The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance is a very light cooperative story-telling game. Players each create a character and take them through a very light adventure to find some “relic” or Object D’Interest. All players quest together as a team. See below.
This is a light dungeon-crawler game: each character will create a character using one of the 5 prototypes in the game: Priest, Wizard, Warrior, Bard, or Rogue. See picture above.
The act of creating your character is fairly quick: you answer 3 simple questions about the “nature” of your character and use that to help guide your character through the game. In general, you want to stay “true” to your characters (but if you don’t, there are no real consequences).
Take a closer look at the Wizard sheet (above) for a sense of the questions you’ll be asked to set-up our character. Again, this is a story-telling game, so you are just “goofing” and creating a backstory out of your imagination.
You can see our group took this VERY seriously: we went with an Italian food motif with Lil’ Meatball (the warrior), Noodle (the Wizard), Sauce (the Bard), and Parmesan (The Priest). See below.
This character-creating process should be an immediate indicator of whether you will love or hate this game: the game does seem to lean towards silliness.
This is mostly a card game: the cards will specify events and monster to overcome: you will tell stories of how you overcame said events and monsters.
This is not a “pure” storytelling game: you will be rolling the dice (above) to see if you pass events/defeat monsters. Generally, with the dice and your “extra plusses”, you will have to roll OVER the amount on the card. The mechanism is dirt-simple.
For example, to get through “The Great Gate” above (green card on right), the current player will have to roll-play, tell a story, and get a 6 or above to get through the gate. Some events will get extra plusses if you incorporate extra story elements.
As you play, you can turn in completed events/monster for treasure. See some treasure above.
We chose to watch the video by Becca Scott to see how to play. I would recommend watching this video to learn: it was reasonable and she is very upbeat.
After we basically got set-up, we’d occasionally look at the video to get clarifications.
We had to look at the rulebook “a little”, but in general, the video was good enough.
Gameplay is pretty simple: everyone gets a turn trying to defeat a monster/event on the board. Once you go all around, you get to “reset” you character (each player has a help token they can use once per round).
One other player can offer to help, but it uses their “help” token. If you defeat the event/monster, you keep the defeated card … with enough of them, you can turn them in for treasure.
You have no choice on which treasure you get: you just get the top card of the Treasure deck. LIke the Haunted Doll … not sure we would have chosen that as treasure!
You can lose if the “party health” goes to zero (top of the board). Each failure in the game will cause some damage to the “party health”, depending on the event/monster.
And that’s it! Players keep going until they get through 2 piles on the board, and they lose f the party health goes to 0! Very simple.
Solo Mode vs Cooperative Mode
There is no given solo mode: this is a game for 2-5 players. This is a light, cooperative story-telling game. There’s no reason you couldn’t play two characters (you definitely need at least 2 characters so they can help each other) to play solo, but it seems like it would be not fun.
This is a cooperative story-telling game where you feed off of each others stories and silliness. It really should be played as a group.
This is a very light game: I know, I’ve said that a lot. It’s a little random, as you have no control over what treasures you get, but I guess that’s the nature of treasure, isn’t it? The game presents a framework for storytelling and gives you places to tell little stories. It forces you to roll some dice so you do fail sometimes (sometimes failure is funnier than succeeding) and make the game interesting. There is an interesting notion of cooperation, as each player can use offer help or accept help from a few characters, but at the cost of not being to help others.
Each player gets a token to help others: see the +2 for the Wizard above. Once it’s spent, it can’t used until the round (each player gets one go) ends.
There was a little bit of strategy in the endgame as we had to make sure we could defeat the final puzzle by spending our help tokens properly. In general, though, this was just a light game where we told stories and had fun.
You’ll probably know if you’d like the game after getting here: if you want a light, cooperative, story-telling game, this is fun. The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance presents a nice framework for a silly storytelling game. The combat/events mechanisms are dirt simple and keep the prospect of failure in the game so as to make the game at least somewhat interesting (it’s boring to win all the time).
Interestingly, I think my friends like this game a little more than I did: they like RPGs and play them quite a bit, so the notion of creating a story and populating that world was appealing. I didn’t like it quite as much, probably because it felt just a little too random. But, this game was still fun: I got to hang out with my friends one evening and tell silly stories.
Oh yes, this game encourages silliness: For example, see above: Steven The Goldfish is treasure? Take a look at our Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor for other games with a silly view.