Tag Archives: Easy to learn

Aventuria: Adventure Card Game

Aventuria : Adventure Card Game. Ulisses Spiele, 2017 (English edition). Designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach. 4 Heroes, each with 1 Hero and 1 Skill card, 30 Action cards, a Life Point counter, and a Hero marker; 1 Starting Hero token, 4 6-sided and 4 20-sided dice; 50 Henchmen, 29 Adventure, 14 Reward, and 29 special cards; 1 pad of Hero documents, 70+ tokens (Life, Adventure, Time, and Doom), and a 24-page Rules and Adventure book. 1-4 players (1-6 possible with expansions). Ages 14+. About 1 hour per Act.

In Aventuria each player assumes the role of a hero, represented by a 30 Action card deck and a Hero card. The four core heroes include: Arbosh the dwarven smith, Layariel the elven scout, Carolan the half-elven rogue, and Mirhiban the Tulamydian mage. The Heroes’ cards represent weapons, spells, armor, equipment, talents, and advantages that can be used in combat to defeat opponents.

Each Hero is very different, for example Arbosh the Dwarf blacksmith has a lot of armor, where Carolan the Rogue has less armor but a much better chance to Dodge. Cards are thematic and allow Heroes to excel in their differing areas of expertise. For example, Arbosh’s Ox-Herd weapon (a multiple headed flail) does huge damage, but subtracts from close combat skill due to its difficulty to handle. To use it effectively, it would be wise for Arbosh to improve his close combat skill by using his Talent “Warfare” first.

The game comes with 4 pre-built decks, one for each hero, making it quick and easy to get started right out of the box. There are also build-your-own-deck rules if you wish to experiment with other possibilities. The cards are black edged, so be prepared to sleeve your decks or see the edges quickly show chipping.

The rules are very well organized and clear. Action cards might be black or red bordered, being “permanent” (staying in play) or “one-off” (having an effect then discarded); and are either played during your turn (white circle with black number for cost) or as a “Free Action” (black circle with white number for cost) during someone else’s turn. Every card has specific iconography and text that defines how the card is used. In a world of confusing card play, the clarity in Aventuria is amazing.

Dice introduce the element of chance, with a 20-sided die being used to roll “tests”, including combat, where you roll the die against your Hero’s numeric skill; equal to or less than succeeding, greater than failing. Damage is done using the 6-sided dice. The system includes Critical Successes (on a 1, draw a card) and Critical Failures (on a 20, discard a random card).

The luck element can be mitigated by several means. Players can improve their chances by increasing their Heroes’ skill levels, playing cards that gain modifiers, or cards that allow rerolls. Whenever an attack roll fails, players gain a Fate Point which can be turned in on a later test for a reroll, or to draw a card, or to gain an “Endurance” (the game’s resources used to purchased cards and activate effects).
The game provides two modes of play: the Duel (PvP) and Adventure (Solo and Cooperative).

Players are encouraged to play the Duel mode first to learn how the combat game plays, and their hero’s specific cards work. In Duel mode, the opponents are other players in either a one-on-one combat or team melee to the last man standing.

Every hero’s deck is very different and play styles feel thematic and unique. And yet, they also seem fairly balanced. During the Duel, players attack each other, performing up to 1 Ranged, Close, and Magic attack per turn, until there is only one Hero remaining.

But before a Hero can do anything, he must have Endurance. At the start of their turn, after drawing 2 cards, you can play 0-2 cards from your hand face down to become part of your Endurance pool. Endurance cards and then exhausted to pay the cost to place cards from your hand into play or activate effects on cards in play.

This system requires players to make some really hard choices. Do you keep that Ox-Herd major weapon in your hand or put it face down as Endurance? At a cost of 9, it will be many rounds become you can afford to play it, so maybe it’s better to keep cards you can pay for now and put Ox-Herd down as Endurance, but if it’s later in the game and your Endurance pool is large, it’s probably better to keep it instead. And then of course there are also cards that can allow you to draw back a card you previously placed in Endurance. Hard choices you have to make every turn.

The Combat system really shines. Every turn your Hero will be able to attack since even her starting card has a basic attack on it. However, most attacks have an Endurance cost to invoke. So you have to decide between cards that are all important while you have just a limited budget of Endurance cards to pay for them plus any effects from cards in play.

Do you use your Endurance to play a card raising a skill? Or a new weapon? Or armor? Or a special effect? Or to cast a spell? Or to heal? Or do you keep some Endurance so you can play one-off defensive cards during your opponent’s turn? Or… Your decisions will define your Hero and ultimately how the game plays out.

Once you’ve played a few Duels and come to understand the game play and what cards are in your Hero’s deck, you’re ready for an Adventure!

In the Adventure mode, having selected heroes, you start off by reading a few paragraphs that both outline the story and provide several challenges, whose results will define some of the parameters for your upcoming combat.

Each Adventure is divided into Acts, either 1 Act “short” Adventures, or full Adventures of 3 Acts. Each Act includes the narrative tests plus setup instructions for using Henchmen and Leader cards, as well as specialized adventure cards, to challenge the heroes who must band together cooperatively to defeat them.

