Unlucky Adventurers Preview
Unlucky Adventurers is a quick and chaotic card game from the independent UK studio, Unlucky Archer. It’s a frenetic fantasy adventure with a high level of interaction, aimed at families to be able to play in a short time. With a name like Unlucky Adventurers, you might be wondering if it’s a game of complete luck. The answer is a bit of yes, and a bit of no.
Let’s take a closer look.
I’ve made it a mission of mine to make sure I give as much exposure to UK-based indie designers and publishers. That said, I’ve got my standards, and I won’t review just any old thing. I was really pleased when Chris from Unlucky Archer approached me to take a look at his game, as it’s just the sort of thing which I know my family would have a blast with.
The idea is really simple. Draw a card, play a card, and aim to always have at least one card in your hand. The cards you play often require the roll of a dice afterwards to see what the outcome is. Say, for example, I play my Knight Club attack card at you. If I roll an even number you have to discard a card (good for me, bad for you), but an odd number lets you draw another card.
Play continues around the table in this manner until one person is left gloating, with a smug, smug grin on their face. If the game was only made up of the parts I’ve mentioned so far, it’d be fun for about five minutes, with all but the very smallest amount of player agency. Luckily, there’s more to this little box of cards, and plenty to keep you thinking.
Included in the draw pile are a bunch of Beast Encounter cards. Draw one of these and you’re forced to play it immediately, and do battle with whatever monstrosity comes off the top of the Beast deck. Each of your cards has various different symbols and strengths, and to beat the beastie back into its box, you need to discard cards. If the cards’ values add up to what’s written on the Beast card, you are victorious, and get to draw some more cards.
Fantasy games really ought to have monsters in them, so I’m really pleased this little tangential mechanism was added. The same goes for the Blunder cards, which again, need to be played immediately. These live up to the Unlucky part of the game’s name, and you’ll end up stubbing your toe and falling into a hole, discarding a card along the way.
Each player draws a character card too, which usually gives you a one-time buff or ability to ignore something. It’s only a small addition, but there’s enough there to make you feel like there are some strategic choices to make. Each card has a few sentences of lore and light-hearted descriptive text too, which is a really nice touch. It would have been a complete game without them, but they just show how much care has been put into the game. It’s clearly a labour of love.
I don’t know Amy or Chris, but having played their game a good few times now, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they’re fantasy nerds who want to bring their love to families, with a good dose of humour. It’s a simple, lightweight game of chaos, and it does what it sets out to do really nicely.
If the idea of luck in your games is a turn-off, it’s probably not going to appeal to you. The vast majority of the cards make you roll one of the included dice, and as far as I’ve seen so far, it’s all a 50/50 chance. Some cards might look for you to roll high, or low. Some want odd or even. The differences are cosmetic though, and it often comes down to sheer luck.
Far from being a hindrance, the luck factor that Unlucky Adventurers has been daubed with is its greatest strength in my opinion. It means any player, of any age or ability, has a near-equal chance of winning. I should know, my nine-year-old is unbeaten in our house. It immediately made me think of games like Top Trumps, with the fast back-and-forth, and games that take the same length of time as it takes for your tea to be cooked.
Quick, mad-cap, card-flipping mayhem for the whole family. I’m so happy to see another UK independent designer taking their first steps into our hobby, and doing a great job at it. Check out the Kickstarter here, launching very soon!
Preview copy kindly provided by Unlucky Archer. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Unlucky Adventurers (2022)
Designer: Amy Niven, Chris Holden
Publisher: Unlucky Archer
Art: Amy Niven, Chris Holden
Playing time: 15-30 mins