Stuffed Fables is a game Christian and I have had our eye on for awhile but have never sat down to play. It is a cooperative storybook game for 2-4 players who are ages 7 and up. In the game, players work together as stuffed animals tasked with protecting their little girl from the evil Lord of Nightmares.
We played Stuffed Fables with our kids and here’s what happened…
We rented Stuffed Fables for two days from a local game store, and from the moment we brought it home our kids (ages 3 and 6) were drawn to this game because of the artwork. The stuffed animals (“stuffies”) are depicted running through a fantastical dream land on the cover. Then we opened the box and the magic continued. The game components are so fun! Our daughter loved the token-like pieces, which included clouds of stuffing and hearts and real buttons that the stuffies can receive throughout game play as they gain experience. Our son loved the figures of the stuffies and minions (enemy characters), even lining them up and making them talk. All of us enjoyed the game board which is a big storybook that depicts different scenes throughout the little girl’s house as well as places within an alternate dream land. The artwork and components drew us all in and made us feel immersed in the story Stuffed Fables is trying to tell.
Our kids started to lose interest, however, once actual gameplay began. I should preface this section by saying that Christian and I never expected our son (age 3) to be able to control a character by himself; we knew he would have to be someone’s helper. We did expect our daughter (age 6) to control her own character but also knew she had never played a board game of this depth and complexity before. Walking through the first suggested scenario and learning the rules proved much too difficult for our son who quickly lost interest. Luckily, he was able to sit still and stay near us by playing his own game with the miniatures while the rest of the us figured out the rules. This part of learning the game was difficult for our daughter too. We could tell she wasn’t absorbing the directions as we read through them, so we adapted by essentially reading the rules just for ourselves and then telling our kids in language they would understand what to do. This was tedious and, honestly, sucked a lot of fun out of the whole experience. But, we did eventually get the hang of the rules, and we played on.
Our family made it through the initial page of the story (a portion of the first scenario) with a successful outcome. Our kids were not negatively effected by some of the darker characters or suspenseful moments with minions. Our son was up and down from the table, but our daughter played the whole time. We decided to stop because our kids had both lost interest in going forward. I don’t think this is for lack of interest in the theme or the story or the characters, but just them telling us that they needed a break from sitting still and “thinking hard”. We finished the first scenario successfully that evening without the kids, each one of us controlling two “stuffies”. Now that we knew the rules and we didn’t have little voices interrupting us constantly, the game became immersive and fun. We enjoyed the balance between exploring and battling – a fair amount of both. We enjoyed the idea that there were multiple paths to take based on decisions we made, and there were multiple ways to win. At the close of the scenario, we noticed that there are discussion questions to read with your children. We didn’t answer the questions ourselves, but we could appreciate that element of the game as a good one for families with children who fit the 7 and older age range.
When asked the next day if they liked the game, our kids said “yes!”. They both wanted to open it and play with the components, and our daughter expressed interest in playing another scenario. However, when we sat down to play the next scenario we quickly realized that she was only interested in her turn as opposed to the cooperative experience of playing as a team. Also, truthfully, our son was a little too distracting to allow us to be fully focused on the second scenario.
Overall, we feel Stuffed Fables is a great game that just landed in our hands at the wrong time. We felt playing this game has the potential to be a great family experience, but our kids are just too young. We would certainly be interested in picking this game back up in one or two years when our daughter, at least, would be old enough to not only appreciate the artwork and theme but also contribute to the cooperative gameplay by strategizing with us. So why not buy the game for just us until the kids are older? On this question, we disagree slightly. We both agreed that playing with just adults is good because it’s immersive, balanced, and fun. However, Christian could see himself (and adults in general) not fully enjoying the game over time because it’s too easy to win. There was not enough strategy involved to keep him interested in playing another scenario and/or buying the game. I was more willing to buy the game and see if future scenarios have more to offer in this respect. Also, I was able to look over aspects of the game that were “easy” because the theme of Stuffed Fables intrigued me so much. In the end, we are glad we rented this game and we do not regret playing it with or without kids, but there were just too many barriers to us enjoying the full game experience at this time to purchase it.