Obsession is a captivating board game that transports players to the enchanting world of courtship in 19th-century Derbyshire, England. If you are at all familiar with Bridgerton or any of the Jane Austen novels you know what we are talking about. Obsession immerses players in a tale of romance, intrigue, and societal aspirations. The game’s rule book sets the stage, describing a time of optimism and fortune for four families—Asquith, Cavendish, Ponsonby, and York—who have recently come into new sources of income. These families, possessing eligible young gentlemen and ladies, seek to improve their neglected estates and restore their tarnished reputations.
How to play Obsession
The primary objective in Obsession is to impress the esteemed Fairchild family by enhancing your estate, hosting captivating activities, and gaining favour with influential guests. Ultimately, the player with the most victory points will be the winner. While the goal may seem straightforward, the gameplay offers a wealth of strategic depth and decision-making.
To achieve victory, players play in a series of rounds, alternating between normal rounds and courtship rounds. Normal rounds follow a structured sequence of actions. Players begin by rotating servants, symbolizing the bustling activity within their estates. They then consult the round track, which may trigger special events. And they get to earn victory points from monuments if owned. Following these initial steps, players proceed to host activities, selecting from a limited pool of options available in their estate. Initially, only five activity possibilities exist, but as the game progresses, players acquire new activities, expanding their options.
Hosting activities involves inviting guests to partake in the chosen endeavour. Guests will provide the player with favours in return. These favours can be spent to unlock additional activities by improving the estate by adding rooms or amenities, or enhance reputation, thereby giving access to more distinguished guests and prestigious activities. The accumulation of favours and strategic allocation thereof plays a crucial role in securing victory.
Each hosted activity yields different rewards. For example, hosting a bowling event may grant a substantial monetary reward, while inviting a particular guest may boost reputation points. As players host activities, they carefully consider the balance between financial gain, reputation growth, and acquiring other favours. Once you host an activity for the first time you will flip it over to the side with the rose symbol. Flipping a tile is positive because it will generate more victory points during courtship rounds and endgame scoring. But a flipped tile will also yield less favours so you might want to wait for the most opportune moment to do this. It’s a delicate dance of resource management and optimizing the benefits gained from each action.
The builders market is another key aspect of gameplay. Here, players can use their hard-earned resources to purchase additional items for their estate, further enhancing their chances of impressing the Fairchild’s.
After purchasing additional rooms for your estate you will clear the board, adding new tiles to the market, putting your servants in the rest area (they will come back into service after your next turn) and putting the guests you invited into your discard pile (they will all come back once you pass a round, a costly but valuable action).
You will play normal rounds until you get to a courtship round. During this round only the courtship phase will take place, so there will be no activities or inviting guests. During a courtship phase you will want to be the family that impresses the Fairchild family the most. You impress them by having the most victory points in their current interest. Their current interest is determined by flipping a courtship card and revealing a colour matching the five colours from your estate, this is their current interest. Whoever has the most points will get to invite one of the Fairchild siblings to their estate (hand) and gets to draw a VP card (earning endgame VP’s or a favour when handed in). If it is the very last courtship of the game the winner will get to keep one of the Fairchild cards for endgame scoring (both cards are wort 8 points).
Look and feel
Visually, Obsession shines with its elegant presentation. The game captures the essence of the time period without going into excessive kitsch. The artwork and design create an immersive experience, seamlessly blending theme and mechanics. The attention to detail extends to the components, which are of exceptional quality. From the beautifully illustrated cards to the thick money tokens and meeples, everything looks great.
One notable aspect of Obsession is its meticulous organization. The game provides dedicated boxes to house the components, keeping everything neatly arranged. This attention to detail enhances the overall experience, allowing players to focus on the game itself without unnecessary clutter or confusion.
How to play Obsession solo
The solo variant of Obsession introduces an AI opponent that adds a sense of challenge and competition. Playing solo involves using two cards, a die, and a meeple. The AI’s actions are determined by dice rolls, determining which card it removes from the market. The AI can snatch coveted opportunities, such as valuable monuments, before the player has a chance to claim them.
During courtship phases, the AI’s interest points are specified on the card, requiring players to strategically focus their efforts on surpassing the AI’s score to secure the Fairchild card. The inclusion of different AI difficulty levels ensures that solo play remains engaging and offers varied experiences.
The AI is very easy to run and does not take up a lot of time. The rulebook for the game explains that the game ideally lends itself for solo play because you are always focussed on your own estate and guests and there is hardly any interaction anyway in a multiplayer game. So for this game it does not feel like playing solo detracts from the game experience at all.
What I think of the game
While Obsession’s theme may not immediately resonate with everyone, its integration into the gameplay is masterful. The theme is subtly woven into the mechanics, enriching the overall experience without overshadowing strategic gameplay. I really enjoy the text on all the guest cards that give subtle meaning to their favours and give a bit of story without taking away from the game.
In terms of gameplay flow, Obsession excels. The rules and components work harmoniously, guiding players through a logical progression of actions. The intuitive nature of the game ensures that players can quickly grasp the mechanics, even with the wealth of options and possibilities available. Despite its complexity, Obsession manages to strike a balance that makes it accessible and enjoyable for both new and experienced players. The flip side of this is that there is a fair amount of chance in this game. To ensure a smooth experience in line with the theme you will, for example, draw new guests from two draw decks (standard and prestige guests) and the guests you can draw form these decks vary wildly in how valuable they are and how high your reputation needs to be to play them. So you might be able to play guests up to reputation 3 and draw a 2 reputation guest with a great favour or you might draw a reputation 6 guest that you will not be able to play for many rounds yet.
For me personally this is a small drawback that I can accept just fine when the game plays so smoothly and fairly quick but it might annoy or turn off others. It is definitely good to keep in mind that luck does play a part in this game so proceed with caution if you do not enjoy that.
Overall, Obsession is a delightful board game that offers a rich and immersive experience. Its blend of elegance, strategy, and thematic depth creates a compelling gameplay journey. Whether playing solo or with others, Obsession consistently delivers engaging and satisfying sessions. The high-quality components, meticulous organization, and seamless integration of mechanics and theme are testaments to the game’s craftsmanship. If you seek a game that combines strategic decision-making, elegant aesthetics, and an immersive experience, Obsession deserves a place on your table.