Fantasy Flight Games
“What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something.” -Belloq (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
It’s difficult to play The Adventurers:Temple of Chac and not think about the Indiana Jones franchise. In fact, on more than one occasion I had the John Williams score playing on repeat in my head in the midst of gameplay. And let’s be honest, the reasons are pretty clear, complete with giant rolling boulder.
Adventurers:Temple of Chac borrows heavily from the Spielberg classic and the many adventure stories and movies that inspired it. Players take on the role of one of twelve gorgeously illustrated (and sculpted) adventurers attempting to raid a temple of the Mayan god Chac. As players progress through the board, they are faced with traps and challenges, all the while trying to acquire treasure cards of varying values in order to be the most profitable adventurer at games end. Of course, profit only matters if you survive.
Players progress through a number of “rooms” along the board in a relatively linear fashion, though there appear to be choices to be made along the way as to which path to take. Players are given a number of action points to spend each turn based on a random die roll, cross-referenced by the players “load level” (number of treasure cards). Typically actions include move one space, search for treasure, or some sort of special actions that can be taken in the room. For example, the first room the adventurers enter, the aptly named “Walls room,” gives the adventurers an option to “decipher a glyph”. These glyphs represent trapped tiles that they will face later in the Lava room (so memory is key!).
Peril is present in nearly every room, and the heart pounding action feels real and palpable. Each turn, the ornately carved (plastic) walls of the Walls Room close in on the adventurer. The Lava Room is filled with randomized tiles, some of which are trapped and will collapse and crumble away beneath your feet. A wooden bridge later on requires a die roll against the players load level to avoid collapse, and escaping the underground river requires successful die rolls that can only be reattempted if the player discards some of their treasure. More than anything, the element that keeps the adventure feeling perilous is the giant rolling boulder. It weaves a serpentine path through the board, gaining “speed” each round. Not only can it crush adventurers foolish enough to get in it’s way, but if it reaches the end of its journey before the adventurers escape, it seals the exit, ending the game for the unlucky adventurer(s) trapped in the temple.
The components to the game are lovely, and add to the great feel of the game, but are also numerous. Each of the twelve adventures has a lovely illustrated reference card and a sculpted (unpainted) playing piece. Many of the game photos throughout the book show the figurines fully painted, and will likely inspire the miniature-painters out there to paint their own figures. The board is large and colorful, and the plastic boulder, walls for the walls room, and wooden bridge and planks add a sense of dimensionality to the game. There are fourteen glyph tiles for the Lava Room, and fourteen more glyph clue tiles used to determine which tiles are trapped (and provide the clues in the Walls Room). Then there are cards used to determine the movement of the walls, as well as eight different varieties of treasure cards, mostly associated with the different rooms they can be found in. Like I said, numerous components.
Overall, gameplay is fun and light. Much of the risk vs reward success in the game is dependent on a dice roll, which may frustrate players who dislike truly random events in favor of deeper strategic thinking. Despite the variety in gorgeous illustrations of the playable characters, the differences in each simply come down to which of the six special character abilities they possess (each being repeated twice). Each of those abilities is only useable once per game, so in the long run the impact to gameplay is minor at best. Where I feel the biggest let down in gameplay is in the variety (or lack thereof). Astute readers may have noticed that I said there are “appear to be” choices along the way as to which path to take. This is true – other than the walls room every path through the rest of the game has at least two choices. However, after exploring those choices over a variety of games, the optimal choice for treasure acquisition becomes pretty obvious. My eight year old picked it up quickly, and when the adults I played with in a subsequent game tried to debunk those “rules for winning”, we had little success. With some “house rules” in place to adjust the values on some treasure cards, or perhaps make certain treasures a little easier to acquire, this imbalance can be overcome, but it’s something that may limit replayability for those uncomfortable with making those adjustments.
Final thoughts and family gaming assessment:
The Adventurers: Temple of Chac is a great, family-friendly game. The highly thematic gameplay will certainly capture the attention of kids and grownups alike. Though the published age is ten plus, we played with a five and eight year old, who were able to grasp the basic gameplay and have fun. Adult supervision is probably required for under ten just to help with some of the more complex game mechanics. Rules are nicely published and clear for the new player, despite the complexity added by special rules in each room. The components add strongly to the overall theme and give the game great visual variety and a tangible feeling of place, though the sheer number of different components means risks of losing pieces can be a problem with younger kids about. Though some rules modifications may be needed to take full advantage of the potential variety and replayability in the game, we still think this is a great addition to the game closet, especially if the theme appeals to you.