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THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD A BOARDGAME for 2-4 players of 10 years and upwards.
Published by Kosmos. Designed by Michael Menzel with Artwork by Michael Menzel.
Online prices range from around £30.00 to £40.00 so choose carefully if purchasing - using someone you know and trust is best.

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If you have not seen this game yet or have not heard or read about it, let me take a few moments to give you some ideas on general public opinion. I don't mind reiterating what some others have said because in the main I agree with them.

Lets start with the artwork. Michael Menzel has produced a very tight fitting, exceptionally beautiful, large jigsaw style board of 8 pieces. This board shows portions of a Forest (Sherwood Forest?) and a Castle that we shall presume is the Sheriff of Nottingham's Castle. The game has been specifically designed with double-sided pop out tiles so that the players always can enjoy the splendour of the art. The sides of each tile smoothly complete part of the scenery, be it forest, river, clearing or person etc.

There are a multitude of these pop-out tiles, all are numbered and many have either a Star or a Question Mark as well. The number represents which page in the superbly produced game book represents what is on and maybe under the tile. Tiles with a question-mark '?s' can be examined by landing a player piece on/next to them; they are then flipped over. Tiles with a Star '*' and tiles that have only a number are only brought into play by the chapter of the progressive story book.

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The tiles are set similar to Advent Calendar doors except instead of ripping open the doors these tiles are popped out, flipped and replaced, throughout the game. They are fairly solid but the likelihood is that after a few pops and flips your fingernails are going to start damaging them. I suggest finding yourself a small plunger (as from a kids dart gun) so you can gently lift the tiles when required.

The Rules are often confusing, possibly because of the translation, and occasionally derogatory to play. For example, after completing the first 'tutorial' adventure and moving onto the second you are instructed to flip over all the tiles showing a star, so that there are no stars visible on the board. Then you are instructed to flip over certain tiles, by number, and several of these are the star tiles you just flipped - frustrating and also another opportunity to damage the tiles.

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Adventures can often end quickly and abruptly. Characters may be spread across the map but the moment one reaches or finds the designated destination all players suddenly appear there - surprisingly this doesn't happen in the tutorial as all characters have to reach the 'safe' place under their own steam.

In every adventure one player has to be Robin Hood. If you play the first scenario with only two players the characters must be Robin Hood and Little John; Green and Dark Blue Meeples. The player who is Little John has almost nothing to do until about halfway through the story when his activity begins. Playing the tutorial with 3 or 4 players has Maid Marian (Yellow) and Will Scarlet (Turquoise?) doing twice as nothing as Little John.

My suggestion is to play the tutorial solo but use both Robin and Little John, then you can learn the basics and quickly teach them to other players if you wish. As the game is like playing out a novel the rules are mainly introduced piecemeal as each new situation arises. For example, during adventure 2 Robin has explicit instructions to reach a certain tile as quickly as possible. In this adventure there are some Soldiers and Mounted Knights/Nobles face up. The Nobles are inactive until Robin reaches tile 90 and reads the accompanying passage from the book; then the Nobles become active and can either be fought or they can arrest Outlaws (according to the basics.

The main 'complaint' from our players, and later read online, seems to be that you are being led through the game and that you aren't really playing a game with any competitiveness and are just going through the motions of the story.

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As long as you understand that rather than this being an adventure game or regular/euro board game, it is a narrative where the players are the characters in a story, then you may enjoy this. If you are wishing for a laid back entertainment where the fun is in creating your own excitement whilst following a pre-set tale then the Adventures of Robin Hood is ideal. I have given my personal opinion in the last paragraph.

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The eight boards that make up the map of the playing area are kept tight in a specially designed sleeve. This is fairly strong, but like the pop-out tiles it will be regularly used. Taking that extra moment of care will ensure you have this undamaged throughout the life of the game. Another reason to keep the sleeve undamaged is that its ensures that none of the popped tiles fall out.

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Areas on the board where characters can move are shadow and sunshine, as well as Castle gates. Characters in shadows can be standing next to a Guard and not be discovered, but characters in the same lighted area as a guard are fair game for capture. Captured characters can do nothing until their next turn when they can try to escape. Other characters can attack a guard holding a character captive and rescue him/her.

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Top right of the board, and along this top edge, there is a 'legend' and a row of Seals. By finding one of the items on the legend you place a character coloured cube on it to show that you currently have this available to use; example in the tutorial when Little John takes the rope he places a Dark Blue cube on the rope icon to remind him he has it. The cube is removed when the rope has been used.

The Seals come into the game from the second adventure onwards. They are flipped when the story requires it and the key on their reverse side determines which new tiles are flipped and occasionally which other events/effects take effect. The Shield shows either I or II, flipped when you are told to turn it; this determines the paragraph/page read for flipped tiles as in the book' thus each tile can have more than one effect.

