The Adventures of Robin Hood
I was an 80’s and 90’s kid. My first exposure to Robin Hood was an adorable mischievous fox and a bumbling, scared lion prince. Since then, my exposure has ranged from ridiculous to serious, from American to British.
Although the tale of Robin Hood keeps changing, the pillars of the story remain the same. Robin Hood and his band of outlaws rob the rich to feed the poor. Robin Hood, Little John, and Will Scarlet lead these rascals, and Robin inevitably falls for the enchanting, beautiful Maid Marian (who, thankfully, requites his love).
In The Adventures of Robin Hood from KOSMOS, you and up to three friends get your chance to live the lives of these four characters. A large interactive map and a genuine hardcover book guide your multi-part narrative adventure. Gamers of any age can play, as long as someone in the group can read. We won’t spoil the story for you, but we’d love to tell you all about this experience.
Start setting up The Adventures of Robin Hood by piecing together the eight-part map board.
Give each player the five wooden icons that represent their character: Two “standing”, two “walking”, and one “running” figure.
Open the narrative book to the next chapter of the story and follow the rest of the setup tasks there. They’re different for every adventure!
Most other narrative games I’ve seen have a “narrative” book and a “rules” book. The Adventures of Robin Hood cleverly combines both of these into one.
The Adventures of Robin Hood teaches the mechanics of the game over the first few adventures, methodically laying new mechanics over old ones. Characters gain additional abilities in later adventures as well.
Take turns in The Adventures of Robin Hood by pulling the wooden discs, one at a time, out of the bag. The white disc means everyone takes a turn and the grey disc means one person (selected by the party) takes a turn. The colored discs mean the player of that color takes a turn, and the red and violet disks mean “bad stuff” happens.
Once you’ve pulled all of the wooden discs out of the bag, put them all back and go again!
Movement in The Adventures of Robin Hood hearkens back to classic tabletop war games. Starting with where your character is standing, place the walking/running figures touching each other. This creates a path your character will travel, ending with your second standing figure.
Move without using your long “running” figure and you “save some energy”. Put a white cube in the cloth bag. We’ll explain these in a minute.
Throughout the game, your party’s characters traverse the board to talk to different people or interact with different objects. Each of these is indexed with a number, which correlates to an anchor page in the book.
Usually, this anchor page will direct you to a different page depending on the adventure you’re in. Don’t read any extra pages – you don’t want to spoil the story!
It wouldn’t be a Robin Hood game without some fighting, right? During the course of the game, you and your fellow adventurers will need to fight guards and rob nobles.
To defeat an opponent, move your character within range with the Move action (as defined above). Then, pull three cubes out of the bag, one at a time. If a cube is white, stop, you’ve won! Flip the guard insert over and take the reward hidden beneath it (usually raising hope for the land).
If you pull three purple cubes, you’ve lost. There’s no ill effect to this (yet), and you’ve increased the chance to get a white cube later on. Don’t fret!
When you pull the red disc from the bag, hope in the land sinks by one per player. (If hope is at zero, other bad things happen, depending on what the book says.) Draw a seal from the bag and hide/reveal opponents as directed.
Before we even opened the box for The Adventures of Robin Hood we were intrigued by the art style. It’s serious but not dark. When we began to piece the board together, and especially when we held the hardcover narrative book in our hands, we fell in love with the game.
There’s something satisfying as a storytelling element about flipping pieces of the board over instead of putting standees or minis on icons or numbers. The integration of the pieces into the board give it a greater sense of permanence. Removing these inserts reveals rewards underneath, which you gain when defeating an opponent – so clever. There are narrative elements later in the game that make use of many of these as well.
The Adventures of Robin Hood is filled with consequential decisions. Will you ask the woodcutter’s wife where he is, or will you accuse him of stealing when talking to her? Will you talk to the priest at all? Every decision feels like it has some kind of an effect on the story.
On every “anchor” page in the book, you see the greater story arc. You can tell there are decisions that will lead to different missions, reminding you always that the story will fork. Things will will change!
The narrative strokes in The Adventures of Robin Hood aren’t mind-blowing, but they’re satisfying and they fit well into the greater canon of Robin Hood stories. Our kids enjoyed hearing us read the story as we played.
We were enchanted by the range of mechanics at play in The Adventures of Robin Hood. We loved the bag pulling as a replacement for dice, for example. The bag drives everything! This meant losing a fight wasn’t always terrible, because it helped everyone else down the line. It also meant there was a meaningful decision every time a player moved. Players could cut their movement distance short to put more white cubes in the bag, increasing the chances for success in later battles.
KOSMOS’s use of materials was brilliant here. Seals are used to instruct players where guards will enter the game, but are also used to count rounds,and denote starting positions. Turn order is determined by pulling the wooden discs rather than being fixed, so players must be flexible with their plans.
The Adventures of Robin Hood includes a starter sheet to get you into the game almost immediately, which is incredibly important for a family. The gradual introduction of additional mechanics and enemies was as smooth as can be.
As mentioned, we love the hardcover book that holds the story we are to play out. The book has two ribbons to mark places so it’s easy to get back to where you need to be, and the pages tell you where to put those ribbons if you’re unsure.
Our biggest knock on the game is also in the materials, however. We’re very concerned about the durability of the board inserts. It’s often hard to get the pressed cardboard out of its tight-fitting inset. Of course, this keeps the many inserts from falling out when the game is boxed, but for the price of the game, I’m worried they may not stay anymore after we finish our first go-round with the story.
There hasn’t been another narrative game that has brought our family together quite like The Adventures of Robin Hood. There’s plenty to do on the map: from standard “guard duty” to completing narrative objectives. Everyone can contribute without players stepping on each other’s toes. Later in the game, asymmetric player powers help to differentiate the abilities of the various characters, which further drives their different responsibilities. Regardless, other than players having certain items in their possession, The Adventures of Robin Hood does a great job presenting every win as a collective victory. Nobody ever felt like one player got to “hog the glory” while we played.
We really enjoyed this narrative adventure and were extremely impressed with the various mechanics dreamt up by Michael Menzel and the KOSMOS team. It created a rich, engaging adventure, and we hope we see many more of these kinds of games in the future.
Pick up a copy today on Amazon or at your friendly local game store!
The Family Gamers received a copy of The Adventures of Robin Hood from KOSMOS for this review.
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The Adventures of Robin Hood
Number of Players: 2-4
Age Range: 10+
Playtime: 60 minutes per adventure