Sometimes I really want an immersive experience, to spend five or more hours on something like Descent, racking my brains and pushing the limit of how long I can sit on the floor around my table. I really should buy a comfy cushion. Anyway, sometimes I want something fun and disposable, where I don’t have to think too much and can just enjoy playing something light. After recently getting my hands on AEG‘s The Adventurers, I think I’ve found a game that fits the bill well – not too difficult to get a handle on, but still putting up a decent challenge.
Paying homage to the classic Indiana Jones movies (and if you don’t care for them, move on right now – this game isn’t for you!) The Adventurers sees between two and six players trying to pick their way through the ancient temple of Chac. Rather than a roll-and-move mechanic (which is what I initially expected), players are given a certain amount of actions to use, dependent on how much they’re carrying and the results of a roll of five dice. These actions can be used to move, search for loot, that kind of thing. As they pass through various sections, you get the chance to grab lots of lovely treasure – whoever has the most at the end of the game (each treasure has a points value) is victorious! But as usual it’s not as easy as that – your poor fortune hunters have an awful lot to deal with before they get to walk away.
That’s assuming they walk away, of course. The game actively hates you, you see, and will kill you at any given opportunity. If your little representative dies, all treasure is lost – but you do get the board game equivalent of an extra life in the form of a second Adventurer that you may introduce. More on that in a bit though; first off, let’s have a little walk through this Temple.
Looking at the picture, you actually enter from the right side, where the first area to navigate is the Walls Room. As they slowly close in, you can dally around, picking up shiny objects as you go. You also get the opportunity to check out four tiles that potentially give you clues to upcoming traps in the next area – the Lava Room. Here you have the opportunity to take a short cut, hopping over the tiles, all the while hoping you don’t find a duff one that’ll see your Adventurer plummet to a fiery death. Of course, if you checked earlier you’ll have something of an advantage… but a lot of those glyphs look awfully alike. It’s a risky strategy, but it just might work if luck’s on your side.
Next, you have a three way choice; you can fling yourself into the rapidly moving river, which gives you the opportunity for more loot (but the possibility of death via tumbling off a waterfall). You can try the rickety bridge instead, which may well collapse underfoot if you’re too laden with objects. Finally you could play it safe and head down the corridor to safety and victory, but even that’s potentially not going to happen. Why? Well, as soon as you set foot in the temple, a ruddy big boulder is going to roll down the corridor (note that the corridor also gives the opportunity of some very nice high value treasures if your lock-picking skills are up to scratch), picking up speed as it passes all the rooms, squishing everything it can until it eventually blocks the only way out. If you’re still inside when that happens, YOU LOSE. If you die, YOU LOSE. There are lots of ways to lose in The Adventurers, as you can probably tell.
Thankfully, there are things built into the game that try to make life easier. Each character has a special ability, for example. You might be an adept swimmer (useful for the river section) or be able to carry extra treasures without them slowing you down. There’s also that ‘extra life’ I mentioned earlier… Should your first character meet an untimely end, you’re allowed to introduce a back-up in the Lava Room – there’s two tiles marked with a sun motif that you can restart at with your new character. Not much use if the boulder is crashing towards the exit, but who knows? You may get lucky!
That’s the big thing to consider in The Adventurers – Luck. More specifically, your luck, and how willing you are to take a risk. Short cuts may well get you ahead of your opponents but you could well be throwing your whole game away by stepping on the wrong space. If you play too cautiously, you’ll be punished by that ever moving boulder, either squashed or trapped forever. It’s all about finding the balance, giving yourself enough time to get enough treasure to put you in contention, but not dragging back so much that you’re not going to be able to escape.
Those gamers who need to have total control over every element of what they’re playing will utterly hate The Adventurers. It’s the kind of game that I actually find a little divisive – personally, if I lose (either through my own mistakes or screwing up royally) I don’t mind. However, many players do, and often can’t see that it was probably down to the choices they made. It’s probably a game best played with a group who are just up for something that’ll entertain them – you’re not really getting something incredibly competitive with The Adventurers. It’s a rare game where everyone actually manages to walk out of the temple alive, to be honest. If that sounds like something you’re able to handle, then I can’t recommend it enough – The Adventurers is a lost Indiana Jones movie made board game. If only each box came with a battered fedora, but that’d probably add a bit too much to the list price…
The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac was first published in 2009 by AEG and Dust Games. Designed by Guillaume Blossier and Frederic Henry, it’s probably best with four or five players, but can handle between two and six. If you’re into that kind of thing, you can actually get the included figures pre-painted too. There’s also rumours of a sequel in the works! Now what tricky traps could that offer us…?