True Frenemies Review

True Frenemies is a game by Derek and Lucy White, published by Mount 21 Productions. It is for 3-8 players. In this game, players will be trying to reach the Tree of Life along with their Secret Friend. Of course, they will have no idea who their Secret Friend is until they both reach the end of the path. Along the way, they will learn what it takes to become a believer. In the end, the player that can reach the Tree of Life first with their Secret Friend, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the board is placed in the middle of the play area. Each of the four different decks of cards are shuffled and placed in separate stacks next to the board, based on their type. This includes the Bible Says, Say a Little Prayer, Face the Music and SinTakes cards. The Submission tokens are separated into 5 different stacks according to their type; Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess and Baptize. Each player will then draw 3 cards from the Face the Music deck, without looking at them. These cards are then placed face down in front of the player. A number of gem pieces equal to the number of players is placed in the middle of the board. A Secret Friend token for each matching gem piece is placed face down in the middle of the board and mixed up together. Each player will then pick one of the face down tokens. Without showing it to any other players, each player will then look at their token to see what color is their Secret Friend. Players will then place their Secret Friend token face down in front of them. Players will now choose a gem piece that is different from the color of their Secret Friend token. If a player is forced to choose a gem piece that matches their Secret Friend token, then the previous steps of picking Secret Friend tokens and gem pieces is redone with all players. This is repeated until each player is able to obtain a gem piece that is different from their Secret Friend token. Each player will then take a This is Me token that matches their gem piece and places it face up in front of themself, to represent their colored gem. Each player will then take turns rolling the dice. The player with the lowest roll becomes the first player and play now begins.

On a player’s turn, they will roll both of the dice. They will then choose from 3 options; they can move their player piece forward, they can move another player’s piece forward or they can move another player’s piece backwards. The first option is for the player to move their own piece forward. To do this, the player simply moves their piece forward the amount of their roll and then follows the rules for the space that they land on. The next option is to move another player’s piece forward. The same rules apply here. The player simply chooses an opponent’s piece and moves it forward the amount of their roll. That player will then follow the rules for the space they landed on. The last options is to move another player’s piece backwards. To do this, the player chooses an opponent’s piece and moves it backward the amount of their roll. In this case, the player does not do what the space they landed on tells them to do. The player that rolled the dice must then choose one of the Face the Music cards in front of them and do what it says. If the player has no Face the Music cards in front of themself, then they may not move another player’s piece backwards. They are also not allowed to move another player backwards if they have a Baptize token, more on this in a bit. It should also be noted that a player may not move their opponent’s piece if they are still in the Your Story village. One more thing of note, if a player does not wish for their piece to be moved, either forward or backward, they may block the other player by discarding an extra Submission token. A player must retain at least one of each type of token and may only discard an extra token. Once the move has been blocked, the opponent does not get to choose another player’s piece to move instead.

As player’s move their pieces and other player’s pieces along the path, they will encounter the 5 Gates. These gates can block a player from moving forward if they don’t have the correct Submission token to move ahead. This means if the player does not have the required token, their player piece will be bounced back to the beginning of that particular stage. The player will then collect the correct token, making it possible for them to move through the gate the next time they attempt to move ahead. This can be used to bounce another player’s piece to the beginning of a stage if the player chooses to move another player’s piece forward through a gate that they don’t have the required Submission token for. It should be noted however that a player may not bounce another player off a gate if they have a Baptize token. Each gate is at the end of a stage. Those stages are the Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess and Baptize stages. The gate at the end of the Hear stage is transparent and does not require a Submission token to move past. The second gate is at the end of the Believe stage and requires a Hear token to move past. The third gate is at the end of the Repent stage and requires a Believe token to move past. The fourth gate is at the end of the Confess stage and requires a Repent and Confess token to move past. It should be noted that if a player is bounced back to the beginning of the Confess stage, they will receive a Repent token, not a Confess token. The final gate is at the entrance to the Tree of Life and requires a Baptize token to move past.

When a player moves their piece forward or their piece is moved forward by another player, they will land on a variety of different spaces. There are 9 different types of spaces; Safety, All About Me, All About Others, Say a Little Prayer, Bible Says, Challenge You, Who is Your Friend, SinTakes and Submission spaces. A Safety space is just that. It’s a space that acts as if the player doesn’t exist. That means they can’t be moved forward or backward by other players. They also can’t have their Secret Friend guessed by other players. The Your Story village and Tree of Life are also Safety spaces.

