When it comes to board games based on popular movies, TV shows, or franchises, Ravensburger is the company to beat. It’s proven that with its latest triumph, The Princess Bride: Adventure Book Game, which manages to envelop you in a story and world that’s worth telling.
The Princess Bride: Adventure Book Game is a 1-4 player cooperative board game where players work together to reenact key moments from the classic 1980s fantasy epic, The Princess Bride. I tried the game with my husband, who watched the movie for the first time before we played it. This made a huge difference. I highly recommend making sure you’ve seen the movie before you play because it might not make sense otherwise. It’s especially fun to watch it right before you so the jokes and moments are fresh in your mind. But honestly: Do I need to give you an excuse to watch The Princess Bride again? Of course I don’t.
Much like the original film, which is framed through a storytime session between the narrator (Peter Falk) and his grandson (Fred Savage), the board game unfolds like a book — with each chapter diving into a new part of the adventure. It reminded me of Stuffed Fables, an excellent role-playing game with a similar storybook mechanic, albeit a bit easier. Much like Stuffed Fables, this game comes with detailed miniatures of the movie’s biggest characters. They look so nice, you’ll almost be sad that you use some of them much less than others. For example, Vizzini only shows up twice before, well, you know what happens. (“Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”)
There are six chapters in total, and each one comes with its own rules and characters to play (for this review I chose to only show the first chapter about Westley and Buttercup, so folks can stay surprised for the rest). Players have to accomplish a series of tasks — in this case having Westley finish some chores, help them fall in love, and send Westley away to find fame and fortune — using a combination of worker placement and symbol cards that you combine to complete a challenge.
The cards — which use abilities like Intrigue, Courage, and Love to accomplish feats — may seem a bit daunting at first, but you get the hang of the gameplay very quickly. Luckily, this game is collaborative in every sense of the word; instead of each player taking on the role of a playable character, everyone shares them. After all, you’re telling a story, and stories don’t normally assign roles.
Each subsequent chapter increases in difficulty, adding new tokens, obstacles, and challenges — like completing a journey through the Cliffs of Insanity before Prince Humperdink catches up with you, or saving Westley from the Pit of Despair before Humperdink and Buttercup complete their vows of “mawwage.” It may be tricky but things move along quite nicely, and you’ll find yourself tempted to jump into the next chapter right after you finished the previous one. Each chapter takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, so you can get through the whole game in one sitting if you’d like. If not, the game includes instructions on how to save your progress.
If there’s one complaint it’s that I’m on the fence about whether it’s replayable — at least for adults; kids can definitely enjoy a few rounds of this game. Once you’ve played through The Princess Bride: Adventure Book Game, you have a solid handle on what the challenges are and what you need to do to complete them. There are curveballs thrown your way, mostly in the form of numbered cards you draw at the end of every round that may or may not add a penalty to your board. Other than that, I don’t see a lot of variety in how you can play the game, especially if you’re playing with the same people. That said, I’d be curious to try it again with someone who’s never played before as they might come up with strategies I hadn’t considered.
Even if it’s a game you play once and put away for a couple of months, The Princess Bride: Adventure Book Game is definitely worth it. Ravensburger has managed to follow the success of Jaws and Back to the Future with another franchise board game that captures the spirit of its namesake, while still giving it something unique and entertaining. Once you pick up this book, you’ll have trouble putting it down.