ADVENTURE GAMES: DISCOVER THE STORY By Thames & Kosmos

With all the rooms closed, I needed to find an outlet for my escape room cravings. Fortunately, there were already a few games on the market, with a few more beginning to appear as it became the lockdown was here to stay. Here I’ve reviewed one I’ve only played one scenario for, although it’s from the same company as my previous post. I’ve tried to focus more on the gameplay rather than the specific scenario, but as I have only played one my opinion will be biased.

These games are at a similar price point to the Exit games also offered by Kosmos, but offer an experience more akin to a traditional board game or RPG than escape room (although still containing the same escape room puzzles). The game itself is made of a variety of card decks, and require you to explore, find items, combine items and even return to a previous location to use a new item. There is also a booklet to guide you – requiring you to search for the sentence to read each time you complete an action. Some of these then offer you an additional choice – like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book.

Pro: This game is set up perfectly for multiple players, with the mechanics specifically tailored to ensure everyone has their own ‘go’ to do what actions they want to do, interact how they want to interact and, ultimately, make the final call for what their character will do. You also have health for your characters, so you have extra incentive to not take unnecessary risks. The game is also playable single player, although I expect I missed out on some of the fun when it comes to deciding what to do.

Pro: The game feels very big – you have freedom to pretty much do what you want to do, and most scenarios have been considered within the booklet. The booklet is also very clever – essentially depending on how you want to combine items/cards affects the way you combine their numbers (e.g if you want to combine a brick (10) and a stick (12) you would put the numbers together in descending order – 1210. If you want to use the brick on the stick it would be adding them, so 22. You might also have a scenario (123) which you would want to use one of those in). There are different sections of the booklet for different lengths of numbers, so 3 digit, 4 digit etc, and its easy to find what you’re looking for. If you can’t tell, I could geek over this for a while.

Neutral: The game is quite long, which means it’s great value. However, it also means you may not complete it in one go (it took me nearly 2 hours by myself, forcing myself to play it properly). They do provide you with instructions for how to ‘save’ the game to then pack it away and set it back up again (essentially save what notes you made, note down the cards you have and take photos).

Neutral: I played this game by myself, so I’m not sure how the player turn mechanics would work in practice, or how good they’d be. I was just alternating characters as I played, rather than necessarily paying attention to what each character could do that turn. I’m also not too sure about the different characters – the idea is they each have their own ‘skill’ (which is implied rather than stated), so certain characters are better in certain situations. However, you don’t need all characters to play, and it’s not that obvious which character to use in which scenario. In particular, you may encounter something whilst exploring, and not be the ideal person to deal with it, thereby needing to decide whether to do it anyway, or wait a few turns for the right person to get there (and often the payoff isn’t worth it).

Con: Although it’s set up for multiplayer, some of the mechanics seem a little too pedantic. For instance, everyone has their own inventory and it costs an action to move things between people, so you might spend a whole ’round’ just moving items around, and another round combining items. You also have to be close together (in the story), so you may waste another round moving. When you’re not doing that, each action costs a turn – so if I’m at a door it’ll be one action/round to look at the door, another to use my key to open it (assuming it doesn’t take me 3 rounds to get the key from another player), and then a final action to move through the door…although I’d need another turn before I can do anything in the new room.

Con: One other small point is that there were a few other mechanics that didn’t quite fit/weren’t explained well/used enough. Namely, you could purchase items if you had coins, so I hoarded the few coins I had, but was never sure if I really needed the items. I kept waiting for something to happen but it never did. I am also not sure how necessary the turns are – there isn’t really any time incentive or turn counter until the final stage of game, where the turns then feel too short and unfair if you were playing it co-op and correctly.

Conclusion

I enjoyed playing this for the narrative, explorative and item use elements, but other elements felt flat. It felt like a longer and more intense game than I’d expected, and I think I would’ve enjoyed it even less if playing with others. I’d advise against this game, unless you love your more narrative focused games and are already well versed in co-op playing.

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