Critical Review - Adventure Kingdom

Most of us, when we were younger, dreamed of being a dashing prince or beautiful princess fighting away monsters and villains, while saving the day and being the hero! Heck, for all I know, some of us may still aspire to be tht person when we grow up!  Thankfully, table top games allow us escape reality and delve into fantastic lands that are colorful, fun, and most of all, adventurous!  This week, we share with you another Game Crafter game that does just that, Adventure Kingdom!

Adventure Kingdom will put you in the role of a dashing hero or heroine, who will have to use their guile, their abilities, their pets and magical items, as well as a lot of luck, to escape the evil clutches of Castle Orm!  Orm, the dastardly villain, has captured you and your fellow heroes and heroines and has trapped you inside his castle.  The only way out?  You must capture a key from each of the castle’s rooms, find the hidden passage way out, and escape his evil plans!


Please note, this was our first Critical Review with our new camera so there were some focus issues we'll be working on for future videos to be sure!

I'm still not 100% sure how Playwell Games can use several of the names in Adventure Kingdom, but that concern noted, the first thing you'll notice, is this all seems very familiar.  In fact, so familiar, that you'll feel like this is several of your favorite fairy tales mashed together, in one giant adventure!  Snow White?  Check.  Prince Charming? Check. Little Red Riding Hood? Check.  They are all here!


Adventure Kingdom is just that too, a giant adventure.  You start the game on the Start Tile, and every tile is really exciting!  They are large square tiles that are colorful and represent a different room in the castle.  Each game is different in that there are varying degrees of difficult rooms (marked by E's, M's, and H's for Easy, Medium and Hard) and the options to create a castle layout with as many rooms as you like, and in any fashion.  Want a giant long hallway type board?  Sure no problem.  Want a small, tight board?  Sure, no problem.  Want a giant, all-in, 13 tile maze?  You got it!

After laying all the tiles you will be using facedown, and randomly (or not your choice) and having only the start tile showing, players choose a starting character to be.  There are a lot of choices, from Little Red Riding Hood, to Rapunzel, to Tom Thumb and everyone in between!  They are all very different, in that each character has a special ability.  Some let you battle monsters and villains, while other escape dastardly traps and devilish poisons.


After selecting a character, everyone has a pawn with their choice of color, and we all begin on the start tile.  The object sounds simple, as do the turn rules.  To win, be the first player to collect a key from the center of each room (which you'll have to explore into to uncover and flip) and then find the randomly chosen hidden exit to escape the castle.


The only thing you'll have to really "combat" is your other players trying to be the first out the door as well.  There's no timer or evil character representing Orm who is coming after you, but there is plenty to get in your way and hinder you!  This is played in a traditional board game style, in that the space you land on may have an effect and you must perform the action or deal with the results of where you land.  Before we get too far ahead though, let's look at a player's turn.


At the beginning of your turn you:

  • Draw a card if you have less than 3 cards in your hand
  • Play any number of cards from your hand
  • Roll a D6 for movement and move your pawn
  • Resolve the affects from the space you landed on
  • Play any number of cards from your hand


Seems simple right?  Well, so did "Go wake the princess in the tower..." but we know how that went right?

First, the cards you draw can be anything from Pets and Items you'll keep in front of you to help you to food to eat and help you move faster (or slower), to villains and monsters to hinder your opponents.  By now, you may be asking yourself, the same thing I was, "Why isn't this a co-operative game?".  I said the same thing myself after several gameplays and I personally believe this could have been an amazingly fun co-operative game, but I'm getting ahead of myself in this adventure again, let's digress.


The Monsters and Villains are a big impact to the game, as they both give players a chance to fight them off, provided they have a character ability that can let them, or they have a Pet or Item that helps them.  Combat is simple, in that you pick a card or character ability to use, roll the D6, and based on the results you win or lose.  If you win, the villain or monster is discarded.  If you lose, their affect is applied and they stay in front of you in your play area.  You can possibly get rid of them on a later turn, but for the moment, you have acquired a not so friendly friend in your adventure!


After you've avoided all the bad things happening to you (and there are a LOT of random bad things) and you have acquired a key from each room, it's time to uncover the secret hidden passage.  Throughout the game, there are Secret Rooms and hidden Passages to let you jump around the board quickly (yes, this feels exactly like Clue), but after acquiring a key from each room, the player who has done so then takes their keys, shuffles them up, randomly selects one, and that is the tile you must get to and land on it's Hidden Passage space exactly to exit the castle and win the game.


There are 144 cards of pets, items, monsters, villains, food, and sudden events that will impact the game.  With the rule of only drawing if you have less than 3 cards in your hand, things get played a lot too to ensure you draw more cards.  However, that often leads to you playing things ahead of when you'd like to, or risk holding out for a well-timed play that may not happen.  Additionally, the tiles themselves have monsters and villains to fight off as well if you land on them, and some that may never let you go unless you roll superbly!


There’s a lot to Adventure Kingdom, and before you go off looking for adventure, it's best to know a bit about what you're getting into.  With this game, it truly feels as though oyu are playing a traditional style board game, like Sorry, Clue, Monopoly, but in a much more customized way than ever before.  The ability to design your own castle from different levels and quantity of tiles is a fun aspect and enjoyable for almost anyone.  The tiles are bright, easy to read, and very random in terms of impacting the game.


Random unfortunately, is the opportune word here.  Between the dice, the random in game affects from the spaces you land on, and the speed at which cards are played, there is a lot of randomness in Adventure Kingdom.  So much so, it's primarily driven by luck alone.  Yes, you can hold cards for the right time, but the right time may never come, and only having the ability to draw when you have less than 3 cards means you need to play things fast to get more options.


We found that while most traditional designer table top fans didn't enjoy this game much, it was an absolute hit for family gamers.  Kids connected immediately with the characters, loved the random fun of a traditional board game flipped on it's head, and enjoyed the basic artwork that provided laughs all around.  While experienced Ticket to Ride or Catan lovers may not enjoy this as much, we did find this an excellent "bridge" game for the little gamers in our, and other family's lives, if they were looking for something more complex than the norm, but not as deeply strategic as a Catan/Ticket to Ride.


It's been a while, and we have been adventuring a lot, but for the first time in a long time, I feel this game warrants two ratings.  Family Gamers will find this a Hit of a game and enjoy the lighthearted fun and colorful setting that will set the table for a family adventure that will provide laughs and enjoyment for most gamers.  Non-Family gamers though, may not enjoy this as much, and more than not, will find it a Miss of a game.  


One final note.  The web site for Adventure Kingdom says it takes <30 minutes.  This is simply not accurate from our experiences.  Even the most basic game takes an hour, and the rules will tell you the average medium to large games take 120 minutes to possibly 180.  Is this a big adventure?  Yes.  Is it fun?  At times and with the right group.  Wherever you fall in the spectrum of fairy tales and unicorns though, The Game Crafter has helped another aspiring designer bring forth a grand vision, and one that if laid out with the right adventurers, can be an enjoyable time.


Critical Score (Crit, Hit or Miss):


For Family Gamers:

For Non-Family Gamers:

Edited Note, 02-24-13 at 8:57 PM CST:


One thing I love is the connected community we all have in this hobby.  The designer sent me a note after seeing this review and let me know the following:


"You will be glad to know that I have already changed the key cards. They are now the size of the mini deck and are easier to see and hand out."


Additionally, he mentioned that he would be changing the "<30 minutes" on the site as well to be more reflective of actual play time.

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