The Adventures of Robin Hood
Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian, and Will Scarlet
Foil Prince John’s nefarious plot to bilk the people of Nottingham
OK, all together now [cue teeth-whistle]:
“Robin Hood and Little John walking through the forest,
Laughin’ back and forth at what the other’n has to say…
Reminiscing this’n that and havin’ such a good time,
Oo de lally oo de lally, golly what a day.”
Bubbles up at the weirdest times, doesn’t it? Oh I’m sorry, will this little earworm rattle around in your brain for the rest of the day/week/month? You‘re welcome! Roger Miller (who wrote and performed it as Disney’s rooster-minstrel Alan-A-Dale) will surely dwell in this little corner of Sherwood Forest forever. And here’s your very own chance to join him, as you tromp gleefully around Nottingham with your team, robbing from the rich, capitalizing on state secrets, sniping palace guards from your tree fort, and rescuing peasants from the hangman’s noose. It’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and it was a solid two-week diversion for our family.
The game is a storybook-led cooperative adventure, with many truly clever methods of play, all of which aim to engage the entire table. The companion book, a high-quality, hard-cover tome meant to evoke respect and anticipation, contains specific, fairly-easy-to-understand instructions and yes, a rather charming story. As you flip through it in a guided, choose-your-own-adventure fashion, your characters explore the world of Nottingham on a board that may remind you of a giant Advent calendar. It contains dozens of little flippable tiles, and thus holds a world of secrets, letting you discover information and move the story as you hop around on it. The privilege of uncovering tiles all over the board has a tactile, anticipatory thrill that doesn’t get old. Moreover, a truly unique style of movement gives freedom to the players; a real sense that you’re in charge of the adventure, where your character goes, how they get there, and what they do.
Perhaps best of all, there’s a deliciously tempting black bag full of various things to reach in and pull out at every turn. The bag injects chance: the players’ turn-order, the variety of bad stuff that could happen at any moment, the results of a fight, and more, all depend on what you pull out. How refreshingly efficient to realize that a single black bag can hold goodies of various sizes and shapes, relying on the players to pull out the right type of thing at the right time. And you can, of course, manipulate the odds by doing things that change what goes into the bag throughout the game. It all adds up to an enjoyable evening that kept us coming back until we’d played through the whole game.
The Adventures of Robin Hood has enough going for it to consider it in the upper echelon of family games, but it’s not quite there. The amount of administrative work between chapters is a bit tedious. And I’m perpetually disappointed that we don’t get to keep our our possessions or the good things we’ve managed to throw into the bag between chapters.
Perhaps the biggest reason that this game isn’t an epic success is that there are few opportunities to really flex your strategic muscle and solve problems. In most chapters, your character walks around Sherwood Forest, asking locals what you should do. Eventually, someone tells you, and then you go do that thing. Thus, it’s a pleasant and rewarding choice for families, but unlikely to maintain the attention of serious gamers.
For those who have watched Disney’s cartoon animal adaptation of Robin Hood, this game will have you wondering how they got it so wrong.
This game’s movement system has you place 1 to 3 movement tiles in front of your character with little restriction as to how you place them. Though this has many benefits, you will often find yourself having to spend many turns traveling all the way across the board to accomplish your next goal. Flipping over new game board tiles is exciting and really makes you feel like the world is growing around you as the game slowly introduces new mechanics to play with. Overall I was impressed with the story-telling and sat through 7 one-hour chapters without complaint.