Game: B
From 651 reviews

Fiasco

Revised Edition

Contents

Publisher Description

Fiasco is an award-winning storytelling game inspired by cinematic tales of small-time capers gone disastrously wrong. You'll tell a story about ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. Lives and reputations will be lost, painful wisdom will be gained, and if you're really lucky, you might just end up back where you started. You probably won't be lucky.



This new edition of Fiasco incorporates everything the creators have learned about stupid disasters, poorly-timed plans, and precious things on fire into a new accessible format that is very beginner-friendly. Everything you need to get started is in the box!

 

Powerful Ambition and Poor Impulse Control [ edit ]

Fiasco is a game of cinematic heists and other criminal capers ... but not the successful kind.  As it's name suggests, Fiasco is about when those capers go wrong: think of movies like Fargo, Burn After Reading, or Snatch.

Fiasco comes from Bully Pulpit Games, and independent gaming company that makes (per their own website) "weird little games".  Whether or not you consider Fiasco "weird" is up to you, but it's certainly a different type of RPG.

Instead of a large hardbound rulebook Fiasco comes in a box with several decks of cards, resembling a board or party game more than a traditional RPG.  There are no dice or character sheets, or even a GM for that matter.  There also aren't campaigns, or even especially long sessions: a typical game takes around two hours to play.

Playsets

Fiasco is a form of generic RPG, in that it provides a core set of rules, but the details of the setting are determined separately by the "playset" deck of cards used.  The game's box comes with three playsets (Dragon Slayers, Poppleton Mall, and Tales from Suburbia), while expansion packs with more are also available, as are a wide variety of fan-made playsets.

Fiasco, Revised Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]

Character creation in Fiasco is very different from a traditional RPG.  Character creation is a communal activity, not a solo one, and instead of using a character sheet the players use cards to "build" their character ... including that character's name.

At the start of the game the players choose a playset, and then distribute four types of cards from it:  Relationship, Need, Object, and
Location.

Relationships

Creation starts by having each player take turns placing a relationship card between themselves and an adjacent player, indicating that their characters have the specified relationship.  There are a wide variety of relationships to choose from, ranging from married couples, to former friend rivals, to drug dealers and their customers.

Let's Not

If any player doesn't like a relationship card played ... or any other aspect of the story ... they can tap a special "Let's Not" card on the table to cancel the act.  As a game of collective storytelling, consent from all parties is an essential part of Fiasco.

Needs, Objects, and Locations

Once all relationships have been established, the players then go around again placing a single Need (eg. "to get laid" or "to get even"), Object (eg. a framed portrait of Reagan, concealing something), or Location (eg. West End) to go with each relationship.  For instance, the rivals might want to get even with a third party, the married couple might live in West End, and the drug dealer and his client might pass illicit drugs/cash to each other using the painting.

Names

Once the basics of the characters and their relationships to each other have been established, the players flip the remaining cards over: on the back are names, which they can use to determine the name of their new character.

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

Acts, the Tilt, and the Aftermath

Fiasco is organized into two acts, and in every act each player gets two scenes.  After the first act the Tilt occurs, and after the second the Aftermath occurs.  The Tilt shakes things up mid-game, while the Aftermath determines the end of the characters' stories.

Scenes

Each scene revolves around one character. Their player chooses whether they want to "establish" or "resolve" the scene, and the rest of the group gets the other role.

The establisher gets to "set the scene" and describe the scenario that the main character is in (along with some of the other characters).  When the scene is almost over, the resolver determines whether it resolves positively or negatively for the character.  In-between the group narrates and/or role-plays the scene.

For instance, the establisher(s) might set a scene with two drug dealers (one of them being the scene's main character) having a meeting.  The players would then act the scene out, and after a few minutes the resolver(s) would decide whether the scene would end positively or negatively.  The group would then finish the scene using that outcome.

Positive/Negative Outcomes

After each scene a player acquires an outcome card, face-down.  At the Tilt (and again at the Aftermath) all outcomes are flipped-over.  Each outcome has a color (red or blue) and number,; the player adds/subtracts the two cards, depending on if their colors match

For instance , a blue 1 and a blue 2 outcome would add together, resulting in a blue 3.  A red 1 and a blue 2 outcome would instead subtract, resulting in a blue 1.

The player with the highest blue score picks a blue outcome, while the highest red score picks a red outcome.  Each card has short effects (the "tilt") on them, such as "Failure: a stupid plan executed to perfection" or "Tragedy: Confusion followed by pain", and the group uses that as thematic influence for the remainder of the game. 

Aftermath

After the final act the outcome cards are again revealed, and players have an opportunity to give each other outcomes.  After that the numbers are added up (again, using colors) and the final number determines the character's Aftermath score, which in turn determines their final Aftermath card.

This card provides a general description of the character's outcome, which the player then uses to determine the final outcome of their character.

Combat [ edit ]

As a purely narrative-focused story-telling game, Fiasco has no explicit combat rules.  Instead, the outcome of any conflicts is determined by a player or players, when the scene is "resolved".

Should You Play Fiasco? [ edit ]

Aggregated Review Scores

SourceAverage Score# of ReviewsAs Of
Amazon4.6 / 5471/25/2022
Good Reads4.32 / 55991/25/2022
RPG Geek8.6 / 1051/25/2022

Because of it's more unique nature, Fiasco is probably not the RPG to reach for if you want to run a serious criminal campaign inspired by shows like Breaking Bad or The Sopranos.  But if you're looking for a more light-hearted game of criminal failure, which you can finish in a single night without even needing a GM, Fiasco is much more likely to be what you want.

But is it Any Good?

As you can see from the review scores, the answer is a resounding yes.  Even the notoriously critical RPG Geek gave Fiasco an extremely high 8.6 / 10 average, while Amazon and Good Reads (the latter having nearly six hundred reviews!) both gave it well above a 4 / 5 average.

Furthermore, Fiasco has proved so popular that it has spawned a large number of custom playsets, both fan-made and from Bully Pulpit Games.  In fact, there are so many such playsets (more than five hundred) that a fan of the game created an entire webpage just to keep track of them: https://fiascoplaysets.com/

Conclusion

If you're looking for a serious and/or long-term campaign, Fiasco is probably not the right crime game for you.  But if the idea of a lighter game of criminal failure sounds appealing ... especially one that can be played  in a single night, without a GM ... then you should definitely pick up a copy of Fiasco.