Losing at Board Games: What’s in Your Rucksack?

Losing at Board Games Discusses Fantastiqa

One of my favorite movies is Up in the Air.  Ryan Bingham, the character played by George Clooney, has a motivational speech entitled “What’s in your backpack?”

On a related note I wanted to mention that I say “travel light” so frequently that the Political Mastermind will refer to the phrase as “Travel Light ™” . I have noticed that when she adds a “TM” after the phrase she is indicating that I say it far too frequently, but this only encourages me.  I’m quite happy to have phrases followed by “TM” attributed to me.


Traveling light enables me to go crashing through the underbrush like a gazelle.

So what does this have to do with Fantastiqa?

I’m not going to take the time to review the gameplay of Fantastiqa, as Ben Gerber has already written an extremely thorough review here:


In fact, I will add that it is that very review that prompted my initial interest in the game.

 Fantastiqa is asking the question: What’s in your rucksack?


Here’s the short answer: A net, a helmet, a bat, a toothbrush, a spatula, a candle, a pail, a broom, and a cat.

As you start your adventure, you are stepping out into the world with a rucksack full of items you could find around your house.  As your quest continues, you start to fill that rucksack with fantastic creatures and artifacts.  Alf Seegert, the designer of Fantastiqa, is asking an interesting question:

Adventure is calling, what are the items you will toss willy-nilly into your rucksack?

These items seem to fit into a few broad categories:

1) Preparedness

Included here would be the net, helmet, and toothbrush.  The net is logical, as I might fasten it between two trees and use it like a hammock for sleeping.  The helmet would protect my head from unexpected collisions with low-hanging branches.  The toothbrush just seems like good sense; if I meet anyone on my journey they might be immediately inclined not to join me if I have rancid breath.  In addition, if there aren’t an army of dentists in my path, the toothbrush is preventive maintenance against any cavities or other oral calamities in the event that the adventure takes awhile.

2) Clean-up

Included here is the broom and the pail.  These make a bit less sense when looked at on their own.  If I wasn’t bringing a helmet, I might toss the pail on my head to protect me from airborne wiles.  The broom implies that if I end up in the forest (where I’m likely heading) I just might do a bit of sweeping up.  Since this seems highly unlikely, I’m going to move the broom down to the next category.


3) Make-shift weapons

Included here is the bat and the broom.  A bat makes perfect sense.  If I hear a noise in the middle of the night, I would grab a bat and go inspect the house.  Since I anticipate hearing noises during my adventure, I might address them with my bat as well.  In addition, if I meet a troll on my adventure we can engage in bat-to-bat combat, a la lightsaber battle.  As I reflect on the broom, I suspect that this is for combat as well, particularly if there are low flying bats in my path.

4) Cooking

Included here are the candle and the spatula.  The hardy campers among us may know that a box of matches might be well served; a fire may make a stronger cook-center than a candle.  But I suspect that Alf Seegert knows that I’m not a hardy camper so it makes sense that I’m bringing a candle and spatula.  A key missing item seems to be a frying pan, or a flat surface on which to cook.  I suppose I could take the bat and flatten my pail, and then cook with the flattened pail – but this seems like a lot of effort.  It might be easier just to throw some granola into the rucksack.


5) Pets

This is where I’m a bit confused.  I own three cats, and so it makes sense that I would bring one of them.  I don’t know how well it would fit in my rucksack, but cats can be docile and sleepy, so the thought here might be that it would sleep soundly in the rucksack.  This is a noble idea, but if there are birds around my cat would likely burst vertically out of the rucksack in an effort to frighten them.  This would lead to a damaged rucksack, which would set my adventure back a bit.

There are two things I haven’t mentioned that are included as you start your journey.  Both fit into the broad category of pets: the dog, and the peaceful dragon.

The dog is considerably more useful than the cat, as he can sniff around and dig up gems (which I most definitely need on my journey).   Ignoring the dragon for a minute, fitting a dog and a cat into the same rucksack will take a bit of manuevering.  This is an understatement, and assumes that they are both asleep.  If they are awake, there would be a violent skirmish in the rucksack which would likely lead to a damaged rucksack.

Now let’s toss in the peaceful dragon.  No matter how peaceful the dragon is, if it is in the rucksack with a fighting dog and cat, I can’t imagine the dragon being able to stay out of it.  Perhaps this is an epic sized rucksack; even then, I think the dragon would likely panic and breath fire.  The cat would panic over the fire, and shoot vertically out of the rucksack.  The dog would be confused over the fire and damaged rucksack, and the best case scenario I can think of is that he would start digging for gems.

What’s in your rucksack?

If it the items in Fantastiqa…. I can’t imagine there would be a rucksack left.

But I have a different theory.  Fantastiqa has the player start adventuring using all of these basic household items.  The rucksack is pictured on the card in the center of the playing area.  The items “in the rucksack” are to one side.

I prefer to think that Alf is trying to get us to “travel light ™” and that to this effect that rucksack is in fact, empty.


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