Last week I had the pleasure of coming home from a long day at work to find a priority mail package from the US lying on my bed. Excitedly I tore open the box, tossed aside the covering letter and gazed into the box at my very first review copy… The Adventurers by AEG.
The Adventurers has been nominated three times in the Unboxed Awards, once for Best Family Game, once for Most Innovative and once for Best Artwork. and I’ll let you know if I agree with these nominations at the end.
Apparently it is impossible to talk about the theme in the Adventurers without mentioning Indiana Jones, although I personally prefer my archaeology movies with a bit more Brendan Fraser and John Hannah.
Anyway, this game is about a group of “out for themselves” archaeologists from around the world, who have all arrived at the treasure chamber in the Temple of Chac at roughly the same time. Unfortunately for them, they’ve also triggered the Temple’s self destruct mechanism, a giant boulder and huge crushing walls.
Their mission now is to grab as much loot as possible and escape before the boulder cuts off the exit. In a daring race they will dash across boiling lava, into freezing rivers or across a rickety old rope bridge, all in the name of Archaeology.
AEG has received some bad rep over a couple of their games with Rulebook issues in Thunderstone and misprinted Reference Sheets in Myth Pantheons. Also both games were criticised for their layout and graphic design when it came to distinguishing features on cards or tokens.
Owning Myth I can say that I felt the rulebook was hard to follow and I had to “fix” the tokens by adding a coloured ring around the outside of each so I could tell them apart at a distance.
So I approached the Adventurers expecting problems. In fact when it first released I had dismissed it as something I would not be interested in because from the description it sounded more like a child’s toy than a game.
I, however, was wrong…
So what’s in the box?
- 1 Game Board
- 18 Wall Cards
- 65 Treasure Cards
- 12 Adventurers each with Stat Card
- 30 Tiles
- 1 Plastic Boulder
- 2 Plastic Walls
- 1 Plastic Bridge with 5 Planks
- 1 Masking Board
- 5 Dice
- 1 Rulebook
The game comes in a very nice linen finished sturdy box and the artwork on the front is great. The cards are small (which works well for the game) and reasonably easy to tell apart, although some people might have difficulty with the Wall Room cards.
The board is a great size and does a really good job of game management with arrows to show where all the cards go during the game. The artwork too is great. The tiles are nice and thick and the plastics have a good weight to them, with lots of nice detail.
The minis, sculpted by Juan Navarro Perez are some of the nicest I’ve seen in a board game. They have an anime-ish feel to them but it works well with theme and they match perfectly with their character cards.
My fears about the rulebook were entirely unnecessary. Not only is it an excellent teaching guide full of examples after each rule, with a nice tongue-in-cheek writing style but it’s well laid out, in full colour, with loads of pics and fluff about the characters. Excellent job here!
There were some things I didn’t like, but I’m nit-picking now just to find something to be negative about. The character cards are a little warped so don’t lie flat on the table and the minis are very light weight so could have used a larger base to help them stay upright. Also the hole in the bottom of the boulder isn’t big enough to fit the minis in, I know wasn’t supposed to be but how cool would it have been to be able to drop the boulder over the mini so it looked like he’d been crushed?
Told you I was nit-picking.
Playing the Game
To play the Adventurers each player is dealt two character cards and chooses one. If the first one dies they can bring in the second one. The chosen character is placed face up on top of the second character so that it marks the numbers on the back of the second card.
These numbers mark your carrying capacity and the number of actions you will receive. At the start of the game everyone has 0 treasures so their Load Level is 2. This means that when the dice for actions are rolled they receive actions on a 2+.
As you gain treasures you become more heavily laden and receive on average fewer actions. For example with 7-9 treasures you receive actions only on a 4+.
The Oldest Player (sorry.. the “Most Experienced Player” as the rulebook very tactfully states) starts the game. They roll all 5 dice and each player checks to see how many actions they get that turn by comparing the results to their Load Level. Your Character card can then be slid upwards to mark this so you don’t forget by the time your turn comes around.
Each section of the board allows certain action types, this is nicely summed up on the back of the rulebook. You can perform most actions as often as you like up to your maximum number of actions for the turn.
Examples of actions would be:
- Move 1 Space
- Search For Treasure (Draw a Card)
Certain special actions exist only in certain rooms. For example you can “Look at a Glyph” in the Wall Room. The four Glyphs in this room correspond to four trapped spaces in the Lava Room.
