The Fool and His Money

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The Fool and His Money
Developer(s) Cliff Johnson
Platform(s) Mac OS X, Windows
Release date(s) October 25, 2012
Genre(s) puzzle game
Distribution CD-ROM, Digital distribution

The Fool and His Money is a puzzle game by Cliff Johnson. It is a self-published sequel to the 1987 game The Fool's Errand. Like its predecessor, The Fool and His Money contains many different types of logic and word which, although centered on a story with a medieval tarot deck theme, have added elements of the Prince, Egyptian gods and Pirates.[1]

Release information[edit]

Originally expected in late 2003, the game experienced dozens of postponements. On February 4, 2009, Johnson released a functioning preview of the game, containing the Prologue and five puzzles.[2]

The game was released on October 25, 2012, one day earlier than finally promised, having taken ten years to produce. It is written using Adobe Director with embedded Flash.[1]

Reception and awards[edit]

“I'm happy to award, for the first time in my reviewing career, The Fool and His Money a long-overdue but well-deserved A plus. We, God forbid, may never see another game of its genius and quality in our lifetimes.” —Greg Collins, Just Adventure Review[1]

JayIsGames rated it Best of 2012;[3] Wired stated that TFaHM is an old-fashioned game to be played with the latest technology.[4]


The Fool and His Money (TFaHM), the sequel to The Fool's Errand (TFE), starts where the original left off. The Fool is carrying the 14 treasures to return them to their rightful owners and he is robbed by Pirates. Not only are the treasures stolen, but he loses his hat and knapsack as well. In the Kingdom of the Swords, people are spending all their gold to purchase words, any words, all words. Or, Wordage as it is called. In the Kingdom of the Wands, foodstuffs are abandoned in favor of Herbs, like Gristletoe and Skunkbane, which have alarming side-effects. In the Kingdom of the Cups, folks eschew eating and prefer drinking the seven types of Elixir. Herbs affect the body; Elixir affects the mind. In the Kingdom of the Pentacles, wealthy folk book passage with the Pirates and their three ships —The Errant, The Monet, and The Paradist — and flee from the Land. In The Seventh House, the Prince, son of the Emperor and Empress, casts spells with ancient magic and intends to create “My New Land.” And the Egyptian Gods have awakened. The Fool wends his way through the Land, breaking Bewitchments with his Gift of Wisdom, and vows to save the Land from the Prince's grandiose machinations. The High Priestess, all the while, is trapped inside a Tarot card and offers the Fool unsolicited advice and distraction.[4]

As the player progresses from screen to screen solving puzzles, the story, the mystery, and the Moon's Map slowly fill in. There are four Kingdoms for the player to get through — Swords, Wands, Cups and Pentacles, which are the four kingdoms of the Tarot Card deck itself. There are 70+ puzzle screens listed on the main menu. The player starts off with access to the first of four columns. As the player makes progress, more and more screens become available. The Seventh House is something of a self-contained game within the game.[1]

Later, when you've completed not only the four Tarot realms but the four stages of the seven-room Seventh House, you'll tackle the Moon's Map. Good luck. This starts yet another game within the game, only this one is very much connected to the four kingdoms you've traveled through. Then, at long last, with every obstacle overcome, you will be treated to the ultimate fate of the Fool in the game's Finale.[1]

The main menu window, it will slowly dawn on you, serves as the home screen for the Seventh House portion of the game — by entering the seven stained-glass windows of its seven rooms. As you progress through the four stages of the house, the sky and the color scheme will change, growing progressively darker, until you reach night and the hovering blue face of your friend the moon. And this blue moon really does take awhile to come around. Cliff Johnson says the sequel is roughly three times the size of the original. But how you count puzzles depends. If you count simply puzzle "screens," counting all puzzles in it as one, then the game has about 150. Each puzzle screen, however, may contain as many as a dozen individual puzzles. By my very rough count, I'd say there is somewhere north of 300 individual puzzles in the game.[1]

The game plays out in a modest 800x600 pixel window. But don't be fooled, this little window contains a very big, very long game. It took me a month to finish.[1]

Is The Fool and His Money an adventure game? Yes and no. Technically, no. But in spirit and in story it plays like one. There's no inventory, and navigating the game consists of jumping from one self-contained 2D screen to the next. Each screen depicts a different scene from the land of the Tarot, usually with some deranged locals foisting upon you a puzzle or two.[1]


TFaHM has six times the number of puzzles as TFE. And seven times the amount of graphics.[4] There's a nice variety of different kinds of puzzles. Overall, those with the mind of a wordsmith will probably have an advantage, but all parts of your brain will be required to make any headway.[5]

Puzzles require the logical thinking of The Fool's Errand. Some could be solved with pencil and paper, but others take full advantage of computer interaction.

Types of puzzles:

  • five Tarot Card games—each invokes a different theme with different rules and curious new cards.
  • four Patchwork puzzles—unscramble the picture. They are invaded by Pirates when you least expect it BUT if you are clever, you can avoid the Pirates altogether.
  • four Venditions and four Auctions—selling letters in one and words in the other. These are straightforward logic puzzles in disguise.
  • seven Horizontal puzzles—build vertical words by sliding the horizontal rows. The author describes them as “calming and maddening at the same time.”
  • four Herb puzzles—use visual memory to build words.
  • four Stained Glass Window puzzles—trace the pattern.
  • the Seventh House has 31 puzzles—7 Delivery, 7 Hex, 7 Remainders, 7 Connectors and 3 Gateways. Each level not only offers a unique challenge, but advances the story of the Prince and his schemes.
  • Quintin—remove all the coins. The answer is simple, yet appears quite the opposite.
  • Buckbee's Bones (part of the puzzles after you solve the Moon's Map)—build 17 words from half-word fragments. It seems matter-of-fact, but then you can dead-end so easily.
  • Yapp—figure out how to make a lot of letters disappear. The answer is in plain sight, therefore totally invisible.
  • Zachariah—sliding tiles—is the classic puzzle scheme. It looks impossible, but is more easily solvable than you would think.[4]

The Moon's Map puzzles offer many more interconnections to the rest of the game and add considerable puzzle play. In solving them, you are more clearly helping the Fool remedy the woes of the Land.[4]

The puzzles in The Fool and His Money aren't only fun and challenging, they're beautifully constructed, and often interconnected with other parts of the game. Also, Johnson is a master at the casually dropped clue. You must read not only the "HELP" for each screen, but the story text that prints out on the "scroll." Sometimes, you will not solve the puzzle without catching the clues. Further enhancing the puzzle solving are a lot of clever Flash animations and Sound Forge sound effects and open-source music files. Johnson has long been a moviemaker and has a good sense of pacing and of creating dramatic mood with "action" and sound.[1]

The level of difficulty overall is similar to the original Fool's Errand with a mix of easier and harder puzzles.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Collins, Greg (October 16, 2012). "Fool Me Twice: The Fool and His Money". Just Adventure. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Fool and His Money - Demo/Teaser up!". Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Best of Casual Gameplay 2012 - Puzzle Results (indie games)". Jay Is Games. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Selinker, Mike (October 29, 2012). "Fool’s Gold: Cliff Johnson Puts His Money Where His Mouth Is". Wired. Condé Nast. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  5. ^ Tricky (November 10, 2012). "The Fool and His Money". Jay Is Games. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 

External links[edit]