An All About Me space allows the player to take another turn. This means that the player can choose to either move themself or their opponent, just like during their regular turn.

An All About Others space allows the player to choose another player to take a free turn. Once that player has completed their free turn, play moves to the next player.

A Say a Little Prayer space allows the player to draw a card from the Say a Little Prayer deck and follow the instructions on the card.

A Bible Says space allows the player to answer a multiple choice question about the Bible. When this happens, the player before them in turn order will draw a card from the Bible Says deck and read aloud the question along with the multiple choice answers. If the player answers correctly, they will be able to choose to either receive the next Submission token in sequence that they don’t already have or receive another Submission token that they already have. If the player answers incorrectly, then they must draw a Face the Music card from it’s deck, read it aloud and follow the instructions.

A Challenge You space allows the player to perform the same action as if they landed on a Bible Says space, except that when they answer the question correctly, they may then attempt to answer a second question. If they get it right, they may attempt to answer a third question. If they get all 3 correct, then they receive any Submission token that they want, as long as it’s one they already have or is the next token in sequence that they don’t own. They are also given an extra turn. Just like with an incorrect guess for a Bible Says space, the player must draw a Face the Music card and follow the instructions on the card if they guess wrong on any of the 3 questions.

A Who is Your Friend space allows the player to choose another player that has not already revealed their Secret Friend. The player will then attempt to guess that player’s Secret Friend. If they guess right, then that player must turn over their Secret Friend token for everyone to see. That player must then move back 20 spaces. If the player guesses incorrectly, then they must draw a Face the Music card and follow the instructions. It should be noted that if the player guessed incorrectly, then the chosen player may then flip over their Secret Friend token anyway making it impossible for them to be chosen in this way again. One other thing of note, any player at the start of their turn has the option of flipping over their Secret Friend token for everyone to see, keeping them from being chosen on later turns.

A SinTakes space forces the player to draw a SinTakes card, unless they hold a Baptism Submission token. The first time the player draws one of these cards, they will receive the benefit on the card. The player must then place the card face up in front of themself. From that point forward, any time another player lands on a SinTakes space, the player will then be forced to Pay the Price, following the penalty on any face up SinTakes cards in front of themself. It should be noted that if the player is on a Safety space and another player lands on a SinTakes space, they do not take the penalties of any SinTakes cards. It should also be noted that a player may use an extra Submission token to protect themself from the Pay the Price penalty when another player lands on one of these spaces. Once a player receives a Baptism token, then all the SinTakes cards in front of that player are placed back into the SinTakes deck. That player will no longer be forced to draw a SinTakes card when landing on this space. It should also be noted that other players do not have to Pay the Price if a player with a Baptism token lands on a SinTakes spaces.

Finally there are the Submission token spaces, of which there are 5 different ones. Those spaces are Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess and Baptize. If a player lands on one of these spaces, they simply take the token that matches it from the supply, even if they already have another of that same type. There is one simple rule though, each token must be obtained in sequence. If a player lands on a Submission space for a token that would be out of sequence for them, then nothing happens. They do not gain a token.

Once a player has completed their turn, play passes to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until a player reaches the Tree of Life. Once that happens, they must then wait for their Secret Friend to reach the Tree of Life. Once a player and their Secret Friend have both made it to the Tree of Life, then that player is the winner. It should be noted however that two or more players may reach the Tree of Life making more than 1 player the winner. In cases like this, players will perform a Bible Says standoff. Each player will take turns answering 5 Bible Says questions. The player that answers the most questions correctly is the winner. If there is still a tie, subsequent rounds will consist of 3 Bible Says questions until only 1 winner remains.

COMPONENTS
Let me start off by saying that I am very impressed with the look and feel of this game from first time publishers, Mount 21 Productions. They have made a really gorgeous game with some high quality pieces to it. Let’s begin with the most obvious piece, the game board. This thing is an absolute monster of a board. It’s HUGE! In the box, it’s like 10 inches by 10 inches. It unfolds and then those pieces unfold 2 more times each so that there are 3 unfolded parts on the top and 3 on the bottom. That makes the board around 30 inches by 20 inches. Like I said…HUGE! It makes me think of the game board for Scythe, which is also pretty huge. The artwork on the board is gorgeous. The different twists and turns on the path, the gates, the village and the Tree of Life itself are all displayed in glorious detail. I really love the detailed artwork and the feelings that I get from just looking at it. There are some really amazing details on this board, from cows and sheep roaming the fields to graveyards and volcanic lava pouring down the side of the mountain. Each little detail really pulls you into the artwork.

