|Publisher:||Boar & Dice, Thistroy Games||Published Year:||2017|
|Designer:||Michał Jagodziński, Paweł Niziołek, Jarosław Wajs||Player Scale:||1|
|Artist:||Paweł Niziołek, Jarosław Wajs||Run Time:||5 – 15 mins|
Three things about me you should know in regards to this review.
I love and have loved comic books since I bought a Batman compendium at a car boot sale for seventy-five pence when I was six years old.
My all-time favourite computer game is the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Recently, because of a new job, I’ve been playing and enjoying a lot of solo gaming.
What do these things have to do with A4 Quest? Well, if you were to blend them together with some dice and tokens you’ll get something like this game. And what’s even better is that it’s a Print and Play – but if you fancy a printed version with some bonus content look no further than this Kickstarter.
A4 Quest looks like a comic book, with bulky, exaggerated cell-shaded style characters and landscapes provided by the clearly very talented Mr Jaroslaw Wajs, taking you on a little adventure, or quest if you like, from the top left of one A4 page to the bottom right. You’ll fight enemies, hunt for food, riffle through treasure chests and explore mini-quests along the way, each time hopefully earning a little experience or some other boost to help and better prepare you to face off against the boss. And, you do it all with five dice and a few tokens – loose change and a dice app will do the job equally well in a pinch.
Four of those dice form your pool of personal “energy”, with each encounter you’ll allocate one of these dice to the task, and taking into account any modifiers, consult the table to see what you’ve won. Every now and then you’ll need, or just want to, make camp and rest, that’s when you get to have something to eat (spend one of your steaks) and replenish your dice pool.
It is a simple game of dice allocation, but it poses some wonderfully taxing questions and puzzles for you solve. You see, four dice won’t get you very far, especially if you are a dice rolling jinx, and what you do with your higher rolls is normally pretty obvious – kill baddies. But what about everything that isn’t a five or six? And that is where this game gets fun, and by fun, I mean challenging. You’ll plan all your dice out, I’ll hunt here with my four, pick up some steak, I’ll dip into the treasure chest with that five and increase my defence, keeping my six for that enemy in the next cell, using my two to move to the next section. Phew! But, oh no; you’ve run out of dice now, you didn’t plan ahead so now you’re stuck with having to rest, miss out on stuff, taking a risk right before your next big fight. if only you hadn’t hunted, or took the treasure, or whatever…
Something has to give, there is a fundamental cost to doing each action, spending those very limited resources. On the other hand, you need to keep doing each action to progress, to toughen up and replenish your dice pool and health, you’ll never defeat the boss or some of the tough enemies, without boosting your stats. Opportunities to bump your character up are tantalisingly frequent tempting you to spend your dice, “Ooooh, look here, a treasure with a plus-three modifier, so my four becomes a seven which means I can get some crystal, and a crystal means I can really kick ass when I get there.
The only time you ever feel like you have enough dice is when you have four, and no sooner does that happen that you get rid of one. Often I find myself questioning Past-Rory’s decision-making abilities, almost allowing myself a “do-over”. Despite the limited selection of action choices, quite wonderfully this game doesn’t get old, choices are never obvious since with each game, each roll of the dice your story changes.
There is an unavoidable drive forward (it’s in the rules), much like a story or comic you always have to move on to the next cell. This pace not only ensures a short play-time but creates a brevity and a sense missed moments, passing by opportunities which you’ll no doubt regret later on. Yay! You’ve got all the dice you need but none of the bonuses.
With four characters (that’s including the recently released Mage) and three adventures, there is plenty of simple variety. The archer plays very differently to the Knight, who in turn is leagues away from the Paladin, and each adventure ups the ante, ups the challenge, and they all use the same components, giving this game a nice array of play options, complete all episodes with one progressively more powerful character, or try each hero against each story. None of this will ever take you too long to do, and knowing this gives the game a feeling of being open and malleable.
A4 Quest is a quick game but packs a good walloping punch, or perhaps a sharp jab, to the ol’ grey matter as you weigh each seemingly easy choice against its inherent loss of a die. A poor roll of the dice is almost as agonising as rolling four sixes, and it’s the choices these dice represent that catch you off guard. All too soon you’re on your final assault of the boss and you don’t have the attack that you need, and you’re down to one steak and…and…how in blazes did the bottom of the page get there so flippin’ quick?! I should at least another foot of paper surely!
Best of all, this is just the beginning. A4 Quest is the precursor to something grander, something different, new and fresh in the world of tabletop gaming, which you should pay attention too. Episodic Gaming. We’ve all heard of a Legacy game, and maybe even played (or at least started) one or two. Page Quest Season 1: Mythical Artifacts is the brave, bold new step Board and Dice are taking us. Using the same mechanics as A4 Quest, Page Quest is a real-world nineties setting of adventure, but with one big difference, your missions; the story, will be e-mailed to you monthly. You’ll have to wait for the next episode, much like the comic books that this game looks like, you’ll following and developing your story, your character as actual, literal time passes, making decisions about how it develops for you, and only you. Because here is the other great thing, it’s solo play – (it can be played two-player too though) the biggest trouble I’ve had with my game of Pandemic Season 1 is getting everyone together – I bought Pandemic just before my son was born, now he is walking and talking (one of his first words was Batman, I’m so proud) and I still haven’t finished that game! I can’t see that being a problem with Page Quest.
Is this the next twist, the evolution of legacy gaming? Will this be the next big movement in board game mechanics? Maybe. But, I for one am very excited about it.
This review is based on a Print and Play PDF that I downloaded and printed myself, like a big boy.