If roll and write games have a problem, besides that there’s more of them than Monopoly reskins, it’s that they often lack theme or fall short of the game experience they’re trying to emulate. But they often provide a similar or similar-lite experience in a shorter time frame and smaller footprint.
Drawn to Adventure is a competitive adventure game where you try to complete quests and defeat bosses to become the best hero across the land. And by best, I mean richest.
To start a round, the first player rolls all the dice in the quest pool and then can choose to select the bonus first player die or any of the other quest dice. If that bonus die is not selected, it’s removed from the dice pool. Players continue drafting dice until the last player picks, and then the draft order reverses. This serpentine draft order will be familiar to Sagrada (and fantasy sports) fans.
After all the dice are drafted the players start assigning and scribbling in their quest journals until they’re done spending actions. The symbols on the dice can be used to complete quests, store them in your reserves, or move any number of spaces in the direction shown on the windrose in your adventurer’s book. You can only move through zones that have already been completed.
Each space adjacent to where you’re standing is called an Active Quest and the challenge is represented by one or more symbols that need to be assigned to it. Some Quests need a choice of two symbols, others need two at the same time, or multiples that can be spent over multiple turns.
When you conquer the quest you earn rewards. This can be movement, mana, treasure, an ability to put in your reserve, or experience. For the treasures, this means crossing out the lowest showing number while resources are circled for later use. Experience can be spent to gain new class-specific abilities.
Some hexes contain one of the map’s four bosses. In addition to the normal reward for defeating a boss, you also get to cross out an additional reward on your adventure book for bosses. When the first player defeats their third boss, you’ll play one more round on that map before rolling a die and advancing to the next tier.
Any unused reserves of mana and abilities move with you to the next tier. Sum up the treasure earned by writing down the lowest visible number from each of the treasure types. Most treasure after three maps is the winner because, as the old adage goes, whoever dies with the most wins.
There are a few extra rules around special spaces like caves and ports as well as side quests to earn more rewards. You can also play solo against three boss cards which I’ll explain a bit more about later as the rules explanation is getting a little drawn out.
In what should be a surprise to no one, the main action loop in Drawn to Adventure is rolling dice and scribbling in their journal. This is mostly X’ing out hexes and circling and crossing off things so don’t think you’re going to draw anything adventurous like a dragon or a dodecahedron. Unless you’re a show off.
In many competitive adventure games, there are decisions that force a player to weigh risk and reward. That lack of peril was one of the first things I noticed in Drawn to Adventure. You can go after a boss and there’s no penalty for not getting the rolls you need outside of just having a fruitless turn. Granted, there are mitigations available for bad luck which include spending mana or some class powers but there’s no feeling of danger as you trek through the world. The game is an efficiency puzzle and gives you a choice to aimlessly wander, go for side quests, or quickly work through the bosses. Because points are earned from treasure, side quests, and even using experience for gaining treasure, there are multiple paths to victory and a player’s strategy could change from map to map.
Besides individual player powers, many of the maps also have some special rules associated with the land which gives some nice variability and makes each of the three maps feel a little different. Some quests, once completed by some characters, can add a second die requirement for other characters providing some extra interaction and strategy in addition to the map’s variety. The differences of how each land plays out will depend on your strategy so there could be a little variation there from game to game. There’s also room for discovery over multiple plays as it’s unlikely you’ll see all the Quest cards in an area in a single playthrough (even with four players).
The choice to spend experience to grant new abilities or collect resources is an interesting and an impactful choice as an extra treasure here and there can mean the difference between winning and losing. However, some abilities may allow you to get across the board faster gaining those ever-important first player rewards. And the most powerful abilities also require spending resources but grant some pretty cool abilities like completing a non-adjacent quest or moving multiple spaces.
At first, I felt the games were going a little long but, especially solo, once I had the system down, found the game teetering between too short for a single map and just a smidge too long for all three. Outside of the draft taking longer with more players, the game length doesn’t change drastically with increased player count. But there is limited player interaction besides hate drafting, crossing off first player rewards, and some areas adding requirements for players after the first player completes it.
The AI system for solo forces you into tough choices. The enemy will draft one die per turn per the two sets of cards laid out and each symbol will have it perform a different action. And then some of those actions cause the boss to gain points on their main track. It doesn’t take much for them to push you to the next map before you’ve had a chance to build yourself up.
This AI system works well but seems punishing. I’ve beaten some of the bosses on individual maps and have also gotten thumped so hard the AI took my lunch money and tossed me in a nearby trash can. I’m not going to call it unbalanced but once I get out of the dumpster and clean myself off I want to try a different dice drafting strategy. But still, even getting crushed, I’ve enjoyed trying to maximize my score while (apparently poorly) limiting the AI’s.
I love dungeon crawl and adventure games so the allure of a quick to set up and play game is automatically intriguing. However, Drawn to Adventure lacks the danger that Bilbo warns Frodo about that does detract slightly from that adventuring feel. The sweet spot is just playing through a map or two at a time when I have some time but not enough time for something more elaborate. For me, the journey is more important than the destination in Drawn to Adventure and how my score relates to others doesn’t impact my experience.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – Drawn to Adventure brings big box style overland adventuring and character advancement into a small roll and write package.
• No highs or lows in the adventure
• Can overstay its welcome when playing all three maps at a time especially in early plays