#025 Dare to Love (2018)
Designer: Chi-Fan Chen
Artist: Chen Qing-Lin, Zhan Piao, Zora Wu, Qiu Huan-Sheng
Player Count: 3-4
Time: 40-60 minutes
Dare to Love is a richly themed tactical card driven skirmish game filled with romance, heartbreak, and strong female characters! A dark day falls upon the once beautiful land of Asomrof. The Emperor has ordered the ruthless and complete execution of every member of “The Devil’s Clan”—the Emperor’s name for the entire homosexual population of Asomrof. On the eve of the execution, only a small handful of rebels dare to stand up to tyranny. They dare to fight. Dare to die. Dare to Love.
The Story Behind Dare to Love
In May of 2017, the Taiwan Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to get married. They gave the Legislature two years to amend the current laws. If this goes through, then Taiwan will be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. This has been a long difficult process for the LGBT community here, and the fight is far from over. This is a gross simplification of what’s happening on the island; however, it’s necessary to at least have a cursory understanding to fully appreciate what is happening here with Dare to Love, a board game published by the Taiwanese board game publisher Mizo.
In 2018, Dare to Love was successfully funded on Taiwan’s local crowd funding website Zeczec. Dare to Love, while only a board game, is a part of the LGBT civil rights movement here. Whether its initial intentions started that way or not, it has become a link in the chain, a foot in the parade, a voice among many in the protest.
Two pages of the Dare to Love’s rule book are dedicated to weaving a rich and tragic story involving a tyrannical and zealous Empire persecuting homosexuals to the point of genocide. The characters you role play as are not mere rebel soldiers. You have the Emperor’s half nephew fighting to save the life of his true love—a prince. A rogue knight who once fought for the empire, now fights against it to rescue the life of his only daughter. The first female general of the army fights to save the life of the princess—her lover. A former and excommunicated religious leader stoically fights for the rights of others. A magical healer whose magic was used to torture prisoners, desperately fights to save the life of her own son. A rebel soldier fights, not to save his lover, but his commanding officer. These stories are all fleshed out for you in the rule book and for good reason. Theme matters in Dare to Love. Love matters to these characters, and therefore matters to you, the players.
Dare to Love is a 1v2 or 1v3 tactical skirmish game played over 13 rounds. In 13 rounds, the rebels have to rescue the three prisoners and kill the villain; otherwise, they lose the game. Each round will consist of three phases:
Each player plays a card from their hand face-down and then simultaneously reveal it. Turn order is dictated by initiative value on the card—top left corner. Turns are taken from highest to lowest initiative.
Players carry out actions on their cards: move, attack, draw, or special action.
After all players have taken their turns, draw back up to 4 cards in hand. Advance the round tracker up to the next round.
Dare to Love is a 1vX game (one player versus many players). That means player elimination. This will be divisive among gamers. Not many gamers enjoy passively participating in a game (i.e. watching from the sidelines). An optimal strategy in most 1vX games, is for the villain to focus their attacks on (and kill) one character at a time. This isn’t a weakness of Dare to Love, but of the type of game it is. Thankfully, games usually last under an hour.
The cards. Strong hand management powers this game. It’s the fuel to the fire of each character and each decision. Unfortunately the character decks are quite small: 5 strategy cards and 3 gem cards; that’s it. This will also be divisive among gamers as they may want more variety in their actions. Each card does have multiple uses depending on how many gem cards are in hand to power your action card; however the range of actions can feel too limited for some gamers.
Characters. Having 6 rebels (heroes) to choose from is excellent for replay value and they all play fairly differently; however, certain combinations of characters aren’t as exciting or dynamic to play as others. This is subjective. In my game group, we found that a lack of support characters (as opposed to melee or ranged fighters) in a game’s chosen rebel group decreased the amount of dynamic game play and interaction between the players. With only the fighters, the game became a slug fest with cards and dice dictating blows.
Player boards. They are gorgeous to look at. If flipped over, all nine player boards form a map of Taiwan—because, why not? They are quite big and a bit sparse though. This is one of the few times in Dare to Love’s design where form was given more importance than function. Why not just print the player aid on the player boards themselves? There’s certainly room for it.
