The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus Review
Here's a game that'll scratch your inner Indiana Jones: The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus is a game from Dust Games and Fantasy Flight in which 2-6 players dash through a pyramid, scooping up loot and escaping before the ceiling traps them inside. It's got a little bit of 1999's The Mummy in there, too. Players compete with each other as well as their own greed. Their dirty, uncontrollable greed.
The game comes with a bag of miniature figures that represent the players, three mummies, a thick deck of small cards and thirty-six plastic blocks that represent stone ceiling tiles. Each of the stone blocks must be assigned a sticker from an included sticker sheet. The process is a little tedious to repeat thirty-six times, but once it's done you'll never have to do it again. Everything else about the game is in the deck of cards, which is subdivided into about seven or eight mini-decks. Each area on the board can be "searched" by the players, meaning that they draw a card from the area's respective deck. For instance, if you search a sandy area, you'll take a card from the sand pile. Once all of the cards are placed on the matching parts of the board, you're ready to play.
The Treasure Grab
Each player chooses a character. The characters each have a special ability that's usable once per game. The game resolves so quickly (about 45 minutes) that you won't mind the seemingly limited usefulness. They're simple things like being able to block a single snake or crocodile bite or knocking down a mummy for a turn.
Player movement and actions are based on how many things the character is carrying; the more stuff you have, the slower you move. The game handles this with fast elegance that at first seems strange, but will soon be second nature to everyone playing. Here's how it works:
There are five differently-colored dice that are rolled on each player's turn. If a character is carrying three items, he'll get one action for every die that shows a two or higher. The odds are very good that he'll get several actions on each die roll. As soon as that same character picks up a forth item, he'll only get an action for every die that shows a three or higher. At the higher weight levels, the character will only be able to move on a five or higher, meaning you'll get to crawl away with caterpillar slowness. Each point of damage also adds "weight," thematically slowing you down because of your injuries. In addition to movement, actions can be used for grubbing through the dirt for treasure or looting sarcophagi. As you'd expect, the player with the highest treasure value at the end of the game wins. Assuming they make it out alive. That brings me to my next point:
At the end of every player's turn, they draw a stone block from the box. Remember putting all of those numbers on the underside of each block? That number corresponds to a certain square on the map. These stones can land on your characters (causing injuries) and might eventually seal up the entrance, trapping everyone inside.
One of the better parts of the game is the fact that blocks fall randomly for its duration. Do you want to take a few treasures and bolt for the stairs? Or do you want to push your luck and load yourself up with treasure chests and bags of riches? It's your choice to make, and it's thrilling when it pays off. In fact, it's even thrilling when it doesn't. It also adds a built-in timer to the game, which helps the game maintain its brisk pace.
There are so many more things I haven't gone over, like the Yahtzee-style lockpicking or avoiding the ever-dangerous mummies. Thematically everything makes perfect sense. This is a push-your-luck game where greed is often the most powerful enemy. Seeing your friends sweat as the blocks begin to choke out their chances of escape is wonderful. You can play two or three sessions of this game in the time it takes to play something like Small World or Ticket to Ride, and each session will be a thrilling excuse to throw around some dice and make a mad grab for Egyptian treasure.
The production is wonderful. The art is the perfect style for this type of game. The graphic design is simple to read and the manual is laid out well, though it took us a few tries before we correctly used all of the rules because the more intricate bits are in the back of the book.
Pros and Cons
+ Easy to set up, teach, learn and play
+ Speedy gameplay with a built-in timer in the form of a falling ceiling
+ Theme meshes perfectly with gameplay, and every mechanical part of the game can be explained with some colorful thematic banter
+ The game is fun the whole way through, not just for the guy who wins
+ The art, layout and general graphic design is pitch-perfect
- The more advanced rules might be missed for the first session or two
- Character abilities are only explained in the rules and not on the cards, so players will need to consult the book until all the powers are memorized
Overall, 10/10. This game is perfect at what it does, and there's nothing I can think to change that would make it better. It hits all the right notes and is the main reason I keep buying board games: So I can own a box of fun.