Games of Adventure and Glory

Tales of adventure and daring have long been popular, from Gilgamesh and Beowulf through to Frodo and Spiderman, these stories tread archetypal paths and speak strongly to us about rich concepts like bravery, honour, truth and justice. Restless coals smoulder in our chests and winding paths to mysterious places  call to us like the sirens to Odysseus on his wondrous voyage

Given such tales of questing are popular in word, book and on screen, it is no surprise therefore that many games seek to allow players a taste of adventure.


There are, broadly speaking, two broad sub-genres of these games.  The first is Adventure Games, these games are about quests and questing across a country-side, in games like this players typically run a character who travels around a landscape improving their skills and/or completing quests.  Typically these games follow the archetypal Fantasy problem of having some ultimate goal within the setting – to vanquish an evil overlord or retrieve some sacred treasures. Players in these games tend to compete against each other to be the first to achieve this lofty goal and the games often feature wide swings of fortune as one moment you may be a mighty sorcerer, the next transformed into a despicable toad! The archetypal game here is Game’s Workshop’s Talisman.

The second of these sub-genres is the Dungeon Crawl – these draw their heritage from the old-style role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, where a group of characters (controlled by the players) traverse a dungeon stocked with wicked creatures and treasure.  These games typically follow a levelled system, where the deeper into the dungeon one gets, the more difficult the challenges one faces are.  These games also typically have some form of referee player, who controls the dungeons various inhabitants and often makes choices about how to foil the progress of the adventuring party. Usually the players will be co-operating at least loosely in an effort to stay alive and win glory, and the games may feature tactical – almost miniatures- like combat. HeroQuest and Space Hulk were the fore-runners of this genre.


Following are 5 games of Adventure and Questing:



Game Name: Prophecy
Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher: Z-Man Games /Altar
Players: 2-5
Playing time: 2-3 hours
Suitable for: Families (Ages 7 and up), Adults, lovers of fantasy adventure.
Sub-Genre: Adventure Game
You’ll love it because: Prophecy is a fun adventure game, the rules are light and easy to handle, the system allows for a range of choices about what a character does, and their plenty of ways of improving or individualising a character.  Treasures, guild skills and encounters all help to add flesh to the characters as they travel and grow.  The game also supplies various sets of alternate rules, from team rules to alternate endings that help speed up game-play.  This is a solid adventure game, and once players are familiar with how the game works, turns can spin by quite quickly.
The Adventure: Players control characters who travel the world facing encounters, testing their prowess in combats, gaining skills from various special guilds (like the Thieves’ Guild, or at the Fortress), improving their martial and magical skills and utilising special treasures they buy or win.  The object of the game is to be the character who achieves possession of four of the five ancient artefacts – for then they are deemed powerful enough to satisfy the Prophecy and be declared king.





Game Name: Descent: Journeys in the Dark
Designer: Kevin Wilson
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 2-5
Playing time: 4-6 hours
Suitable for: Families (Ages 10 and up), Adults, lovers of fantasy adventure and/or role playing games.
Sub-Genre: Dungeon Crawl
You’ll love it because: Descent: Journeys in the Dark is a dungeon crawling game in true Fantasy Flight Style, tons of miniatures, lots of card board, luxurious art and a huge box to fit it all.  Descent is a detailed game that can take a long time to play, but Kevin Wilson’s twists to an old game style, including making the Dungeon Master (called an Overlord in Descent) a competitive role, make the game exciting, tactical and a blast to play.
The Adventure: In Descent: Journeys in the Dark a group of budding adventurers, controlled by the players, pit themselves against the machinations of the Overlord.  This one versus many approach makes the role of the Overlord a fascinating one, as they legitimately work to ‘win’ the game, rather than just run the setting in which the players act, as in many other Dungeon Crawl style games.  Characters develop over the course of the game, gaining skills, as well as new and powerful equipment, as the characters progress through the Dungeons the perils they face grow more dire and powerful.  The Overlord gains in power too – drawing cards from their deck that allows them to play nasty tricks, or bring more or bigger creatures into the dungeon to drive back the advancing characters.  Descent is a tactical and fun game where players go on mini-quests to complete a dungeon. Although complex and often long playing, it is an enjoyable romp for any lover of heroic fantasy.