One of Dare to Love’s many strengths is also one of its weaknesses. I do not have a problem with the theme. I think it’s romantic, passionate, and beautifully fleshed out. Other gamers may not feel the same way. I completely understand. Gaming is one of the main ways I relax, and I understand if some gamers may want politics or other divisive controversial views far away from their gaming table.
Dare to Love is not indecent; it celebrates love and provides a mirror to the darker sides of our humanity—a possible future where hatred and misunderstanding leads us to government sponsored and enforced genocide. That being said; it is a very heavy theme.
While playing I was reminded of Freedom (Academy Games). In Freedom, you’re rescuing slaves during the American Civil War. It’s great game, but losing cubes doesn’t feel like losing cubes. Those were slaves being caught and most likely executed. For better or worse, that added significant tension to the game play. Dare to Love is all about theme.
The art direction and graphic design in Dare to Love is outstanding and powerful. The acrylic standees are beautifully designed. The player boards are breathtaking to look at. The character action cards all have excellent art. The dice tower is the Emperor’s palace! Even the prison cards depict a powerfully heart breaking image. The gems, which are used in tons of game now, are integral to the theme. They’re not only the source of magic in the game, but are the prisons the prisoners are trapped in. Everything is related and tied to the theme and all the actions you take make thematic sense.
Form over function? Not today. The good news is that there is a game here. There are a lot of interesting tactical and strategic decisions to be made throughout the game. Sure the character decks are small, but building up those power cards and power actions takes time and planning. Your hand is usually only 4 cards, but the super character power takes 3 gems. This means you have to cycle through the cards to get the perfect hand to trigger your big special attack. Each character is designed to play a certain way—some are supporting characters, some defensive, some are strictly attack. Before each game, rebel players are also randomly assigned one talent card—a powerful ability that can be triggered on anyone’s turn and only once during the game. With 6 rebel characters and 3 villains to choose from (and talent cards on top of that), there should be a solid amount of replay value and combinations of both villains and rebels to explore.
Dare to Love has STRONG female characterSSS!
While Dare to Love thematically pushes a lot of boundaries, mechanically it doesn’t. That’s a good thing. The theme is really strong in this game and having a strong solid mechanical foundation to hold everything together was a smart design choice. You read the Game Flow section of this review, right? The mechanics for Dare to Love are incredibly approachable and very intuitive. You play a card and do what it says. You only play 13 cards in the game though, so the game play gets tight near the end. Rescuing the 3 prisoners isn’t only a win condition, but each rescued prisoner unlocks a rebel’s special ability. These range from static to one time uses. The villain (Oligarch) starts off ridiculously powerful; however, as the rebels free their loved ones, they slowly get stronger and stronger throughout the course of a game. This push and pull is present in many games and feels balanced here. We won and lost roughly the same amount of games. Player elimination can be divisive among gamers, but it really adds tension and strongly plays into the theme behind Dare to Love. These rebels are risking everything to save their loved ones—failure is not an option. Victory or death!
Mizo has quickly become one of the more interesting board game publishers in Asia. They really push and explore the limits of theme in their games. Raid on Taihoku (2017) is a cooperative game where a Taiwanese family desperately tries to survive the constant bombing raids during WWII. In Run Animals, Run (2017), players role-play animals trying to survive the destructive deforestation by the advancing humans. It even comes with an animal graveyard for your tokens. Mizo (formerly known as Teenage Riot) has only published 6 games to date, but gamers and publishers alike should take note and really begin exploring the limits of theme in board games.
Gamer: Cardboard East STRONGLY recommends Dare to Love for gamers who look for richly themed and romantic games. Gamers who enjoy dice and card driven tactical skirmish games should take note as well. The theme is really fleshed out, and can be felt in many aspects of the design. It’s incredibly moving and adds a strong emotional base to the already solid game play.
Family: Cardboard East recommends Dare to Love for family game nights due to its easy rule set, gorgeous art design, and team play. There are some adult themes in this game, so parents should be made aware that the publisher recommends this game for ages 15 and up.
Party: Cardboard East does not recommend Dare to Love for the party environment; however it is simple enough for gamers to enjoy with a glass of their favorite booze.