Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Adventurers - Light Exploration Game

We have a very mixed opinion of buried treasure. In one hand it seems to exist purely for the purposes of being heroically unearthed and spirited away. On the other hand we expect that anyone who is even slightly too greedy in treasure hunting is going to get their due at the hands of some trap or hidden creature. The characters who finish the story basking on a beach in Aruba seem to know exactly how many rubies are appropriate to snatch from the Tomb of Mysteries. The publishers of The Adventurers work with this dynamic to create an adventure game in which players struggle to balance greed and caution. The winner of this game is the person who knows when to stop pilfering and start running.

The board for The Adventurers depicts a Mayan tomb replete with treasure chambers, winding corridors, rickety bridges and rushing rivers. The players compete to grab treasure from various parts of the tomb and then escape in one piece. Each player begins the game by choosing an adventuring identity and token. The tokens are nicely sculpted miniatures just begging for paint. Each adventurer will have some special ability that may prove helpful in the tomb- swimming for example. The players put their adventurer figures at the entrance of the temple and then take turns moving and grabbing treasure.

The play mechanics of The Adventurers are pretty simple. Each turns players roll five dice and try and roll high. For each high roll they get one "action." The definition of "high" depends on the amount of treasure you are carrying. The more treasure, the higher the roll required. Players use actions to move, decode traps, pick locks, and grab more loot. The key ability listed there is probably "move." In each turn a boulder moves along the main corridor and will eventually seal off the tomb entrance. In addition a room full of treasure also features walls which slowly close together. Through the game players will use their actions to seek out and grab treasure from various locations in the tomb. As the players merrily run amuck they must keep an eye on which exits remain viable or they run the risk getting trapped. Then they must escape over the rope bridge or through the underground stream. As before, these tasks are harder when carrying lots of goodies.

The Adventurers strikes me as a pleasing but ultimately light game. The players have the choice of different characters to play and each gives a different ability. There is some randomness to the traps and obstacles. Still, repeated plays of the game aren't likely to reveal some subtle depths of strategy. At the same time you could say the same about games like Sleeping Queens and Mousetrap. The Adventurers may be a board game which delivers the fun in terms of simply experiencing it, rather than through thought and strategy.

In that context The Adventurers has a lot to offer as a fun but light diversion. It's fun to gather treasure, it's fun to try and decide whether to risk carrying off just one more bag of gold, it's fun to see friends and family succeed or fall off rickety bridges. In games of course, not real life! One slight drawback to the game as a family event is that the illustrations are pretty sexist. The male adventurers are all sorts of humorous caricatures, the females all have skimpy outfits and gigantic, barely restrained breasts. Did we just travel back to 1975? I imagine playing this with my daughter and just grimace- which floozy would you like to play? Well, creative parents who care can come up with some creative solution.

Aside from the freakish retro sexism The Adventurers is a simple and light adventure game. Not a classic for the ages but pretty entertaining and a decent way to wile away a cold winter's day.

Pros: simple, easily grasped game dynamic

Cons: fire that illustrator!

Beyond the Basics: if they like it a lot then go buy Labyrinth Lord, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (not 4th edition thank you) or Castles and Crusades.

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