Game Buzz – The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus

When I first started this blog, it was because there was an onslaught of Essen titles that I wanted to play, but couldn’t foresee getting to play any time soon.  The biggest problem I had was deciding which one to cover next.  As GenCon approaches (and Essen a couple of month after that), I’m having similar problems deciding what I want to write about.  My decision for this post was made by logging on to BGG to see that the rules had been posted for:

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

The original Adventurers game (subtitled The Temple of Chac) came out in 2009 from AEG and Dust Games.  Fantasy Flight somehow acquired the domestic publishing license from AEG, and now they’re coming out with this sequel subtitled The Pyramid of Horus.  And if any game deserves a sequel, it’s the original Adventurers game, also known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Board Game.  Complete with moving walls, a giant lava pit, a raging river, and a boulder threatening to seal you inside the temple forever, it was a fun and exciting treasure seeking game that was a fantastic example of a push-your-luck style game.  Original designers Guillaume Blossier and Frédéric Henry have now revisited the system, so 2-6 players aged 13 and up should be prepared for another 45 minutes of treasure seeking fun!  Right?  Well, let’s take a look.

This game comes with a board that shows the interior of the temple.  There are 8 figures for the eight new adventurers included in this game, as well as 3 mummy figures (you can’t have a game set in a pyramid without mummies).  Unlike the original game, this one comes with six colored bases that you can use on your adventurers in order to keep track of who belongs to what.  There are black bases for the mummies.  There are five dice in the game, each a different color.  There are also 36 stone blocks, and 36 numbered stickers you have the honor of affixing to the blocks yourself (sigh).  You also get cards.  There are 8 adventurer cards with a game aid on the back, as well as 4 additional game aids.  There are three different 18-card search decks (rubble, sand, and water), each containing various rewards and nasty creatures.  Additionally, there are 5 idol cards, 4 Horus cards, 5 Anubis cards, 5 Thoth cards, 18 mummy cards, 8 stone block cards, and 1 ankh card.

Layout - image by BGG user marconobi

Everyone begins the game with a character card, and as in the original, each character has a special ability that can be used once.  Unlike the original, however, no two special abilities are the same.  The board is set up much like the original, with cards placed in specific places around the perimeter.

The object of this game is to collect as much treasure as you can without dying.  The game is set up in a series of rounds, which follow a sequence similar to the original: adjust wound and load levels, determine the number of actions, perform actions, move the mummies, place a stone block, and pass the ankh.

First, your wound and load level (WLL).  The number of cards you hold determines how fast you can move in the game.  The fewer cards you have collected, the more actions you can potentially perform.  In this phase, you may discard any number of treasure cards to bring your WLL down.  One major change in this game is the addition of wounds that can be received from finding snakes, scorpions, or crocodiles while searching for treasures (you can also receive wounds from being touched by mummies or getting hit be a falling rock).  You can’t get rid of wounds here – they simply are dead cards that jack up your WLL until you use some equipment that gets rid of them.

To determine how many actions, the Dice Keeper rolls all five dice.  You then compare your WLL to the numbers rolled.  For each die rolled that has a number equal to or higher than your WLL, you get one action.  So let’s say that you have five cards.  You look on your game aid to see that 4-6 cards means that your WLL is 3.  Say a 2, a 3, two 4s, and a 6 were rolled.  You get four actions this turn.  Someone with a WLL of 4 would only get three actions, where as someone with a WLL of 2 would get five.

Now, beginning with the Dice Keeper, each player may perform all of their actions.  There are basically only two types of actions – move and search.  To move, go from one space to another orthogonally.  You can land on or move through spaces occupied by other adventurers or mummies (though if you move into a space with a mummy, you get a wound).

Searching involves drawing an appropriate card depending on where you are.  In the cobra pit (at the entrance to the temple), you draw rubble cards.  In the crocodile pond, you draw water cards.  In the scorpion pit (around the crocodile pond), you draw sand cards.  Treasure cards are kept secret, while wounds are displayed face up.  The game tries to keep you honest by saying you have to briefly reveal treasure cards before putting them in your hand.

Of course, you can also jump into the mummies’ corridor to try to open up a sarcophagus.  You move next to a card, flip it face up, then take it.  These are pretty valuable treasures, but it’s a drawn out process trying to get them – four actions if you try to get in and get out.  You can also try to get an idol out of one of the alcoves.  To do this, you have to roll the dice and get a certain combination.  If you don’t get it the first time, you can spend extra actions to try again, rerolling any dice you want to.  If you run out of actions, you’re out of luck.  If you get the idol, you have to put it so it shows the cursed side.  This means that you have to ignore the die shown when determining the number of actions.

After everyone has done their actions, the Dice Keeper rolls the five dice.  For every 4, 5, or 6 rolled, each mummy moves one space forward on its part of the track.  Forward is determined by the facing of the mummy figure.  Once it gets to the end of its track, it turns around.

Next, it’s time to place a stone block.  Draw one, look at the number, then place it on the corresponding space of the board.  If an adventurer was there, they jump to an adjacent space (adventurer’s choice), and take a wound.  Spaces with stone blocks cannot be entered, so if an adventurer can’t move out of the way, they die and are out.  Finally, the Dice Keeper passes the dice and the ankh card and a new round begins.

The game ends when everyone is out of the temple.  You don’t have any specific time you MUST leave, but if you can’t leave because the entrance has been sealed off, you are stuck in the pyramid forever and automatically lose.  It is possible that everyone will get trapped and no one will win.  For those who do escape, you add up your treasures.  The winner is the one with the highest total.

I enjoy the original Adventurers game.  It’s extremely light, and is very much what I like to call a big, dumb game.  There’s some strategy, but the major appeal is the tension of not knowing exactly what’s going to happen.  It seems a bit more linear than this game, with a clearer endpoint in sight.  The falling blocks adds a real Deal or No Deal feeling to this game.  The addition of wounds really kind of amps up the tension in this game, but I like that there’s some ways to combat it – equipment cards can get rid of wound cards for you.  Still, there’s a lot of randomness, and it will probably really frustrate gamers who don’t like that stuff.  But why would you be going into an Adventurers game wanting deep strategy?

I was just telling my wife about this game, and she said, “So it’s not really a race like the first one?”  No, it isn’t.  I mean, you’re trying to do as much as you can without dying, and trying to get out in one piece.  But the absence of the big boulder to race does take away that definitive endpoint.  In the original, you also know that if you’re more than five spaces away from that boulder, it won’t be flattening you this turn.  Here, you never know when you’re going to get clonked in the head with a falling rock.  You can keep one eye on the entrance, trying to get out before it gets sealed up forever (sometimes, you just have to let go).

So am I looking forward to this game?  Sure.  It’s going to be stupid.  It’s going to be chaotic.  It’s going to be tense.  It’s going to be exciting.  I don’t know exactly how much more difficult it will be, but I want to give it a shot.  It seems like a good sequel, and I look forward to seeing if there’s more coming down the pipe in future years.  Thanks for reading!

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