Persona 5: The Board Game
Brother Ming Games
Players: 1-2 Players
Play Time: 30-45 Minutes
Persona 5 is one of my all time favorite games. The JRPG has stolen my heart (heh) in a way that no other game in the genre has since Final Fantasy X. Brother Ming Games, popular for creating fan games from franchises such as Fire Emblem, Code Geass, and Darling in the Franxx, clearly shares the same love for Persona, and has made the stylish game his latest fan project. The card game, a solitaire time-management game, manages to capture the thrills of stealing hearts in about 30 minutes play sessions.
In Persona 5, players will play as their favorite phantom thief and choose to steal the heart of an iconic villain from the game. Like the video game, time-management is key, and every turn counts as one in-game day. If the player hasn’t infiltrated the villain’s dungeon and stolen his heart within four weeks, the player loses the game. Each day consists of visiting locations, gathering resources, building relationships with the many confidants.
The game has a fine balance of difficulty and isn’t too easy or difficult. At the end of the day, gathering resources is key. Shadows lurk in the dungeon and require a certain set of resources to defeat. Gathering these resources is entertaining, and can be done so through visiting locations or completing skill checks. Skill checks are done through rolling dice. Each character has different skills for both combat and checks, which leads to a variety of playstyles and ways to approach dungeons. There are many different types of enemies to encounter in the dungeons, ensuring that no play is the same. The need to understand your characters strengths adds a welcome amount of strategy to the game.
The strengths of your character are especially important in dungeons, which test how much preparation the player has spent gathering resources. In general, it’s easy to plan against enemies that are face up to a player, but eventually, cards start getting pulled from the deck, which can throw a curveball into plans. Fortunately, the game doesn’t feel unfair and rewards players for going out of their way to compensate for their weakness. Players can gather confidant cards, and some grant new ways to approach enemies that their character didn’t have access before. Just how many weaknesses should be covered is up to how much time the player wants to spend.
While planning for a dungeon is beneficial, I found myself always wondering if I was being too cautious. As days pass on the calendar, a sense of urgency starts to set in. especially if the player hasn’t gone too far into the dungeon yet. The feeling of spending time efficiently is always there as players wonder if they have enough to defeat future enemies. Like other games of solitaire, luck plays a big role, but it never feels like it defines the game. Sometimes you draw an unfavorable enemy, but careful planning will allow players to adapt to the adversity, even if it takes a few extra turns to do so. I’ve had a couple of rounds where my skill checks were in my favor, but due to bad luck, the dice never rolled my way. Of course, this is a part of any tabletop game, and fortunately, instances like these aren’t debilitating.
I will admit that this isn’t the deepest game, and isn’t ideal for those who want a heavy gaming experience. The game’s biggest strength is its theme, and for fans of the source material, this will be enough. The cards all have wonderful art that maintains the aesthetic that the video game is known for. Brother Ming has found creative ways to make the various video game mechanics work as a card game, which makes everything feel fresh, yet familiar. References to characters, demons, and locations took me back to thoughts of my first time playing, making feel nostalgic. Every time I play, I catch myself humming the game’s iconic themes. I could even hear the sound effects that correspond with various skills and abilities. The connection to the source material is that strong.
The lack of depth in the Persona card game makes it hard to recommend to those who aren’t fans of the franchise. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with Persona 5, but it isn’t the strongest game when you take away the theme. I’m sure it is still enjoyable to an extent, but there are probably better solitaire games to non-persona fans. Other games have more exciting dice rolling or resource management mechanics, making this game rely on its theme much more. Still, the game’s play is certainly above average even without the theme.
The Persona 5 card game also allows two players to work together cooperatively. A few modifications are made, with the primary one being more enemies to defeat in order to win. The cooperative game is in some ways more difficult than the solitaire version, as it requires some coordination between the players. A constant understanding of your teammate’s goals as far as securing confidants and skills is necessary in order to avoid wasting time. I enjoyed playing this even more with a friend. Sharing a sense of urgency as well as the dread of imminent defeat is exciting and leads to some excellent moments. Despite the increased difficulty, Persona 5 actually shines as a cooperative game, and it feels like this is the best way to experience the game.
Persona 5 is a fun tabletop experience that can be remarkable when played by fans. Its creative use of the various mechanics are impressive, and planning trips to dungeons are enjoyable. The variety in playable characters, confidants, and enemies add to the versatility and replayability. Those who are unfamiliar with the video game won’t get as much mileage, but this is still a fine tabletop game. When I think of the best fan-made games, Persona 5 will likely come to mind for some time.
Persona 5 is available at Brother Ming Games’ Website.
Persona 5 is a fun tabletop experience that can be remarkable when played by fans. Its creative use of the various mechanics are impressive, and planning trips to dungeons are enjoyable. This is an easy recommendation to Persona 5 fans, but even those who aren't familiar with the video game may still find some enjoyment here.