Another week without role-playing, as my pal Billy fights his way through the wilds of Pennsylvania. But Robert and Paul and I decided to play some games. I made them play The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac just so I would have something to write about this week. (I found this game a couple of weeks ago for $12 at Barnes & Noble–it’s regularly priced at $50. Yay, me!)
So, The Adventurers was originally designed by Guillaume Blossier and Frederic Henry for DUST/AEG. At some point, AEG sold the DUST line to Fantasy Flight Games, so there’s no official site for this game. (Although FFG does have another “Adventurers” game called The Pyramid of Horus.) In any case, the game we played has each player sending an adventurer into an ancient Mayan ruin looking to steal some treasure. The temple, however, is basically one big death trap. One of my players remarked that the game reminded him of a cross between Indiana Jones and Moustrap, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description.
The components are quite nice. Each character is represented by a gray, plastic miniature that really just begs to be painted. The board itself is colorful and there are a few nice fiddly bits to play with–a pair of plastic walls that try to crush your adventurer and a big boulder that chases you around the board. There are also a number of treasure cards with adequate, but not impressive, artwork.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. On each turn, one player rolls 5 six-sided dice, and each player compares the roll to the amount of treasure his/her character is carrying. This tells you how many actions you get that turn, from 0 to 5. (The more treasure you are carrying, the fewer actions you usually get.) You can then use those action points to search for treasure, pick locks to get treasure, or move around the board. The board itself is linear, with only a few choices about where to move. For example, you can go through the lava room or around it, or you can go across the bridge or swim in the river. Most of these choices are in part determined by how close the boulder is to your character. (The boulder starts out moving slowly, but eventually is moving up to 5 spaces per turn–which is usually more spaces than your character will be moving.) If the boulder gets to the end of the board before your character escapes, he is trapped in the temple forever. The winner of the game is the player whose adventurer makes it out alive with the most treasure. (I should also note that every player has two adventurers. One is a backup that can come in if the first one dies. And each adventurer has a one-time special ability–move an extra space, change a die roll, etc.)
We played two games of The Adventurers last night and had a fun time with both of them. There are some choices to be made, based largely on knowing the probabilities of rolling 5d6. But most of the game is about chance, and taking chances. In the first game, Paul’s adventurer won him the game by escaping with a single treasure while Robert and I watched our guys be crushed by the boulder. In the second game, Paul won again with a lot more treasure than the rest of us even though we all escaped. Between the random rolls for actions, the random movement of the walls, the random movement of the boulder, the random placement of “safe” tiles in the lava room, the random chance of being swept over a waterfall in the river, and the random cards of all but 5 treasures, you basically play this game to see how fate is feeling about you today. But the game is quick enough and pretty enough that all that randomness is kind of fun.
While I don’t usually like random games, that wasn’t my complaint about this game. My only real complaint is that this game feels like a beer and pretzels game with a 10 minute setup time. If this game had fewer cards, or set up in less time, it would be a great filler game. But given that there are eight different sets of cards to shuffle and place, and 18 tiles to randomize and place, before each game, the setup is just a little too much to make me drag it out before I grab Cthulhu Dice. And that’s a shame, because the game is really good at being the kind of game it wants to be–light, fun, and filled with hoping your buddies get crushed by a boulder. As my boys get older, I have a feeling this will become a more prominent game at our house though.
(On a side note, we also played some more Dominion last night. Dominion is really our go-to game when we need something to play, and we finally got through the recommended card set-ups and played our first random game. It was a new experience, but in the end it was just as satisfying. Now I just need more sets…)
Some other reviews of The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac and a link to FFG’s new version:
Little Metal Dog Show: http://littlemetaldog.com/2010/10/01/down-under-the-adventurers-review/
FFG’s version: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_minisite.asp?eidm=162