Top 5 Adventure Games: The Definitive List

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Top 5 Adventure Games
There Will Be Games

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“Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers


Top 5 Adventure Games


One of the main reasons to play games is to escape our drab day to day existance. To flee the boring and repatative job, or class, or chores and pick up the sword, the walking stick, the ray gun, leave this world behind and become something or someone better, braver, stronger and usually far more foolish. At least for a short while.
To aid those who wish to seek new horizons, brave the unknown and bask in the glow of victory despite the odds, I present to you the Top 5 Adventure Games:

5) Mage Knight Board Game (Wizkids)


If you wish to embody power and aren't afraid to be an outsider acting for reasons the normal peasantry can never understand, then taking on the role of the titular Mage Knight is the thing for you. Are you a hero? Are you a villain? Are you both and neither being above such trite morality? It doesn't matter. What does matter is that you have access to powers and abiltiies beyond mortal ken and you are stalking the land, slaying monsters, looting tombs, and eventually, if you are clever or strong enough, conquering and claiming the cities of the land.


Mage Knight is a very cerebral exercise in adventure. The action is driven by a hand of cards which dictate your ability to move and fight. The playing of these for maximum effect is intrigal to the game and does require concentration and brain power. It may leave you mentally exhausted but when it all comes together and you kill that dragon and take that city the feeling of accomplishment is unrivaled.

mage knight



4) Talisman (Fantasy Flight)


As you sit in your workspace cubicle or behind the counter at the customer service desk, have you ever wished for the abiltiy to make people just shut up and do what you say? Who hasn't? Well what if I told you that such an artifact exists and it's called the Crown of Command and all you need to do to acquire it is to roam the land, fight horrific monsters, suffer the whims of fate and perhaps be turned into a toad indefinitly?


If, upon hearing that, you are one who rushes forward proclaiming "Sign me up!" then Talisman is for you. A simplistic game at it's heart, Talisman has the players rolling dice and landing on spaces that provide them with challenges. Defeat the challenge using one of your two abilities; strength or craft (guile), and you are rewarded with an increase in your abilities, new equipement to aid you or maybe even a sidekick to tag a long and sing your praises. Fail the challenge and you may get killed or sent somewhere nasty or lose your abilities or gain an annoying ghost that follows you everwhere and reminds you what a loser you are at every opportunity. Once you feel you are strong enough you can attempt to claim the Crown of Command and lord it over all those kids who were mean to you on the playground.


Talisman is not the most strategically deep adventure game but boy is it fun. Those moments where everybody is holding their breath as one player is about to make a critical die roll and then they either groan or burst out laughing and cheering at the results are priceless.

Talisman


3) Merchants & Marauders (Z-man Games)


Mortagage and two car payments got you down? The cost of college tuition bringing the inevitable brain hemorage one day closer? Your girl or boyfriend left you and ran over your dog on the way down the driveway? Chuck those cares away and ship aboard for a life of freedom upon the seven seas!


Merchants & Marauders puts you on the weather deck of sailing ship during the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean. You can chose the honest life of a trader sailing from port to port acquiring riches in the legitamate way. Certainly the port agents who collect your dock fees and tarrifs will appreciate your honesty. Or maybe you've had enough of all that and think that you can take what you wish and go where you will. In which case, hoist the Jolly Rodger, chug down a 5th of rum, and become one of the vile pirates that haunt these waters. Or maybe you'd rather hunt down rumours and strange tales heard in dank seaside taverns. Who knows what you may find in that forgotten cove? Or maybe all three of these paths appeal to you. Nothing says you can't do them all.


A somewhat complex game mechanically, it can be a bit difficult to learn and any time away from the game will require a refresher course in how things like combat and ship upgrades work. However the game is immersive and compelling. There is no better game in which to yell "Avast" as much nor as loud as this one.

merchants and marauders


2) Western Legends (Kolossal Games)


Having trouble finding a parking space? That rank smelling hippee on the subway standing just too damn close to you? Time to head out West to the land of big skies and open spaces.


