WBG Score: 7
Player Count 2-4
Published by: Hub Games
Designed by: DigiSprite
Adventure Mart is a fast paced card-playing deck-builder with a very interesting round structure. It has a delightful art style and striking box which suggests a more light weight game than the treasures contained within this box. However the rules certainly are very simple, it's incredibly quick to set-up and teach, and getting this to the table is a absolute joy. Let's head to the shops and see how this plays.
Set-up and rules.
To set-up Adventure Mart, separate the deck into the six different types shown on both sides of the card. First place the blue backed stock cards onto the top row. For a two player game deal out four cards, for a three player game place five, and for a four player game deal six cards. Then lay out two fixtures cards above two staff cards. Below that place Adventurers cards face down equal to the number of players plus one. Finally on the bottom row deal five face down Bulletin cards.
Give each player the standard starting hand of nine cards, five gold coins, and give one player the initiative token. Each player shuffles their nine cards and deals five into their hand. The game can then begin by the starting player turning and reading the first bulletin card.
Players will take it in turns to either buy a stock card, recruit one staff member, build a new shop fixture, or turn one of the adventurer cards over to start a sale action. The rounds last until all players pass. The game runs for five rounds. At the end, the player with the most gold wins. Gold is attained from the value of your final stock and fixtures, the gold in your possession, and from any REVIEW bonuses on your cards.
Each round, new adventurers will be dealt face down. Players will not know exactly what the adventurers have come to buy until they decide to try and sell to them, and flip the card to reveal their fate. If you don't have the right items for the adventurers then there is not much you can do at this point, and other players will inevitably be able to steal the sell from you. This has led to some criticism for the game, largely from Tom Vasel. But I do not understand this. There are only ever three types of items the adventurers want to buy. There are dozens of cards you can buy, but they are all within three suits. Martial, Magic, and Exotic. It really is not that hard to keep your hand well stocked of all three types to plan for any eventuality.
There are also different powers you can gain from various fixtures and staff that allow you to sneak a peak at the adventurer cards before you start a sale. Some powers even allow you to pick from all the available adventurers after checking it one to find one that best suits your hand. But ultimately, this is a deck-building game, and sometimes your hand will be better than other times. And of course, as the game builds, you would hope to see constant improvement in your available options.
Each adventurer will have a different amount of money to spend, and often, a different REACT action that will happen at different points. All of these are clearly marked and explained on the cards. You wont know what this will be until you reveal the card, but all players are in the same position. Having a balanced hand will help, but this variety is part of the game and adds to the fun.
Once you have made your offering to the adventurer, based on what type of items they want and how much gold they have to spend, you will work out the quality of the items you have offered and declare this to the table. Each stock item has a star rating. This is how you work out its quality. Each other player then has the chance to try and offer a higher quality of stock items to the same adventurer, sticking to the same parameters of item type and gold available. The player that can offer the highest quality package will get the sale, and the available gold. The value that you sell to the adventurers is shown on the top right of each card. Any cards left in your hand at the end of the game can be sold for the value on the bottom left, generally a lower value. As such, you want to win these sales as often as you can to maximise your gold.
The stock items that you can buy, serve more than just things available for you to sell on, they also offer unique powers that you can use on your turn. As play passes round to each player, they have a choice to make. This decision is not just about what they want to do, but also about what they think other players may be planning on doing next. There are only so many cards drawn each round. If there is a powerful stock item, you may want to get it before another player does, however that is your entire turn. It then may allow the next player to get the fixture you had your eye on, or recruit the staff member that has a power that could really help you.
You can only ever have a maximum of four fixtures and staff at any one time, so there is a limit to how many you can buy. But there are only ever two shown at once, and only five rounds. Buying these cards early, especially if they have a useful action that could be used multiple times is key. But of course, there are also a limited number of adventurer cards each round, and starting the sale has a huge benefit. Not only do you get to make the first offer, but you also get the initiative token, which increases your quality score for this sale by one and your gold return if you make the final sale by one. Also, the player who holds this at the end of the round will be the first player in the next round. Timing when you buy cards and when you try and make a sale is what this game is all about.
If you start a round with a balanced and powerful hand, it may be you want to go straight in for a sale. But if the fixtures and staff available offer useful and powerful actions, you may need to get these first. Maybe there is a powerful item that would compliment your hand, and you are fearful of starting a sale before you get this first. Having only one action per turn with limited cards each round adds a lot of tension and makes each decision, albeit very simple, tense and enjoyable to make. This really is where the heart of the game lies.
I enjoy the process of slowly building my powers both across my fixtures staff and deck of items. I like the different ways the cards can be used and the choices this offers. The staff for example, once used are flipped upside down to show they have worked that day and cannot be used again. You can rehire them the next day if you pay their salary again, but if you don't use them during a round, you wont need to pay their salary and can save them for the next day instead. It's nice to have this option, especially as the gold you are paying them could all be end game points instead. Like many games, Adventure Mart is all about inputs and outputs. Trying to spend gold in a way that will generate more gold by the end of the game is your constant challenge.
How much luck is in the game?
Each round begins with the player holding the initiative token reading the daily bulletin. This adds a new rule or slight change to the parameters for all players. The bulletins are varied and interesting enough to add a nice twist each round, but not game changing enough to add any specific advantage to one player. I don't see much luck in this game as some other reviewers have suggested. Going first helps to get first choice, but you can make sure you go first buy winning the last sale each round, and missing out on one card may be frustrating, but there will always be others. All players have access to the same starting hand, and can all buy new cards based on the ones they need. And of course, you can't win all the sales anyway. That is not possible. So, pick your battles. Diversify your stock, and try to win the ones that will help you the most.
Ease of play.
The game does have a lot of keywords and iconography but they are all self explanatory, and the rule book has a simple glossary at the back that clearly explains everything if you are ever unsure. It may take a game or two for each key word to become second nature, but there is nothing out of the ordinary or particularly new here, so experienced players will adapt quickly. But it does serve the argument that this is not a simple light game as the art suggests. Which brings me to my final point.
Some games with cute, fun, light art are expected to be light games. Likewise, games with more serious and sophisticated art suggest a more mid-weight or heavy experience. But obviously this is not always the case. But why is this? Why can't we have games with fun bright and childlike art that offer a more strategic experience? Do all adults want to have all mid-weight and heavy games looking the same? Do we all want to be farming a field in Europe, or fighting zombies in a war? No! I think there is a place for a game like Adventure Mart, which offers a mid-weight filler experience but with fun bright art. This issue seems to be more about peoples expectations. Some people can see the box art, expect one thing, get another, and then react negatively towards the game. If you ever want proof that this is a fact, just look at books like Harry Potter and the various covers that have been printed for it.
So, if you are looking for a game that sits somewhere between filler and mid-wight, but offers a breezy and fun art style. Adventure Mart could be for you. The game offers some interesting powers and your choice each round is simple but strategic. The choices you make will effect your success in the game, and the flow will be quick, simple, but rewarding.
I would recommend Adventure Mart to anyone looking for a filler plus game. A filler is a quick light game you may play in-between other games, or when you only have 20-30 minutes to play. Filler plus is one step ahead of this, where the game length isn't necessarily that much longer, the set-up and teach is still simple, but the game does offer a little more strategy.
You may need to pitch it to your adult friends that this isn't a child's game when they see the box art. And in turn, you may need to get your children to understand they have to concentrate in order to do well in this game. But if you can teach the value of not judging a book by its cover, as well as enjoying a fun game, what a great use of your time that will be! Happy shopping.