The Cardboard Hoard: Initial Thoughts on Call to Adventure
I was sent a review copy of Call to Adventure by Brotherwise Games. I will admit, when they asked if I was interested in checking it out, my affirmative answer was almost entirely because of the upcoming versions of this game set in the literary universes of Patrick Rothfuss -- Call to Adventure: Name of the Wind -- and Brandon Sanderson -- Call to Adventure: Stormlight. Many board games that feature well known intellectual properties have underlying gameplay that is mediocre at best. So, the burning question I had was, would this Call to Adventure system be another in a long line of disappointments, or would it be a satisfying experience for both gamers and fans of the source material?
Say one thing for this game right off the bat -- its production value is very high. The game has killer box art that perfectly ties into the game’s theme, along with over 180 tarot-size cards with beautiful, unique artwork. Also in the box are a set of 24 double-sided painted runes, player boards, plastic experience tokens, a score pad, and a smartly designed custom insert that houses everything perfectly. The rulebook even has a very useful quick start guide on its back cover, something I wish more games included. I will note, however, that while the runes look and feel really cool, they are easy to mix up -- especially the first two runes of each symbol, and the special third rune of the set.
At its core, Call to Adventure is a light engine-builder where players are trying to acquire cards with certain story icons that will give them victory points, as well as ability icons that will give them more runes to use on future turns. The thematic tie-in is that each of the three rounds represents an act of each character’s life, from their origin onward. Cards can be personality traits or challenges to be overcome -- the latter requiring a throw of the runes.
Players each get a set of basic runes, plus additional runes based on the cards they’ve already added to their tableau. They will throw the runes -- in this regard, they are functionally custom two-sided dice -- and if they succeed the difficulty check, they will acquire that card. If they fail, they will get valuable experience, but they will not get the card they were attempting to acquire.
The three acts that make up the game sped by -- if anything the game was over too quickly -- but I suspect it is better to be left wanting more than to be pushing on to the finish after everyone is tired of the experience.
Note that in addition to the standard mode, which plays 2-4 players, the game also has a variant that plays solo or cooperatively, against “The Adversary.” However, I haven’t yet played this mode, so I can’t comment on how it plays.
I honestly enjoyed Call to Adventure a lot more than I thought I would. I admittedly did not have the highest expectations for the game, considering its generic fantasy veneer and its light storytelling gameplay. But beneath the surface where you are storytelling via building a character, you are playing an interesting little engine-builder. The bonus is that the storytelling aspect of the design creates a fulfilling sensation of having created a character worth the trouble of constructing at the end of the game. And the playtime is quick, not overstaying its welcome at the table at all.
While Call to Adventure is not my new favorite game, I did enjoy the experience of playing it, and would gladly play it again. The system is also simple and intuitive, making it a good choice for expanding it beyond the hobby audience with the intellectual property expansions. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the sprawling fantasy worlds of both Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson are integrated with this solid game system.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Call to Adventure from Brotherwise Games.