Adventure Land

Das ist Abenteuerland

Thanks to the wonderful people at Let’s Play Games Distribution getting your hands on Haba board games is now easier than ever in our fair country.  One of the more popular titles in the Haba line-up is Adventure Land.  Don’t let the slightly cliche title fool you though, what starts off as a fairly simple to learn game has the potential to descend to some of the lowest levels of strategy you’ve ever been.

I have this mental image of Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling (creators of Adventure Land) sitting in front of an open fire in wing back chairs in some lavishly decorated room of a manor house situated somewhere in Europe.  It’s getting late and they’ve just finished a game of chess.  One of them clears the board and lines up a few pawns on one side, a system of randomly placing coins on the board is conceived and after a single playthrough it’s decided that the pieces can only move right or down adding an element of strategy.  The rules become more complex before the sun rises hours later and thus Adventure Land is born.

It probably wasn’t like that at all to be honest, but hey, I have an overactive imagination. I also enjoy strategy and thinking and while I don’t have the patience for chess I can certainly appreciate it. So when Adventure Land arrived at the ATGN office, rather than hand it off to a contributor like I normally do I instead did the unthinkable and kept it for myself. If you browse back through my articles you’ll see why this raised a few eyebrows; I rarely do board games. It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good board game, I just rarely have the time and when I do I prefer to spend it playing role-playing games or card games like Arkham Horror.

The adventure begins!

But enough of all this waffle (put that syrup away), let’s talk about Adventure Land.

Setup is pretty straight forward –

  • Put all the herb, sword and fog creature tokens face down at the side of the board.
  • Shuffle the deck of cards and put them face down at the side of the board.  There is one card for each square on the board.
  • Place the relevant number of adventurers in the spaces outside the board in the top left. One adventurer per space.
  • Flip eight terrain cards to get things started. Flip an extra time if you reveal a fog creature.

The amount of adventurers, sword tokens and companions varies slightly depending on the number of players.

Starting with the youngest person and moving clockwise each player may perform two actions.  Those actions are –

  • Turn over two terrain cards. Flip an extra if you reveal a fog creature.
  • Move adventurer(s)

When it comes to movement your pieces can only move right (East) and down (South), they can never move left (West) or up (North).  As a move action you can move a single adventurer as many squares as you like right or down twice or you can move two adventurers as many squares as you like in a single direction.

As an example I might move an adventurer five squares right, pickup some loot then move another three squares right to pickup some more loot.  Or I might move three squares right, loot, five squares south.  Or I may move one adventurer right three squares and another adventurer right four squares.  Got it? Good.

You may not end your turn in the same square as another adventurer, neither yours nor your opponents. The exception being in Adventure 2 – The Magnificent.

Pretty easy right?  There are two other mechanics to the game as well.  The water sprite and combat.

Herbs, swords, companions, gold and fog creatures will only spawn on specific areas of the board.  Herbs appear in the woods, swords in the mountains, companions in towns, gold in the river and ironically fog creatures in the fog.  As I mentioned earlier each card in the deck relates to a square on the board.  A shrewd player will know or remember if a square has had its item spawn yet or not.

Gold only appears in the river, which allows for the water sprite mechanic.  The first time in the game that gold is spawned on the board the water sprite also appears there.  Every subsequent time gold spawns on the board the water sprite follows the river and stops at that location.  Any adventurers that it passes on it’s travels are removed from the game along with any companions.

Your friendly neighborhood Water Sprite. That wants to eat your face.

Combat takes place when you either land on a square with a fog creature or one spawns in a space where you have an adventurer already.  The herbs and swords you have collected are ‘global’, meaning that any of your adventurers can use them regardless of which one picked them up.  Companions though, can only be used by the adventurer whom they follow (once an adventurer stops in a square with a companion that companion follows that specific adventurer for the rest of the game).  The fog creature will have a strength value in a red font, your goal is to match or be higher than that value.  Your adventurer has a base value of one.  For each sword you add to the fight (up to three) you add a dice you may roll.  Some swords also have a value which is a fixed bonus on top of the die roll.  Herbs don’t add any dice rolls but offer a fixed bonus to the fight, often quite a generous one.  Companions add a bonus of one.  Lastly, gold may be used to add one or re-roll a dice.

If you succeed, any herbs, swords and gold used are returned to the game box and are now out of the game.  If you fail, then any herbs, swords and gold used are removed from the game as well as any companions and the adventurer itself.

On the outside of the board is a score tracker and once there are no more swords and no more companions the game ends.  In the first adventure you acquire points during the game itself.  In adventure two and three, points are calculated at the end of the game.

The absolutely brilliant part of the adventures and scoring system is that they don’t change the rules themselves but rather how scores are calculated. Adventure one can be played with a fair degree of impulse, while adventure three require a lot more thought and forward thinking to maximize points. In short, the game lends itself to the old adage ‘easy to learn, hard to master’, and for me that’s one of the greatest qualities a game can possess.

Crush your enemies!

My one and only complaint is the rule book.  Clearly English wasn’t the original language used to create the game and the rules haven’t translated particularly well.  It took us a little bit of time and head scratching to work it all out, despite being fairly simplistic.  My advice to you is to read the rules and then follow the ‘Quick Reference Guide.’  Thankfully we have wonderful resources like Board Game Geek which allow players and designers to communicate easily.  I found answers to all of my rules questions in the forum here.

In summary I’m really impressed with Adventure Land.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the games of it that I’ve played so far and earnestly look forward to playing it more.  I might even splurge and pickup the expansion pack ‘King & Princess’ down the road.  If you’re a fan of strategy, thinking and forward planning you’re going to really enjoy Adventure Land.

Keep an eye out for it on the shelf of your local gaming store. Recommended retail is $69.95 AUD.

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