There have been more than a few games based on The Princess Bride over the years, but none have come as close to capturing the essence of the movie better than The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game.
What Is The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game?
The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game is a cooperative game for 1-4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 15 minutes to play per chapter, or about 90 minutes to play through the entire game. It’s currently available exclusively at Target.
The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game was designed by Ryan Miller and published by Ravensburger, with illustrations by Medusa Dollmaker, Lucas Torquato, and Ryan Smith.
The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game is GeekDad Approved!
The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game Components
Inside the box, you’ll find:
- 7 character miniatures (Westley, Princess Buttercup, Prince Humperdinck, Count Rugen, Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik)
- 1 gamebook
- 40 story cards
- 30 special cards
- 20 plot cards
- 4 reference cards
- 6 chore counters
- 1 ship counter
- 1 mystery ship counter
- 3 R.O.U.S. counters
- 4 flame spurt counters
- 4 lightning sand counters
- 3 wound counters
- 2 Brute Squad counters
- 1 Westley confidence counter
- 1 Humperdinck confidence counter
- 3 locked door counters
- 5 challenge completed counters
- 5 miracle counters
- 1 replay counter
The two components that stand out when opening the game are the miniatures and the gamebook.
The miniatures represent seven of the most important characters from the movie. There’s Westley, rendered in black, just as he is through most of the movie; Buttercup, in a flowing red gown; Humperdinck, with his ridiculously oversized crown; Rugen with his six-fingered hand; Vizzini, shorter by far than the rest and still standing confidently; Inigo, sword at the ready; and huge Fizzik, towering over the rest. Each figure is cast such that any fan of the movie will have no problem knowing which is which, but in a nice touch so lacking in so many other games, each character also has their name on the figure’s base.
The central idea of the game isn’t that players are taking on the roles of the characters from the movie, though. Instead, it has the same central idea as the movie: you are the Grandfather reading the book to your beloved grandson. And so, the game is really six mini-games, each based around one of the key set-pieces from the film: the farm, the sea chase, the Cliffs of Insanity, the Fire Swamp, Inigo and Fezzik reuniting and finding and saving Westley, and, finally, storming the castle. Each of these scenes is played out on a two-page spread of the gamebook, which is a board book with each spread providing the rules, board, and victory conditions for that chapter. Each board is nicely designed, laid out, and beautifully illustrated with art that totally invokes that part of the movie.
The other large set of components are the three decks of cards. The first of those, the story cards, are simply illustrated with one of five types, represented by both an icon and an illustration. This is the most abstract element of the game, as the five types—courage, revenge, adventure, intrigue, and love—are just things to be collected to complete a particular challenge.
The special cards more directly invoke scenes and characters from the movie. They contain a title—often a famous quote from the oh-so-quotable movie—and a description of the card’s special ability.
The final deck contains the plot cards. This deck is simply a set of 20 cards, each consecutively numbered. These move the story along and are the “opponent” in each of the challenges, moving the bad pieces or setting the characters back.
Each chapter can be attempted twice. The reply counter tracks this. When each chapter is set up for the first time, it’s placed on the Grandson side. If the players fail the chapter, they flip it over to the Grandfather side. If they fail again, they lose the game.
Finally, there’s a set of cardboard tokens. A few—the challenge completed and miracle counters, and the replay counter—are used throughout the game, but most of the rest are only used in specific chapters.
How to Play The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to complete each chapter before the plot deck runs out or some other loss condition is met. Each chapter can be played as an entirely independent mini-game, or you can combine them to play the entire adventure.
Open the book to Chapter 1 (or honestly, any other chapter, if you don’t want to play the whole thing). Set the replay counter next to the book with the Grandson’s side face-up.
Remove the special cards from the story deck, then shuffle the story cards together. Shuffle the special cards into a separate deck. Shuffle the plot deck and then place each around the board.
Give everyone a reference card, then follow the specific setup instructions for the chapter. For chapter 1, you’ll place Westley in the barn and Buttercup in the farmhouse. Place a chore counter on the wood, horse, and well spaces. Place a miracle counter on the star space. Everything else goes back in the box. The player who most recently completed a chore goes first.
On a player’s turn, they will: move, perform storytelling actions, draw new cards, and draw a plot card. Then, if needed, they’ll discard down to six cards, and then play passes to the left.
The movement is pretty easy: move any one character one or two spaces or move two characters one space each. Movement can be in any direction, through other pieces, and the like. The only real restriction is that this is all done at the beginning of the turn.
