Friday 29 March 2024


The Game

Obsession is set in Victorian era England. You are an upstart aristocratic family. You grow your prestige, expand your estate, network with other nobles, climb the social ladder, and you do all of these by holding parties! Technically it's called holding an activity, but it's much easier to understand by calling it what it is. It's a party! You need to have the right facilities, the properly trained servants and enough prestige to invite the guests you want. You'll gain benefits from the party, and you use what you've gained to plan the next party. The game is played over a fixed number of rounds. The highest scorer wins the game. 

At the top left you have a round track. The spaces on the track indicate special rules that apply for specific rounds. On this board there are two cards - the Fairchild kids - a young gentlemen and a young lady from the famous Fairchild family. Throughout the game players will compete to befriend them. There is a reckoning every four rounds, and whoever wins the favour of the Fairchild family gets to invite one of the scions to parties. 


This is the main board, and it is primarily a market for buildings - that row of square tiles along the bottom. Building prices start at 300 Pounds (leftmost tile), and get more expensive as you move right. Whenever you buy a building, all remaining tiles are shifted left, and then a new tile is drawn and placed at the rightmost spot. 

This is the player board. At the bottom left those pawns in different colours are your servants of different types - valets, housekeepers, butlers, footmen and so on. They are needed for different purposes, e.g. some buildings will only work if a specific servant type is present. Some guests require a specific servant type to serve them. Now servants need to take breaks. Working for an aristocratic family is stressful. They can't work consecutive rounds, those lazy bums. The three boxes here are to help manage which servants are available and which are on leave. 

The tiles in five colours on the right are your buildings. Think of them as facilities, rooms and equipment at your estate. I'll just call them buildings. Everyone starts the game with the same set. Building tiles are double sided. Often the front side is worth negative points, and the back is positive. You need to use a building just once to flip it to the upgraded side. The building tile specifies the requirements for holding a party - any servants needed, how many guests, and the prestige level of your family. The benefit of holding a party is also shown, e.g. money, prestige or getting acquainted to more nobles. Some buildings cannot be used for parties. They just give you new special abilities. 

Your hand cards are characters, i.e. guests you can invite to parties. You already start the game with some characters, some of whom are your own family members. During the game you will draw more character cards. Some characters need to be served by specific servant types if they are to be invited to a party. They also require your family to be of a certain prestige level. When then attend your party, they give you some benefit. 

On your turn you do just two things. You hold a party, and you buy a building. Both are optional, but you will want to do both as often as possible. When you invite a guest to a party, you play the character card on the table, and it becomes temporarily unavailable. Imagine being hungover. You need to forgo holding any party for one turn to take back all your played character cards. The whole game is about organising party after party. You buy buildings to hold more happening parties. You increase your prestige so that you can invite even more famous celebrities. You make sure you employ enough servants and get to know enough people to keep throwing fantastic parties. 

When the game ends, you score points for various aspects, including your character cards, your family's prestige level, your buildings and your servants. 

These are the front and back of the same building. The front is -1 Victory Point, and the back is 4VP. That's a 5VP difference. While on the front side, you need a footman (white servant) to hold a party. You need 3 guests. You need to have a Prestige of at least 3 (number in bottom left corner). If you manage to hold a party, you earn 300 Pounds and flip the tile to the upgraded side. From then on you use the upgraded side to hold parties. 

This is the Fairchild boy. If you become his buddy, you can invite him to parties. That little green man at the bottom left means you need to have a valet to serve him. The three lions at the bottom right means he advances your Prestige by 3 steps when he attends your party. Prestige increases one level for every 5 steps. 

These are objective cards. If you fulfil the criteria, you score points. You start the game with some cards. You'll draw some during the game, and will also be forced to discard some. This particular objective card highlighted requires that you own three specific buildings. If you have them by game end, you get 16VP. 

This madame is a big shot and it's not easy to invite her. You need a Prestige of at least 6 (top left corner). She demands two servants (bottom left corner). At game end she is worth 6VP (top right corner). If she attends your party, she gives you a victory card and increases your Prestige by 3 steps (bottom right corner). 

Some "friends" you make are not exactly good persons. This lady here is worth -2VP. You will want to try to use an unfriend ability to get rid of her before the game ends. If you invite her to a party, she reduces your Prestige. However parties do require a specific number of guests, and sometimes they require guests of specific genders. So when you are desperate, you might have to invite her anyway, even though nobody likes her. Sacrifices to make for the greater good. 

The Play

Obsession is a pretty typical point-scoring Eurogame. The core thing you are doing is holding parties. You plan and manage your resources to be able to keep holding better and better parties. It's a bit like project management. You have to make sure all pieces fall into place and you are not missing any crucial component. Just one small mishap, and the party may have to be cancelled, or you have to switch to a less wild party. This takes some organisational and planning skills. You have to plan when to not hold a party too, so that you can reset and put all characters back into your hand. 

Players compete for the Fairchild scions. Every season (a series of four rounds) you need to focus on a particular building type if you intend to befriend the Fairchild family. Some objectives require specific buildings too. I don't think the objectives overlap (I haven't checked), so you probably don't compete directly over objective cards. It's just that sometimes others may just happen to buy a building you want. Overall there isn't much direct player interaction. You do your own parties and you have your own hand of character cards. There are a few direct attack cards. I've used one of them. But there aren't many such cards. 

By late game you will have quite many character cards. 

The buildings in the five different colours have different characteristics. The blue ones tend to give special abilities and cannot be used for parties. The purples ones usually improve Prestige. The green ones give you money. 

The Thoughts

Obsession is a BGG Top 100 game. I've heard positive comments, and I was looking forward to try it. Now that I have played it, I find it decent but not remarkable. It's a game about planning and coordination. For every party you plan, you have to make sure all the elements are ready. You have to keep outdoing yourself, increasing your Prestige, inviting more famous nobles and using more fanciful venues. There are many things which score you points, but not really many different strategies. Everyone's central strategy is holding parties. There aren't significantly different strategies to pursue. It is in the small tactics that you try to outdo your opponents. So it's an efficiency game. Do the little things well, and in the long run you win the race. That feeling of climbing the social ladder is nice. It gives you a sense of progress. I would say the theme is executed well. This is literally a party game. Ba-dum-tss! 

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