If you’re over the age of 30, Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books were most likely a part of your childhood. You probably spent hours reading and rereading entries, trying to find the treasure, solve mysteries, fight evil, all the while avoiding sudden death. Inevitably you’d come upon an unpleasant ending, then flip back to the passage before, held with a finger, and take the other option instead. It was the unknown of each page that kept you coming back for more, which is something Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger recaptures in game form.
How To Play
If you know how to read a book, then you’re already halfway prepped for House of Danger. Starting at Chapter One, you read the text on the card and set off on your journey. A goal card tells you what you’re trying to accomplish that chapter. Each story card gives you part of the narrative and a choice; you grab the chosen numbered card and continue on.
Occasionally, cards will provide you with a challenge. These come in five flavors – climbing, fighting, dexterity, perception, and strength – but all work the same way. You roll a standard d6 and if the number matches or exceeds the Danger Meter, you succeed. Depending on the result, the Danger Meter may rise or fall. Some failures allow you to try again. You can also boost your roll by a 1 or 2 with items that have the corresponding challenge’s icon.
Items are acquired throughout the story and remain with you through all five chapters. While you can lose items by rolling a 1 on a challenge, other items will be discarded when the story instructs you to. Thankfully, your inventory has no limit and you can hoard as many items as you collect. Frequently, the story will ask if you have certain items or allow you to make a different decision if something is in your inventory.
The last piece of the game concerns the Psychic Scale. As a budding psychic investigator, the Psychic Scale increases or decreases throughout the game as your extrasensory powers are put to the test. Some story points will be available to you only at a certain psychic level, so the higher the better!
After five chapters, the game is over and hopefully you chose the right ending for your adventure.
Hold That Page!
Everything in CYOA is designed to look just like the treasured books from your childhood, from the slightly thin cards to the off-white pages to even a few colored blemishes in the background. The only thing missing is that old book smell. The art exactly matches your memory of the books and the graphic design is as nostalgic as crimped hair and calculator watches.
It is likely that you will know if you like House of Danger from the premise alone. The allure here is a Choose Your Own Adventure story that has been slightly gamified. The nuts and bolts of the game are simple and intuitive, allowing you to immerse yourself in the story. It may not win any literary awards, but the writing is engaging. There are some humorous descriptions, and some funny in-game moments occurred as a result of my choices. I was also sassily reprimanded when I met my fate, which added to the ambiance. The story as a whole is pitch-perfect, with absurd moments and ridiculous outcomes. It’s hard to elucidate more without spoiling specifics, so suffice it to say that things got weird, just as you’d expect.
And as for those untimely deaths – always because I went against my better judgment – those are handled similarly to the books. After moving back a few spots on the Psychic Scale, you go back to your previous card and choose again. It’s like respawning in a video game and trying the level again. You’ll end up covering most pages in a whole chapter, either because of these respawns or due to diving back in after you reach your conclusion.
Each ending has a “Story Return” option, allowing you to go back and discover parts of the chapter you may have missed out on. Though the risk in going back is potentially lowering your Psychic Scale or raising the Danger Meter, it’s almost always advantageous to go back at least once so as to collect more items.
I should note that in my run-through, I rolled incredibly well. Like, really well. I think used up all my dice rolling luck for the rest of my life. So, I was able to get a ton of items and pass several challenges that allowed me the flexibility to be a little foolhardy. This interjection of additional unknowns in the CYOA formula ramped up the enjoyment factor, making me really feel a part of the story rather than like I was controlling a character. I audibly whooped for joy on several occasions.
However, in comparison to other narrative CYOA-style games, House of Danger is by the far most book-like. This means it’s best as a solo endeavor that you can easily pass an afternoon with. The one-shot nature of it is something we’re getting used to in board games, even if you don’t personally like the “same price as a movie ticket” analogy. It is possible to replay House of Danger, trying a different route than before, but its shine will likely be rather worn. So, like you should with any book, enjoy it and pass it on. You’ll always have the memories.
iSlaytheDragon would like to thank Asmodee North America for providing a review copy of CYOA: House of Danger.