LOS APRENDICES - The APPRENTICES
A "boardgame" for 2-4 players aged 10+ who are looking for 45 minutes of entertaining challenges.
Designed by: Alberto Corazón Arambarri Artwork by: Carlos Cara Published by: Zacatrus (Spain)
Actually to be fair, Los Aprendices is not truly a boardgame, it's actually a dice game with a series of boards.
There are 28 dice, 8 each of Green, Yellow and Purple and 4 Black, 6 double-side printed boards, 24 "large" wooden tokens (which are not really large), 4 smaller wooden player tokens (not for small wooden players) plus 1 Red wooden token and 32 cards. All pieces are good quality and durable, the game is not language dependent (other than the rules which are found in two booklets, one Spanish and one English). Pages 2-12 contain the rules, exceptions and tips, whilst the first page is the set-up story and the last pages (of the 16 page booklet) are descriptions of the boards and the pictograms found on them and on the cards.
The six boards have a small icon in the bottom right corner that determines whether they are for the "Way of the Apprentice" or the "Way of the Initiate". When first playing it is advised to use the "Way of the Apprentice" to get used to the mechanics of the game and then advance to the slightly more difficult "Way of the Initiate"; in each of these the boards are placed on the table in a 1 over 2 over 3 pyramid formation. Once you have played both ways a couple of times each then you can experiment by shuffling them up and using any combination of side; thus giving you a myriad combinations of game setup (the positioning of the boards in the pyramid doesn't matter)
The dice are six-sided and show various numbers of icons depending on their colour:
Green - Potion x 3 Gem x 1 Scroll x 1 Raven x 1
Yellow - Scroll x 3 Gem x 1 Potion x 1 Raven x 1
Purple - Gems x 3 Scroll x 1 Potion x 1 Raven x 1
Black - Raven x 3 Gem x 1 Scroll x1 Potion x 1
After setting up the pyramid of boards each player should be given one of each colour die plus they get to choose another of any colour except Black so everyone begins with 5 dice. The Potions, Gems and Scrolls are resources that you can use to help you research which gains you bonus giving cards and most importantly Knowledge points that initially you want to spend to buy additional dice and then at a certain point in the game, your decision, to keep saving as the highest Knowledge point total wins the game. The Ravens are the research that goes wrong, though you can negate them with Gems, one for one. Another way to get rid of Ravens is to ask other players to use Gems from their dice rolls to negate your Ravens, in fact they can even do this without asking you if they wish, as each time an opponent helps out another player they (the helper) gains a Knowledge point. However if you are stuck with Ravens on your dice that you cannot negate you get to roll them again one at a time and that can be disastrous to your research for this turn as if you re-roll and get a Raven you lose 5 Knowledge points and if you roll one of the resources you lose all the dice which show that resource, thankfully lost dice are only discarded until the next round you don't lose them forever.
So the game is about rolling dice and using the result to the best of your advantage. Resources that you have left (after Ravens have been dealt with) can be spent on any of the boards where those specific resources are required. When you use a board you either place one of your tokens on it's first space (if using the board for the first time) or move it along the board's track - depending on the number of players you can only move so far along the track and then you cannot use the board any more; track spaces also often give you bonus Knowledge points as well as the bonus you get from the effect of the board.
It all sounds very simple and not particularly challenging and that's exactly what it's not! When you gain the bonus cards from the boards you have additional effects or resources to use for your research each turn, well each turn that your token is still in the lead on the track/board associated with that card; once someone overtakes (or lands on top of) you you lose the card to them and that can be a real pain if you are depending on it. Also to use a board you have to pay its cost first from the dice you rolled; the cost is shown in resources at the bottom left of the board. This cost means you discard the necessary dice (or use resources on cards you hold) before you can spend the resources on research. First Turn changes at the end of each Round and if I am to complain about anything about this game it's that there is no First Turn marker and although this might not seem to be important, it is, because it's very easy with all the possible card changing, die rolling and resource spending to forget who started the Round, heck we've had games where we can't even remeber whose turn it is let alone who went first. Thankfully it's easily solved, just pick up the first small object you see in the room and use that (a Quill, a Mortar & Pestle, a Wand anything will do).
There is actually more in the gameplay than you might think and thus LOS APENDICES has become a firm favourite here. Games last less than an hour which makes it ideal to play with young players with short memory spans, families who enjoy uncomplicated but thoughtful games, and gamers (who like Euro Games) will find it a great game to begin or end a gaming session with (or even begin and end a gaming session with).
This is indeed a clever game, nicely produced and enjoyable to play. Online it can be found at around €26.00 and going on the prices of games this is a steal. If it had been €40.00 - €45.00 I wouldn't have been surprised and it would still be good value.
Association of Spain Games