Three great adventure board games
Is The Adventures of Robin Hood the board game version of classic Sierra adventure games?
Well, it’s been a little bit since I wrote here, and for that, I do apologize. I don’t really have a reason aside from “haven’t been playing too many games,” which I suppose is as good a reason as any to not write about them. (It’s fairly obvious, I suspect, that I write the most when I’m playing the most. Who’d have thought, really?)
At any rate, I’ve written today about classic computer adventure games, how that influenced my interest in games as a youth, and what games approximate the feeling I had playing those games.
I’ll follow that with some games I’m looking forward to playing sooner or later, and I’ll close with some other things I’ve been doing — reading, listening, all that. If you’d like to subscribe and you aren’t, I left a little button below this paragraph for you. Go ahead, click it, if you want.
Some of my earliest gaming memories involve me sitting at the computer, playing games like King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory and the like, often with the help of one or both of my parents. We were an adventure game family, you see, and adventure games were a perfect fit for me, with the games often not being too complicated or involved — at least in part.
I would sit for hours playing King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human, exploring Manannan’s home, sneaking around, emptying chamber pots, and generally trying not to trip over the black cat. I was never particularly good at the game, I suspect in part because casting spells was arduous and exacting, neither of which were particularly well-suited for a six-year-old, but it never really dampened my fun.
King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella holds a similar (but earlier) space in my gaming history, though it’s not one I had personally for many years. I suspect we had borrowed it from friends, as was often the norm in early PC gaming. The pure sense of wonder these games evoked remains nearly unrivaled.
It’s a feeling that’s particularly hard to evoke in board games. Sometimes, one or more elements make their way into board games: Story isn’t a problem, coming into play in plenty of board games — perhaps the one that feels most like an adventure game is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. (I wrote about some board games with great narratives back in Issue 23, if you’d like to read more.) Decision-making is obviously a common aspect of games, too. Exploration? I haven’t played Western Legends or The 7th Continent, though both fit seem to fit the bill quite well.
But a game that truly feels like an adventure game is hard to come by. Something that has a lot of story but plenty of opportunities for decisions to be made, and in which that’s the focus of the game and not merely a piece of the mechanical equation. In the last year, I’ve played three games that take me back to the days of Sierra adventures games and one, in particular, deserves a little extra attention here.
The Adventures of Robin Hood just made it to the table last weekend with some friends, and it feels so much like a Sierra or LucasArts game that it was practically a jump backward in time — in the best of ways. In Robin Hood, you play as one of four characters from the classic tales, choosing between Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian and Will Scarlet. The story near-literally unfolds as you play — “the story flips over” doesn’t sound quite as nice, but you are literally flipping over little pieces of the board as the game progresses. You spend your time moving from place to place, investigating specific objects and locations, reading around the table, and following along a written narrative while you avoid enemies and other hazards. Each play of the game reveals more of the story, treats you to new experiences, and is just generally a blast to play. Plus, including a hardback book in a board game is just a beautiful idea.
The Adventure Games series from Kosmos is my second pick here, and perhaps it’s a fairly obvious one, given the name. These games feel so much like classic text-based adventure games (also known as interactive fiction), and they’re played with just a series of cards. Each game is roughly a 3–4 hour experience, and while I’ve only played one, I’m certainly interested in giving more of them a try.
Sleeping Gods is my final game here, and it’s easily the most sprawling of the games here. The narrative isn’t as defined, and the world is much more open. If I had to compare it to anything, it’s way closer to an open world action-adventure — the sort of thing that video games aspire to be. (I’m in the middle of my second playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of Wild in eager anticipation of the sequel, and it’s still just such a great game.)
I love games that feel mechanical with intertwining mechanisms and win conditions. There’s a joy I feel in planning out a great turn or in accomplishing some self-imposed goal (for me, that’s often a greater joy than winning, but that’s a topic for another day.) But sometimes, I want to play a game that makes me feel like I’ve explored a world, discovered clues, and simply partaken in a great story.
I promised you above that I’d tell you about some games I’m looking forward to getting to the table, so let’s get to it!
First up is Factory Funner, a 2016 Corné van Moorsel game that’s recently been republished by BoardGameTables.com (which really does remain the weirdest name for a games publisher, but I do also quite like them, so I shouldn’t split hairs.) I’m a sucker for a good tile-laying game, and the artwork — as usual for the publisher — is lovely. Plus, what could be more fun than a factory? (OK, maybe that part’s an exaggeration.) Also on my list from BoardGameTables.com is Bear Raid.
I’ve also got Now or Never awaiting my attention, and I’d quite like to play the third game in designer Ryan Laukat’s thus-far-a-trilogy of Near or Far and Above and Below. It’s been a treat to see how his designs have improved and changed over time, and I suspect this one will again offer me something fresh and new.
Finally, I’m really looking forward to playing Brian Boru: High King of Ireland — if just so I can understand how trick-taking and area influence combine into such a well-reviewed game. I was initially sold on it by No Pun Included’s review, which I highly recommend you watch. I’ll include the video below.
Well, there you have it: My take on games this
week month. I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading through the latest run of X-Men comics, with the whole of Dawn of X having kept my attention incredibly well. My highlights were Hellions and X-Factor, and if you keep reading into Reign of X, do give the Nightcrawler-centric Way of X a read.
We’ve also been watching through Columbo — I’d just seen a couple episodes, but I’ve really been enjoying the longer-form mystery series. There’s just something about a detective that masks his suspicions with a bit of density.
Well, I’ve kept you long enough, supposing you made it this far. Thanks, as always, for reading. You can find me on Instagram and on Twitter. I even started a podcast this year, Vintage Sci-Fi Shorts, in which I read old science fiction short stories from the pages of old pulp and digest magazines.
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