Designed by Keith Baker & Jennifer Ellis | Published by Twogether Studios
2-5 Players | 60-90 Minutes
Based on the podcast and series of graphic novels, The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance is a story-driven RPG filled with humor and danger for the whole family. By answering a few short questions, your character will be ready to join a group of adventurers prepared to embark into dark realms, gather ancient artifacts and encounter unsavory villains.
Players will work to build up their characters by gathering items to aid them in their quest. Each turn you’ll have the option to take on a variety of challenges that can be met with the roll of the die… but not before you’ve collaborated with your fellow adventures in crafting a unique story and character tied into your journey.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Each player is guided through a series of questions to help flesh out your characters. Like most everything in the game, these question all have a humorous tone. Players will choose their guild and even have the opportunity to create a character portrait. Each player will then have the opportunity to share their character’s traits and backstory with the team.
The board features 3 stacks of Missions Cards, one relic, one villain and one location. These 3 decks are central to the game’s action. During your turn you’ll have the opportunity to choose one of the mission cards that best suit your abilities and chance at success. A series of cards from the Surprise Deck are mixed in to provide some unexpected support during the game.
Each Missions Card requires a minimum die number to be rolled, but that number can be aided by a players guild or supporting cards.
Victories earn loot that you can in-turn purchase benefit cards from Fantasy Kostco, the superstore for all aspiring fantasy adventurers. Purchasing Fantasy Kostco cards can provide you ongoing benefits as you continue your quest.
At its heart, The Adventure Zone wants to encourage creative storytelling and interaction. You’ll often find small advantages during a challenge if you’re willing to share your characters present mental state or provide additional backstory about a villain, relic or leaky dungeon local. It all works to create engagement, keep the game light and ensuring everyone is having a good time.
Players will often have the opportunity to support others in their challenges, building camaraderie (or dissension???) and encouraging teamwork.
Turns continue until the group has successfully defeated all 3 Finale Mission Deck cards… barring they don’t all exhaust their health and share in the defeat.
COMPONENTS & ARTWORK
There isn’t a ton of components for the game, but the artwork and visual communication all seems to work well. The Fantasy Kostco cards all feature a fun/silly illustration to go along with their usage and the finale mission card creatures/relics/locations are all fine. The board and game tokens are all satisfactory while the character sheets give the game some additional flare and theme.
I think it’s best to acknowledge that my wife and I aren’t traditional RPG players. We don’t own any D&D games, nor are we typically drawn to roll playing. I say that because I feel we are exactly who the creators are targeting. We’re typically caught up in our solitare games and less-talky, more think-y type fare. The Adventure Zone has made it their mission to force people like us to open up, engage and even wander into the realm of creative storytelling in the best way possible. The character sheets really set the tone for the game with some silly questions and the opportunity to even draw a self-portrait. Sharing our character back stories was a baptism into a world we were certainly unfamiliar and a little uncomfortable with.
The gameplay as a whole was fine. We love dice games and the big, chunky d20 dice made for a good time. Most challenges in the game will require you to leverage your characters abilities and force the group as a whole to consider when to assist and when not to. We were fortunate to grab some timely Kostco cards that carried us through the latter part of the journey. We also had some pretty fantastic rolls at the end of the game when victory was anything but assured.
The humor and charm of the game really drew us in. Fighting a villain called the Big Weird Eyeball or doing battle in the Tiny Lavatory made the story fun. I loved receiving an attack bonus after engaging in the story such as describing a “fantastic view” or explain how I was going to maneuver through a “forgotten labyrinth.” The Kostco cards were always an adventure in their own. You never knew what you were going to draw. I think we pulled a fanny pack, Extreme Teen Bible and Steven the Goldfish (who gives you +1 strength vs a trap).
• The humor and light-hearted approach
• Easy to setup… quick to play
• Family RPG that encourages storytelling and communication
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT?
• There isn’t much challenge outside of luck of the dice
• RPGs aren’t for everyone
I had a great time experiencing The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance. I enjoyed the emphasis on the story and how the game encourages participation. I was very curious to find out more about the The McElroy Family and watched/listened to a number of podcasts afterwards. They really are this loose and fun. This is definitely an entry-level RPG, and one that works for the whole family. I think it works really well for anyone looking to introduce their kids to the world of RPGs. There isn’t a ton to do strategically in the game outside choosing your next challenge or the corporate decisions of the group, but again, that’s not really the point. The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance exists to encourage people to come together and enjoy the process of storytelling in a fun, silly, immersive environment and I think they succeeded.