Another game where you are free to chose the path that appeals to you be it law man or outlaw, rancher or rustler, gambler or prospector. Upgrading your character, all seemingly based on legendary figures of the mythical west with new equipment including but not limited to six shooters, rifles, and bottles of whiskey. Riches are important but what wins the game if reknown. Let 'em all know who's the fastest gun East, West, North and South of the Pecos!


This game is smooth playing and it looks absolutely fabulous. From the board to the cards to the "story" cards, it'll make you feel as if you are actually taking part in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the local bijou. (That's an afternoon movie at the local movie theater for you youngin's)

western legends



1) Arkham Horror (Fantasy Flight)
Is everyday starting to seem the same? As you look out the grimy window in your back office at the corporate accounting firm, do you find yourself thinking that you'd give just about anything for something exciting and unexpected to come along? I assure you, the people of Arkham Massachusetts never EVER think that.


Arkham is a game where players pick one of about a million characters to play as they explore the streets of the town ecountering every weird, bizarre, and horrifying oddity imaginable. Along the way they meet a vast array of perverse and creepy denizens who either help or hinder them in their quest to close the gates that will allow intradimensional creatures to invade and devour our reality. And you thought getting the T.P.S. reports done on time was stressful.


This game is not the most streamilined of games but it's many processes provide a near infinate array of outcomes that allow for years of replayability There are skads of games invoking the Lovecraftian mythos but this is the king of them all. Hold on to your sanity, grab your trench coat and be careful of what lurks in the dark.

arkham horror

There Will Be Games Top 5 Adventure Games

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jeb's Avatar
jeb replied the topic: #287774 08 Dec 2018 20:28
"not the most streamlined" LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
SaMoKo's Avatar
SaMoKo replied the topic: #287775 08 Dec 2018 20:36

jeb wrote: "not the most streamlined" LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL


When you mash everything together with the expansion-expansion, it plays as smooth as butter
Black Barney's Avatar
Black Barney replied the topic: #287776 08 Dec 2018 21:13
Arkham Horror being coop RUINS it as an adventure game IMH. « You there! Farm that deck. »
engineer Al's Avatar
engineer Al replied the topic: #287777 08 Dec 2018 22:11
I LOVE Arkham Horror! My second favorite adventure game after Talisman. But for years I have known this guy named Jeff Luce that claimed he hated it! What are you hiring a ghost writer now?
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287778 08 Dec 2018 22:48

engineer Al wrote: I LOVE Arkham Horror! My second favorite adventure game after Talisman. But for years I have known this guy named Jeff Luce that claimed he hated it! What are you hiring a ghost writer now?


Well the thing is, this is The Definitive List not my favorite list. As an analogy, I can recognize the greatness of Frank Zappa while never wanting to hear or own any song of his.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287779 08 Dec 2018 23:02
For those who are curious, here are some runners up:

Tales of the Arabian Nights: No good unless you use the Uba Rose Quest Variant and then it becomes great.

Magic Realm: Too inscrutable to learn. A break through game for sure. Honor it? Yes. Play it? No.


War Craft the Adventure Game: Dig this game a lot but only had five spots.

I had some criteria that kept other games which might be considered Adventure Games off the list such as multiple role choices, multiple career paths, game shouldn't have a turn limit and some others. Games like Robinson Crusoe which is a great game didn't qualify.
WadeMonnig's Avatar
WadeMonnig replied the topic: #287783 08 Dec 2018 23:58

repoman wrote:

engineer Al wrote: I LOVE Arkham Horror! My second favorite adventure game after Talisman. But for years I have known this guy named Jeff Luce that claimed he hated it! What are you hiring a ghost writer now?


Well the thing is, this is The Definitive List not my favorite list. As an analogy, I can recognize the greatness of Frank Zappa while never wanting to hear or own any song of his.

Do not deprive yourself of I.L.B.Ts
Deleted's Avatar
Deleted replied the topic: #287785 09 Dec 2018 00:46
So much wrong.

1. Eldritch Horror
Everything else.

Seriously:

Top 5 Adventure Games, definitively:

- Eldritch Horror
Was what Arkham Horror wished it was.

