Saturday, January 23, 2010
Board Game Review - The Adventurers
Sometimes I don't feel like playing a smart game. Sometimes I want to drink half a case of beer, suck on a cheap cigar and play a fun game that requires virtually no effort on my part and yet still results in a good time. That's not easy to find - most games I usually enjoy require considerable mental effort, and most games that don't require mental acuity are too shallow to be remotely interesting. It's like choosing between a brainy chick and a hot girl who just lays there. Both have something going for them - the smart girl is easily the best company, and the boring bimbo might be willing to do something questionable while you run a camera. But if you're really looking to just get loaded and shake the rafters, you need a bimbo with a lot of energy. In game terms, you want The Adventurers.
The theme of The Adventurers is great. You're a bunch of rival tomb robbers and explorers who are about to enter the Temple of Chac and steal as many artifacts as you can carry. The only thing is, the temple has more booby traps than a Viet Cong rat tunnel, so every move could be your last. Walls smash in, floors disappear to drop you into lava, a rushing river sends weak swimmers over steep underground waterfalls, and the whole time a giant boulder is rolling toward you. The adventurer who survives with the most treasure wins - but the key is surviving, and that can be downright tricky.
Each segment of the game has different mechanics simulating the traps and hazards that could end your adventurer's career. You might have to move slowly while walls close in on you so that you can buy enough time to remember where the traps are hidden over the lava pool. You may have to pick a lock while the boulder rumbles steadily closer. You may have to fight the current to grab treasure in the river, or tiptoe gingerly over the weak bridge, careful not to break the boards and fall into the chasm below.
All of these dangerous situations can be easily avoided, if you just run fast enough. The problem is, you're not there on a Boy Scout field trip. You're there to get paid. So you'll grab various artifacts and treasures as you run, but the more you have, the slower you move. Try to carry too many treasures, and you might find yourself flattened by the boulder like a Tom & Jerry cartoon.
Everything in the game happens very fast, which is nice because a game this shallow should definitely go quickly. Individual turns will take less than a minute each, and you'll be able to finish the whole game in half an hour. With all the excitement and risk-taking and impending doom, that half hour will feel like five minutes, unless you're completely sober, in which case you'll have fun, but be ready to stop when it's over.
To improve the enjoyment factor, the pieces in The Adventurers are great. There are different miniatures for each character, and you can even buy yourself a set of prepainted figures (if you feel like paying for them). The art is comical and brilliantly entertaining, and the various pieces - from the bridge and the boulder to the collapsing walls and trap tiles - are detailed and really nice.
Now, there are a few reasons why The Adventurers is not the best pick for a group of Mensa members at an annual brainy conference. For one thing, it's not particularly deep. You run, you grab treasure, you dive in the water (or not) and you try to get out alive. Dice will mostly determine your fate, though bad decisions will definitely get you dead.
Another problem is that the game is going to get really old, really fast, because it's always a run through the exact same ruined temple. You'll never see different traps, or even the same traps in a different order. Play it two or three times, and you'll know exactly when to glance at the glyph tiles, just when to pick a lock, and the best time to try for the big treasure at the end. It's going to run out of replay value after three or four games, and that's a shame, because it is a lot of fun for those first few plays.
You don't have to be drinking to really enjoy The Adventurers, but after some experimentation, I've found that alcohol definitely makes the game more enjoyable, in much the same way that beer goggles will allow you to better enjoy the enthusiastic-but-stupid barfly. I don't know that I would directly compare The Adventurers to sex, but if I did, it would be meaningless and fleeting, but really exciting while it was going on, and might leave you with some amazing stories to recall fifteen years later with your drinking buddies.
Really great components
Fast and action-packed
Exciting and easy to play
No depth, tons of luck
Intensely repetitive - not much replay value
By now, you know the drill - Dogstar Games has The Adventurers, and if you're going to buy it, I'm asking you to buy it from them.
Posted by Matt Drake at 12:24 PM