Full disclosure: A review copy of The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game was provided by Ravensburger.
So, funny story about this one. I kind of … lost the game? For a few months? Because I moved? It was in a box and I forgot what box it was in, and I played it, got home, was like “I am super ready to review this game” and then … nope. Took me a few months to work up the wherewithal to actually dig in and get the game out of the numerous boxes in my closet, but I did it. If you’d like to praise me for such a medium-difficulty task, please leave your praise in the comments, preferably in the form of “never before has such a thing been attempted and successfully completed with such pizzaz” or something that lets me know you’re especially sincere. If you don’t find this a sufficient achievement to merit praise, well, pause this review and reexamine your priorities, I guess? Not trying to make this personal, but, don’t know what to tell you. Anyways. Let’s see what The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game has to offer.
In The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game, players follow along with the classic film through six chapters weaving a complex tale of courage, revenge, adventure, intrigue, love, and rodents that are just larger than anyone expected. Along the way, players will cooperatively complete challenges and move characters to help advance the plot, lest they get stopped by the interrupting grandson from the film. There’s a lot of plot to get through, but it’s a tale worth telling, so will you be able to make it to the end?
Generally speaking, each of the six chapters has unique setup instructions. But you’re going to want to start by shuffling the Story Cards:
Deal each player four. Then, shuffle the Plot Deck:
Finally, shuffle the Special deck, setting it nearby, as well. If you’re continuing from a previous chapter, you don’t need to remove the Special cards that are already in the Story Deck:
Once you’ve done so, look at the chapter-specific instructions. You’ll start with Chapter 1:
Which will require you to set some tokens on the board:
And place the required minis:
But the exact setup instructions are chapter-dependent. For this review, I’ll be on Chapter 3:
As a final setup, place the Challenge Completed tokens somewhere nearby.
Get the rest of the chapter set up and you’re good to go!
Over the course of The Princess Bride, players will work cooperatively to make their way through the story of the classic movie. Interestingly, players don’t individually control characters (a bit like Magic Maze; how’s that for a throwback?); instead, they can choose which characters to move (usually) based on their actions on their turn.
On a turn, a player does the following five steps:
This one’s easy. Start your turn by moving either a single character up to two spaces or any two characters one space each. Note that there are characters that cannot be moved by players. Keep an eye on those!
This step lets you spend cards from your hand to perform actions. You can:
- Once per turn, trade one card from your hand for a card in any other player’s hand.
- Discard one card and move any character one space. You may do this multiple times.
- Complete a Challenge by both meeting the Challenge’s requirements and discarding the indicated cards. When you do, cover the Challenge with a token and gain the indicated rewards.
- Use a Miracle to draw three cards from the Story deck or one card from the Special deck.
- Play a Special Card. Any player can use a Special card on any player’s turn.
Finish up your actions by drawing two cards. If you run out of Story Cards, shuffle the discard pile; that’s your new deck.
Then, the game punches back, a bit. Discard the top card of the Plot Deck. Find its matching entry in the Plot Table on the board and follow the indicated instructions. Something will happen. It’s usually bad for you.
Your turn ends! If you have more than six cards in hand, discard down to six cards.
End of Game
So there are two ways a game can end. One is if your chapter gets interrupted twice! The first time it happens, flip the Replay Counter from the Grandson Side to the Grandpa Side and restart the chapter. The second time it happens, the game ends! You’ve been defeated. When restarting a chapter, discard your hand, clear the board, and set the Chapter up again from the initial instructions.
If you complete all Chapters, you win!