- Runebound 2ed
Actual adventuring never felt so adventury

- Talisman 2ed
Because time travel is where adventure begins

- T.I.M.E. Stories
This game may actually be the best as it has such a narrative adventure system, and now has more expansion modules than even Talisman does.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287788 09 Dec 2018 02:30
SaMoKo's Avatar
SaMoKo replied the topic: #287789 09 Dec 2018 04:32
Mae Knight still stands as the best new board game I’ve played for about 3 years prior to its release and all since. It’s not for everyone, is too much a brain burned to strike well with is intended audience, but it hits so many right chords with me. I had no expectations for it and had no interest in the franchise. Just a love for almost all things Vlaada has done (Not big on his dungeon keeper/pets games).
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #287790 09 Dec 2018 09:15
That list checks out for me. Haven't played Western Legends.
san il defanso's Avatar
san il defanso replied the topic: #287791 09 Dec 2018 09:39
Hey, my two favorite picks are on here (M&M and Talisman). Seems really solid to me.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #287797 09 Dec 2018 12:10
Good list and article to go with it, fun aspects well spotted. I own three of them and want to see Western Legends after reading your thoughts, was interestesd in looking for it earlier this year after Frank Branham wrote about it but then forgot all about it.

I'll have to agree with Pete a bit in that Eldritch Horror should be there, mainly because I consider EH an adventure game (mysteries to resolve) and AH basically a dungeon crawl (buff up before taking on the boss) but you're still having an adventure so no harm.
You did mention though Warcraft the Adventure game, I don't too much about that one but would Runebound be in the same boat and if so did it make your final list ?
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287800 09 Dec 2018 14:20
Runebound 2ed was on the finalists lists. Just think the other games were better.

Warcraft Adventure Game, and you must not make the mistake of confusing it with the Warcraft Boardgame which is also by FF but comes in a coffin box and sucks, is really good. Evoking a lot of the cool things of the MMORPG computer game or at least the things that were cool about it 10 years ago when I was sucked into that veritable addiction. Not sure how easy it is to come by now but Uba and Al have a copy with expansions. Just remember "square box" not "coffin box".

It has much akin with Talisman in its mechanics and so with there being limited space, Talisman gets primacy of place. Plus all the Talisman expansions give it far more variety than WOW.


Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #287803 09 Dec 2018 15:09
Am I a lion?

Guy makes a “definitive” adventure games list and doesn’t put Firefly on there.

Does that seem right to you?

Now, before anyone goes any types up some ill-conceived bullshit about Firefly being a pick up and deliver game, let me state that Firefly _is_, without any shadow of a doubt, an adventure game that happens to have pick up and deliver elements. Not the other way around. The only statement one could make about it that is any more wrong is that the game isn’t any good, so go ahead and stick that line of stupid right back under your hat where it belongs.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #287804 09 Dec 2018 15:15
It's an average pick up and deliver game *and* an average adventure game that's way too long, in the same package!

If I were going space, I'd definitely go Xia way before Firefly. Though not sure that'd be in my top five either.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287805 09 Dec 2018 15:35
Firefly is an Adventure game, no doubt. And I did have it written down as a contender. I think what kept it off the list for me is that the game sort of dictates your course of action via the jobs you take. Yes there is some choice but it's mostly a card draw thing. If you spend too long trying to get the jobs you are interested in then Al Rose has already won.

That constrained choice is in line with the source material and I understand it but I think the superior adventure game gives more agency to the player in terms of career path.
hotseatgames's Avatar
hotseatgames replied the topic: #287806 09 Dec 2018 15:40
I'd really like to try Western Legends. I love Mage Knight and would like to play that one again soon. I still have not gotten around to buying the Tezla expansion.

As for Talisman, I will happily play Relic any time, even though it always overstays its welcome. I'm guessing Talisman does the same thing.
repoman's Avatar
repoman replied the topic: #287807 09 Dec 2018 16:29
I think the idea that Talisman and Relic overstay is wrong. The games run long when players dick around until their character is so over powered that they cannot fail to sail through the inner section. A person who can judge when they have enough for a decent shot at victory will always triumph over the plodding "must be sure" player even when the risk taker suffers some set backs.