Once each player has carried out their actions for the turn the starting player draws 3 Wall Cards. These move the walls in the wall room which when they meet will crush any remaining Adventurers.
He will then roll 1 die for the boulder, if the result is 3 or more the Boulder will move 1 space. Each turn the boulder picks up speed (rolls 1 additional die) until it reaches maximum speed (5 dice).
Once this is done the Dice Keeper passes the dice to his left and that player becomes the new First Player. Then the process is repeated again.
Once nice touch here is that before the dice are rolled for actions each player is allowed to discard treasures to lower their load level, something you’ll probably want to do a lot.
Play continues like this until either all the adventurers escape or until the boulder seals off the exit.
The Wall Room
In this room the walls close in to crush you. This is the first room in the game and it is easily the best place to pick up treasure. The downside is that you’ll have a hard time getting out if you pick up too much in this room. Also you can look at the Glyphs in this room to help with the Lava room.
The Boulder Corridor
This is the main corridor that runs from the top of the board to the bottom and it is the track for the boulder to follow. In this area are several alcoves with treasure. You must roll a certain combination on 5 dice to pick the lock and get the treasure. You can use additional actions to reroll any number of dice to help you score these treasures.
The Lava Room
Four of the fourteen tiles that make up the floor of this room are trapped and will kill you if you stand on them. The others each contain treasures if you spend an action to search. The front side of each tiles shows a pattern that matches the back side of each tile in the Wall Room which is how you can tell if it is trapped or not. Or, you can just trust to blind luck!
In this area you must keep moving, you may only search a square once for a treasure card and then you must move on as your next action and you can never move backwards. In addition, at the end of the river is a waterfall that will kill you. Here you roll a number of dice equal to your load level, any 1’s mean you fall to your death, unless you discard 3 treasures per 1 to reroll those dice.
This is a safer way to cross the chasm but it has no treasure unlike the river. Here you roll a die for each of the remaining planks (5 initially) for each dice that is less than your Load Level remove 1 plank. As long as planks remain you survive and may continue on. One nice touch here is that players may choose to jump up and down on the bridge (roll again) in order to break more planks and stop other adventurers from following. Of course, they could also fall themselves so it’s a risky strategy.
Winning the Game
To win you must exit the temple and be the player with the most treasure, if no one escapes then victory goes to the Mayan trap builders.
I like it. The game is fast and fun. We managed to to play a 5-player game in about 20 minutes. The action mechanic is easy to understand and yet handles the complex idea of encumbrance much better than a lot of games.
The game is effectively about risk management and to a certain extent push your luck. I would compare it to Dungeonquest, but a lot less deadly and you have more control over the luck in the game.
The giant boulder is great for adding tension to the game as well as acting as a built in timer. Plus there is something quite satisfying about squishing the other adventurers with a ginormous plastic boulder!
The game looks great too, I love the plastics and the art on the board, however, as many other reviews have said, I think the game should have come with a modular board. Replability with this game could easily be a problem. The board is always the same, the treasures have no differences between them other than their value and the adventurers are all same same barring one small special ability. If the board had been modular it would be easy to add expansions, with each new room being a separate mini game.
That said, if you don’t play it hundreds of times in a row I think there is enough fun and tension in the game for it to act as a great filler either as a family game with young teenagers or for a group of adults who are still young at heart (and lets face it, if they are still playing board games they’re probably still big kids inside.)
Each time the game has hit the table so far everyone has asked to play again as soon as the game finished, which says a lot about the games fun factor.
Despite what others have said, I don't think the Lava room tiles are a problem. Yes, if you wanted to you could sit down and memorise them, but I don’t think they would become that familiar just through casual gameplay.
The only rules issue that came up in our games was “Can you move through the boulder?” which, although seems doubtful doesn’t seem to be stated anywhere in the rulebook. However, AEG has a great policy of being present on Board Game Geek and giving official rulings, so I quickly found the answer to that one… a big fat no!
A final word about the Pre-Painted Minis and a Contest
The very nice people over at AEG sent me a set of the limited edition painted minis. These are really very nice for what AEG charge for them and the sculpts themselves, as I said before, look great brought to life in this way.
However, because I will more than likely paint up my own set of these minis, I wanted to offer up this set as a prize, a big thank you to all you guys for all the support you’ve given me over the last year that has gotten me to a point where I can finally get review copies of games.
But with Christmas coming you’re all just going have to wait until the new year to find out how to get your hands on them!
The Unboxed Awards
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Check back tomorrow for more mini reviews from the Unboxed Awards.