Adventurers!: Just how many priceless treasures are there in forgotten temples, anyhow?
The guys at AEG bill Adventurers as the first 15 minutes of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Arc. Instead of balancing an idol against a bag of sand, though, players ransack an ancient temple looting anything that’s not engulfed under waves of lava. The winner is the adventurer who escapes the ancient temple with the most valuable ‘museum exhibits’. Indiana Jones with three Sankara stones hidden in his shirt would curse Kali after he saw what his fellow ‘archaeologists’ were getting away with.
Dragging a sled full of statuettes is hard work, though. At the beginning of each turn, five six-sided dice are rolled. Each player then compares their load limit against the dice. For example, a player who has seven items poking out of his backpack only gains a limited number of actions this turn for every four, five, or six rolled. Moving a square is an action. Looting a treasure is an action. Diving into a bubbling pool of Lava is an action. Watching horror cross the faces of your friends while your mouth mocks a scream before succumbing to an ocean of ash and fire… that one’s free.
But, let’s face it, no one is buying this game for its intricate game play and solid fundamentals. They’re buying Adventurers because it looks fun. So, is the game fun, or is it just pretty?
I suppose that depends on the group you play with. Adventurers has a jump right in feel. Only one player needs to know the rules, and that player can usher everyone through. The game is more a series of mini-games with separate mini-rules that can be explained when players get to specific points. You got some time? Let’s run through them…
- Crushing Walls – In the first room, a pair of walls grind their way to the player. If the walls meet before a player leaves, that adventurer is jellified. There’s tons of treasure to find here, and clues for the upcoming lava pit.
- Giant Boulder – As the players continue through the maze, a giant boulder bears down the corridor. Get trapped beneath the boulder, and you’re dead. If the boulder reaches the end of the maze and you haven’t left yet, you’re dead. Two months later from starvation, I guess.
- Lava Pit – A pit covered in runic stones can be used as a shortcut, and has a nice selection of treasures inside. If you step on the wrong stone, though, you’re immolated in molten lava. Remember the Closing Walls? If you spent time back there, you memorized which stones are bad, and which are good… but they all look the same now. You could take your chances and race through it…
- Alcoves – There’s a series of alcoves that you can find treasure inside and hide from the boulder. To get in, you need to ‘pick the lock’. In order to ‘pick the lock’ you need to ‘roll a bunch of dice’.
- Underground River – Swirling through the end of the labyrinth is a river that adventurers can dive into. There’s cheaper treasures down there, but at the far end of the river is a falls. If a player fails to roll some dice to get out of the river in time he falls to his icy doom!
- The Bridge – There’s also a bridge that shortcuts across the river to get to the exit. Players who cross it must roll successes equal to the number of planks left or fall to their icy doom! They can also sabotage the bridge by jumping up and down o- ICY DOOM!
So, the mechanics are simple, but the maze is a mish-mash. This could have a feeling of greatness if the mini-games were wilder, allowing players to specialize, or experience a different play style every time they entered the temple. For example, one mini-game could be based on memory, while another could be putting together a puzzle. A third mini-game could be based on luck while the last one uses deduction to figure out where the treasure is hidden. I get the impression that Adventurers was built so that a maximum number of people could play this game and have fun. This reminds me of dumbing down television shows so that the most potential viewers can sit through it, or making restaurant food blander in hopes that more guests find it palatable. Sure, more people will appreciate Adventurers, but few people will love it.
I suppose the decision of whether or not you should buy Adventurers for your collection has more to do with your friends and family than it has to do with you. If it’s difficult to get the entire group to decide on the games you play in your house, you could do worse than to buy Adventurers. The game is pearl among oysters; If you splayed all the games you own next to Adventurers (and let’s say, blew $50 on the painted miniatures) and brought a random selection of people off the street into your home, they would gravitate to Adventurers and start asking questions about how you play. Okay… if you brought random strangers into your home, they’d probably ask where the cake you promised them is, and which way is it to the bathroom, and they’d probably make nervous jokes about how you’re probably an axe-murderer. After that, they’d assume your kind of crazy and a little high-strung about board games, but nice enough, and this Indiana Jones style game does look kind of neat, so there’s that.
But if you play with a group that has distinct tastes, even if the tastes are varied within the group, you may want to put Adventurers back on the store shelf. You won’t have a bad time playing Adventurers. In fact, you’ll have a fond memory of the time you played Adventurers while you set up House on Haunted Hill for the twentieth time. Your group, however, won’t get full value out of this $60 box. I got a better plan for this group: Buy the quick and dirty $10 role-playing game Savage Worlds, spend $10 on dice for everyone, buy $30 worth of ridiculous props like fedoras and flash lights, and spend another $10 renting an Indiana Jones movie marathon with popcorn. Not only will you get more value for your money, but you’ll have a night that no one will forget. Just… well… I’d think twice before grabbing one of those aforementioned people off the street, giving them a fedora and a flashlight, and shoving them down cellar.