A while back I bemoaned the lack of good Indiana Jones boardgames. While we're still waiting, however, Alderac Entertainment Group has released the best Indy game so far...it just so happens to not to have Indy in it at all.
The Adventurers is AEG's entry into the burgeoning quick-play adventure game market, and man, it is a doozy. The game depicts a group of explorers who have wandered into the death-trap laden Temple of Chac. Their goal? To survive, and escape...oh yeah, and to nab as much loot on the way as possible in the form of rare and precious artifacts. And since death awaits around every corner, it's definitely every man (and woman) for themselves.
What sort of death-traps await, you might ask? First up, the first room you find yourselves in has treasure, and glyph clues...but tarry too long, and the walls will make sandwiches out of you as they inexorably close in. Then there's a room that crosses molten lava, but watch out--some tiles are trapped and will send you plummeting to a fiery death (that's where the wall-room clues come in handy.) Then there's a raging river that has riches in its depths, but get too greedy and you'll be swept over the edge of the waterfall, clutching your precious goodies on the way to your doom. There's a rickety old bridge that can save you precious time, but the boards are weak and might crack and fall from under you.
"Save time?" I hear you ask? Oh yes, there's one more trap, you see...upon entering the temple, the adventurers sprung a mechanism that sends a boulder careening down the hallways. Get in its path, and you'll be flattened in no time. But allow it to roll to the end, and seal the exit...and a much slower, more painfully drawn out death awaits you as you are trapped forever. And no, gold statues don't offer much in the way of nutrional value.
Of those adventurers who can make it out alive, the one who makes it out with the most loot is declared the winner; so it's not enough just to race through headlong screaming in abject terror, you've got to make sure to grab enough treasure to be declared the winner.
The bits in this game are simply awesome. Lavishly produced, this is the first game in awhile that I've seen at the $50 price point that felt like it packed the same amount of bang for your buck as a lot of $50 titles used to. You get a large four-fold game board, 12 unpainted but nicely detailed Adventurers plastic miniatures, two plastic walls that line the entry room (and will eventually squish anyone still caught between them), a big plastic boulder, a small six-piece plastic bridge, a bunch of high-quality cardboard tiles, and a whackload of cards. The cards are both larger standard cards for the Adventurers character cards and the smaller "mini-size" cards for the treasure decks and wall-room cards.
It should be noted that AEG does offer a pre-painted set of Adventurers miniatures for $30 + shipping. I have not seen these in person, but the images I've seen of them make them look incredible. I think that these painted figures would add a great deal to the game in terms of its already impressive appearance. The rulebook even (somewhat cruelly) features gameplay images featuring the pre-painted minis. I do sort of wish that they had found a way to include these painted figures in the standard box--even if it meant hiking the price some and leaving out the grayscale minis--but I can understand their goal of getting a family-friendly adventure game in at the sub-$50 price point.
I gotta admit, AEG has a real winner on their hands here. The gameplay is fun, and fast--games easily fit inside 45 minutes with 3-4, maybe an hour with 5 or 6. There's plenty of things to do--search the walls for treasure, hunt for glyph clues, dance across the lava tiles, try to pick the locks on treasure in the alcoves (including a large 6-point treasure that's much tougher to open), plunge into a raging river, and cut across the rickety bridge, all the while avoiding death via crushing walls, trapped glyphs that will send you to a hot lava bath, the steamrolling boulder, the waterfall eager to send you over the edge, and the bridge that could collapse at any moment.
The rules are nice and streamlined, with the only thing that might be a touch tricky is the Load Level system. It's not complex, but for more casual gamers it might take a second to get the concept across to them. Basically, the amount of treasure you carry gives you a "Load Level". From 0-3 treasure cards gives you a load level of 2; from 4-6 gives you a load level of 3; and so on. At the start of every turn, five dice are rolled to give everyone their number of actions for the turn. You get actions for every die that has your current load level or higher. So in the previous example, if you rolled 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, then a player with a Load Level of 2 would get five actions, a player with a Load Level of 3 would get 3 actions, and someone who happened to have a Load Level of 4 would get a measly two actions. There is only one dice roll for all adventurers each turn, so those who are hoarding a lot of treasure are going to find themselves slowed down against their lighter travelling adversaries.
Other than that, though--and perhaps the concept of "actions" and what you can do with them--you will have no problem playing this with family and friends of almost any age. And with the quick playing-time, gorgeous production, and great theme, it's going to appeal to a wide variety of people.
The only bad thing really I can think about this game is that it's possible it won't stand up to a ton of heavy replay. The perils of the temple are not modular, so you're racing through the board in the same order. Because of this, as you play it more and more you'll probably devise a "master strategy" to make your way through, and that can rob the game of a bit of fun if you try and take it to that level. Still, because it plays quickly and will be appealing to a lot of folks, I can easily see this getting a dozen or more replays easily (I'm already at four plays, and the novelty and excitement is still fresh.)
Really, there's little reason not to own this game. It has great production values, an appealing theme, and packs in a nice amount of adventure in a short playing time. Sure, if the board had been modular you might get to see gameplay mixed up a little bit more from session to session, but that's honestly a very small complaint. Also, it would be nice to have a touch more player interaction--shoving a player into the path of the oncoming boulder would be a lot of fun, but sadly there's none of that here.
Still, this is a game that truly belongs in just about any F:ATtie's collection. You'll be cheering as you blindly leap from lava tile to lava tile avoiding death each time, you'll remember the time you had to pitch every treasure you owned just to keep from falling to a watery grave, and you'll definitely roar with excitement as you race down that final corridor with the boulder nipping at your heels.
The Adventurers is fantastic and a worthy addition to your shelf o' games.
- Awesome bits
- Sub-$50 price point
- Quick playing time
- Excellent theme
- Exciting gameplay
- Lots of ways to meet your doom
- Replayability might suffer with a ton of plays
- When you see those pre-painted minis, you're gonna want 'em
4.5 out of 5.0
Ken is a member of the Fortress: Ameritrash staff.