The storytelling phase is where most of the action occurs. On each turn, players can trade one card with another player, but only once per turn. Alternatively, players can discard any cards from their hand and move a character one space per card discarded. This is an additional movement beyond the “free” movement at the beginning of the turn.
If a player has collected the right combination of cards to complete a challenge, they can discard those cards, place a “challenge completed” token on the challenge, and collect whatever reward is specified for the challenge.
If the player has collected any special cards, they can play as many as they wish. Note that special cards can also be discarded for movement.
And lastly, they can play a miracle to either draw three story cards or one special card. Each chapter begins with one miracle counter on the board, which can be picked up by simply moving a character over it. These counters are not lost from one chapter to the next, and they are shared by all players, so it’s possible to go into the final chapter with five miracles for when things get tough.
Except for the trading, any of these actions can be repeated by the player, and they can all (including trading) be done in any order.
In each chapter, players need to complete a series of challenges before either the plot deck runs out or some other condition, specified in the chapter-specific rules, occurs. If either of those happens, the Grandson becomes bored and interrupts the story. Players can then reset and try again, but if they fail any particular chapter a second time, the Grandson totally loses interest and returns to playing his video game, causing the players to lose.
In chapter 1, players seek to bring Westley and Buttercup together, and then send Westley out to seek his fortune. The plot cards either add chores to the board or move Buttercup to Westley’s space. Westley can complete chores as he moves around and needs to, as the chapter is “interrupted,” meaning the players lose if a plot card ever needs to be placed but none are available (because they are all already out on the board). The first of the three challenges to be completed to complete the chapter is “As You Wish” (“Is this a kissing book?”) where there are fewer than 2 chores on the board and Westley and Buttercup are together on any space, and needs a single love card to be completed. The second challenge, “True Love,” requires both characters to be at the barn, and needs two love and one courage card. The third and final challenge, “Seek Fortune,” requires that Westley be on the To Fortune! space and Buttercup be in the barn, and that both of the other challenges are completed. A player can then discard two adventure and one courage card to end the chapter. (“Murdered by pirates is good…”)
Chapter 2, “Escape By Sea”, has a map track and a ship board, and involves Buttercup, Fezzik, Inigo, and Vizzini. In order to complete the chapter, players have to complete three challenges and move their ship to the Cliffs of Insanity before the mystery ship, which is being moved by the plot cards, catches them. Moving the ship involves discarding cards that match the symbols on the map track. Players can discard as many cards as they wish to move the ship as far as they wish.
The first challenge, “No more rhymes now, I mean it!” requires Inigo and Fezzik to be in the same space and Vizzini to be on the Prow. It needs an intrigue and a love card to complete. The second challenge is “The Shrieking Eels.” To complete this one, Buttercup needs to be in the water and Fezzik at the railing, and one courage and one adventure card need to be discarded. (“The eel doesn’t get her. I’m explaining to you because you look nervous.”) Finally, in “Whoever he is, he’s too late!,” the ship needs to be in the final space on the ship track and the other challenges have to be completed. No cards need to be discarded.
In Chapter 3, “Cliffs of Insanity,” players may move Westley and Buttercup. Inigo, Vizzini, Fezzik, and Humperdinck are all there, but cannot be moved by players. Also, Westley cannot move past any other character until an appropriate challenge is completed. The chapter is interrupted if Humperdinck moves into the space with Westley or Buttercup, or if he makes it to the ravine.
The first challenge, “You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you,” requires that Westley and Inigo be in the same space and the discarding of two revenge and one adventure card. (“I know something you do not know. I am not left-handed.”) The second challenge, “Sportsman Like,” requires that Westley be in the space with Fezzik, and needs two courage and one adventure card. (“Where are the sports?”) The third challenge, “A Battle of Wits,” needs Westley in Vizzini’s space, and the discard of three intrigue cards. Finally, “As… You… Wiiiiiiiiiish!,” requires that Westley and Buttercup be at the revine, the other challenges having been completed, and the discarding of two love and one adventure card. This was the first chapter we lost or had interrupted.
Chapter 4, “The Fire Swamp,” has only Westley and Buttercup trying to survive (because no one ever has). Here, there are a series of hazards that cause wounds. If the players take a third wound, the chapter is interrupted.
