Back in 2018, I wrote about a cute little Fire Emblem board game that had been made by a fan. Two years later, I’m now writing about that game’s successor, which is so good it’s wild that Nintendo hasn’t reached out and made it official merchandise.
Board game designer Brother Ming’s first game, Fire Emblem Heroes, was a fairly straightforward adaptation of the series’ tactical combat, taking place on a replica of Fire Emblem’s grid-based maps and pitting two armies of units against one another.
While Ming’s ultimately happy with the reception that game received, he does admit to feeling “rushed to get the games manufactured and the result was a very unpolished game.” So this sequel of sorts, Anna’s Roundtable, looks to address that self-criticism.
It’s a much deeper experience, one that walks back a bit from Heroes’ literal approach and decides to take in the whole of the series’ history in a more strategic affair.
Gone is a strictly tactical battlefield, replaced with a mix of strategic manoeuvring across a map and direct combat between small rosters of heroes. While that doesn’t sound quite as Fire Emblem, it’s the little touches around the edges, and its adherence to series trademarks, that actually makes this a surprisingly authentic experience.
Ming’s Persona 5 game took the same approach, and it’s just as effective here. While seemingly abstract at the very first glance, it doesn’t take long to notice that the heart of this game, just like the video game series, is in its rock-paper-scissors battle mechanic, its use of items and allied units.
Oh, and heroes. This being Fire Emblem the most important thing it had to get right was its heroes, and by God it does that. They’re the heart of the game here, and while in terms of game design they’re wonderful, each one different and unique and interesting, I want to take a second to talk about how they look.
Rather than use existing, official art (which would, you know, violate copyright) Brother Ming asked fans to help out, and the result is an enormous deck of cards that have brought together over 100 artists to create over 200 pieces of original fan art. The results are incredible, far more vibrant and expressive than using official art could ever have managed, and while of course this game is great to play I’ve found myself often just flicking through the huge hero deck soaking up all the illustrations.
As for the game itself, I like it! It’s essentially a mix of simple movement and ownership taking place on a central map, with encounters between units resolved via card battle. Despite the series’ long-winded narrative legacy this isn’t a campaign kind of game, it’s more a quick battler you’d play against an opponent, like Pokemon or Magic.
It’s not quite as elegant or pacey as those examples, but then this isn’t competing with them. The beauty of fan projects like this is that it isn’t competing with anything.
Nobody outside of Fire Emblem fandom is going to give a shit about this, let alone pay for it, so the matter of how much lore you know, or how familiar you are with the series’ terms and heroes, becomes irrelevant. Anna’s Roundtable isn’t trying to woo you away from Netrunner, it’s simply saying, hey, you know how there’s that really great Nintendo game, well now you can play it with 2-4 people in the flesh, over a table.
And those fans, playing both as players but also fans, will love it. For the game itself, sure, but also for the way it goes overboard on its presentation, with deluxe components and a quality of art surpassing many big commercial games, let alone other fan-driven projects.
Before we go, and to address the questions you’ll probably have at this point, no this isn’t an official Nintendo product. It’s made entirely by fans. And no, I’m not shining a light on a little fan project that didn’t want the publicity, I was sent this copy to take a look at. And yes, it’s available to purchase right here, though you can also try it out online if you’ve got Tabletop Simulator.
UPDATE October 7: Orders for the physical version are now closed, but you can also play it online here.