Reviewed by Herb Levy
ADVENTURE LAND (HABA, 2 to 4 players, age 10 and up, 45 minutes; $39.99)
The kingdom of King Agamis is the setting for this game of quests and danger as players seek fortune and monsters in the newest game from the formidable design team of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling: Adventure Land.
The fantasy kingdom of the game is represented by a large board showing forests, mountains, a river, fog and cities. Just like your standard map, a grid for pinpointing locations is formed with letters from A to K on the top and bottom and numbers 1 through 10 on the sides. Each player starts with a “fellowship” of adventurers (from 8 to 10, depending on the number of players) poised at the top of the board, outside the first four numbered and the first four lettered rows (five with two players). Before the action begins, the board, however, must be seeded.
There is a deck of 110 cards, one for each space of the grid. Each card shows a coordinate and one of the five things that populate the game world: companions, herbs, swords, gold and fog monsters. The deck is shuffled and eight cards drawn. Each object/monster on the drawn card is placed on the grid on the noted coordinate. (If a fog card with a monster on it is drawn, the monster is placed and yet another card turned over to replace it.) Now, off on our adventure.
Each player begins his turn by drawing two cards and placing the denoted item/monster on the specified space. Then, the player may move his forces. Adventurers move in straight lines. You may either move 1 adventurer twice OR 2 adventurers one time each. If an adventurer stops on a space where there is a herb or sword, that item is collected. If a companion (represented by a silver meeple) is on that space, the companion joins the adventurer and, from that point on, those pieces act as a single party and move together. More companions may join; there is no limit. While adventurers may skip over other adventurers, at no time may two adventurers, friendly or opposing, share the same space. When gold is revealed through a card draw, a gold piece (found only on the river) is placed with the “water sprite” (wooden piece) positioned upon it. Each time another gold is revealed, the sprite travels up or down the river to rest upon the new piece. While adventurers may collect gold by landing on it (adventurers CAN walk on water!), there is an element of risk. If the sprite passes through their space on the way to the next gold revealed, the adventurer – and ALL members of his party – are removed from the board! But if you land on a Fog Monster, you have to fight!
Combat is handled in a very straightforward way. Every adventurer has a basic combat strength of 1. Each companion with him adds 1 to his strength. Swords (up to a maximum of three) indicate how many dice you will roll in combat. (Some swords also have a number value which is added to the die roll.) Each Fog Monster has a strength value (ranging from 8 to 16). The dice are rolled and to the rolled number the strength of your party is added. If the number meets or exceeds the strength of the Fog Monster, the monster is defeated. You collect his tile and keep it face down on the board next to you, Victory Points earned for his defeat (half of the monster’s strength value) to be added to your score at the game’s end. If you have fallen short of the requisite number, you still have a few options.
Herb tiles have number values on them. You may use their numbers for strength in battle. Gold is a final potential modifier. Each gold will add 1 to your strength OR, if you prefer, allow you to re-roll ONE die. Any items used in combat are lost and are out of the game. If you lose the battle, the particular adventurer involved in the fight along with any companions with him are lost as well.
Once all swords AND companions have been placed on the board, the final round occurs with every player getting the same number of turns. Then we score and scoring depends on which scenario has been played.
Adventure Land comes with a choice of three scenarios: The Fellowship, The Magnificent and Escape to the Cities, in a roughly escalating level of difficulty.
The Fellowship is the most basic scenario as players attempt to hack and slash fog creatures, gather up as many companions as possible and snatch as much gold as they can scoring Victory Points along the way. The Magnificent shifts the focus a bit as players score double the value for defeated fog creatures, receive VPs for the values of herb tiles and numbered sword tiles unused in battle and score VPs for their largest (and only their largest) group of adventurers (the number in the party multiplied by three). The final scenario, Escape to the Cities, is the most challenging. Players get the standard amount of VPs for defeated fog creatures but get a bonus if they have defeated the most (or second most or third most). Similarly each gold is worth 2 VPs (as in the other scenarios) but the player who has collected the most gold (or second most or third most) gets an additional VP bonus. While no points are scored for herbs or swords, the cities on the map take on a whole new significance.
The player who has the most adventurers and companions IN a city score Victory Points equal to the size of the city. There are five cities ranging in size from 12 spaces to a mere 3. (Second place earns half rounded down and third place half of that rounded down as well and ties are friendly with tied players getting the full amount of VPs.) But the kicker here is NEGATIVE points!
Each of your adventurers who end the game OUTSIDE a city will cost you. The number of adventurers outside is MULTIPLIED by the number of surviving fog creatures on the board. That number is deducted from your VP score. Once done, the player with the highest VP total wins!
Although there is no reference to it, there is a noticeable feel here to the world of Tolkien. The board is laid out so that players move from the northwest to the southeast (similar to the path taken by Frodo and his Fellowship on the road to Mordor). One of the scenarios is even called “The Fellowship”. But the game is more streamlined than any homage to The Lord of the Rings with fewer monsters (only the Fog Monsters appear here).
The artwork by Franz Vohwinkel is, typically, beautifully done. But the grid lines can sometimes be lost in the lush art, making placement a bit tricky. It is critical that items be placed in the correct space especially since all movement is done in straight lines. A darker outline highlighting the spaces might have spoiled the atmosphere of the kingdom but have made piece placement and game play a bit easier.
Movement in the game is handled very well. With the ability to move across the board in a flash, the temptation to go far and fast is hard to resist. But you need to remember that, as the game unfolds, more and more valuable items (herbs, swords, gold and companions) will appear all over and when travelling, you cannot retrace your steps! Commit yourself too far too soon and you may leave valuable items behind. Even worse, because you cannot turn around, you could end up with immovable pieces! With your choice of scenario offering a variety of area control and positioning challenges, Adventure Land offers an intriguing array of possibilities.
HABA is a well known force in the world of children’s games. Now, they are turning their attention to an older crowd with offerings to appeal to family boardgamers. It is hard to go wrong with a design by the talented team of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling and, once again, their Adventure Land is an adventure sure to appeal to a wide range of boardgamers. – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy
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