Review: Call to Adventure

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Length 30-50 minutes

Release Date 2019

Designer: Christopher O’Neal, Johnny O’Neal
Artist: Matt Paquette
Publisher: Brotherwise Games
Category: Fantasy, Card game
Player Count: 1-4
Price: $39.95 MSRP

Call to Adventure is a 1-4 player card game that sees players forging their destinies via traits and challenges, and the casting of runes. Will your humble student become a champion of the people, or will the noble scholar become a tainted archmage? Our review below will help you decide if it’s worth casting your lot in with Call to Adventure. 

Content Guide

Violence:

Several Cards depict acts of violence or blood. No gore is shown.

Magic use:

A number of cards make reference either by name or picture to enchanted evils, magic, or magic use.

Sexual Content:

Three cards have suggestive pictures or partial nudity. They are: The Sorceress, The Mad Cultist, and Queen’s Chambers. The first 2 in that list are adversaries and therefore considered enemies.

Review

Call to Adventure is somewhat of a role-playing game in-a-box, with an emphasis on cards and set collection, while throwing runes instead of dice. The runes essentially function like two-sided dice, with players sharing a pool of shared core and ability runes. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt two Origin, Motivation, and Destiny cards, and chooses one to keep. Players slot all three in their player boards, keeping the first two face-up but the Destiny card face-down (you can look at your own Destiny). Play begins with the last player to finish a novel (which ties into the storytelling theme, but is also just a great way to choose first player).

On a turn, a player will pick an available card starting with the first (I) row of story cards. Players can pick either a Trait card, which gives them a small bonus, or a Challenge card, which gives them two options to choose from. Challenge cards also explain which type of runes may used to complete them, and usually (if passed) result in a player gaining access to more runes of that type. When players pass a challenge or gain a trait, they tuck the card under their starting card so the stats are showing. If a Challenge is failed, the player then discards the card and gains an experience token. Experience tokens can be spent on either replacing a given story card or adding dark runes to a Challenge; however dark runes can add corruption to a player’s character. Fall too far on the corruption track and players will not be able to play hero cards. Likewise, rise too high and players won’t be able to play antihero cards, which are the only way to directly impact other players negatively, short of taking a card they wanted first.

Once a player has three cards under his Origin, he may reveal the next row (II) of Challenges, and once someone has three cards under his Destiny, everyone else gets one last turn. The player with the highest Destiny score—determined by his Triumph and Tragedy points, sets of matching icons, played hero/antihero cards, and leftover experience tokens—is the winner. After tallying points, the game encourages players to tell the tale of their characters from humble Origin to their Destiny.

Gameplay in Call to Adventure is smooth as players pick their cards and attempt Challenges—however I could see it slowing down with some groups of 4, especially if anyone has any Action Paralysis, so I would stick with 2-3 players. There is an included Solo/Co-op mode, but I’m never a fan of when games have to change the rules to adapt to 1-player setting. There also isn’t any kind of scoring scale that tells you how well you did when playing Solo.

I liked the casting of the Runes, and while you might want a dice tray to contain them (you could be casting eight or nine of them by the end of the game) they are a joy to interact with—not using dice helps set Call to Adventure apart from the many RPG-in-a-box games. All the components were top-notch, but I did see some slight warping in three of my four player boards, and the level three (III) story cards, but nothing a couple days under a heavy book couldn’t fix (thank you, Complete Works of Shakespeare). The player boards do a great job of reminding you what each rune or symbol means, and each one has a slightly different background.

The art in Call to Adventure is on par with anything you’d see in a RPG source book or monster manual, evoking epic fights and amazing sights. This is the kind of game where you could lose an hour just flipping through all the cards and admiring the artist’s work. If you were feeling inspired, you could write an entire encounter or session around just one of the cards.

Call to Adventure looks like an RPG-in-a-box game, but really, it’s a long-form character creation game, emphasizing on storytelling and set collection. I would love to do a Session Zero where instead of making up characters themselves, everyone played Call to Adventure to determine their story and motivation—no more tragic backstories for everyone! If making characters is your favorite part, if you’re a fan of story-focused games, or if you just like set-collection games with great art, you should check out Call to Adventure.

My character was a studious page who, through wit and luck was able to find unknown lands, outwit a mob boss, and eventually rise to the People’s Champion after becoming an Archmage, but not without a dark price.

A review copy was generously provided by Brotherwise Games.

The Bottom Line

Call to Adventure seems like, at first glance, another RPG-in-a-box with excellent art. But really, it shines as a character creator in Tabletop form, letting players enjoy making backstories instead of rolling dice or making up their own. Fun and thematic, CtA is an easy suggestion for RPG fans or fans of set collection games.

 

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