Venture Forth Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 7 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 2 to 4 players
  • About 70 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Reading
  • Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Hard
  • Adult – Moderate

Theme & Narrative:

  • It is a time of legend and adventure, as brave heroes travel the land looking for fame and fortune

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Power comes in many forms, be it wealth, knowledge, or might. Throughout the land, brave heroes seek such power, being led by their own ambitions, as they explore the land full of adventure and danger. The players will lead their own adventuring group of heroes and brave the road between pockets of civilization, encountering both friend and foe along the way. Some would say it is the journey that matters most and not the destination, but when the final destination is fulfilling your wildest dreams, one cannot help but take even the most dangerous road, even if the journey could mean death!

Venture Forth is comprised of one double-sided game board (offering two different playing areas), four player reference cards, thirty-six Adventure Encounter cards, thirty-six Enemy Encounter cards, twenty Level One/Two cards, twenty Level Three cards, twenty-one Treasure cards, four player pawns, four scoring discs, twenty Coin tokens, twenty-two Explore tokens, thirty Will cubes (white), and fifteen Despair cubes (black). All the text and iconic imagery used to convey rules and actions are very easy to read and to understand. All the bits are either thick cardboard or wood, making the game very durable. Best of all, the game fits nicely right back in the game box with room to spare!

Game Set Up

To set up the game, first determine which side of the game board you want to play on. There is a suggested “first time player” side to use, but neither side is really any easier than the other. The difficulty of the game comes from what players place on the road using Encounter cards. Place the board in the middle of the playing area.

Shuffle the Adventurers and Enemies together into the Encounter deck and place, face-down, on the game board space. Then place all the Level One/Two cards in a single deck next to the game board with the Level One side face-up. The Level Three cards should be shuffled and divided into roughly three even stacks. These stacks are placed next to the Level One/Two deck, face-up. Shuffle the Treasure deck and place it face-down next to the game board.

Separate into piles the Will (white cubes), Despair (black cubes), and Coins. The Explorer token can also be placed into a pile, but need to remain face-down. We suggest you put the Explore tokens into the lid of the game box to be drawn blindly to conserve table space.

Each player will now select one pawn, take a player reference card, a scoring marker (in the same color as their pawn), and draw six Encounter cards. All the scoring markers are placed on the zero value space on the score track located on the border of the game board. Players should keep their Encounter cards hidden from the other players. If the player does not have any Adventurer cards in his hand, he should discard and draw another six cards.

All the players determine who is the first player. Feel free to roll dice, wrestle, or duel with pistols. Whomever is the first player is given three Coins. All the other players are given four Coins. Using these coins, the players now purchase their starting Adventurer from their hand, paying the cost in Coins equivalent to the Adventurer’s power (noted in the upper left-hand corner of the Adventurer card). The Coins are returned to the Coin pile, the purchased Adventurer is placed out in front of the player, and a Level One card is placed next to that Adventurer. This is the player’s starting adventuring party. Any Coins not spent are kept by the player.

The first player now places his pawn in any temple site located on the game board, followed by the second player and so on until all the players have placed their pawns. Note that a pawn cannot occupy the same temple site as another pawn previously placed. This rule only applies to the initial game set up and pawn placement.

Example of game play set up

You are now ready to play the game, but before you venture forth, you best know who your friends and enemies are.

Friends and Foes

Throughout the game, players will encounter friends and foes on the road. Friends are Adventurers who can be enlisted (by buying) into the ranks of the player’s adventuring party, while foes are Enemies that seek to thwart a player and his adventuring party by causing Despair, draining the Will of the adventuring group, and even stealing hard-earned coins!

Adventurers can be “recruited” while traveling from one location to another. In order to do so, the player needs to have the Coins to pay for the Adventurer (the cost is equal to the Adventurer’s power). Careful consideration of who is recruited is necessary as a player can only have a maximum of five Adventurers during the course of the game and cannot dismiss any Adventurer who has been previously recruited. A player can therefore choose to not recruit the Adventurer and simply move on. If they do recruit the Adventurer, the card is removed from board and placed in front of the player who recruited it, the appropriate number of Coins is returned to the Coin pile, and a Level One card is placed next to the newly acquired Adventurer.

