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Fiasco - Board Game Box Shot


| Published: 2009


…Maybe some dude from youth group talked you into boosting a case of motor oil, but now your cousin is dead in a swamp and you killed him. Maybe you and your girlfriend figured you could scare your wife into a divorce, but things went pear-shaped and now a gang of cranked-up Mexicans with latex gloves and a pit bull are looking for you.

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Fiasco is inspired by cinematic tales of small time capers gone disastrously wrong – inspired by films like Blood Simple, Fargo, The Way of the Gun, Burn After Reading, and A Simple Plan. You’ll play ordinary people with powerful ambition and poor impulse control. There will be big dreams and flawed execution. It won’t go well for them, to put it mildly, and in the end it will probably all go south in a glorious heap of jealousy, murder, and recrimination. Lives and reputations will be lost, painful wisdom will be gained, and if you are really lucky, your guy just might end up back where he started.

Fiasco is an award-winning, GM-less game for 3-5 players, designed to be played in a few hours with six-sided dice and no preparation. During a game you will engineer and play out stupid, disastrous situations, usually at the intersection of greed, fear, and lust. It’s like making your own Coen brothers movie, in about the same amount of time it’d take to watch one.

User Reviews (9)

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141 of 148 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 2
“Fiasco According to the Guy Who Wrote It”

The Elevator Pitch
Fiasco is a game about powerful ambition and poor impulse control.

The Cab Ride to the Mexican Border Pitch
Fiasco is a roleplaying game for 3-5 players that requires no GM, no prep, and no shame. In two or three hours you play out a darkly comic disaster of Coen brothers proportions, at the foolish intersection of greed, lust, and chaos. It’s pretty fun. Your particular Fiasco will take place in a setting you choose, based on the many playsets that have been published and are freely available. Maybe it’ll occur among London’s gangster underclass, a la Guy Ritchie. Maybe it’ll take place in Dallas on the day Kennedy gets shot (and maybe one of you will shoot him). There are more than two dozen to choose from, and each offers endless replayability.

The Setup
Fiasco uses the same pile of six-sided dice as randomizers, a pacing mechanism, and outcome generators. You have black and white dice, their number dictated by the number of players. You first use them to help create the starting situation. You toss all the dice and take turns filling out the situation, guided by the numbers available on the dice and the playbook you’ve chosen. Playsets are divided into Relationships, Locations, Needs and Objects, and each is further divided into general categories (Relationship: Criminal) and details (Relationship: Criminal: Dealer and Customer). Each pair of players gets a Relationship, and each Relationship gets an Object, Need or Location pinned to it. As dice are allocated, a map of a situation poised to explode emerges. Maybe that dealer and his customer have Need: To Get Out: Of a Debt Come Due pinned to them. That’s going to drive the game in a particular direction.

Establish or Resolve?
Once the Setup is complete, you play the game. Players take turns having scenes about their characters. These are a sharply limited resource – everyone will get a total of four scenes during the entire game that they will have some authority over, two in each act. The pace of play is generally fast, and scenes are always meaningful, because you get so few. One of the core tenets of Fiasco is that you can either Establish your scene or Resolve it, but never both. If you Establish, you can frame it however you like and decide, generally, what’s going on and who is on hand to mix it up. But if you Establish, the outcome will be decided by your friends at the table and not you. Conversely, you can control the outcome and decide whether the scene is going to be positive or negative for your dude – Resolve – but if you do, those same friends are going to Establish it for you, and you aren’t going to like what they come up with. It’s a double bind that leads to pitch-black comedy.

Wrapping Things Up
Halfway through the game comes the Tilt, which foreshadows a bit of instability into the action. Tilt elements appear in the second half of the game, and take the form of things like Something precious is on fire or You thought it was taken care of, but it wasn’t. And after the second act, all the choices you’ve made – or that your friends have made for you – determine your character’s individual fate. Chances are it won’t be pretty, but getting there is going to be a whole lot of fun.

Cool Stuff
There’s a boatload of extras available for Fiasco, including a whole volume of critical thought on ways to play (The Fiasco Companion). Over 50 playsets are floating around, and Bully Pulpit Games has been publishing a free Playset of the Month for two years.

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6 Beta 2.0 Tester
131 of 138 gamers found this helpful
“A fantastic roleplaying experience”

I hesitate to call Fiasco a “roleplaying game”. There’s definitely lots of roleplaying, but it’s only barely a game. It’s really more of a framework for collaborative impromptu storytelling, but that sounds pretty pretentious (and unwieldy) so never mind. Jason Morningstar covered the mechanics pretty thoroughly, so rather than rehash what he said, I’ll just add my own observations.

