The Adventurers, Temple of Chac
Anyone reading my book, my blog, or probably even the bumps on my head will know that I love pulp adventure. The first three Indiana Jones movies (especially Raiders). The Depression-era novels starring Doc Savage, The Shadow, and The Spider. The modern pulp adventure novels of Matthew Reilly and James Rollins. The Rocketeer and The Phantom and Planetary in the comics.
Last year, early on, I saw news somewhere about a pulpish game that was due out in the fall, and it interested me enough that I put a note to myself on my Google calendar to look it up after it came out to see if it was as good as it looked. When I did, and read the reviews I could find, I ordered it immediately, and gave it to my son for Christmas.
That game was The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac, from AEG and Dust Games, and it rocks.
In The Adventurers, each player assumes the identity of a treasure hunter exploring (and, well, robbing) an ancient temple dedicated to the Mayan rain god Chac. There are twelve characters, from American archaeology professor Montana “Bill” Baker to criminal mastermind Markus Bassler to Russian spy Tatiana Begovic to Chinese tinkerer Len Tso Yau, each represented by a cool plastic miniature (shown painted here, but actually gray plastic in the box, alas).
These characters possess special abilities like Lockpicking and Stamina and Swimming, and they move around a beautiful board depicting the inner depths of the temple, searching for treasures and trying to evade the ruin’s deadly traps.
These traps operate in real time through clever mechanics, really capturing the feel of pulp tomb raiding. There’s a gigantic boulder that rolls along the main tunnel, gathering speed with each turn, crushing the unfortunate who get in its way, ultimately blocking the exit and dooming any characters who don’t get out before it does. There’s a room with walls that close in at random speed, crushing those too slow (or greedy) to leave in time. There’s a lava room to cross on tiles that may or may not be trapped; step on the wrong tile and you’re dead. And there’s an underground river you can swim to hopeful escape from the temple, or to your demise as you wash over a treacherous subterranean waterfall.
The game is easy to learn, action-packed and swift, playing in less than an hour. Your goal is to get out of the temple alive with as much treasure as you can. The more treasure you grab, however, the slower you move, making it more likely you’ll be crushed by the boulder or trapped forever when it seals the exit. The survivor with the most treasure wins.
My son, his mom, and I have played three games, each a cliffhanging blast. I won the first. We all died in the other two, but no one cared because we had so much fun.