Player Count Differences
Largely, the major difference in player counts resolves down to … hand management. That’s the game, after all. With more players, more cards are out and available, so you can get a much cleaner lay of the land. That said, if one player has the ideal hand for a challenge, you’d best hope that your challenges don’t necessarily need to be completed in order, because the variance may mess you up, a bit. That’s kind of the hazard, unfortunately; you’ve got fewer turns per player, so getting cards where they need to go can be a bit more of a struggle. That said, this game isn’t particularly difficult on purpose (possibly to serve as a lovely companion piece for the film), so I’m not sure this is going to be a major problem. I am not sure what would happen if you played this with someone who hasn’t seen the movie or someone who’s not a fan of the movie (if the latter group … exists?), so, no comment on that. Otherwise, I’d say that this game is good to go for 1 – 4 Princess Bride Fans. You probably can play it solo just fine, but you won’t be able to trade any cards with anyone.
- This is fundamentally a hand management game, so, keep managing your hand. So much of Chapter completion is getting the right cards, so make sure you get the right cards in your hand and plan ahead, effectively. You’re going to be discarding a few cards here and there, so you want to make sure you’re flushing cards out of your hand that you don’t want (and won’t want anytime soon). If you’ve already played through all the Challenges that need Intrigue (blue) cards, well, those are discard fodder, now. You can burn them for anything.
- Talk with your co-players about which cards you need. That’s kind of the cooperative aspect of the game, but yes, you should be actively engaging your co-players to get cards set with the right players to complete challenges. Don’t just discard cards if you can’t use them! Instead, try to be the player that’s going to solve the fourth challenge and get your hand set up early to crush that.
- Spending cards to move isn’t a terrible idea, if you need to be somewhere specific, but you only draw back two cards, so don’t blow through too many. There’s a mild temptation to go as fast as possible, but if you burn your entire hand, you generally can’t complete any challenges until you have three cards back, so that can waste a decent amount of time. If you don’t like the cards you have, try to trade a particularly bad one away, so that you can maintain the total number of cards in your hand.
- Going out of your way for a Miracle may not be that bad of an idea, especially if you get a decent Special Card (or can get some quick Story Cards) from it. It’s pretty handy, especially because you might get lucky on Plot Cards and not have a particularly threatening time ahead of you. If you’ve got the extra time, you might as well. That way, you can keep Special Cards in play for subsequent chapters or just draw some super-quick Story Cards to help get you out of a bind.
- Keep in mind that moving multiple characters at the same time is expensive. Everything takes cards to move (other than your initial every-turn Move). If you’re trying to move two characters at once, you’re going to need to burn two cards per space. That may mean that one leads the other for a bit so you don’t have to spend as much, or you might redirect them in some way that’s useful. Either way, plan for moving multiple characters if you think you’ll have to, this round.
- Once you’ve seen a Plot Card, chances are, it won’t be coming back around, this chapter. Use that to predict the odds of what other cards you’ll see. The one advantage of using cards over dice is that once a card is discarded, that number won’t appear again. If you keep track of what cards you’re discarding, you can calculate your rough odds of getting certain Plot outcomes after each turn. This may be worth keeping track of, since that can influence if you want to go for a Miracle (and risk an Interruption) or if you want to just keep moving forward.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- With one exception (not this game, thankfully), I do like when games based on existing properties get their own art as opposed to just re-using art from the property itself. It’s fun to see stills from movies, but getting to see those images reinterpreted through an artist’s lens is even more fun.
- The game plays quickly; you could almost follow along with the movie while you play. I kind of want to try that at some point, but I feel like at that point, I won’t be paying enough attention to the movie? And I like the movie! But it seems like it would work with the movie in the background, if you were looking to try that sort of thing.
- Pretty simple to learn, and the first Chapter serves as a fairly straightforward tutorial. This is definitely a family-weight game, and the first chapter is mostly about learning the rules and systems of the game in a low-stakes environment. Worst case, Westley doesn’t get all the chores done and Buttercup is vexed by him, but that’s about it.
- There’s a nice, slow increase in complexity over the course of the game, which is also nice. By the end of the game, it’s decently strategic, which I appreciate, and I like that each chapter builds on the previous ones, both in complexity and in terms of player preparedness. The more Special Cards in the deck, the better of a time you’ll likely have. And you had five Chapters to prepare previously! You’re storming the castle.