Next there are a variety of different tokens from Secret Friend and This is Me tokens to the 5 different Submission tokens. The Secret Friend and This is Me tokens are little round cardboard tokens with either the words Secret Friend or This is Me written on the back. On the front there is one of the 8 different colored gems pieces. As for the Submission tokens, there are from 15-25 of each of the 5 different types. These are also cardboard tokens but instead of being round like the others, these are rectangular. Each one has the name of the Submission token it stands for and some artwork behind it, like the path that corresponds with that token’s stage. These are quite nice, just like the board and are good representations of each of the different paths.

The game also comes with 2 six sided dice and 8 large plastic gem pieces. The dice are quite nice, as are the gems. The one thing that I might would have done different was to use cardboard standees of different characters instead of the gems. I felt that there was something missing without a more human touch. That’s not to say that I don’t like the gems. I like them a lot. In fact, I will give kudos for not going the route of using stupid plastic pawns. While I would have understood the choice , I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed looking at the game as much.

Finally there are all the different decks of cards, of which there are 4 types; Bible Says, Say a Little Prayer, Face the Music and SinTakes. On the back of each colorful card, there’s an odd little emoji. On The Bible Says card its a blue emoji reading a Bible with bright rays of sunshine behind him. On the Say a Little Prayer card it’s a yellow emoji with a halo on it’s head while it’s eyes are closed in prayer. The Face the Music card is a green emoji with headphones on it’s head and music notes all around it. The SinTakes card has a black emoji with a wicked look and horns on it’s head. Each card looks really nice and the deigns on the backs of the cards are quite amusing. The text on the front is a little bit small in some cases but not on all the cards. That said, the design is actually quite nice, so I’m not complaining. The card stock is a little bit thin as well, but it’s not too bad. Actually it’s better than some of the more well known games that I’ve played. Again, not a criticism just the facts.

Overall I have to say that I’m quite surprised by just how nice each of the different components is for this game. I honestly thought this was going to be cheaply made and one of those Christian games that after about 4 or 5 plays, would be falling apart. Thankfully that is not the case with this game. It’s well made and the pieces are actually very good quality. This is one that I enjoy looking at as well as manipulating the pieces of.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
Like the components, the rulebook for this game is also very good quality. Each page is lovingly represented in vibrant color. There are lots of really nice pictures througout the book, mainly of the game itself or it’s components. The rules for setting up the game are very easy to follow and don’t take but a couple of minutes to have everything ready to go. From there the book breaks down the rules briefly and explains the different spaces on the board. After reading through all the rules, this would be what you’d most likely return to to refresh your memory, if you needed it. Pretty much what you need to know to play the game is in this section. However, for the next two pages the rules get explained even further and in greater detail, under the header of the So Serious Rules. Honestly I think everything could have just been rolled together into one rules section and that would have been that. I don’t really think that there was any need for separating and even doubling up on explaining some of the rules. A simple straight forward walk through would have sufficed. Still it does get a little more detailed on certain issues that may need some more clarification. Next up in the book is an explanation of the five gates and then all the different spaces on the board, as well as a section for the submission tokens and their spaces. Once again, I think all of this could have been combined together in a very straight forward walk through, but that’s really neither here nor there. In any event, everything is explained quite well and quite thoroughly. I don’t think there’s anything here that should be difficult to understand. Finally the book closes off with how players win the game. In my opinion, I think the book does a fine job of explaining the rules. I think, while not exactly concise, it’s pretty clear and simple to understand. Overall I have to say that I like the rulebook. It gets the job done.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
Growing up and over the years, I’ve played a lot of board games. I’ve played everything from Bible Trivia and the Armor of God to Commissioned and Noah, My Poor Dad. I’ve also played lots of main stream games like Ticket to Ride and Monopoly, as well as lesser known games like Zero Hour and Monumentum. In the end, I’ve usually found that most Christian games aren’t very good and aren’t a lot of fun. A lot of the time these types of games are memory based or trivia oriented, like the first 2 games I mentioned. Needless to say, when I come across a Christian game that actually looks good, like Commissioned, I jump on the chance to play it. Such was the case with this game. I had seen the game on Kickstarter and thought that it might actually be fun, so I reached out to the designers who were more than happy to send me a copy to play with the family. Let me just say, I’m glad that I did. This is an excellent game that is a lot of fun for the whole family and it teaches as well as it entertains. My kids have grown up in a homeschool family where they’re taught about God on a daily basis. We have family devotions almost every night where we pray for our family and others that are hurting or in need of prayer. That means that my kids have heard a lot of Bible stories and know a good bit about the Bible for their ages. The thing about this game is that it gives you opportunities to learn as well as rewarding you for what you already know, which is great.

