Adventure Games: The Volcanic Island (a Spoiler-Free Opinionated Gamer Review by RJ Garrison)

Designer: Phil Walker Harding, Matthew Dunstan, Chihiro Mori

Publisher:  Thame & Kosmos

Players:  1-4

Playing Time:  4 plays of 75 minutes each.

Ages:  12+

MSRP: $19.95

www.thamesandkosmos.com

*Spoiler-Free, all examples are made up while writing the review.

In Adventure Games: The Volcanic Island, players are students that are exploring a…you guessed it… Volcanic Island!  There have been some strange going-ons on this island and, like Mystery Inc. without the talking dog, you’re here to figure out what’s going on.

Players will work cooperatively to explore the island and work their way through 4 chapters of a story.  On their turn, a player can do one of the following actions:

  1.  Explore a location card or locations within a location card
  2. Combine 2 adventure cards with each others (usually items of one sort or another that the players have gathered/ found/ purchased along the way)
  3. Combine an adventure card with a location card. 

When exploring a location, Location cards have a set of different numbers on them, allowing players to move to that area of the card and then explore/ read (or if you’re smart, use the app and have it read to you!) what’s going on at that location.  Here players can find and acquire items and interact with others on the island.

When combining items, if for example, at some point along the journey, a player picked up a spoon (item 102) and in one of the locations, the player picks up a tub of Greek yogurt with blueberries (item 207) the player can then combine the items, look up to see if there’s a passage in the story book for #102207, (the item numbers 102 + 207 combined).  This may lead the team to read a passage that the player has eaten rotten yogurt and in need of a portapotty really, really quickly.  Luckily there happens to be one on the location tile where they found the rotten yogurt.

When combining an item and a location card, players can  for example, take an item, say a knife they found and use it to cut a piece of cake so everyone can have a piece.  (No, this is not a spoiler, just an example.  I don’t actually expect you, the reader, to share your cake with others…)

While playing, it doesn’t hurt to keep notes (and players will find this quite helpful!) of what they’ve seen and collected along the way, since there is a lot of information that comes along as players search the island.  There are items that players find along the way that may be used in areas that have already been visited, so back-tracking is not uncommon.

COMPONENTS:  The components include cards of a decent card stock quality, Adventure Location cards that make up the board, a small, easy to read and follow rulebook and a larger 90ish page storybook with all the different “choose-your-own-adventure” style paragraphs.  There are also some cardboard standees, various tokens and standee holders, which frayed one of my standees, so be careful when applying.

MECHANICS:  This game does not have your “normal” mechanics you find in a typical board game.  Players explore a region on a location card, read that paragraph (using the app helps tremendously) and then can explore more from there.  There is a lot of note taking, and attempting to use any items found along the way by combining item cards with location cards to push the story along.  Regardless of your decisions, the story does continue and there are multiple paths to the end of the story.

TIME, AGES & PLAYER COUNT:  The game plays over 4x 75 minute sessions, which seems to run about that length each session.  Ages 12+ on the box, could be played with 10+ (maybe even 8+ as a family activity).  1-4 players work well with the game.

ARTWORK:  The artwork is good.  Nothing phenomenal but certainly easy to see, read on each of the location cards, not too busy and easy to tell each different location on each of the cards players will be exploring.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The Adventure Games (this was my first one) seem to be reminiscent of the “choose-your-own-adventure” books of the 80’s.  There’s not a ton of strategy or decision making in the game, but there is a large amount of small choices on which direction to go in, how to combine items you’ve found and small decisions to move the game forward.  As you follow a path, that path leads you through a story.  You are able to back track and continue exploring in certain instances.  The main decision players make is seeing if you can put things together and use them in certain locations by combining item cards with each other and with other location cards.

I’ve ran a teen board gaming group in the past and this would be a hit with my teens, but not so much with my adult game group.  I think it would be a great family experience to work through and can even include younger family members in the adventure than the recommended age of 12+.  

RATINGS:
I Love it! RJG (for my teen group or if looking for a family activity),

I Like It.   

Neutral.  RJG (for my adult group),

Not for me.

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