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  • Writer's pictureChad Christian

Tabletop Review: My Father's Work

My Father’s Work is an epic, story-rich, gothic horror-themed game by T.C. Petty III and Renegade Game Studios. It’s for 2-4 mad scientists, and when I say epic, I mean it in the true sense of the word. Granted, it’s not a legacy game that carries you through some long, winding campaign, but for a board game, it is true to the adjective. The box itself could deal some serious blunt force trauma, and the game estimates a 180-minute playtime. Inside that box are 3 playable scenarios with several possible outcomes, loads of high-quality components, and a set of gorgeous, victorian-themed miniatures for each player - all neatly organized by one of Game Trayz's tailored, innovative storage systems. Some of you may already be cringing at the description so far, but if you’re like me, then that bit alone is almost enough to sell you on the whole game.

The premise of My Father’s Work is that each player is the offspring of a different mad (or unapologetically inventive, depending on your viewpoint) scientist who left behind notes on his work, which you strive to carry on yourself. It’s played out over 3 generations with 3 rounds each - early, middle, and late years. The player with the most victory points at the end of the 3rd round of the 3rd generation wins. So I guess you could argue that it’s technically your great-grandfather’s work, but I suppose that title doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Players’ pieces include a self-representation, a spouse, some caretakers, and servants, which they move back and forth between their estate and the village to gather resources and conduct experiments, gaining them victory points, knowledge, insanity, and suspicion from the local angry mob. All the while, players are guided through their chosen scenario by a narrated story presented by either a mobile app or the online portal. That may sound like another cringey feature to some, but the app absolutely helps guide gameplay, and if you are okay with some lengthy exposition for immersion’s sake, then you’ll find it much preferable to flipping through an enormous choose-your-own-adventure style booklet. As you make your way through the game, your choices affect the related storyline, which then directs you to the correct pages in the village chronicle - a gorgeous, spiral-bound notebook that depicts the village portion of the play area. The decisions you make, individually or collectively, greatly affect the layout and available resources of the village in future rounds and generations.

Those are the main features of the game, and I won’t spend more time detailing all the nuances and additional features so we can get down to my personal impressions. The game itself has a fairly deep rulebook, but in practice, it is not difficult to learn and play. Each player only takes one action per turn, so you never really feel like you’re sitting around and waiting too much. There are several decisions you could make on your turn, though, so try to plan ahead a bit, so you’re not holding things up with your “analysis paralysis.” The theme is fantastic. I personally love the classic, gothic horror theme, and it’s presented in a more serious tone rather than “campy.” Both styles have their place, but I appreciate the effort placed into the gravity and details here. Portions of the story are audibly narrated in the app by either a masculine or feminine voice chosen at the start of your game, and the spoken parts fit the tone well. Fitting into that theme, the miniatures all represent the classic “Frankenstein” era aesthetic, and to my surprise, they all come with a wash on them to add some depth to the figures (though I do look forward to painting them myself at some point).

We must discuss the components. The game comes with a tray of commonly used components, then each scenario box holds its own little set specific to that chosen storyline. They truly went above and beyond with the tokens in this game. The gears you must collect are actual little metal gears; the bottles of chemicals you gather for your experiments are represented by little corked glass bottles, and the money you earn is actual metal coins. The wooden tokens that remain to represent things like animals and coffins are still pleasantly designed and finished. They’re not necessary to the game’s function and could have easily been done with little cardboard punchies (which there are still a few of), but I’m such a sucker for little things like this - to me, they really add that extra little element that just makes it more fun to play. As mentioned before, all these are perfectly housed in Game Trayz organizers, which not only have a place for absolutely everything but also are designed to be used during play to help keep your table tidy. If you’ve read any previous articles of mine, you know that storage is another thing I highly value.

There are several more aspects of the game and reasons why I enjoy it that I could discuss, but I hope this sums things up enough to give you a good picture of what to expect. The downsides to discuss are very few. We did have a little confusion with the rules at the start, but I chalk that up to our own misinterpretations. Additionally, the storytelling can feel like a bit much at times on your first play-through, but once you know what to expect, it’s more a feature than a bug. Weighty games like this are not for everyone, but if you love a hefty game that you can really dig into, I highly recommend it. Plus, the replay value is exceptional; it would take an insane amount of time to experience every possible outcome of each scenario. The effort and attention to detail that went into its development and presentation are unmistakable; Renegade truly set the bar for narrative and app-driven board games with this game. You can find it on their website for $125, which I believe is reasonable with all that’s provided, and the app is available on iOS, Android/Google Play, and Amazon Fire or accessed through the web portal. I give My Father’s Work the upper side of 9/10.

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