Thursday, March 23, 2023

‘Adventureland’ Is The Love Child of Chess and D&D

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When I was handed Adventureland, by German game company HABA, for review, I admittedly rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “Great, yet another high fantasy board game.” However, this game caught me off guard with the design and surprisingly deep creativity that’s possible via such a seemingly simple ruleset.

The game is one of HABA’s first entries into an “older” game market, aimed at kids aged 10 and up, adding new complexity and depth to games without sacrificing the quality or enrichment that has mad HABA so successful.  In Adventureland, players are given one of three scenarios that provide unique win condition modifiers. Players venture around the board performing various tasks that earn them victory points. Actions taken towards the specific win condition modifiers generally will earn the player extras at the end of the game when the points are tallied, but a player can still win via methods not specified in the scenario. For example, I ended up winning a game where the intended victory condition was to create the largest party of units possible, but instead I won via monster victory points because there was a seemingly minor modifier that ended up making them count for significantly more than normal.

During gameplay, players have two actions they can take, flipping cards off a deck, or moving their meeples. Each action is done twice in a single phase, for example if you choose to flip cards, you flip two. If you choose to move, you move twice. Players must perform two actions per turn, but it doesn’t have to be flipping and movement. You can instead choose to perform the move action twice, resulting in taking four movements, or you can flip cards twice, resulting in flipping four cards. When you flip cards from the deck, it populates the board with a variety of items, recruitable meeples, or monster encounters. Items vary from swords that permanently boost your combat power, herbs that can be spent to temporarily gain a boost in a monster encounter, or gold that adds to your victory points during the final tally. You can collect these meeples by passing one of them onto their square, thus creating a party rather than an individual that you move around the board. They also add to your combat power, but only for the group they are added to. Monster encounters are initiated in a similar manner by passing onto their square, then you compare that individual or party’s combat power, plus any swords and herb boosts you apply, to the monster’s combat power and if you beat it, you win and receive the monster tile to tally at the end of the game.

The board is laid out in an intuitive manner. There are forests, mountains, towns, shrouds of mist, and a large river running through the board. Items and monsters appear in corresponding areas, with meeples appearing in towns, swords on the mountain, herbs in the forest, and monsters in the mist. The river is a special case, gold appears along the banks, however whenever a gold piece spawns, there is a water nymph piece that moves along the river from one position to the position where that gold piece appeared. Any meeples present in the path of the nymph are immediately killed and removed from the board, as well as no longer counting towards victory points in the final tally. This makes gathering gold rather risky, but given that it counts for victory points, it’s a well-balanced risk/reward system.

Adventureland is an excellent game, but it has one tiny nitpick that I’m concerned can affect the longevity of the game, and that’s the amount of scenarios. Only three are included in the box, and I have no idea if HABA has plans to release expansions for the game in the future. My concern is that once all three scenarios have been played multiple times, the game could begin to feel stale. New and interesting scenarios released as option add-ons would most likely benefit the game greatly. I feel there’s at least two or three more possible win conditions that are not explored in the three included, so there’s definitely room for more scenarios. HABA, if you’re reading this review, I would definitely suggest making plans to release scenario expansions if you don’t already have plans to do so. It would definitely stretch the life span of this game.

Adventureland is a deceptively simple game that results in some very open-ended paths to victory, enabling any player at the table to win, regardless of whether you play the objective or not. It works as a sort of catch-up mechanic for players that may be lagging behind other players, creating a very fair system of play. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and plan to continue playing it into the future. It’s a well-designed game that deserves the attention of table top fans everywhere. If you decide to pick the game up, I’m sure you’ll have many a board game night filled with cheers of excitement, groans of defeat, and fun for all involved.

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Thanks to HABA for providing the review copy used for this article. You can pick up Adventureland from the HABAUSA shop, Amazon, or you can use HABA’s store locator to find a toy or games shop that carries HABA products.

Images via HABA

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