In a much earlier Board Game Night post, I wrote about Fog of Love, a storytelling and roleplaying game that involves the players’ willingness to let go of conventional board game tropes and delve into the story more than the mechanics. With my love of Dungeons and Dragons, and my wish to expand my board game collection with more games that allow for that kind of roleplaying, I found myself tentatively picking up Call to Adventure on a whim. I’ve been on a kick of picking up games that allow for solo play since my wife isn’t into board games as much as I am, and this game said it was suitable for 1-4 players. With absolutely zero knowledge of the game, I bought it, unpacked it, and gave the rules a read. Ever since then, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying every aspect of the game.
Call to Adventure is for 1-4 players, takes approximately 30-60 minutes to play, and is for ages 13 and older.
Set up for Call to Adventure can be a tad arduous but it’s a simple enough process. Give each player a player board. Shuffle the decks of story cards for each act (marked I, II, and III in the picture above). In the middle of the table put the three decks in a vertical column. For Act I, deal out four cards to the right of the deck but don’t flip them over yet. Do the same for Act II and Act III. In a four player game, deal out five cards instead of four. Now deal out two of each Origin, Motivation, and Destiny cards to each player (only 1 to each player if this is your first game). Choose one of each card and put the Origin and Motivation card face up in the left and middle card space on your player board. Look at your Destiny card, but don’t flip this one faceup. Instead, place it face down on your far right card space on the player board. Deal each player a Hero card and don’t let the other players see these cards. Give each player three Experience tokens. Each player takes a Corruption tracker and puts it next to the third space from the top on the corruption track on the player board. Make sure the tray of runes is within reach of all players. Once the characters have been chosen and revealed, now you may flip over the four (or five in a four player game) Act I cards for everybody to see. Make sure to leave the Act II and Act III cards so that they can’t be seen yet. Now it’s time to begin the game!
The objective in Call to Adventure is to use the story cards in the middle of the table to build out your character’s story while trying to score the most points at the end of the game. You’ll do this by taking aspects of your starting cards and story cards that you obtain to roll runes and defeat challenges. You do this by taking an action on your turn to choose a story card and attempt to gain that Act card to add to your player board.
On each character Origin, there is a possible combination of two of the six rune symbols in the game. These runes will dictate how many runes you roll when you face challenges. Using the picture above, you’ll see six symbols in the second row of runes. Those symbols are: Sword (Strength), Arrow (Dexterity), Shield (Constitution), Wand (Intelligence), Divine (Wisdom), Crown (Charisma). Those symbols will show up on story cards and your Origin card. We’ll talk more about those symbols in a bit. Let’s talk about what happens on your turn.
On your turn, you’re going to choose a card from the current act and either immediately gain it (if it’s a trait and you meet the requirements) or attempt to take a path and defeat a challenge.
Traits are cards that define your character’s personality, thoughts, life experiences, and so forth. These cards only have a requirement. For instance, if the requirement was, “You may only take this card if you have a Sword (Strength) or spend one Experience token,” then the player in the above picture could take that card without paying the experience. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice a card under the Student Origin card called, “Protect Your Squad.” There is a sword on that card, so the player has a sword and can now take that trait. If the player didn’t have the sword, he or she could spend one Experience token and then simply take the card as well. These Trait cards give you some of those symbols or extra points or allows you to draw a card or a mix of all of them.
Challenges are slightly different. Every challenge card has two paths with different rewards. On the left side of each challenge card it will provide a single digit number and either 1 or 2 rune symbols. In order to defeat that challenge, you will need to use any runes that you have on your player board that match the two symbols on the challenge card. For instance, if a challenge card has 5, Sword, Crown, this means that a player can use any Sword and Crown runes equal to the number of those symbols on their player board (maximum of 3) to try and defeat that challenge and they must roll a score of 5 to do so. Here is how that works.
Using the picture above, we notice that the player has 3 Swords and 0 Crowns on the player board. When you roll for a challenge, you will add up the number of the symbols you have that you can use. In this case, 3 Swords. You will also get to roll the 3 Core runes that exist in the game. Those runes (seen as the first 3 white runes in the lower row in the first picture of this post) are available to every player on every turn regardless of what other runes are being rolled.
