Despite my love of the genre, one of the issues I have with campaign games, especially narrative-driven ones, is that once you’ve played through the story, any draw to play again is reduced as I already know the major beats and plot twists. So this genre of games was made for expansions to tell more stories, meet new and interesting creatures—and in the case of Stuffed Fables: Oh, Brother!—have a stuffed unicorn smash them with a meat tenderizer.
How does Oh, Brother! measure up to its big sister?
For the sake of brevity, I’ll point to Andrew Smith’s review of the base game which will provide a basic overview of gameplay.
Stuffed Fables: Oh, Brother! expansion introduces two new heroes, another set of enemies, some minor minions, and some bosses. The backstory is that the girl in the core game now has a little brother who has some of her old stuffies, along with Pokey the unicorn and an action figure named Manny. Manny is stylistically modeled after He-Man with Conan-esque dialog (he says “by Crum!” frequently) and acts like the prototypical noble warrior.
The story begins with the little brother being given his father’s old action figure, which he treats much like his stuffed unicorn. These are the new heroes that you can play in addition to many of the original characters. The game recommends that Theodora, Flops, and Stitch not be used: thematically they are absent from the story because they were favorites of the little girl so she didn’t pass them on to her brother.
There are five stories all following a similar setup of narrative text that sets up the story and one of Stitch’s Fables, followed by pages of dungeon crawling, and concluding with either a good or bad ending, along with some talking points.
Game Experience with Expansion:
Some expansions need to introduce something new and they feel like a letdown for not upping the ante. But sometimes just getting more of the same thing is good enough— and in the case of Stuffed Fables: Oh, Brother!—the expansion feels like a natural continuation of the base game. Yes, there’s a new child to protect and there are some new heroes, but the expansion plays like the base game, offering maps to move around on and enemies to defeat. Sometimes the maps introduce something different or become a small mini-game, much like the base game, but nothing drastically alters the game, in contrast to expansions in Everdell, Eldritch Horror, or many other games that may or may not start with the letter E.
The story really focused around Manny and Pokey with plenty of commentary from the other stuffies (most of whom won’t be there if you’re playing at lower player counts, which may annoy some people). This absence will be most glaring if none one chooses to play as either of these new heroes.
Like the original game, the story plays out on two levels. There’s the basic adventure but there’s also the overarching thematic tie-in to Stich’s Fables and the talking points that are teaching moments for becoming a better person. And, for me, this game hit me in the feels when it connects life lessons to each scenario’s narrative.
The expansion comes with two new enemy types: Hugglers, who have the familiar shaped bases to designate each enemy, and Bed Bugs, which all have small round bases. Bed Bugs are often placed one per Stuffy playing and only require a roll of 4 or better to hit, making them more of a nuisance than some of the other enemies in the game. There are also three boss miniatures but, channeling my inner Rodney Smith (*puts on a checkered flannel*), I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.
The new heroes have special abilities that are powered up with hearts, much like the original characters. Manny, being plastic instead of being a stuffy, can’t become soggy and his health is tracked in plastic instead of stuffing. Throughout the adventures, he also finds his old accessories (Manny-specific gear befitting an unlicensed prince of Eternia).
As of my writing this, I haven’t finished the five stories but I feel just as strongly about the expansion as I do the base game—I love it and it’s my favorite of Jerry Hawthorne’s dungeon crawling games that I’ve played.
My son and I loved playing Stuffed Fables together, so purchasing the expansion was automatic for us. I’d put Stuffed Fables easily into my top-five gaming experiences with my son, as it combines two of our favorite activities together—reading stories and playing games. The game still finds itself in a weird place where it’s too complex for the target audience (6-9 years old) to play without needing assistance and not as relatable by the time the kids can fully grasp the whole system. But it works great as a parent-curated game. We played through the base game when my son was 6 and even repeated several scenarios a second or third time. We’re fortunate that we play a good number of different games but, despite still being a stuffy stan, he hasn’t been as drawn to the expansion as he was to the base game. He has expressed interest in finishing Oh, Brother!, but says he wants to get back to it later, as we’re also part way through Mice and Mystics, Roll Player Adventures, and Adventure Tactics. It’s never too early to get kids into not finishing campaign games, just like their parents!
Oh, Brother! won’t change anyone’s mind on the core mechanics of Stuffed Fables. If you enjoyed the base game and want to experience more adventures in this world, pick up Oh, Brother! to spend more time in this charming world.
• Game sits in a weird place of being too complex for the target audience.
• Characters who aren’t being played may be central in the story portions.