Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review: The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac

My biases first: I am a big fan of theme in games and do not mind reaching through piles of chits if the theme and game play is good enough. While I do favor confrontation, chits, bits and polished pieces of AT games, there are still a large number of Euros that I'll build my farm on or attend auctions at and be quite content at the end of my experience. Also, while I enjoyed half of the Indiana Jones movies (meaning 2 of them, not half of each), I really consider the first one to be an example of a really good film. And even though I enjoy finding context to grit my teeth and exclaim, "It belongs in a museum!", I never really understood the difference between selling an artifact for personal gain and putting an artifact on display in a museum, because either way, you are desecrating the ancient and holy burial grounds of some forgotten culture.


The Overview:


The box cover shows the same style of artwork inside the box. 


Box contents, or, a Do-It-Yourself Mayan temple. 



The Adventurers is a fast-paced adventure game in which you and the other players each play rival adventurers exploring an ancient Mayan temple with the same goal: make it past all of the deadly traps to escape alive with the most amount of archaeological treasures buried in the belly of the temple. Essentially, the game plays like the first 15 minutes of an Indiana Jones movies, minus any atomic resistant refrigerators.

The game is for 2-6 players and takes between about 20 minutes for 2 players to about 45 minutes for a full 6 players. The game is played through a number of turns in which the players determine how many actions their character receives, then takes the actions. There is an innate timer in the game which is represented by a large boulder that rolls through the corridors of the temple, threatening to either roll over and crush any adventurer who delays too long, or crash against the exit and deal those left behind in the temple forever.

Each turn is easy and basic. First, all players adjust their load levels, then roll dice to determine their number of actions. On your turn, you roll five six-sided dice and every die that is equal to or greater than your target number grants you one action. The more treasures you are carrying, the higher your target number is, so that is why you may want to adjust your load level and drop a few treasures at the beginning of your turn to make sure you can move faster than the rolling boulder behind you.

Each player in turn then takes their actions. Each action can be used to move one space, to pick up a treasure, to use your character's special ability, or to take a special action depending on where in the temple you are (I'll get into some of them later).

After each player has had their turn, cards are turned over to see if and how much the walls in the opening corridor move together, threatening to crush anyone who tarries to long in them. Then dice are rolled to see how many spaces the boulder moves. At the end of the first turn, one die is rolled and the boulder is moved one space if a three or higher is rolled. At the end of the second turn, two dice are rolled and it is moved for every die that is a three or higher. This continues until all five dice are rolled on the fifth and all of the subsequent turns. This starts the boulder slow, but it soon moves quickly, and often faster than any adventurer carrying too much treasure.

The turn is finished and first player passes the player on the left and it starts over again.


The Theme:

The Adventurers is very heavy on theme. In fact, the well sculpted and crafted components really add to the feeling and get you into the theme. Each of the sections of the temple have traps or perils that are very thematic and come from the pulp genre. There are sliding walls threatening to crush you, a floor with trapped tiles that may break out from under you and drop you into lava, a raging river with a waterfall looming just beyond your only chance to exit it, a decrepit old bridge whose planks may fall off from any step and, of course, the big rolling boulder.

The theme feels so much like it is the first 15 minutes of an Indianan Jones movie. You jump right into the action, you get into it, there are dangers and traps at every turn, there is a quick grab of artifacts then a frantic race out before the boulder comes and crushes you... Now imagine that the first Indiana Jones movie ended right there. Sure, there was pulp theme, action and danger, but it just seemed... short and then it was over and you kind of expected more. That's where I feel with the theme of this game. It is the pulp movie opening, but without the meat of the story and intrigue.

I suppose that isn't necessarily bad. It is thematic. Very thematic. But it is quick and light and isn't much more than a quick filler before you break out the "meat" and "story" games for the rest of your evening.


Learning the Game:

The game is quick and easy to learn. The set up is a little extensive for the quick game play, but after one play, the set up and the game play are both very intuitive. Probably the only tricky part is that each of the different sections of the temple have their own rules attached to them as far as what you can do with your actions.



The Walls Room. They move closer together a random amount each turn, threatening to crush any who take too long. 



The walls about to crush a few adventurers. 



The Walls Room: When you first enter, there are walls that are closing. You can race through them to ensure safety from being crushed, or hang around and pick up treasures along the way, which may slow you down, but they are among the quickest and easiest of the treasures to get in the game. Also, at each step, you can take the action to "Decipher a Glyph". There are four of them in total and taking the action allows you to pick up a tile and study it for five seconds. These are the four tiles that will be trapped in the lava room and you have a chance to take a peek and try to remember their intricate designs to ensure your safety through the upcoming lava room.

The Boulder Corridor: This is the main passage through the temple. However, the adventurers share it with a rolling boulder threatening to crush any in its way. Along the way, there are a few alcoves that are locked and have treasures within them. Adventurers can try to pick the locks, but unless they are lucky, it can end up being a time consuming process... and that boulder won't wait for you before rolling your way.



The lava room. 


The Lava Room: The lava room consists of 14 tiles, four of which are trapped. As you step on a tile, you flip it and compare it to those along the Walls Room. If it matches one of those tiles, it is trapped and your adventurer falls into the lava below. If it is not trapped, you can move onto it and claim a treasure on it (for another actions). When you first reveal the tiles in the lava room, you will notice how intricate they are and you may really need to test your memory if you looked at tiles in the Walls Room. Still, for those not sure, you can go around the room, but it is a longer path (and the boulder moves down it). But for the adventurous, there is a lot of treasure to be found here.



The underground river is a quick, but risky exit. 


