Obsession – Pride, Intrigue and Solo Gaming Goodness

Obsession first hit Kickstarter in 2019 and I was not interested. Victorian England, Pride and Prejudice, these are all things that don’t interest me in terms of board game theming. What I do like are games that pull off theme well, games that lend themselves to help me make a story in my head about my turn and Obsession does just that. I became aware of Obsession through my various solo media outlets, it has been the talk of the town recently. It seems to be picking up steam now that more people have played it. I’ll save you time right now and say I LOVE THIS GAME. A game hasn’t demanded my attention like this in quite some time – I’m enamored.

In Obsession, A bit of luck has come your way and things starting to look up for you and your family. You will be building up your family prestige, gaining valuable investing advice at the tennis court, hiring servants, building up your estate and courting eligible bachelors, or bachelorettes. The game will take place over 4 seasons, during each season the chosen family will host events and rub shoulders with the rich and well connected. Marking the end of each season is a courtship phase, where you will compete for the attention of two very wealthy prospects while learning about their interests.

Gameplay

Obsession is a…let me try to categorize it…worker placement/worker management tableau building engine builder…? Close enough, the core game features 5 different types of workers: butler, housekeeper, valet, lady’s maid and footman, each represented with a different meeple color/shape. Each worker is used for a different type of guest and some workers can be substituted in for others, either with an innate ability, or a specific tile ability. Each turn the player will choose a tile in their tableau (start with 5) to use as an event, for different benefits. These tiles represent different events ranging from a south lawn for some archery to a green room get together for a philanthropy meeting.

Each event tile will have a gentry requirement. This requires you to play the required cards from your hand with a specific person on them, either your starting family members, or their new acquaintances. Many of these new acquaintances require different workers, perhaps a valet to drive them around, or a footman to carry some heavy sporting equipment. Once the activity has been enjoyed by all, you receive the benefits on both the tile and the cards played. This could be prestige, money from possible investing opportunities, or even added cards representing new acquaintances met at your event.

Most everything uses workers, making it difficult to plan ahead. Each time a worker is played, it goes in the expended services section of the player board, only to shift to the servant’s quarters at the start of the next turn, making them unavailable. You are able to hire more servants using a specific tile, but as you gain more prestige, your acquaintances become more…needy, some requiring more than one servant!

At the end of each season there is a courtship phase, no workers are shifted and no events are played. Charles and Elizabeth Fairchild represent a huge win for you and your family if you are able to successfully court them. Sometime during each season (depending on the variant being played,) you will flip a theme card representing a specific tile category in your tableau. The player with the most victory points on their tiles in that category get to spend time with a Fairchild of their choice and get to add them to their hand for the next season, along with drawing a VP card.

I was also able to play every expansion, the small box expansions Useful Box and Wessex introduce things like new tiles, gentry cards and an extra family. The big box expansion- Upstairs, Downstairs features updated gameplay from the 1st edition core box, more tiles and gentry cards, another new family to play and new workers! These workers are optional and do different things depending on where they are placed. Things such as lowering the cost of a building, earning extra money and lowering the cost of prestige for specific gentry cards.

Components and Art

Obsession was a treat to unbox https://youtu.be/dV3-2ROvK5M there are high quality boxes for all 6 families, two extra large boxes for the various components and a beautiful purple draw bag for the tiles. As mentioned before the workers all have unique shapes and the cardboard money looks like real money. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the production.

The box art is beautiful on the core and the upstairs/downstairs expansion. The gentry cards feature real portraits of people, most tiles do not feature art, a few monuments have images of real objects, but the graphic design is clean . Symbols are easy to read and cards/tiles have all the information you need neatly laid out. The rulebook was easy to follow and I know where to look when looking up something.

Solo Gaming Goodness

Obsession features a simple AI and many variable difficulties. At the end of your turn, you will roll a D20, this dictates which tile in the general display of events to purchase will be cycled, if any. There is a table for each courtship event on the AI’s card showing how many points they have for each theme. The theme card is not revealed until the actual courtship phase for solo play, so you know what you will have to beat, but it’s hard to always beat the 5 themes all the time. I typically choose 3-4 to focus on of the 5. I lost track of how many different AI opponent cards I have after opening all my expansions, but it has to be upwards of 15. There is a whole other solo game mode I haven’t even gotten to. The designer Dan knows how to make the solo players happy and I think that is why he’s been getting so much love from us lately.

Obsession is gaining traction as more people actually play it. I wasn’t into the theme, so I didn’t pay it much attention at first, other solo gamer’s excitement for it piqued my interest enough for me to want to grab a copy. Obsession has mechanics we’ve seen before, but introduces them in new and interesting ways, with theme wrapped around every nook and cranny, helping everything to make sense. There is theme in the rulebook explaining every rule, theme on every gentry card telling you a little bit about the people mingling at your estate events and theme bringing everything together in a cohesive package. Worker management was what stood out to me, having tiles and gentry cards requiring specific workers, while workers requiring a turn to recoup really made for interesting decisions. The event tiles help you feel like you are building up your estate and make for some great tableau and engine building. The expansions all add more of what I love: tiles, gentry cards and new mechanics that do not overwhelm, but add interesting decisions.

Resources

Publisher Website https://www.kayentapublishing.com/

Unboxing

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