Infinite possibilities. The beauty of the setup phase is that it combines some randomness with player choices to create a unique experience every time you play. You can use the same playset a hundred times and tell a completely different story every time. And there are dozens of playsets available for free on the Bully Pulpit website (or you can create your own)!

Be prepared to lose. In most rpgs, the players are working together against some common foe. Obviously, backstabbing does occur sometimes and games like Paranoia rely on it, but for the most part, rpgs are cooperative. Fiasco relies on cooperation as well, but of a completely different sort. Players’ characters are usually not working together; everyone is ultimately out for themselves. But the players are all working together to create the most interesting, fun, and messed-up story that they can. You don’t go into a session of Fiasco expecting your character to come out on top. He almost certainly won’t, so it’s much more fun to fail in the most spectacular way possible.

Buckle up. Fiasco doesn’t use a GM. The players all work together to create their story and see it through to the end. The action is determined by the characters’ conflicting desires and anything can happen. That lack of structure can be nerve-wracking, but if you can get into it, it’s also exhilarating. Also, with no detailed rule system to help you determine whether you succeed or fail (or live or die), the players all have to trust each other to put the story above their own ego. It’s certainly not for all groups.

No muss, no fuss. Since there’s no backstory to write up, or stats to generate, Fiasco is a truly zero-preparation game. Just grab one of the many free playsets and go. The playsets don’t require any reading; they provide only the barest hint of a setting and situation. You’re in a remote Antarctic research station… action! You’re passengers on the Titanic, which has just hit an iceberg… take it away! It takes two to four hours to play through a session, so Fiasco is the perfect game for a busy group who just wants a fun, self-contained evening of play.

Gateway drug. Fiasco is a great game to play with non-roleplayers. There’s no massive rules manual to learn. It’s basically just a guideline for telling stories together.

In summary, Fiasco offers a fun, no-hassle roleplaying experience that’s unlike anything else out there. If your group values storytelling and roleplaying above crunchy mechanics and “winning,” then you should give it a try.

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Critic - Level 1
131 of 144 gamers found this helpful
“What a Fiasco”

Fiasco is a game that works well if you have the right group of people. If not, it can quickly devolve into a study in frustration that will seem to drag on forever.

My gaming group recently had a get-together where everyone, and I mean EVERYone, wanted to play Fiasco. In addition to myself, there was one other person who had played the game before, so I figured I had some help when it came to rules or just teaching people how to play. The others who played were mostly boardgamers with one hardcore D&D guy. I thought the boardgamers would be our weak link. But I was wrong. It was the D&D guy.

Everyone got into the spirit of the game, getting into character and acting out their parts. Coming up with dialog and just generally interacting with each other. The D&D guy, though, kept giving descriptions of what he was doing rather than acting out the part. “I’m bashing down the door and looking in the room. What do I see?” He couldn’t get out of that genre of gaming.

Later that day, after the D&D guy left, we tried it again. We tried the Salem Witch Trials scenario. And, much like you might have seen on Tabletop over at Geek & Sundry, we had a blast playing characters and interacting with each other and generally creating an environment that could turn out in no other way than a true Fiasco.

So…with the right group, this is a fantastic game and a great way to kill an hour and a half or so. But it better be the right group of people. Even one person who can’t get into the spirit of the game can turn Fiasco into a fiasco of epic proportions.

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I play red
69 of 76 gamers found this helpful
“The Story Takes Control”

Fiasco is not your typical board game, inasmuch as there is no actual board. It’s also not a typical RPG, as there is no systemized combat, mathematical character creation, or dice-rolling to resolve situations. Fiasco is, above all, a storytelling game, where you and your friends assume the roles of ignoble characters who get drawn into bad things that go way, way over their heads…but still think they can handle it, until everything inevitably falls apart. There is a very sparse system involving four six-sided dice per player (two “good” dice and two “bad” dice — the book says white and black dice, but we played with purple and red), but the vast majority of what occurs with in the game will be generated on the fly between you and your group, building characters, a story, a “tilt” (twist between the game’s two “acts”), and an aftermath, all within a couple of hours. You each play out scenes as your characters, two scenes per act, and are rewarded dice by other players if you choose to Establish a scene, or you can choose to Resolve a scene, which gives you the die you want, but lets everyone else at the table plan out your scene for you.