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Along the bottom of the right side of the map is the Hope Track. This track runs from 18 down to zero (with four players the Bard figure starts on the 9) where there is an open book icon known as the Bad End. On this book wooden meeple hourglasses are placed, this is the game's overall timer - so even though there appears to be room for off-tale exploring you are always against the clock. Anything you decide to do for extra amusement could be detrimental to the plot. Once the Hope Track reaches zero you begin to remove the Hourglasses from the Book (Bad End) and the adventure ends on page 213 when the last Hourglass is removed.

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Ominously the Gallows begins the game in the Castle Courtyard, all ready for action. There appears to be no safe way out, the buildings look menacing and the walls look very steep and high. You may wonder where Little John can find some rope at a time like this, but don't worry, for even if you have already sussed it out, you'll be walked through it.

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The game mechanics are neat and tidy, with almost everything being controlled by the contents of the Black Draw-string bag. During play all manner of pieces are dropped into the bag and mixed up. Amongst the contents there will be small wooden cubes generally Purple and White, Large wooden round discs in the players (and other) colours and all the Seals tiles that are not currently in use; thus it is easy to draw only the type of piece you require.

For the Movement phase you begin by drawing out a Large disc. Discs are always drawn one at a time and actioned immediately. Red discs trigger an event which can be for or against you. Violet/Purple bring darkness and violence. It isn't 100% clarified but it appears to be that the Grey Disc gives one player an 'extra' turn and the White disc gives all players an 'extra' turn - either that or the players decide amongst themselves who will take their turn and they disregard the coloured disc when it is drawn. We prefer to allow the Grey and White discs to give 'extra' turns as it makes the adventure flow easily.

The other discs drawn will be the player's colours, with each character taking a full turn (Move, Save Energy (optional) Perform one action) when their disc is removed before the next player takes their turn.

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There are 2 standing mounted Knights/Nobles and one with the horse having all feet in walking positions; this latter is Sir Guy of Gisbourne. The Grey Eagle and the Grey running figure are special characters found within the storylines.

Movement is neatly determined by using a form of measuring sticks. In this case these are 5 figures in each character colour. Two of these represent the standing character, one of these remains on the board at all times to show the space it currently occupies. Two are figures on medium bases and the third is on the long base. The player decides how far their character will move by placing one or more of these pieces in contact with the figure on the board and then stretching the determined distance, ending with the second standing figure (which now takes the place of the other standing figure as your representative piece).

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Not using the long based figure gives the Outlaws possible assistance in a bag draw. If you do not use the long base you add a white cube to the bag, if you do use the long base you do not add a white cube.

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When a character attacks a guard one of two things happen; nothing or the guard is defeated (not ever killed). For a guard to capture a character the character has to be in the same lighted area as the guard and the Red disc is drawn from the bag, without the Red disc nothing happens. For a character to defeat a guard the player draws three small cubes from the bag, one at a time. If three violet cubes are drawn then nothing happens, except the cubes are returned to the supply on the table not to the bag. If a white cube is drawn then the guard is defeated and whatever is printed in the hollow where the tile sits is gained - defeating Nobles is accomplished in the same way (once Robin has opened the door to Nobles being active).

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Apart from telling the story, the book has a Contents list that explains the different icons, objects and symbols; this is double-spread over the first two pages. On the back cover there is a compressed illustration of the map with the Guards, Nobles and Carriage tiles loudly numbered for quick find during play. Numbers 1-12 are Red and shield-shaped, 13-21 are Violet and hexagonal and 22 & 24 (no 23) are Green and octagonal.

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Defeating guards and/or Noblemen can give new Hope (on the track) losing to guards/Noblemen or being captured loses Hope. Hope is easier to lose than gain. Knowing what the icons are and where to find them is a great advantage - you can sometimes look under the guards/noblemen to discover their treasure before committing to the fight, but if you have a good memory you will soon remember the locations. Playing each scenario over a couple of times, as expected by the designer, is supposed to bring more fluency, but it's a little akin to reading the same chapter in a book over and over; it also seems a bit like cheating as there is a loss of urgency.

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Personally I like to play the game solo but using all 4 characters. As a multi-player game it could be described as an exercise in calmness. There is no urgency, no passion, no real excitement and no true character/player interaction (except from the table craic and banter). You are lead through the pages of a book that has been mentally turned into an animated play with you as the main characters. I had hoped, or at least thought prior to seeing and playing the game, that it might be a Sheriff (one player) and his troops against the Merry Men, led by Robin, with Marian the pawn in the stories as she so often was. My friends and family found it to be slow, going nowhere, going through the motions as required by the story and then suddenly the adventure stops and a new one is waiting. I, on the other hand, enjoyed playing all the character parts, even the evil Sheriff, and played it as though I was Robin Hood journeying with my Merry Friends and thwarting the plans of Nottingham.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2021