates his stamina loss, based on his movement score versus the highest movement score next to him. If there’s a large gap, he loses little-to-no stamina. If there is little-to-no gap, then he can lose a lot of stamina, depending on which of the four difficulty settings he’s playing on.
While I appreciate the move to get rid of the possibility of one player dominating the strategy—or “Quarterbacking” in a cooperative game—I really feel like the rules need to be made clearer with a glossary, or the main mechanic needs a little retooling. It took me a full three or four read-throughs before I felt like I grasped the core mechanic enough to write a review. Another problem is the fact that when you pull down the shades of that core mechanic, you’re left with essentially a cooperative roll-and-move game.
Fuji deserves praise for everything they include in the box, however. Besides the already mentioned four different difficulty levels, the game gives you more skill cards than you’ll use in one game, and depending on the scenario you choose and number of players, more mountain and village cards than you need, too. Also, it comes with seven different scenarios in the box to choose from, or players have the freedom to make up their own mountain and village grid as they see fit. Games that include more cards than are needed, or extra baggies for organization (which Fuji also does) deserve to be praised for that excellent design choice.
In the end, Fuji is a game that felt like it was going to be amazing, but fell short in practice. The art and components really drew me in, but the frustration of parsing the rules and then the whole not getting to move a few times a game and almost dying from it was really detrimental to the fun of it all. I would say, if cooperative games are your thing but you want to eliminate the “quarterback” title, you could give it a try. Just make sure to read the rules carefully, and try to keep the lava far behind you!
A review copy was provided by Capstone Games.
+Cooperative Game that eliminates "Quarterbacking"
+Great art and components
+Does a good job of instilling fear of the creeping lava
-Rulebook needs some clarity
-Frustrating to not get to move