Fiasco’s a game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, ever since Tabletop did a Fiasco episode. It took me a long time to buy the book (yup, the entire game is one relatively thin paperback book) because I always thought that my normally mathy, strategic group group of gamers wouldn’t enjoy a game that was nigh-100% roleplaying. To my very pleased surprise, I was totally wrong. I sat down with four friends last weekend (at least one of whom had never roleplayed before), and we went for it.

The story we generated was amazing. I played a preacher, embezzling from his church, whose estranged brother had killed their parents in an insurance scheme and was now turning his eye towards my character. There was an accountant getting too close to the truth of Reverend Alton’s embezzling, a wealthy serial widow who’d accrued a fortune marrying through five husbands she met in the church, and a simpleminded bumpkin who did lawns and other handyman work around town, his goodhearted ways upending more than a few carefully laid schemes…when he wasn’t at home in his trailer surrounded by a giant colony of feral cats. It ended in laughs, tears, and uproarious fun.

There will almost certainly be a lot of hesitation and trepidation when you first start playing Fiasco. Players will be reluctant to offer ideas, or step into their characters, or play pretend with each other. Fight your way through it; it’s very worthwhile. What you’ll find after the initial ideas (seeded by rolling the mass of dice of all the players and consulting the playset while drafting the dice) is that the story takes on a life of its own, and the decisions will either become obvious, or someone at the table will generate a brilliant idea that pushes it forward. Of course the handyman would take the stones that the reverend requested from the widow’s backyard! Of course the widow would find out that she was being fleeced and demand the reverend marry her so she could get her money back, and more! Of course the accountant and the reverend’s brother would end up combining forces to benefit from his death! Players will become invested in their characters, loving and despising them at the same time. Finally, the little wagon you’ve all assembled together will go sailing over a cliff, on fire, and you’ll all look over the cliff and high five each other over how awesome it was. There are some things that we played a little wrong, though — my character got nothing but bad dice, which we assumed would mean a bad ending, but in fact stacked the ending in his favor, so that his aftermath went far better than everyone else’s. If I’d been more familiar with the system before we played, I believe it would have been a little more balanced.

Fiasco is a little intimidating. It feels like it asks a lot of its players, and for the socially anxious, it can be terrifying. But it is so rewarding to move past that and create this organic, crazy, fantastic story. When you play Fiasco, you need to put the idea of “winning” out of your mind — you “win” Fiasco by building something amazing with your friends, and I cannot recommend it enough.

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Platinum Supporter
Petroglyph Beta 1.0 Tester
146 of 168 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 3
“Why Fiasco is One of My Favorite RPGs... ”

Hello my little dudes and dudettes…

Today, we are going to discuss a little RPG known as Fiasco. It’s great to see Jason has come by and provided a review on his most excellent RPG. However, just in case you do not trust the author himself, I am here to corroborate his story… no really, you can trust me.

How to Play…

All you need to play Fiasco is the inexpensive paperback book of “rules”, some black and white 6-sided dice (any two colors will do), and some “friends”. You don’t need a GM, as the dice help narrow your options, while each player chooses the various elements that will ultimately be played out by the characters you each create on the fly. There is no preparation necessary unless you want to download one of many playbooks off the Internet or create your own. However, we’ve had plenty of fun with the playbooks included in the Fiasco book… and every game has been unique due to rolls of the dice and choices we’ve made to start the game.

Jason has described the game quite well, but I think a few points need to be driven home. This RPG is a true storytelling experience. It isn’t about leveling up, or huge battles with dragons or beastmen. It’s more about the story and the people you create it with. These are the things that keep us coming back to RPGs when we could just play video games. Fiasco is pure.

Game-play is easy: all you do is roll the dice, choose some options from your playbook, and start telling the story. On your turn, you either choose to establish or resolve your character’s scene, and your friends get to create the mayhem for you one way or another. In this way, everyone is the GM, taking the burden off of one person to be in control, and ultimately, left out.

My Conclusion…

Why do I love this game? Well, there is no GM (of which I am most of the time in other games like Warhammer FRP). It’s over in an hour… unlike most RPGs. It’s all about the story. You get together a group of friends and create a world in 60 minutes or less. It’s brilliant!

Is it for everybody? No. Some of my friends excel at creating characters and fighting battles in traditional RPGs. In Fiasco, you really don’t have a blueprint… and the battles are created in your mind. This is difficult and frustrating for some. If the rule set sounds too loose… you may want to play before you buy.