Once setup, you return to the game’s Combat system, only this time your opponents are the enemies the Adventure sets before you. In an Adventure, not only do you have the choices about how to spend your Endurance in Combat, but you also often have other Adventure-related effects that require Endurance in order to advance your quest. Another call on your limited resources, requiring judgement as to how best to balance it all in order to win.

The Time Scale cards provide four levels of difficult and act as a timer to various effects that will challenge players the longer they take. The Henchmen and Leader cards have personalized charts on each card that randomize what that opponent will do on their turn, ensuring that you’ll never quite know what the enemy is going to do on their turn. While you might know you’re facing Pirates, you may be surprised when Hook Joe shows up and does his special “Hook Swing” attack!

After each Act and Adventure, the game includes a system of experience points and reward cards that allow heroes to advance and are recorded on the Hero document sheets. However, there is no larger campaign , and no rules for linking Adventures, beyond playing one Adventure after another as you choose. Probably best to increase the Difficulty level for experienced Heroes, but again there are no rules guiding this.

The core set only includes one 1-Act and one 3-Act Adventures. Since the Henchmen decks are built and randomized for each Act, there is some replay ability, but ultimately new Adventures will be needed. Luckily, there are several expansions planned. And the core game does include “Chance Encounter”, which allows you to create randomized games from your Henchmen pool with four levels of difficulty.

While the Combat system shines, the Adventures feel a little lacking. The Combats with the Leaders and Henchmen are entertaining, but the overall feeling of involvement in an epic quest seems secondary. Players cannot really affect the stories. There is one, linear path to victory, and while the mechanics to achieve it may vary, player choices cannot really alter the path.

I find myself wishing for more engaging Adventures, with alternative paths through the Adventures and the Acts, such that the narrative guides player choices that then define the story that unfolds rather than just modifies the set challenges in minor ways. Using narrative to present multiple choices where player decisions alter the flow of the game causes players to become more invested in the story. Play should affect how the story unfolds, not just the story unfolding affecting play.

In summary, if you enjoy fantasy adventure games, solo, head to head, or cooperative, where your role is a single hero represented by a card deck, this is a must have game. The Heroes and their cards (pre-built or self-built decks) are awesome and thematic. The Combat plays fast with constant, tense decisions. The Adventures provide a framework for variable Combats with interesting Henchmen and Leaders that will entertain as well as challenge. With more heroes and Adventures coming in expansions, Aventuria will only get even more spectacular.

This review was written based on a privately purchased Kickstarter copy. No compensation was involved.
c2017 by Richard A. Edwards

The Big Book of Madness

The Big Book of Madness. Iello, 2015. $40. Design by Maxime Rambourg, Illustrated by Naïade. 8 Magician sheets (with player aid on back), 56 Spell cards, 136 Element cards, 1 game board, 17 Grimoire cards, 48 Curse cards, 35 Madness cards, 1 Invocation marker, 1 Round marker, 1 Active Player token, 16 Element tokens, and a rule book. 2-5 players. Ages 14+. 60-90 minutes.

In this cooperative game of magic and madness, the players take on the role of aspiring student magicians who have opened an ancient grimoire, releasing powerful monsters from its pages. Each page (Round) releases a monster who has an immediate effect and then places potential curses on the board. If reached before being destroyed, curses will have negative effects on the players. If you can destroy all the curses before the end of the round, you vanquish the monster and gain a bonus; curses have varying effects and if even one remains at the end of the round, a negative effect will occur before turning the page. And with the turn of each page, the monsters become more difficult.

To achieve victory the players must work together, using resources and spells, to try and destroy curses before they take effect. This requires communication, planning, and sharing. One of the basic spells everyone has allows you to give another player an action out of turn, another lets you put an element into support where anyone can use it. Getting the right elements available and having the right player use them at the critical moment is imperative to destroy curses, and ultimately, if you destroy all the curses placed by the final (boss) monster, you win the game.

During your turn, you can use your spells (if you have elements to pay for them), learn new spells (if you have the elements to buy them), acquire new element cards (by paying for them with element cards), cure Madness cards (using elements to return them to their deck), or destroy curses. You are limited only by having enough elements to do what you want.
Madness cards, given to you by curses and monster effects, just clutter up your hand which is why you want to cure them. If your hand is ever made up of only Madness cards, you are out of the game! And if the Madness stack ever empties, you lose immediately.

Since having the right element cards is essential, the game sometimes seems a bit random. A bad draw can doom you to apply the effects of a curse. Acquiring the right element cards can help build your deck to mitigate this randomness, but that takes time and the early curses depend on your starting magicians’ decks and lucky draws.

The huge amount of player interaction makes this one of the best cooperative games I’ve played. The artwork is beautiful and evocative. The rules are easy and straightforward. Each game is a different challenge since the group’s starting magicians determine your element cards and different powers, the grimoire is built from a subset of random pages, and the curse decks will provide varying curse effects, making it highly replayable. And if you find it too easy, which I did not, you can increase the play mode (adding more curses) to make it even more challenging.

A fast, fun, and very enjoyable cooperative game.

This review was written based on a privately purchased retail copy. No compensation was involved.
c2015 by Richard A. Edwards