Tom Deschenes Game QUEST for the ANTIDOTE is a 2-6 players aged 13 and up. It is published by UpperDeck and available in the UK from your local game store.
It is blessed by illustrations from Scott Sherman and although it looks like it should be a gamers game it is really a very enjoyable family game which becomes obvious once you read the comprehensive but slim book of rules. Just 14 glossy, colourful pages which also contain a short comic-style story, Alternate ways to play, Credits and a Quick Guide to the Ingredient cards.
The high quality components are 6 pairs of wooden Pawns (2 of each ID colour) a pair of Dice (1 x 10 sided and 1 x 6 sided), a small Grey wooden cube, and a Deck of just over 80 cards which splits down into several smaller Decks.
The game board is set like an old-fashioned fantasy adventure Dungeon with passages and tunnels leading to the various chambers and special hide-aways. In the main rooms/chambers there are a small stack of Monster cards which represent the creatures that amble through or use this chamber as their home. When you reach the space next to the Chamber it means you have opened the door and must face whatever is inside, defeating it by a die-roll (plus any equipment/weapon bonus) versus the Monsters target number - the highest being 10 - on a 10-sided die. The ten Special Loot cards are shuffled and four are placed face down and unseen on the board, one in each of the appropriate spaces. Reaching these first gives the player whatever advantage the Loot card offers.
The idea of the game is to be the first player to get back to the Apothecary with all four ingredients required to save yourself from the poison you have been given - reading the two-page comic will explain the why's and wherefore's of the poisoning. The ingredients are found in the various locations around the map and those you require are on cards dealt out randomly at the beginning of the game. Players are also dealt a number (depending on the number of players) Meddling cards randomly at the beginning of the game. Meddling cards have two uses, the first being that they can be played on other players so that their effects affect their actions. the second use is explainbed below.
QUEST for the ANTIDOTE has a game mechanic that can be really good but can also be really frustrating. Players move their characters around the board by rolling the 6-sided die and counting their moves on the flagstones of the pathways. If they reach a Chamber where there is a Monster they can either fight it or turn around and run away as long as they have enough movement points remaining.If they fight they have to roll the D10 and beat or equal the Monsters target number. By defeating the Monster they can walk through the Chamber (cavern, room whatever you like to call it) and continue using your Movement points along one of the exiting paths (Entry and Exit from Rooms are marked by arrows). If the defeated monster has additional text in light italics then it means there is a reward, a special item, but these are only found on Monsters with target values of 8s, 9s and 10s
This all sounds pretty easy, and indeed it is, but of course there is a catch, there just had to be. The catch is that every character has just 50 Breaths to complete their Quests and find all four Ingredients and every time you roll a die, literally "every time", you lose a breath. In one game I managed to lose 30 Breaths attempting to roll a 10 (a "0" on a D10) and I would have been out of the game if I hadn't been able to swap each of my unused Meddling Cards for 5 Breaths extra each. There, I said that I would tell you the second use of the Meddling cards.
As for rolling 30 times without getting a 10 that is the honest truth. I could have stopped at any time and used my movement to go round the other way but there was a 9 target Monster I would have had to fight so I thought "what the heck"?. As it was the 10 was defeated and I then failed 18 rolls trying to get a 9 or over (yes, as luck would have it under the 10 was a 9) so I was killed out of the game. As games don't take long to play being knocked out was no problem and it was fun to watch the others play on. Of course in other games I decided that trying to roll a 9 or 10 was better than trying to roll a single 10 but I still get greedy in wanting the reward given by the defeated Monster.
QUEST for the ANTIDOTE looks like it should be a gamer's game and indeed core gamers will find some fun in it, though little strategy or tactics. It is actually a well disguised Family Game. If you remember back to the 1970's you will remember TSR Ltd, the company who gave us Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games. Well they also ventured into publishing board games and one of them was DUNGEON. I mention this because QUEST for the ANTIDOTE has quite similar mechanics - pathways through a Dungeon, a number of Monster cards in each Chamber, Defeating the Monsters target value etc. all are reminiscent of the DUNGEON board game. QUEST for the ANTIDOTE is not the exact same game, and it wouldn't matter if it was closer than it is, because it is a game of the 21st Century not the 20th. It also has the addition of the Treasure Chests in each corner that each contain one LOOT card and these can be extremely helpful but they will take extra breaths as you have to go down one-way paths to get to them.
There are times, albeit only occasionally, when the game defeats the players; this is when all characters run out of breath without one getting to the Apothecary with all the ingredients. Speaking of the Ingredients these are on cards and are different on each short edge - they begin face up and each showing an empty potion bottle. They also show an illustration of the Ingredient but looking dark and deadly, plus naming the area you have to visit to collect them. Once you have done this you flip the card round 180 degrees so that the potion flask is now full and the illustration is bright and cheerful(ish). Once collected you can only lose them if another player's character lands on the same space as you and challenges you to a Die Rolling Duel. Naturally this means that both parties lose Breath for each die they roll, but there is something else to consider before calling for a Duel - the attacking player must need at least one of the Ingredients the victim is holding - no matter how many they have that you need you can only steal one; remember the winner of the Duel might need one of the Ingredients held by their attacker and so the tables could be turned. On their next turn the "victim" can chase after their attacker and try to win the Ingredient back.
This is a good fun cross-over game between being a gamer's game and a family game. It edges firmly towards the Family side of things but even so most said gamers should find enjoyment in going back to the Roll a Die and Move game mechanic. We certainly enjoy playing it even though we have still got our copy of DUNGEON. This is a game that will make a super Christmas present to any boardgaming family. Available from your local game store it should cost you around £35.00 - £40.00 possibly a little less and it is worth every penny as you will soon get your money's worth from playing it regularly.