Ultimately, I love it! The initial attraction was that the RPG was like a Coen Brothers movie… which I love, but it’s much more than that. The RPG is only limited by your imagination, and I love how some of the sessions stick with me… like D&D used to when I was a kid. This game is a creative workout. It deserves a look.

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I play purple
131 of 152 gamers found this helpful
“This is your new party rpg”

Having a party?

Are you having some people over? Do you want to laugh uncontrollably for hours? Grab some index cards, sharpies, dice and pick out a playset. This is my favorite rpg to play in a party setting because there is no set up, the play is fast, and it always gets out of hand.

No set up?

Well, truthfully there is set up, but it’s as much a part of the game as anything else. When players decide their characters, relationships, pick locations, etc. they are not only forming the framework for the session, but they are having fun doing it. This isn’t a board game you have to place tokens on, the set up is like the appetizer.

Time flies!

By the time you’re half way through the game, you aren’t even aware that the time has flown. The game can be played super fast, or you can simply melt into the mood and go with it. Our sessions last anywhere from 60 minutes to 120 minutes (the later sessions being much occasion for silliness). Regardless of how long the sessions are though, the play is fast. Turns are short and the outcomes are ridiculously creative.

In Conclusion

This game is a must for anyone who has ever done some role-playing and likes to get groups together to hang out. We came from a D&D background and found this to be the perfect gateway into single-session rpgs.

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Novice Advisor
Count / Countess
Advanced Reviewer
118 of 139 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“No Board. No Pieces. No Problem.”

When I first saw Fiasco laid out on the table, I was a little skeptical, because there were no pieces, no board, just dice of two different colors. This is because Fiasco is basically a game in which you act out a short, 3 act play. Act 1: make plans, Act 2: execute plans, Act 3: aftermath.

Before you begin, you need to select a playlet. A play set determines the setting and other important elements of the play. You may choose one of the prewritten play sets, or you come up with your own. Each player rolls dice to determine their needs, what objects and which locations are important to you, and your relationships with the other players. You do this by simply rolling the dice and then matching the numbers to the corresponding numbers on the sheets that come with the game. Now, these factors are not completely random, as I had first thought. The numbers you roll simply limit the choices you have in choosing these elements of the game, but you still have a selection and a pretty wide selection at that because there are a 16 dice.

Each act is composed of scenes each of which involve two of the players. The player who sets up he scene is always the player whose turn it is (the first player). The other players who are observing the scene either award the first player a white die, which signals that the scene will end well for him/her, or a red die, which signals the scene will end poorly for him/her. So, when you see what color your die is, you need to act out the scene so that you character is either in a better or worse position depending on what color the die is. At the end of the scene, the first player then give the die he received to any of the other players.

Once you’ve gone around the table twice, you do the “tilt.” The tilt table is similar to the setup tables in that you roll the dice and choose an option from the table, except the player with the most red dice has sole control of choosing one tilt element and the player with the most white chooses another. These ail effect how act 2 plays out. Act 2 has as many scenes as it takes to go around the table twice again and the act ends.

Act 3 is determined by rolling all of your collected dice and subtracting the greater color from the lesser color. This determines if you ultimately have a positive or negative outcome and to what degree of a positive/negative outcome it is. Going around the table, you give one detail of your ending for each dice you have. For example, if you have 2 white dice and 2 red dice you will give 2 details that are bad for your character and 2 that are good, but all the while trying to end up as good as what you rolled at the beginning of the act.

If you like to see the game played, youtube “Tabletop: Fiasco with Wil Wheaton.”

Fiasco is a great game if you’re into improv or enjoy watching people improv. I will say that the game works best with creative people who can pull off a character well. It is great for storytellers because you can write your own play set, which is what I really enjoy about it because I like to make play sets that has the potential to be very comical. The game takes take a lot of energy for some reason and so probably won’t see play multiple times in one day, although it does have as much replayability as creativity in the group. Overall, if you love drama, definitely pick it up.

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I Am What I Am
Professional Grader
79 of 153 gamers found this helpful
“Great bit of fun”

Fiasco is a simple little RPG that is easy to learn and can have hilarious results. It is a good one to change things up with your normal RPG group but due to how dependent it is on people working well together, I wouldn’t try it with a new group.

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69 of 174 gamers found this helpful
“Great Game”

Love this game. So much fun to play and easy to learn.


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