“Dad, can we play The Adventurers?”
This is a question I hear about once a week from my seven-year-old daughter. She is, of course, referring to The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus, a game she can’t seem to get enough of. Curiously, this question usually arrives right before bedtime, so we don’t get to play as much as she would like us to.
The basic idea of the game is simple. Enter the pyramid, race to grab as much treasure as you can while avoiding scorpions, cobras, crocodiles, and mummies, and then get out the front door with the most loot before the whole temple collapses around you.
Two to Six Players
The game requires a little set-up, but once that’s done, it’ll take about 30-45 minutes to play, depending on the number of players. It’s designed for two to six players, but we usually have three or four players, which makes for a nicely paced game.
Players can choose from eight different adventurers, a motley crew of international thrillseekers and rogues, none of whom would be out of place in an Indiana Jones film. Each has a special ability they can use once in the game.
The youngest player (my daughter especially likes that part) is given the Ankh Card and starts the game as the Dice Keeper, the player who gets the first moves of each round’s six phases and is responsible for rolling the dice as needed.
Adjust Wound and Load Level (WLL)
Everyone starts the game with a wound and load level of zero, but as the game progresses, players will earn cards that represent either treasure, equipment, or wounds — such as a crocodile bite, cobra bite, scorpion sting, a stone block falling from the ceiling, or the dreaded Mummy’s touch. The more cards you have, the higher your WLL, up to a maximum of 12. Because every card you carry counts against you, players can discard any treasure or equipment cards they no longer want at this phase of the game.
Determine the Number of Actions
As your WLL gets higher, you’ll start to earn fewer actions each round — and the fewer actions you get, the harder it is to move, search for treasure, or even escape the pyramid with your life. On the back of each player card there is a Game Aid for matching up your WLL with the number of actions you get.
Each round, the Dice Keeper rolls the five colored dice to establish how many base actions each player can take during their round. An action is moving a square (diagonal movement is not allowed), searching for treasure, picking a lock, or opening a sarcophagus. While everyone has the same number of base actions, their actual number of actions can vary depending on their WLL, and if they’ve been cursed by the spirits of any idols they’ve plundered (which is detailed below).
Speaking of plunder, the pyramid has four different areas to explore and unearth valuable treasures: the Cobra Nest, the Crocodile Pond, the Scorpion Pit, and the Mummies’ Corridor. The corridor can be especially lucrative, as it has a number of sarcophagi to open and five different idols to liberate, including the much sought-after Horus Idol. But carrying an idol comes with a curse … for each idol you carry, you can’t use the results from the “cursed die” indicated on the idol’s treasure card, which can further limit the number of actions you can take each round.
Of course, these areas aren’t named randomly — each represents a critter that can wound you as you search for treasure … you just never know what’s going to jump out at you when you turn over that rock.
In addition to treasure, players can also find beneficial items in the Cobra Nest, such as the first-aid kit (which removes any one wound — except a mummy’s touch), antidote vial (to cure cobra bites and scorpion stings), a crowbar to help open the idols, a bag to carry more treasure and, of course, the Udjat medallion that lets a player see into the future to avoid falling stone blocks (more on that in a moment).
If a player’s actions (finding treasure or items or getting wounded) causes their WLL to be greater than 12, they have to immediately discard any treasure or item cards of their choice to keep their WLL at the maximum of 12.
It wouldn’t be an adventure into a pyramid without mummies, and this game has three: Initkaes, Sanakht, and Imhotep. Each round after all the players have moved, the Dice Keeper rolls again, this time for the mummies. The three mummies move in a regular pattern keeping to the Mummies’ Corridor, but the number of squares they move depends on the outcome of the roll.
If a player and a mummy share a square, the player is inflicted with the Mummy’s Touch, a wound that cannot be cured or discarded. Get too many of these, and the adventurer turns into a mummy. Their game ends, but they continue to roam the Mummies’ Corridor, acting as a mummy, for the rest of the game.
This is where the game gets interesting. After the mummies move, the Dice Keeper draws a numbered stone block (we use the lid of the game box and call it the rock pile) at random, then places that block on the matching numbered square on the game board. If any characters are on that square, they automatically move to an adjacent square of their choice to avoid being crushed and takes a block card to indicate they were wounded. However, if the adventurer is unable to move, they are flattened by the falling stone, ending their adventure.
In some special cases, such as when using the Rasputin character’s clairvoyance power or if the player has discovered the Udjat card during a search, that player can preview which stone block is about to fall and plan accordingly.
It is possible for the pyramid to become sealed by falling stone blocks with some or all of the players still inside.
Pass the Dice
After all actions have been taken, the mummies have moved, and the stone block has fallen, the Dice Keeper passes the Ankh Card and the dice and a new round begins.
Ending the Game
The game ends when all the players have either died, become trapped inside, or successfully escaped from the pyramid with a bag of loot.
Different parts of the the pyramid feature the treasure of different Egyptian deities. For example, the Crocodile Pond falls under the influence of Sobek, the Scorpion Pit is the realm of Hededet, and the different alcoves in the Mummies’ Corridor are ruled by Thoth, Anubis, and Horus.
Players are awarded a Variety Bonus for making it out with various treasures from the different gods, so the more varied your haul is, the higher your chances to win.
During our many play sessions, I’ve seen a number of different strategies. One strategy, frequently employed by my youngest daughter, is to search for treasure every turn and completely avoid going for the higher-value idols. She’s won this way quite a few times, much to the frustration of her older sister.
Another strategy is to go right for the high-value idols in the Mummies’ Corridor. This requires careful timing to avoid the mummies in the inner chamber but can be quite lucrative if you get a few different idols and big ticket treasures. If you’re carrying more than one idol, though, escaping can be a challenge because of multiple curses.
But I’ve found that the most consistently effective strategy is to go after a single idol, plunder a few high-value items from the alcoves along the Mummies’ Corridor, and search for some incidentals on the way out.
So, what will you be playing?
All photos by the author, except where noted.