- I actually like the Adventure Book Game system quite a bit, as well. Minimal setup, a pretty consistent (but increasingly complex) gameplay throughline, and variations on gameplay with the same components is a pretty solid innovation, and as a product I really like what they’ve done, here. For instance, I like that the Plot Cards are essentially a lookup table with effects that change every chapter. No new components required, essentially; just printing on a game board and there you go. I think this is a really good way to make approachable board games for IP licenses, though I would be interested to see an original game set within the Adventure Book Game system, as well, just to see if this is more my love of The Princess Bride or my enjoyment of the system. Right now, I’ve only gotten to experience one of these games, so, time will tell.
- The hand management aspects of the game are pretty fun! It’s a great way to learn this kind of thing, given the low compexity of the rest of the game. I’m often looking for ways that I can teach certain gameplay concepts with low overhead, and this is a solid one for hand management. Part of it is trying to help players get the strategy of “oh, I want to set myself up to complete X challenge in two turns, so I need to trade with Player 3 now“. It’s workable, and the gentle complexity of the game helps a lot with that.
- The minis are delightful. Humperdinck’s crown is grotesquely oversized, just like the movie. I love it. My one complaint is that Westley’s mini is so dark that it almost appears featureless, but that’s just a consequence of using dark colors, I think.
- I also like the suits of the cards? They’re fun. Just fun art. I never thought the R.O.U.S.s would earn their own card art, but here we are. I think that the core of The Princess Bride is kind of knowing what its whole thing is about, and the game also gets that at a fundamental level.
- There’s a certain frustration that comes with hand-management games that don’t have a standard sifting mechanic. The best you can do is spend cards for extra movement and then hope that you draw better cards later, but it can be slightly annoying if your turns get a bit off-sync and you’ve got players who have the cards that the other player needs to complete a Challenge. Being able to sift (discard X cards and draw some amount back) would be nice (hence, why it’s a Miracle Card), but what can you do.
- Similarly, light complaint, the (slight) nondeterminism of the Plot Cards can be troublesome. This is, smartly, where they decided to use a 20-card deck, rather than a 20-sided die, though. While it can be frustrating if your plans get subverted by the Plot Deck working against you, it’s better to know that once you’ve seen a card, it’s not coming back. You can plan around that, to a certain degree, and I appreciate that much more than a purely random die roll.
- The game isn’t terribly difficult, and might be basic for some folks, if you’re looking for something more complex. I mean, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone surprised by this, a 10+ game that’s 15 minutes per person in something called the Adventure Book Games not being an Enormously Complex Title, but I might as well mention it. We were never in any real danger of losing when we played, but for us, that was part of the fun of it all? As I mentioned elsewhere, this is a great way to play something that accompanies the main movie or celebrates it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for folks who are looking for a deep, strategic game that stands alone without the movie it’s based on.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
Overall, I think The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game is a lot of fun. I’m hoping / assuming / pretty sure that they’re going to make more Adventure Book Games, and this is a great template to base them off of, frankly. It follows the movie well, lets players trace out the plot, and is simple and fun enough that you can play through it and appreciate the references and the challenges on each page. I think, generally speaking, it’s likely targeted at a slightly younger audience than I’m in, and that’s totally fine, but this may mean that if you’re looking for a game for your Strategy Gamers Meetup, this … might not be it? I’d be surprised if you thought this was going to be it. Instead, The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game knows what it’s about and makes it very clear. This is a companion piece, a love letter to a movie, made for a pleasant experience for new fans and old fans, and I kind of like that a lot about it. It’s not trying to make the movie or the game more complex than it needs to be. Plus, you get to play through all of the best scenes, and the minis are a lot of fun, as well. It’s a great product, and, I imagine, a pretty-close-to-ideal gift for the board gaming Princess Bride fan in your life. If that describes someone you know, or you’re looking for a relaxed gaming experience based on a movie you really like, I’d recommend checking out The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game! I enjoyed it.
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