It's a flaw in the players understanding not the game itself
Frohike's Avatar
Frohike replied the topic: #287808 09 Dec 2018 17:01
Definitively disqualified due to Dungeon Degenerates deficiency.
SaMoKo's Avatar
SaMoKo replied the topic: #287809 09 Dec 2018 17:09
If Firefly is a pick up and deliver game, Merchants and Mauraders sure as hell is!

I’d consider both adventure games first.
ubarose's Avatar
ubarose replied the topic: #287810 09 Dec 2018 17:34
I think it is amazing that there are now so many adventure games. When KingPut wrote up his "Dummy's Guide to Adventure Games" ten years ago, I believe there were maybe only 5 adventure style games available, and Talisman was out of print.

I think this is an excellent list even though it doesn't represent my personal favorites. Each of the games on this list captures the essence of a specific style of adventure game. If a newbie gamer told me they liked adventure games, and wanted to know what to try next, I'd give them this list. After they played these 5, and were able to tell me which game they liked best and why, or what they found lacking, I could direct towards which rabbit hole to jump down.

I like that RepoMan didn't shy away from the longer and more sprawling games. The shorter playing and/or more streamlined descendants of Arkham Horror, Merchants & Marauders, and Talisman may make it to the table more often, but each do so at the price of cutting something out. I think if you are making a definitive guide, and limiting it to just 5 games, you have to lean towards the games that have all of it thrown in there.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #287819 09 Dec 2018 20:30
To me, personally, the real distinction between adventure games that I feel most prominently is if they're "you're going to fucking die" adventure games or they're "explore the space" adventure games. Do you legitimately fear death in every encounter? Is there a good chance you will die and be set way back? They can both make good adventure games!

So, like, on your list Merchants and Marauders is clearly "you're going to die" given how brutal combat is. So is Talisman, imho, and definitely something like Dungeonquest. Magic Realm fits here too.

Most adventure games these days are explore the space, because punishing players or player elimination/huge setback w/death is not a well regarded mechanic anymore. Which is what makes Merchants and Marauders so remarkable to me since it is recent-ish.
Josh Look's Avatar
Josh Look replied the topic: #287822 09 Dec 2018 22:13

repoman wrote: Firefly is an Adventure game, no doubt. And I did have it written down as a contender. I think what kept it off the list for me is that the game sort of dictates your course of action via the jobs you take. Yes there is some choice but it's mostly a card draw thing. If you spend too long trying to get the jobs you are interested in then Al Rose has already won.

That constrained choice is in line with the source material and I understand it but I think the superior adventure game gives more agency to the player in terms of career path.


I’d give you that if you hadn’t put M&M on the list. Sure, you get a choice over which path you want to take, but the captain you get (also a card draw) makes it 100% obvious which path you should take. You can choose to ignore it, but with everyone else doing what their captain cards suggest and reaping the benefits of doing so, that puts you at a big disadvantage.

I keep wanting to disagree with this list, but I’m not sure what I would do differently. I dislike at least half of these games, some of them I dislike quite a bit. Western Legends and Mage Knight are the only two that I genuinely enjoy playing. I don’t think it’s a matter of me falling out of love with adventures games, it’s more that they’ve never really sat well for me and I’m just now becoming comfortable with the fact that I don’t have to like them. I do RPGs and I have a certain “This time is for this, that time is for that” approach to my gaming schedule and adventure games are often lesser experiences without anything interesting for me to latch on to. I don’t want “RPGs in a box,” neither campaign or one-off plays. That’s probably why Mage Knight, Firefly, and Western Legends are such big hits for me. They all do something special or do something differently that brings me back down to that I’m playing a board game, not something my brain registers as being redundant with a similar but completely separate hobby.
Gary Sax's Avatar
Gary Sax replied the topic: #287826 09 Dec 2018 23:00
I'll bite. What does Firefly do that you consider special in the genre? I'm not trolling.