The player from the picture above must declare which path he is taking. There will be a path on the top and bottom of the challenge. He declares that he’ll take the “Weep as You Kill” option. He takes 3 Sword runes from the tray, grabs the Core runes, shakes them in his hands, and then tosses them onto the table like a dice roll. Whatever shows up on the table will dictate whether the player has passed or failed the challenge. Remember, he needs a score of 5 to succeed (using the example from two paragraphs ago). He looks at the symbols on the runes and scores them.
A single line on any rune counts as 1 point. On the Sword runes, any showing of an actual Sword instead of a single line counts as 2 points. On the Core runes, if he rolls the side that has a filled in triangle and a blank triangle, he draws a Hero or Antihero card instead of getting points toward the completion of the challenge. Let’s say he rolls two blanks, a single line, a Sword, a Sword, and the two triangles. He would score five points (single line, Sword, Sword) and draw a Hero/Antihero card. He needed 5 to succeed, so he takes the card from the middle of the table and adds it to his player card (either at the bottom if he chose the bottom path on the card or the top if he chose the top path on the card). Using the photo above (ignoring the +1 on the bottom line which usually means you add +1 to the number needed to succeed the challenge) the Weep as You Kill card now provides the player with 2 Tragedy points (more later) and an Arrow (Dexterity) rune to use on later rolls.
If the player were to fail the challenge, the story card gets discarded from the table and the player gains 1 Experience token.
Before a player actually tosses their runes to attempt a challenge, he or she may spend 1 Experience token to add a Dark Rune to their roll (the three black runes on the bottom row of the first picture in this post). A player may spend up to 3 Experience tokens to add all 3 Dark Runes to their roll. If you roll the single line on the runes, it counts as a 1 for the score. However, if a player rolls the Moon symbol, it counts as 2 for the score BUT the player must move their Corruption tracker down one spot on the Corruption track.
In addition to taking a Trait or facing a challenge on the board, players may also do a number of other side actions. Once per turn, you may spend 1 Experience token from your supply to discard one of the faceup story cards and replace it with another from the deck. You may play any number of Hero/Antihero cards from your hand assuming you play it at the appropriate time (the card will say when you can play it), and you may use any actions that are listed on your Origin/Motivation player cards.
Once you are out of actions, you end all effects currently in place from your Hero/Antihero cards and turn over a new card from the Act I deck to replace the one you just took. Play continues clockwise.
Hero and Antihero cards are cards that have specific effects on them. These cards can contain any number of effects that help you or hinder your opponent. Some examples include adding 1 rune of a specific type to your roll, moving yourself up or down on the Corruption track, making another player reroll a challenge he just attempted, and/or gaining experience with the consequence of another player gaining some kind of bonus. Your Corruption track (as seen in the photo above) shows what kind of cards you can play. While in the 3rd or 4th spot on the track, you can play either type of card. However, any lower than that and you can only play Antihero cards or any higher and you can only play Hero cards. You will gain 1 point at the end of the game for any Hero or Antihero cards you play, regardless of your position on the Corruption track.
Ending an Act
Act I cards can only go under your Origin card (the card on the left of your player board). Once you have three cards under your Act 1 card, that act is considered over. If you are the first player to have three cards under your Act I card, when it becomes your turn again, you will flip over the Act II cards. You may only gain Act II cards if your first act is over, however, any players still in Act I may now take cards from either act on their turn. Act II cards can only go under your Motivation (the middle card on your player board). You treat the end of Act II just like Act I, flipping over Act III cards if you’re the first player to have three cards under your Motivation card at the beginning of your turn.
Act III cards can only go under your face down Destiny card. When one player gets a third card under his Destiny card, this triggers the end of the game. All other players may have one more turn, and when the final player finishes his turn, it’s time to add up all points and determine the winner. Here is the order for adding your points.
- Every player reveals his or her Destiny card.
- Look at the cards underneath the Origin/Motivation/Destiny cards (the Story cards you gained throughout the game). Add together any white diamond points (Triumph) and black diamond points (Tragedy). You’ll see an example of what these look like in the second photo of this post.
