Happy Memorial Day my board gaming friends! This has been a #GameHappy weekend for me and I expect to get some more plays in on this holiday as friends and family come over to hangout, eat, and play.
This weekend, I managed to get some fun titles to the table: Raccoon Rumpus, Root, Aeon’s End (an hour of play before a Tornado Warning sent all of us heading home to safety), Clank!, Roll to the Top!, Astro Trash, Takenoko, and Kingdomino.
Closest play: This would have to be the game that ended with a tie. In a 4-count play of Roll to the Top! my brother-in-law both found himself and me with 1 blank left to complete Burj Khalifa. He needed an 8 or higher and I needed a 12 or higher. A low roll could give him an outright victory. Alas, the dice combined to a 22 and we shared the glory.
Favorite game of the week: Clank! This was my first time to get the play the game with more than 2 players (a full 4-player count this time) and it was a blast. My son, who was still looking for his first win, grabbed a 15-point artifact and exited quickly, putting a real time-crunch on the rest of us. I was doing a great job of gathering points, but got in Clank! trouble and got knocked out, leaving me 2 points behind my son since I failed to get a Mastery token (20-point value). My brother-in-law was right behind my son in exiting and then ran into several boot-less hands and managed to still be trapped in the depths when the dragon attacked — all we found of him was his charred remains. Yuck! My sister-in-law saw my son heading for the exit, but chose to play aggressively adventurous and dug deeper for bigger treasure. She, though, had a boot-heavy deck, found some fortuitous health potions, and just managed to escape in time giving her enough points to claim the victory!! It was an epic finish and another reminder of why I absolutely love this game.
The stats: Published in 2018 by WizKids; designed by Kenneth C. Shannon III; 1-2 players (but best as a solo game); estimated play time at 10-30 minutes; ages 14+ (theme is light, so playing younger would be based on the child’s ability to handle the game’s complex rules)
The background: Last summer, I started to get an itch to play a diverse set of solo games. At that time, I was hearing about games like Palm Island and Maiden’s Quest, both of which involved holding the cards in one hand and working through the deck multiple times as cards would get flipped and rotated. The latter title finally made its way to my hands earlier this year.
The setup and components: The only component type in Maiden’s Quest is cards, but there are a bunch of them of varying types: Maidens, Villains, Boss Villains, Sidekicks, Dresses, Health, Weapons, and Items.
Setup starts with picking a Maiden and her dress along with a Boss Villain. The other cards you add to your deck will be listed on the back of the Maiden and Boss cards. It will probably take a few minutes to compile your deck, plus make sure to get it well-shuffled for “sufficient randomness.” Once shuffled, make sure to put the two exit cards at the back of the deck. This is important and I occasionally forget to do this (which means you will spend way too much time playing a single “level.”)
The gameplay: The goal of the game is to eventually defeat the Boss OR escape the tower before running out of health. To do this, you will start moving cards to the back of the deck until you run into a villain. Villains will have a level from 0-4. Your starting level is a 1 and will increase as you complete trips through the full deck. If you ever come across a villain whose level is higher than your progression, that bad guy moves on to the back. Once you come across a villain that you must face, gameplay truly begins. When you see the villain, it is time to decide whether to fight or flee.
Then, you will ‘fan’ behind the villain the next five cards in the deck. To flee without harm, you need a flight symbol — if you do, simply move all six cards to the back and continue — if no symbol, then one card needs downgraded.
Note: each card essentially has four faces. Front (up and down) + Back side (up and down). Your weapon and health cards start at a “level 3” essentially. They can be upgraded to their top level, but can also be downgraded, in some cases just to a level 2, but some go all the way to a level 1 status.
If you fight the villain and fail, you will generally have to downgrade a certain number of cards in your deck and/or take damage –> damage is simply downgrading health cards. Whenever a health card is downgraded to the point of not showing a heart, your health has dropped and you are closer to a potential loss. The good news is that downgraded cards could potentially be upgraded at a later point.
If you fight the villain and succeed [have the necessary symbols in your fan], the villain is flipped over (no longer a threat) and will generally award some kind of “loot” to the player. In some cases, this is a key.
The game will continue like this as you try to build your deck through upgrading to increase your chance of beating the Boss when he/she shows up. Every time you run through the full deck, you will come to the exit cards. When that happens, the “round” is over, the exit cards (basically a game timer) advance and the deck is shuffled again, with the exit cards placed on the bottom afterward.
If you find you are having success early on, you will hopefully see your deck snowballing towards a good opportunity to defeat the Boss. In some plays, though, you will feel the snowball heading the wrong direction. Too many defeats…too many downgrades…a bleak forecast. In that case, your “last resort” is to try and Escape. To accomplish this trick, you will need at least one card to have been downgraded that has a Black escape side. You will also hopefully have come across some keys in your deck as well. If you can manage to reach an escape door and have a key and the appropriate symbols in your fan, you will have escaped and achieved the 2nd win condition! Congrats, fair maiden!
Along the way, you may also come across your Maiden card. When she appears, you will fan out five cards and get a chance to do some free upgrades. Lucking upon her several times like this (versus having her show up in a fan) can really help propel you in the right direction. Sidekicks in your fan are nice, because they can be flipped in lieu of another card should you fail a flee or battle.
How to lose? If you ever have to suffer damage and don’t have enough hearts left in your entire deck to downgrade, you lose. Boo!!!!
Review Thoughts: I like how unique the solo game experience is with Maiden’s Quest. It is easier to play than a grandiose dungeon-crawler, but more tactile and interesting than many print-and-play caliber games. There are several maidens and Boss Villains, providing plenty of variety for gameplay. Furthermore, the game is not easy. I would definitely warn you to expect to lose more than you win in this game. All-in-all, I expect Maiden’s Quest to be in my regular lunch-time solo gaming rotation for quite some time.
The artwork — is above-average, but won’t blow you out of the water (in my opinion, at least). The rule book could also use some work. After a full read-through, I had plenty of questions and more come up as I was playing that I either had trouble finding the answer to or just had to go to BoardGameGeek forums to try and see if others had addressed that particular issue.
At $15-20, the bang-for-your-buck is high — I appreciate that WizKids brought a game like this to the market and I hope to see more of these single-hand deck games in the future.
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