Game Name: Runebound Second Edition.
Designer: Martin Wallace & Darrell Hardy
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Players: 2-6
Playing time: 2-4 hours
Suitable for: Families (Ages 10 and up), Adults, lovers of fantasy adventure.
Sub-Genre: Adventure Game
You’ll love it because: Runebound is typical of Fantasy Flight, a richly thematic experience enriched by wonderful components and artwork.  Runebound has some complex rules, and can last a long time when played (nothing unusual for this genre), especially if there are more than two or three players, but with different characters, treasures, encounters and skills available this is a varied and thematic game offering adventure aplenty.  Characters grow in competence as the game progresses, and there are a myriad of expansions available to add detail and variation to this already rich experience.
The Adventure: In Runebound players play adventurers travelling the world of Terrinoth seeking to gain in martial prowess and skill enough to challenge the fell dragon Margath and it’s minions and rid the land of their dark shadow.  Expansions abound, and add anything from more characters and skills to providing new villains to fight and even opening up whole new continents for exploration and adventure.





Game Name: Tomb
Designer: John Zinser
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
Players: 2-6
Playing time: 1-3 hours
Suitable for: Families (Ages 10 and up), Adults, lovers of fantasy adventure.
Sub-Genre: Dungeon Crawl
You’ll love it because: Tomb is a new twist on an old genre, seemingly inspired by the style and theme of classics from Dungeons and Dragons, Heroquest and the more modern Descent, Tomb manages to provide the same thematic experience with a very different play style.  In Tomb each player controls a whole party of adventurers, in fact the player recruits the party and then sends them off into the Dungeon to gain wealth and glory.  Players aren’t as attached to their characters in Tomb as they may be in other games, in Tomb a party of adventurers is a means to an end, and that end is treasure and experience.  Character parties can, and often do, get sent to their demise, rogues can be used to filch off other parties, and the way the Dungeon is stocked in the initial portion of the game means that players will have a glimpse of some parts of what is waiting in the dungeon rooms, but not all…  Tomb is a game of chaos, theme and fun.  Seeming to take a playful swipe at aspects of this game genre, and at other turns provide tense and interesting play, Tomb is a great game for people who enjoy or have enjoyed the Dungeon Crawl sub-genre of fantasy games.
The Adventure: In Tomb players recruit a party of daring adventurers who are used to go off into the dungeon to gain treasures, fame and glory.  The dungeon is stocked at the beginning of the game to be full of treasures, creatures and traps.  Different characters have different thematic abilities and the whole game is a fun and playful take on the genre.  Tomb is an enjoyable romp, not too complex, yet not devoid of thought provoking moments.  For old role players, or aficionados of this style of game, Tomb should also provide the odd wry smile and chuckle.  The game is fun, and those who enjoy have a good time should find a winner here.





Game Name: Return of the Heroes & Under the Shadow of the Dragon
Designer: Lutz Stepponat
Publisher: Pegasus Spiele
Players: 2-4 (2-6 with the expansion)
Playing time: 1-2 hours
Suitable for: Families (Ages 7 and up), Adults, lovers of fantasy adventure.
Sub-Genre: Adventure Game
You’ll love it because: Return of the Heroes is a game of travel and adventure.  Play is simple and the rules (if you can get past the narrative style rules book (and there is plenty of help online)) are straightforward and easy to pick up.  It is a simple game system that is all about travel and questing, the game board and pieces are beautifully produced and the system allows for plenty of variation through treasures, skill growth, and character types.  This game (like most others of this genre) is as much about the experience as it is about the game; it feels like a race to be the first to defeat The Nameless.Return of the Heroes has an English language expansion called Under the Shadow of the Dragon, which expands the games by two-players but which is also a stand-alone adventure game for two-players in the same style as the base game Return of the Heroes.  Under the Shadow of the Dragon adds more characters, more players, more boards, new quests and new villains to defeat.
The Adventure: Characters in Return of the Heroes travel the world completing quests.  Through a clever system of tile draws adventure ‘seeds’ are placed on the board, players need to travel to connect all these ‘seeds’ together and solve the quests.  Travel is also dangerous as there are plenty of evil creatures scattered around the board to encounter and defeat.  Players move along tracks and trails, and the movement system is both simple and elegant, nicely replicating the ‘feel’ of adventure questing.  Characters are essentially in a race to get strong enough to face down the evil Nameless and his lieutenants and so become the Heroes that this fantasy land has been missing.   Return of the Heroes is a simple yet fun adventure game.