Quinns: We’re always squealing about smart games here at SU&SD. I’m guessing actually reading our site is a bit like untying the knot of a balloon with IMTELLIGENCE written on the side and having it noisily exhale into your face for hours on end. Which is misleading, because we love stupid games too.
“WHICH ONES,” you cry, anxious to get to the bottom of this unsettling admission.
Well, The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus is pretty perfect, for what it is. Let us tell you about it.
Here’s Pyramid of Horus’ conceit. All the players are treasure hunters that have found the legendary pyramid of Horus. Naturally, having found an architectural and historical marvel that’s lain untouched for thousands of years, you have one concern: looting the place blind.
During the 45 minutes the game lasts you all charge into the temple with the sole noble objective of leaving with as much loot as you can stagger under. The obstacles in your path are as follows: Scorpions, snakes, crocodiles, mummies, the ceiling falling in and, most worryingly, your own monstrous, bottomless greed.
Paul: Imma let you finish, but I think it’s a bit mean to call The Adventurers stupid. I mean. Yes, it’s not a complex or tactical game, but it’s not stupid, It’s simple. It’s all about quick decisions made in the heat of the moment, about seizing luck by the neck and throttling it until it coughs up death or glory. If I wanted to describe it in one word, I’d describe it as madcap.
Quinns:Madcap? I bet you’d also describe it as “Monopoly… on crack!” if I let you.
Paul: I would not do that, because I am not a journalist from the 1990s writing for a godawful pop culture rag.
Quinns: You’re right in that there’s plenty of un-stupid bits of design here. Such as the “WLL” system. WLL might sound like the noise you’d make if a doctor was gingerly exploring your rectum with one finger, but it’s a beautiful idea.
WLL stands for “Wound Load Level”. As you’re all sprinting through the pyramid you’ll pick up items, each of which takes the form of a card. As you get bitten, knocked about, groped by mummies and so on, you’ll amass “wounds”, which also take the form of cards. And the more cards you’re carrying, the slower you’ll become.
Everyone’s movement is dictated by five dice rolled at the start of each round. The higher your WLL level, the higher a number you’ll need on those dice to get an action. As the game begins, you only need a two or higher on these dice, so you’ll likely get five actions. Move one space! Search a square! Move again! Move again! Search a second time! What fun.
To begin with, anyway.
Paul: Unlike Quinns’s analogy, the great and cavernous space you’re not-so-gingerly probing in this game is full of exciting treasures. Rather than, you know.
And I mean full. This place is a veritable landfill of goods. Literally every square on the board can be searched, opened or unlocked. Just inside the front door the entrance hall is littered with shinies. Further in and you’ll find, amongst the crocodile-filled pool, sunken rubies. Then there are the sarcophagi that hide priceless artifacts. Imagine you were let loose in the British Museum with a hammer and a hoover, except that the British Museum was also being patrolled by the undead. And full of scorpions. And collapsing.
Every turn another randomly determined piece of the roof of this place falls in. It may fall on your head, which obviously hurts, but worse still, it may even fall between you and the way out. That’s all right, I guess, as long as you can work your way around it. As long as more blocks don’t make your route out of this place even more difficult. As long as you don’t find yourself completely walled off, at which point you’re out of the game.
That won’t happen though, will it? You wouldn’t be dumb, greedy and short-sighted enough to spend all your time loading up with goods and turn yourself into a bloated blimp of a tomb raider who’s too slow to get out in time, would you? You wouldn’t waste PRECIOUS TIME painfully crowbaring your way into another sarcophagus just to complete your set of idols while GIANT STONE BLOCKS are landing all around you, eh?
Quinns:Yes! Yes. It all comes back to that WLL level. Your character might have started full of wild, youthful energy, but slowly they’ll begin to move like withered pack mule.
And of course (of course!) the treasure gets more valuable the deeper into the temple you get. In the case of the Idol of Horus itself, the crown jewel of the temple, you need to trek there and then stand there as you pick the lock that protects it. Oh, and with temple’s five idols, each one carries a curse which locks out one of the five movement dice for you. Ha ha ha.
So, to summarise: The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus is a game where each turn you’ll get a random amount of actions, you’ll search spaces which randomly contain treasure or injuries, and deeper in the temple you’ll try and unlock idols through random chance, or pry open sarcophagi for random rewards while mummies move randomly each turn. …while the ceiling collapses randomly, ending the game at a random moment.
Worst game ever, right?
Quinns: WRONG! The Adventurers is a great game for drunks and children both, and here’s why. The game makes it just clear enough what the odds of anything are, and each turn you’re free to test your luck in several ways. This is vital, because by giving you this degree of control, The Adventurers starts to offer the same kind of thrill you’d get from a casino. You’re not at the mercy of the game. You’re playing the odds you choose, free to walk away from the table/temple when you please. You’re a hustler!
This is a game of clicking your tongue against your teeth, wondering whether you feel lucky enough for another pass of the crocodile pond, or an idol, or just getting the hell out. There’s about a one in four chance you’ll be locked in this turn. One of the players has already left. Others are leaving. But of course, because everyone’s treasure is kept secret, it’s never known which of you has won until the final, climactic reveal.
Paul: Yes! And what a theme, as well. The lot of you diving head-first into that frantic pic’n’mix of ancient Egyptian artifacts, all wanting to be the brave one who surfaces last, no doubt with a glittering golden necklace clenched between their teeth. Hedonism. Hedonism! Risk verses reward, and while there’s so much risk… Oh boy. The rewards!
So, are we recommending people buy it?
Quinns: Calm down. Of course not.
Paul: What? Oh, you’re a real pain in the artifact.
Quinns: LOOK. You and me are in the business of recommending the sort of games you could play hungrily for the rest of your life. The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus is more like the traditional perception of a board game. Something you produce from your cupboard a few times a year and have a good laugh over, not unlike a secret mutant son.
If that’s what people want, they should motor ahead and get this. But only if they want it.
Paul: Although in that field, it still beats the socks off something like Monopoly, because it’s faster, it ends with a dramatic escape rather than a grim slump, and even if it relies just as heavily on luck, you’re the one choosing when to take the risks or when to keep your hands safely in their pockets.
Quinns: And that’s another review in the bag! Quick and simple. Just like The Adventurers. Time for a bath!
Paul: Can I just add that the “Pyramid of Horus” makes NO SENSE because pharaohs were buried in pyramids while Horus was a god, so-
Quinns: TIME FOR A BATH PAUL.