Thanks to Sundial Games for providing a PNP review copy of this game.
Something a little different on the blog today as I review
Quest Calendars is a series introduced just last year by Sundial Games. It’s a page-a-day calendar that is a kind of RPG quest, where you just do a little portion every day of the year. The system was designed by Thomas Bedran, and the first calendar was successfully Kickstarted and released in 2020 for the 2021 calendar year. The 2022 calendar is currently up on Kickstarter. Sundial Games is local to me here in Colorado Springs, so I definitely wanted to check this one out.
Along with the calendar, you’ll need your own set of polyhedral dice. If you don’t know what that means, it’s a set of seven dice with different numbers of sides – four-sided, six-sided, eight-sided, ten-sided, twelve-sided, and twenty-sided. These are all traditionally written with the letter “d” followed by the number – d6 is a six-sided die, and so on. You’ll have one of each of these dice, except the d10s – you’ll have two of those, with one written in 10s rather than single digit numbers. The calendar plays out like a traditional RPG campaign, with several notable exceptions. There’s no DM, the whole thing is run by the calendar. You don’t get to create your own character, but you do get several choices of character to inhabit. Also, the system is really only designed for one player.
Each day, you reveal a new page of the calendar. You’ll either get a short snippet of story, a challenge to overcome, or even get a chance to rest and/or level up your character. Weekends are combined, so Saturdays and Sundays are one page. The backs of each page contain resolution tables for the next page so you don’t have to reveal things too early (though it’s the next page in the PNP). Skill checks are done by rolling a d20 and applying any modifiers listed. Combat is done by rolling a d20, then applying damage if you hit. And then there are other skills and things you can use to make your character more effective. The storyline progresses each day, and by the end (I assume), you’ll have a complete tale.
What I got for this review was the PNP version of the 2021 calendar (which is still available at sundialgames.com). I got it at the beginning of March, so I had to blitz through January and February before getting to start doing the day by day questing. More on that in a bit, but the PNP works pretty well. I didn’t print it out, I just pull up the file on my computer and go to the current day, keeping track of my stats elsewhere. The biggest problem I see is some pretty glaring typos every now and then. Like on one particular day, there’s a fight with some bearfrogs. However, in the combat resolution, each one of them is labeled as a goblin (which I’m assuming was cut and pasted from a previous day and just not changed). This typo appears to also be in the printed version (I checked against a YouTube channel that’s doing daily videos covering their quest). It’s generally a small thing, but I think it’s worth noting. Nothing I’ve found really affects gameplay.
As for other attributes, the game has nice fantasy art and is pretty well laid out, with frequent reminders of relevant rules. I especially like that it reminds you of skills you may have that will help you in certain challenges. I know I tend to forget about those. I feel like the rules aren’t necessarily clear on how the game should flow, but that’s something I’ve found in a lot of RPG type games. There’s an assumption that you know the basic tropes of the genre, and they just give you the changes. For example, when the phrase “does not stack” comes up, I can’t really find an explanation of what that means. I’m assuming that you can’t use multiples of something to get a better bonus, but it’s something that I had to figure out for myself that might come more naturally to someone more familiar with RPGs.
The flow of the story so far has been enjoyable. If you’re doing it daily, there’s a very small encounter or challenge on most days, and it shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to knock out. It was kind of fun to plow through the first two months, and it’s felt a little slow to just do a day’s worth per day. That’s not always a bad thing, and it’s really easy to catch up if you miss a couple of days here and there. I’ve heard people say they like to save days up until the weekend so they can get in a week’s worth of play at a time. There are a few thematic quirks that the system introduces. For instance, you only get one shot at most of the monsters (except the big ones, which you are required to fight for several rounds). Whether you beat them or not, the next day usually has them dead. It feels strange to me, but I guess you can assume that if your first strike was unsuccessful, your second off-camera strike was a killer.
Death of your character is probably going to happen at some point. The game deals with this by having you resurrect the next day with half of your health, and rolling a d6. According to a chart, something will happen – you’ll have to pay gold, you’ll gain a wound, you’ll suffer an injury, you’ll experience mental trauma, you’ll lose a magical treasure item, or you’ll lose “once per rest” abilities until your next rest. Rests are your chance to recover your health and abilities, as well as sometimes to level up and get new stuff.
Near the beginning of this calendar, you are given a choice between six characters to take with you on your journey. To my board game brain, this gives you an opportunity for replayability. If you save your pages, you can go back through it with a different character to see how you do. Obviously, you’re taking away an element of surprise by doing this, I’m just saying it’s a possibility. Or, you could even try to do some simultaneous runs. Like an alternate dimensional thing. That might be fun. I might go back and retroactively do a run with another character some time to see if they do any better.
IS IT BUZZWORTHY? I really like what this calendar is doing. I think there are some bumps in the system from the 2021 calendar, but I think Sundial is learning from their mistakes and the 2022 calendar will be even better. I look forward to seeing what that one is about, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work through the current one for the rest of the year. The Kickstarter campaign for 2022 is live through March 30, and is already funded, with an expected delivery date of October.
Thanks again to Sundial Games for providing a review copy of the 2021 calendar, and thanks to you for reading!