Example of an Adventurer card

While Adventurers can simply be sidestepped, Enemies cannot. Each enemy along the road must be dealt with before the player can take another step. Enemies can only be overcome by adding the adventuring party’s total power. This is done by adding each Adventurer’s power (noted in the upper left-hand corner of the Adventurer card) together to determine the total power of the adventuring party. If the total power is equal to or higher than the Enemy’s power, the Enemy is defeated and removed from the path space (discarded). If the Enemy cannot be defeated, it remains and the player moves on, but their failure to overcome the obstacle put before them is negatively rewarded. Each Enemy will penalize the player by either removing one or two Will cubes, adding one or two Despair cubes, or removing one or two Coins and remains on the board to  ambush the next Adventurer that comes by.

Example of an Enemy card

If push comes to shove, and the adventuring party encounters an Enemy that is simply too strong for it, the player has the option of exerting their adventuring party. The player pays one Will per Adventurer they want to exert. In return, the Adventurer’s power is doubled for this one encounter. An Adventurer can only exert themselves once per encounter, but can be exerted for every encounter on the path as long as they have Will available.

On Leveling and Ambition

Throughout the game, the player will be awarded Will and Coins. These are given to the player when they populate the game board with an Adventurer or Enemy Encounter card based on the space the card is placed. These are kept by the player until such time they want to use them.

Coins are used at temple sites to grant the player special actions and boons, as well as recruiting Adventurers they encounter on the path. Coins belong to the entire adventuring party. Will is used to increase the level (and the effectiveness) of the Adventurers in adventuring party. But before a player can improve an Adventurer, they must meet two requirements. First, the player must have enough Will attached to that Adventurer and second, the Adventurer’s ambition must be met. Unlike Coins, Will is awarded and attached to single Adventurer; there is no common Will pool that the adventuring party shares. The same goes for Despair which is attached to a single Adventurer and never shared across the adventuring party.

Each Adventurer has a single sentence located at the bottom of their card that defines what condition must be met in order to trigger a possible level improvement. This is the Adventurer’s ambition. For example, the Explorer Adventurer’s ambition is to gain a treasure. If the player gains a Treasure card during their turn, they can pay the cost in Will to increase the level of that adventurer. Optionally, the player can forgo the level improvement and instead spend Will to be awarded points. If points are awarded instead of leveling up, the Adventurer remains at the same level and the player’s scoring marker is moved so many spaces as indicated by the card. The actions available once an ambition is met are noted on the Adventurer’s current Level card, not on the Adventurer card.

At Level Three, the Adventure gains a permanent special ability. The player selects one of the three Level Three cards visible from the three stacks on the side of the board. The player cannot look through these stacks and must select one of the three shown. The special ability is considered “always active” but can only be triggered when the condition is met based on what the special ability states.

How to Have an Adventure

The game is played in rounds with each player taking a single turn in a round starting with the first player and then going clockwise. On a player’s turn, they take one of possible four actions, but before they can take any action, the Rule of Zeus comes into play.

The Rule of Zeus simply states that if the game board is completely filled with Encounter cards at the beginning of a player’s turn, Zeus becomes rather peeved and causes all the Encounter cards to go “Wandering” – cards that are placed upright are tilted 90 degree – cards that are already tilted 90 degrees are removed from the board, regardless if the Encounter card is an Adventurer or Enemy. This can actually be something of a game changer as it can make certain paths that were available to the player to travel suddenly become unavailable.

Once the Rule of Zeus has or has not been activated, the player takes one of the four possible actions where applicable.

Play a Card

  • Player places, face-up, one of their Encounter cards in their hand on a non-temple space that does not have a card currently on it.
  • The new Encounter card color must match an adjacent Encounter card or temple space color.
  • Once placed, the player collects Will or Coin resources, depending on what the space shows – Coins go to the player’s Coin pile but Will is awarded to one Adventurer of the player’s choice.
  • If the space shows a plus (“+”), the player takes two Will, awarding it to one of their Adventurers, and then places a single Will cube on one Adventurer owned by their opponents.
  • If the space shows an Explore token, the player randomly selects an Explore token and places it on any Explore token space currently not filled by another Explore token on the board.
  • A single space might have more than one item to be collected.
  • Once the space resources have been collected, the player draws another Encounter card (reshuffle the discard deck if there are no current Encounter cards available) and adds it to their hand.