The first challenge is the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” (who I am not) and requires that Westley and Buttercup be in the same space and discard a love, adventure, and intrigue card. Next comes the “Flame Spurts,” with both characters together on a space with a Flame Spurt Hazard (the hazards are randomly distributed on setup), and discarding a courage and intrigue card. Then comes the Lightning Sand, with Buttercup on an appropriate hazard space and Westley one space away. Discarding a love and an adventure card gets you past this. After that, of course, is when you “Defeat the R.O.U.S.s” (which I don’t believe exist either). Here, Westley needs to be on an R.O.U.S. space, and a revenge, adventure, and courage card discarded. Finally, we ask “Was that so terrible?,” where both characters are on the Escape! space and the other challenges are complete.
Chapter 5, “It’ll Take A Miracle,” takes all of the characters except Count Rugen, but players cannot move Buttercup or Humperdinck. Westley cannot be directly moved by the players (what with being recently mostly dead), but if he’s in the same space as Fezzik, they can move together. If Humperdinck and Buttercup move to the “I Do” space on The Aisle, the chapter is interrupted. (And yes, The Aisle does have The Impressive Clergyman’s lines printed on it.)
This time, players have to complete four challenges. “Fezzik Revives Inigo” requires getting Fezzik to the cottage and discarding two love and one courage card. In “Where is The Man in Black?,” you have to get Inigo to the Pit of Dispair, and discard two revenge and two adventure cards. Next up is, of course, “Miracle Max’s,” where you need all three characters and to discard a revenge, two intrigue, and a love card (or maybe a blathe card). Finally, that leaves “Impossible”, where Westley, Fezzik, and Inigo have to be at the Castle Gate and the other challenges have to be complete.
Chapter 6 is, of course, “Have Fun Storming the Castle!” This is the only chapter to use all six characters, but Humperdinck, Buttercup, and Rugen cannot be moved by the players. There are locked doors that only Fezzik can open, and a confidence track to see who wins between Westley and Humperdinck. The chapter is interrupted if Rugen would move while he’s in the Dining Hall, if Humperdinck moves into the Honeymoon Suite before the “It would be a pity” challenge is complete, or if Humperdinck’s confidence counter move to the “Drop your sword” space. So, lots of ways to lose.
The first challenge is the Inigo finding Rugen. “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya” requires getting Inigo to the same space as Rugen, and discarding two revenge cards. Then, the showdown: “You killed my father. Prepare to die” needs the first challenge to have been complete, and Inigo and Rugen to again be in the same space. Discarding three revenge cards give Inigo what he seeks. Then, “It would be a pity” need Westley and Buttercup to be together in the Honeymoon Suite and the discard of three love cards. Once completed, the Westley and Humperdinck confidence tokens are placed on their respective ends of the Confidence Track. Moving Westley’s confidence is the same as moving the ship in the earlier chapter, and getting it to the middle, “Drop. Your. Sword.” space is the necessary condition for the identically-named challenge. No cards need to be discarded. At that point, all that is left for the players is to get Fezzik to the Escape! space and they win the game.
The game ends when all six chapters are completed or the story has been interrupted twice in the same chapter. As a cooperative game, players win or lose together.
Why You Should Play The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game
The first thing to love about The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game is its unique take on approaching the meta-movie with the Grandfather and Grandson. It really allows the game to cover the entire movie, rather than just a segment of it, and provides a thematic reason to change characters and goals, as well as the do-overs.
Since The Princess Bride is one of the great love stories, games based on it almost have to be cooperative. Who would want to play a game where you have to be Humperdinck or Rugen? And again, the book-based approach allows for an interesting cooperative game that still involves the “bad guys” but lets the players always be the heroes. (Even, briefly, Vizzini.)
There have been a lot of games-based-on-movies of late, and any time you convert something from live-action you have to decide if you’re going to go with art or stills (or both). In this case, I think the art was the right choice. Even though a lot of the art shows scenes taken directly from the screen, it provides a unified look to the game for those things that couldn’t be done from stills, such as the tokens, the backgrounds on the boards, and the story cards. That the art is so well done throughout certainly helps.
The gameplay is just challenging enough to keep things interesting. It’s certainly not the hardest cooperative game out there—and one thing that is definitely missing is a way to tweak the difficulty—but it’s hard enough that playing through doesn’t feel like an exercise in randomness.
I have to admit that I came to the game predisposed to like it, given that the movie is one of my all-time favorites (due in part to the fact that it was the first movie my wife and I ever saw together), but I love Star Wars and don’t love every Star Wars game. Thankfully, The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game lived up to those lofty expectations. It’s well-deserving of being GeekDad Approved and should find a place on the shelf of anyone who loves the movie, or a good cooperative game, or both.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.