- Add or subtract any points from your location on the Corruption track.
- Add any points you may have gained from meeting the requirements on your Destiny card.
- Add one point for any leftover Experience tokens you have left.
- Every Hero and Antihero card you played nets you one point, regardless of where you are on the Corruption track.
- Add points from your story icons (Look at the story cards you took from the acts on the board. Using the second picture above, you’ll notice some of the cards have a Star, Scroll, and/or Crown on the lower/upper path of the card.) You get points based on how many matching symbols you have. Two symbols is worth two points, three is worth four points, and four is worth eight points. There are a total of six story symbols in the game.
The player with the highest score has fulfilled his or her Destiny and is declared the winner.
Now is the time, regardless of who won, to tell the story of your character and what trials, tribulations, triumphs, and tragedies befell him or her on the journey. This is where your real storytelling ability can take over as you describe as little or as much detail as you want. We personally like to tell the stories of our characters AS we take Story cards, but that’s a personal preference. While you still want to win the game by scoring the most points, it’s often fun to just focus hard on the story rather than winning. In fact, last night, I played a game with my brother-in-law, and we had very similar stories to Gandalf and the Ring Wraiths from Lord of the Rings in our characters. I played a Beggar that was Chosen by the Light destined to be the High Arcanist. He played a Conscript that was Driven to Despair destined to be an Intrepid Explorer. His path turned extremely dark and edgy while I triumphed over evil and became the most powerful wizard ever. It was quite the story experience where we both neglected certain cards that would score us really high because the story telling aspect was too strong to ignore.
As a quick finish, I wanted to explain a few gameplay changes/rule clarifications.
Allies and Adversaries
There are two cards in all three acts that are different from the others. The Allies are cards that will appear when flipping over new Story cards. If they appear, the active player can choose to add the Ally to one of the challenges currently visible in that act. You slide the Ally under the challenge, and that challenge now has +1 to its difficulty. If you complete either path of the challenge, you get to add that card to your player board and take the Ally and place it next to your board. You can now use the effect on that Ally during your turn.
Adversaries are mainly used in the Solo/Co-Op version of the game, but you can add them to the core game for multiplayer as well. Adversaries will only appear in Act II and Act III, but these cards are powerful bad guys that usually have ongoing effects while they’re face up on the table. Defeating them offers quite a few points and rewards, but they are more difficult to defeat than the normal challenges.
You may have as many of one symbol as you want at any time on your player board, however, you will only ever be able to roll a maximum of three of each symbol in your Rune rolls. The third rune for each symbol has special symbols on it with three dots surrounding the symbol (as seen in the 3rd row of runes in the first picture of this post). The symbols on that 3rd rune follow the same rules as the standard runes, however, the effects of the other side are different. Rolling the symbol with the 3 dots adds 2 to your rune score. The other side of those runes give you 0 to your rune score, however, they offer effects like drawing a Hero/Antihero card or gaining experience.
The reason the Corruption track offers zero and negative points if you become so corrupt is because this is supposed to be a Hero’s Journey kind of story. When you become that far corrupted, you’re no longer a Hero or Antihero. Instead, you’ve become the villain of your story, and villains don’t get points for being bad. Instead, they lose points at the behest of their villainy.
Overall, I’ve learned to thoroughly enjoy Call to Adventure far more than I ever thought. Granted, the Solo and Co-Op variant greatly changes the objective and style of the game, and that’s mainly what I have played up until this point, but it doesn’t take away from the joy this game has brought me. I love storytelling. I’m the Dungeon Master in our D&D group for a reason. I love the ideas of taking a character, building them from scratch (even if it’s as basic as this game is), and then telling their story through simple gameplay mechanics. It really is exhilarating at times (as lame as that may sound).
Call to Adventure is the perfect amount of mechanical difficulty mixed with amazing storytelling. It won’t be the highlight of your gaming collection, but it will definitely be a go to when you want something that brings out the imagination of all the players at your table.
I will be doing a separate post for the Solo/Co-Op mode as it changes the rules, mechanics, and objectives of the game. Look for that post either later this week or next week.