Venture Forth

  • Player chooses to walk a completed path between the pawn’s current temple location to a connected temple location on the completed path.
  • A path is “complete” when it has one Encounter card on every space between two temple locations – cards can be a mix of Adventurer and Enemy cards.
  • Player moves their pawn to the first space on the path – if an Adventurer, they may recruit and take the card or leave it – if an Enemy, they must overpower it using their adventuring  party (removing the Enemy from the space) or suffer the penalty inflicted by the Enemy.
  • This continues for every space on the path, encountering either an Adventurer or Enemy, until they reach the connected temple location.
  • Once the player places their pawn on the connected temple location, they can collect the Explore token if there is one on the path.
  • Each card on the path traveled becomes “Wandering” – cards that are placed upright are tilted 90 degree – cards that are already tilted 90 degrees are removed from the board, regardless if the Encounter card is an Adventurer or Enemy.

Make an Offering at the Temple

  • Player uses the special ability of the temple where their pawn is currently located.
  • The temple’s special action can only be used once per turn.
  • Each temple grants a specific ability and demands different payment for the boon they grant.

Regroup

  • Player discards any number of cards in their hand and draws a card back for every card discarded.

Treasure!

Some of the Explorer tokens award the player a Treasure card once collected. Treasures can be used for the special ability they provide or be kept and scored for points at the end of the game. Regardless of how the player uses them, they should be kept hidden from the other players at all times until revealed.

If the Treasure card is used, the player must discard it at the beginning of their turn. Once used, the Treasure card is lost, but using the Treasure card does not count as a player’s action.

If the Treasure card is kept for points, the Treasure card’s “type” must match one of the player’s Adventurer’s ambition types. The type is either Knowledge, Might, or Wealth, and matches the icons listed on the Adventurer card. Each Treasure card is worth so many points, and if matched to an Adventurer at the end of the game, the Treasure card awards that many points to the player. Note that a Treasure/Adventurer match can only be done once per Treasure and per Adventurer. This means each Treasure can only be scored once and an Adventurer can only be matched with a Treasure once.

Example of a Treasure card

Becoming Legend

The game ends when the last Explore token has been placed on the game board. Each player then takes one last turn, with the player who just placed the last Explore token taking the final turn. The player’s then add up their points and adjust their scoring marker on the game board. In addition to the points already scored on the board, the players now adjust their points for the following:

  • For every Despair cube (black) currently in their adventuring party, reduce the player’s total points by -3.
  • For every Will cube (white) currently in their adventuring party, increase the player’s total points by +1.
  • For every Coin currently in their adventuring party, increase the player’s total points by +1.
  • For every Treasure card that is paired with an Adventurer, increase the player’s total by the points awarded by the Treasure card.
  • The player with the most Explore tokens is provided a bonus and increases their total points by +2 (tied players still get the points).
  • The player with the second most Explore tokens is provided a bonus and increases their total points by +1 (tied players still get the points).

The player with the most points wins the game. If two or more players with the most points are tied, the player with the most Explore tokens breaks the tie and wins. If there is still a tie, the first one to run around the world wins.

To learn more about the game and read the official rules in full, see the game’s official web site.

Prediction

My little geeks love to play the game Talisman, which is actually well beyond them in complexity and game length duration. To date, we have never played Talisman in its entirety, nor have we played by the official rules. What my little geeks love most is the random events and crazy encounters that they run into while playing the game. Each card revealed is an exciting experience, even if they do go down in a big ball of dragon flame. For my little geeks, the “fun factor” is the not knowing what to expect next and the sense of exploration. This is the exact same reason why I love the game and will always gravitate towards dungeon exploring games.

Venture Forth reads and plays a little like Talisman, but has none of the other elements that make the game so very long and too complex for my little geeks to play to the end. However, while Venture Forth is simpler in its execution, it is more complex in regards to how the player must think when playing the game. Talisman is basically role-and-move. Not much in the way of decision making as the player will always have to decide on, at most, three possible locations to go explore. This doesn’t exist in Venture Forth, as the player has all the information they need to determine what paths they should or should not take and it becomes a game of balancing risk and reward versus simple random “stuff” that Talisman  is well-known for.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Talisman and have owned just about every version of it that has been published. Venture Forth just seems like a “smarter” game. Because of this, I think it will be harder for my little geeks to play well, but should provide them a deeper sense of accomplishment.

I explained the game to my two oldest little geeks and used Talisman as the bedrock on which I built my explanations. For the most part, they understood everything I told them. The actions a player can take are pretty straight forward. My 4-year-old become rather confused about the Venture Forth action a number of times as he kept thinking you could just go whenever you wanted to. I had to remind him that the path between two temples must be filled with cards before a player could travel it. He eventually understood and we moved on.