At the heart of the game, it’s a simple roll and move style game. You roll the dice and move either your own piece or one of your opponent’s pieces. You’ll then follow the rules for whatever space you or your opponent lands on. Sometimes you’ll earn tokens that will help you move through the gates on the board. Other times you might have to draw a card and answer a multiple choice question or simply move ahead a couple of extra spaces. Of course you have to be careful of the dreaded SinTakes spaces. Those will cause you to draw a SinTakes card which is helpful when you draw the first one but can really hurt you later on, kind of like real sin does in our everyday lives. I have to say that I really liked how well thought out these cards were. They could have just been cards with negatives that your drew, but like in real life, sin is sweet to begin with. It’s only afterwards that you realize the true price that you’ll pay for that sin. Wonderfully executed! One other thing I’d like to touch on are the Face the Music cards. As you draw these, sometimes hilarious actions will occur and sometimes you’ll have a meaningful question to ponder. They’re so varied that you never know exactly what you’ll get and what you might have to do. These I really love too.

About the only real negative that I have about this game might be the ending, how a player wins. I get what the designers were going for here. In the Christian faith, we want to bring everyone we can to Christ so that we can all experience Heaven together. However as a game concept, I’m afraid that it can be a bit convoluted and difficult to figure out. So you’ve arrived at the Tree of Life first, now you have to wait for your Secret Friend to get there too. But wait, now one of your opponents has made there to the Tree of Life and it just so happened that you were their Secret Friend. That makes them the winner and you lose. Huh? Ok so maybe it helps you learn how to be a good loser or it could be a lesson on how things aren’t always what they appear to be. Either way, that can be a little bit frustrating especially for the younger players. Everything else about the game I love. I just wish there was a better way to end the game and still have the same meaning behind it. In any event, this is a really good game. It’s one that the family have really enjoyed, even more so than I have and that’s saying a lot. Needless to say, it’s a family friendly game that Christians and Homeschoolers can play with their kids while teaching them about God and the ABC’s of how to be saved. This is one that I’m happy to break out any time the kids want to play it. It’s quickly turning into a go to family game for us. This is a game that I highly recommend checking out, especially if you’re tired of all those boring Christian games. I guarantee, it’s not boring.
8 out of 10

OVERALL
True Frenemies is a beautiful and fun game that teaches as well as entertains. The game doesn’t take a very long time to play. Most games sessions are only about an hour long. The components are very nice and look fantastic. The artwork is gorgeous and the pieces are great quality. I do wish the playing pieces had been character standees instead of plastic gems, but I do think they’re better than pawns. The rulebook is very well designed and also looks great. I do think that there’s a bit of duplication that was unecessary, which makes the book a bit longer than it needed to be. The game itself is very well designed and is a lot of fun. It’s family friendly and one that everyone can enjoy. The questions aren’t overly difficult and the multiple choice answers makes it possible for everyone to have a chance at answering correctly. The simplicity of just rolling and moving a playing piece makes this one that even the youngest of players can understand. The game does spark some real conversations as players draw a Face the Music card in which they might have to tell the dumbest thing that they’ve ever done or you might have to explain why you’re actually one of the mean girls. Needless to say, you’ll be laughing out loud at some of the silliness. I do like how well the Bible scriptures have been worked into the various cards, as well as explaining the path to salvation by collecting submission tokens. In my opinion, this is one of the best Christian games on the market, if not THE best. I truly love how everything works together and how much fun the game really is. This is a game that I highly recommend checking out. It’s a fantastic game that my family and I have definitely enjoyed playing. I look forward to playing it a lot more.
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this great game and how to get your own copy, please check out Mount 21 Productions at their site.

https://www.mount21.com/

 

 

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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