The Underground River and Waterfall: You can make a quicker exit by jumping into the underground river. You can only move forward in the river, but can claim one treasure per square as an action. When you reach the end, you need to roll dice based on how many treasures you are carrying to try to exit before falling off the waterfall. If you roll any 1's, you can discards three treasures per 1 rolled and reroll those dice. If any of them come up as a 1 again, you failed to escape and fall off the waterfall.



The Wooden Bridge. 


The Wooden Bridge: Sometimes you need a quicker route when the boulder is right behind you. There are five planks and whenever an adventurer crosses it, you roll one die per plank left on it. You compare the dice to your load level and remove one plank for every die that rolls under your load level. If you lose the last plank, then you fall to your death.


The Components:

I've been using a lot of pictures in this game to show off the beauty of the components. They are gorgeous. However, there is something potentially misleading about the pictures. The figures and components in the base game are not painted. A pack of painted figures and components was available for purchase at release of the game. But do not think that your game will have the painted figures.



These are the painted figures. 


This is how the figures come in the game. They are still gorgeously crafted though. 



The components and style of artwork in the game are really just amazing. The character cards are very stylizing in their artwork and do play a bit on stereotype, but not in a particularly offensive way (and I love the caricature of the pistol-wielding, beer gut toting, wife-beater and cowboy hat wearing American). The only thing that disappoints me a bit is that all but one of the female figures is showing an unnecessary amount of cleavage. If one of them were to do so, I wouldn't mind, especially as a nod/parody of the unnatural cleavage of Lara Croft. However, looking at the character card of Lea Rice, I think that the only reason why her top is unbuttoned that much is that her breasts are too large to contain and button it at all.



Who needs a flashlight, when you have headlights like these? Sorry. That was bad. Apologies to my wife when she reads this review. 


Playing the Game:

The game is quick and very light. There is so much style and flash to this game, that the substance that comes with it just doesn't feel quite filling enough for how beautiful it is. Still, it is fun for what it is and with lesser components, it might not even feel as thematic or fun as it is now. It is easy to learn and the play is very intuitive. For the most part, you don't have to worry too much about what the other players are doing (unless you are following someone who seems to know their way through the lava tiles). Player interaction is minimal, and since treasures obtained are hidden, you do not know the values of the treasures your opponents have, just the quantity of cards.

I would have liked a little more player interaction. Since you are rivals, it would be better if you could sabotage one another further, if not even attempt to steal treasures from one another. But then again, the temple itself is dangerous enough without that.

Finally, I haven't mentioned to this point that everyone chooses two characters in the beginning of the game and only sends one in. If he or she dies, they can bring in a replacement character once the boulder has moved past the lava room. I haven't mentioned this because it is pointless and part of the game that I just don't understand. Your second character doesn't claim the treasures that your first character had. You basically just need to race out before the boulder blocks the exit and maybe grab a couple of treasures on the way. However, you will almost never have anywhere near the amount of treasures of the other players who did not die. The game is quick enough that if you do die, you won't have that long to wait before the game is over. This just seems like an attempt to reduce player elimination, but the second character is not competitive at all. In my opinion, I think it should have just been one character each. If one dies, you are out. The rest of the game would move quicker with fewer characters anyhow, instead of slowing it back down with non-competitive characters.


Scalability:

The game scales well from 2-6 players. More players make the treasure grab a little more intense since people are racing to grab a more limited resource. There is not a lot of downtime even in 6 player games because the turns move quick enough. I think 2 players plays almost too quickly though. After setting everything up, it feels like you are already finished the game. Having more players does not really add to the game play, but just adds to the length of time and the competition, but that is the only thing it does to the scalability of the game.


Does the Wife Like It?:

The most important category. I play games without her, but she's an integral part of my core gaming group and my most frequent game partner. I originally thought that she would like the flash and fun that this game seemed to have and it would be a nice two-player game for us to play together on weeknights. However, she and I are both of the same mindset, I believe. We are luke warm on it. It's not a bad game, but neither of us would suggest this with just one another. There's not enough depth even for just a two-player light game for something to do other than watch mindless teevee. Still, with more people and the right attitude, the game can be entertaining, if just for the additional table-chatter.


The Pros:

*Beautiful artwork and amazingly well produced components.
*Quick, easy game play that has enough flash to draw in casual or non-gamers.
*Great presentation of theme in the game.
*A decent press-your-luck mechanic right up front when deciding how much treasure to hold before rolling your action dice.
*Gives you the context to shout, "It belongs in a museum!" to other players.
*The above gives other players context to reply with, "So do you!"
*Light fun filler that is in no way a brain burner.
*Really feels like the first fifteen minutes of an Indiana Jones movie.


The Cons:

*Feels like the first fifteen minutes of an Indiana Jones movie, without the rest of the movie's plot, story or substance.
*Feels a little too light for all of the flash and glitter of the components.
*Second/replacement character mechanic feels unnecessary and slows the game down with non-competitive characters.
*Probably too light and too dice-y for a lot of players.


Overall:

The Adventurers is a light, fast-paced game that is well produced, but will never be more than a quick, light filler game. It almost seems overproduced for the game play that you get out of it. However, the flash and components from this game will quickly attract the attention of non-gamers or casual gamers who can be lured in with this game and then introduced to something else. While the ages listed on the game are 10+, I would probably say 8+ and it is probably a much better family game than a game for a group of gamers. Still, there is a bit of charm in the presentation of the game, even if the substance behind it isn't the strongest.


7/10

1 comment:

  1. "Who needs a flashlight, when you have headlights like these? Sorry. That was bad. Apologies to my wife when she reads this review."

    Hahaha! That's funny... your wife actually reading your gaming blog. Hahaha. Well, it's funny if you're me. :(

    ReplyDelete