My 7-year-old’s questions were focused on card placement. Recall that an Encounter card can only be placed if the temple space or Encounter card adjacent to it matches in color. This limits Encounter card placement and was a source of continued confusion. He eventually demonstrated to me his understanding of this rule and we were able to continue.

We played several rounds until my two little geeks felt comfortable playing the game. I then reset the game and while I did so, I asked each of my little geeks what they thought of the game so far.

“Really, really cool, Dad. It reminds me of the Greek Legend stories we read.” ~ Liam (age 7)

“I also like it, Daddy. I also like how I get to be the boss of an adventuring party!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

Excellent! They are both excited and ready to go! Let’s see if all the set up will lead us down the path of victory or to the barren plains of wasted of time.

Final Word

If you play Venture Forth with your little geeks, prepare yourself for a long game, but a very enjoyable one. My little geeks had a great time and eventually fell into a rhythm of their own. Neither one of them were playing “well”, in my opinion. They made what I thought were obvious mistakes in regards to their logical and critical decision making, and several times passed up on golden opportunities to make points. This is to be expected, however, as they are learning. Each time they ended their move, I would ask them why they didn’t take another action if I thought the missed action was a better one to take. More times than not, they simply didn’t see it. It is the this wider view of the game that will come in time and with practice for my little geeks.

For my 4-year-old, Venture Forth proved to be just a little bit too complex. My suggested age range starts, at minimum, at age 7. Keep in mind, however, that it all depends on your little geek’s skill level and gaming prowess. Not every 7-year-old is the same (thank goodness). As always, you know your little geeks better than anyone. If what you have read sounds way over their head, give them a few years before introducing the game.

For me, Venture Forth felt like a tactical version of Talisman. There was a great deal more thought involved as I had to play cards to create paths of opportunity and block other players by playing hazardous roadblocks on the paths they were traveling. This is where the game really shines, I think, as the game forces the player to make some rather hard choices at times in regards to where to place Encounter cards. It would seem like the obvious course of action would be to place easy and beneficial Encounter cards on the paths you will take, but these cards do not benefit you until you travel the path. The short-term gain comes from where you place the cards and what resources are collected. Several times, I found myself neck-deep in analysis paralysis.

If Venture Forth was popular with my little geeks, it was even more so with my gamer geek friends. We played the game as a group and everyone had a wonderful time. For the record, I messed up on a few rules, was called on it, teased for the rest of the evening, and lost the game. Regardless of my rule errors, the group had a great time playing. When the game ended, everyone agreed it was a “pretty good game”. Good enough to play again, even! For a gaming group that is always wanting to play new games, being told a game is good enough to play again is rare.

Gamer Geeks, this is an entertaining and engaging game where you will have to think a great deal at times, making your action choices tactical in nature instead of just “doing something”. If you are playing with seasoned gamers, expect a tight race as everyone bends the game board to their advantage only to have that advantage stolen from them without warning. Depending on the how the players take their actions, the game can be rather short (played in less than an hour), but expect a longer game if the players are constantly looking for ways to make the most points. A great game to try if you ever get the opportunity!

Parent Geeks, this is an excellent adventuring game with its theme set in Greek Mythology. The game itself will challenge your little geeks and you on different levels. Logical and critical decision making, strategy and tactics, risk and reward are all geek skills that will need to be used to play the game competitively. But despite the level of thought necessary to play the game, it feels fairly light. The actions each player takes are streamlined and fast. For your non-gamer friends, this might be an excellent “gateway” game that helps them make that most important transition from “game player” to “gamer geek”!

Child Geeks, this is a fun adventure game that will let you create your own adventuring party and have epic battles with giant monsters! Collect treasure and gold and make your Adventurers stronger by raising their level! You will be challenged, so do expect to furrow your brow in frustration at times, but take comfort in the knowledge that this is not a game that is won or lost by a single action. You’ll have the time to play the game you want to play, be it fast and furious or slow and progressive. Just make sure you don’t let the Hydra get you!

Fun for little geeks and big geeks, Venture Forth is a winner. For reasons I cannot really pinpoint, the game has a slight Euro feel to it. Maybe it’s how you have to manage your Adventuring party or how the game board is played? I really can’t say, but I state with absolute confidence that I greatly enjoy the game. It challenges my little geeks, my gaming group, and me while providing entertainment and memorable moments. I think that is what every game designer shoots for and this one hit the target. How close to the bull’s-eye is going to be dependent on the players, however. I suggest you give Venture Forth a try when you can and see for yourself how close to your gamer geek mark it hits!

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children and wife the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....
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