WBG Score: 7.5/10
Player Count: 1-5
Published by: Castillo Games
Designed by: Bryce Brown
Rescuing Robin Hood is by first-time designer Bryce Brown, who according to his video from the recent successful Kickstarter for this game, stumbled upon the idea for this kickstarter after making it initially for friends, and then realising it was actually rather good! The innocent nature of the origins of this game seem present throughout this entire production. The game employs a number of interesting mechanics that blend together very well. I can see why the early play-testing went so well.
In Rescuing Robin Hood, players are assigned roles as one of Robin Hood's band of merry men and women. There is some minor asymmetry here which will affect your game. Across four rounds, players will be looking to fight off the Sheriff of Nottingham's soldiers to rescue as many villagers as they can, so that on the fifth day, they can siege the castle and rescue their fearless leader.
How to Play
Players will draw four cards from their eight dealt villagers, and then track their accumulative powers of Wit, Brawn, Stealth, and Jolliness. This is the total shown on their four drawn cards and their leader card chosen at the start of the game. You will then attempt to fight off the three groups of soldiers protecting the villagers set up for that round. The Soldiers are lined up each round based on the scenario card you are using, face down protecting the villagers. Only the final soldier will be face up so you can see what skills they have. Your choice of how you attempt to fight them off will be largely determined by what area you score the highest in. But it will also be in part, chosen by what skills the other players around the table have, as unused brawn can be given to other players.
If you attack with Wit, you will play against each solder one by one. Deducting the soldiers wit score from your total as you go. Each time you fight, you can stop if you choose and remove the Soldiers you have so far outwitted. But if you continue and end up becoming outwitted yourself, all the soldiers you had so far defeated remain in play.
To attack with Brawn you will need to take on an entire row. This is an all or nothing attack, but of course you can chose which line to attack, and can take unused brawn from the other players.
You can also attack with stealth which requires players to take on specific guards of your choice. You can pick which guards you want to attack, face up or face down but they must all be attacked at once. You don't have to take on every guard in a row or take them on in the order they were dealt, but if your total doesn't beat the chosen soldiers accumulative total, they all remain in play. How many will you dare to take on?
Players can use their Jolliness to boost either of their other scores, or pass unused jolliness to the next player in the way you can do with brawn. You can also boost your attribute scores with Cookery skills, or use your Prayer ability to move soldiers position in the line, or two Prayer skills to defeat a solider altogether. Some villagers and leaders also come with a Scouting ability which allows you to flip face down cards over so you know what you may be up against.
Players need to work together and ideally each focus on different types of attacks so the brawn can be shared. One player taking out a row with their stealth followed by fighting a few others on another line with their wit, before passing over their unused brawn to the next player to take out the remaining guards; is a much more efficient way then each player all using brawn themselves.
You will have two attacks each turn, and any villagers left unsaved will remain captured. Any villagers saved will move to the Major Oak, where at the end of the round players can recruit them to join their next attack.
As such, your hand is constantly improving, giving you a better chance against the harder soldiers that appear in the later rounds. Once you have battled through days one to four, day five begins in which your attempt on saving Robin Hood begins. All players will discard down to four, keeping their strongest villager cards. These are then used in one final assault which plays just like any other round, except now you must begin by storming the castle which has a score of 24 in all areas.
If you get through this, you must then defeat the two rows of guards protecting Robin and all the unsaved villagers. If you are successful here, you win the game. However, you can go on, now with Robin in your team and one extra turn granted to you, to try to defeat the guards protecting the Sheriff, and take him on in one final battle. His score is determined by the amount of imprisoned villagers in the game prior to the castle assault. This variable can be huge and sometimes, quite difficult to take on.
What I like about this game.
Playing Rescuing Robin Hood is a constant juggling of numbers. Your attributes scores and the villagers you will potentially end with. There is a delightful mix of push-your-luck and deck construction, all whilst building up to the end-game finale. This mix of mechanisms works very well, and creates and constant sense of tension. Players will be thinking about their potential final four villagers, and what type of villagers they need to recruit to get the ideal final fab four.
The three different ways to attack bring a real sense of engagement. You will feel very much involved throughout this game. On other players turns, you will add your strategy and advice as players pick the right way to take on the assorted guards. The choices on your own turn very much affect the other players around the table. This is a co-operative game after all. Players working together to combine their skills will always have a better chance.
I found playing Rescuing Robin Hood very addictive. It's hard to win this game every time. Especially with the final hurdle of defeating the Sheriff. But the game is quick enough to play multiple times, and as such, I have never played this game just one time. Each session always ends up with at least two games as I try to overcome the final battle. So far, in eight games, I have only done this twice. The game is not difficult, but it has a good level of balance between your powers and the soldiers you are up against.
There are plenty of scenarios to set up the game, based on the player count, with different options for each. This is to add variety and extend the games replay-ability I expect, but really it does not make a huge difference. The variety here comes from the Villagers which you are dealt and recruit, and the choices you make in how you fight, and the luck you get therein.
The game also comes with a back story for all the villagers in the game. This was a kickstarter extra. It is a nice to have, but adds nothing to the game. The art is great. It has a very stylised, simple form, but works very well for the theme and game. It feels playful, bright and vibrant. I like that the effort has gone in to make all the villagers unique and their powers all make thematic sense.
The game also comes with an accelerated mode which allows you to play the same game in three rounds instead of five. I tried this once and it is fine, but does feel a little rushed and takes a bit of the "event" out of the game. But is a nice option if you are in a rush. The Expert mode adds challenge cards to the game, a different way to score points based on the challenges you face, with a target score shown in the rule book. This is very enjoyable and a nice add on when you have got used to the game. There is also a solo mode, one where you can play two hands yourself, and another which gives you two extra days to recruit villagers.
Overall, I have really enjoyed this game. I will certainly keep it in my collection as it adds a unique twist to the push-your-luck deck construction genre, and feels quite unique in how it plays. I would like to work out ways to fairly play with more people, I am sure variants will appear soon! I think this could be an excellent game in an eight.