Whenever you hear the iconic theme song from Indiana Jones, you probably think of Indy running down the corridor, fleeing that boulder. (That or, “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”) While most of us have no real-life desire to run from boulders that want to crush us, you can have that “Indy experience” in board game form.
The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac is a temple-looting, mayhem-fleeing board game that puts you in the role of an Adventurer trying to get as much treasure as you can and get out alive. You’ll be dodging the rolling boulder, navigating treacherous lava rooms and raging rivers, and avoiding moving walls, all from the safety of your own game room. And there aren’t any snakes!
How It Plays
Temple of Chac is a push-your-luck game. You’re trying get more treasure/points than the other players, but you must also escape the temple alive in order to win. You can’t let your greed get the best of you. The game is played over an unspecified number of rounds and each round consists of six actions, summarized below.
- Adjust Load Level (LL). This is the genius mechanic of this game. Each player inventories all of their treasure cards and each one counts as a load point. If your LL is too high, you can discard any of your treasure cards to lighten the load, but at the price of a reduced treasure count at the end of the game. The LL simulates the extra weight that an explorer would have if he was trekking through a temple with a load of loot on his back. The lighter your LL, the more you can do. The heavier your LL, the less you can do.
- Determine the number of actions. The Dice Keeper rolls all five dice and each player gets one action for every die that is greater than or equal to their LL.
- Perform actions. Moving one space is the one action that is available in every area of the temple. Other actions such as searching, opening alcoves, deciphering glyphs, and bridge sabotage are available in the various rooms of the temple. Generally, each action costs one action point and can be divided up however the player chooses.
- Move the walls and boulder. The walls are moved by drawing three cards from the walls deck and applying their effects immediately. To move the boulder, the Dice Keeper rolls a number of dice equal to the game round. So in round one, one die is rolled, two dice are rolled in round two and so on until round five when all five dice are rolled. This simulates the boulder picking up speed as it rolls along. The boulder moves ahead one space for every die that comes up equal to or greater than three. Adventurers that are in the wall room when the walls meet, or who occupy a space that the boulder enters are dead and eliminated from the game.
- Bring in reinforcements. If your adventurer dies and is eliminated from the game, that figure is removed from the board and his or her treasure cards are discarded. However, you may now bring your second adventurer onto the board to continue the game. If your second adventurer has already been wiped out, you cannot perform this action.
- Pass the dice.The Dice keeper passes the dice to his left and that player becomes the Dice Keeper for the next round.
Play proceeds through these rounds until either: Some/all players are safely out of the temple with their treasures, the boulder has sealed off the exit and trapped some players inside, or all adventurers are dead. The winner is the player who gets out of the temple alive with the most treasure points. Treasure cards and chests award victory points. In the case of a tie, the adventurer who holds the Stone of Chac is the winner.
Temple Looting Fun or “Hopefully, I’ll Be Crushed By a Boulder”?
Let’s face it. The big initial draw of this game is the boulder. When you pick up the box and look at the back, your first thought is going to be, “Indiana Jones comes to board games.” That’s either going to get you excited and have you running for the register or you’re going to say, “Meh,” and put it back on the shelf because the very idea of anything Indy-like makes you ill. Either way, the boulder tells you exactly what kind of game you’re getting.
There’s a good game here and that boulder is the star of the show. It’s a solid piece of plastic, detailed to look like an actual boulder. The only bummer here is that it doesn’t actually roll, thanks to a flat spot on the bottom. This keeps it from rolling around during play (which is good, and I’m joking about the bummer part), but if you were hoping to set your minis up in front of it and try to mow them down, it’s not going to happen.
The other components in The Temple of Chac are well done, too. The board is a gorgeous rendition of an ancient temple, complete with river and lava room. The minis are detailed and fairly sturdy. They will bend if you treat them harshly (especially the weapons and small appendages), but are sturdy enough for everyday use. The game comes with unpainted minis and here you have two choices if you prefer painted minis. You can paint them yourself or you can track down a set of pre-painted minis. The painted sets used to be readily available but since FFG took over the license of this game, they have not seen fit to reprint the painted minis. So you will have to track them down on eBay or the BGG Marketplace, or you might be able to trade for them.
The cards are good quality and while the treasure cards aren’t anything special in terms of beauty, the character cards are very well done. While there are a lot of card decks and moving parts in the game, set up is very easy because each component has a marked place on the board. After you’ve set everything up one time, it becomes very intuitive and quick. The game is also easy to learn because the board is laid out and the rules are written in such a way that you can pretty much start playing and figure it out as you move from room to room.
The game itself is just plain fun. It’s not a brain burner, it’s heavily luck dependent, and there’s limited opportunity for strategizing, but there is something fun about sending your explorers into the temple, hunting for treasure, and dodging mayhem. It’s like playing in a movie set with your adventurer in the starring role.
The best part of this game (aside from the boulder) is the sheer number of things you can do and places you can go. There are five distinct areas of the board: The wall room, the lava room, the river, and the boulder corridor. Each area provides an opportunity to search for treasure (or get killed). While you generally want to keep moving forward to stay ahead of the boulder, you are allowed to go back and forth in most areas (the exception being the river because the current keeps pushing you forward). So you can duck back into the wall room, for example, and try to grab one more treasure if you think you have time. (Note that if you are in an area like the wall room or the river and the boulder passes your exit space while you’re in there, you are sealed into the temple and are out of the game.) You can also choose to avoid certain risks altogether. For example, you don’t have to enter the lava room or the river. You can choose to stay in the boulder corridor. You may sacrifice some chances at treasure, but you may also stay alive longer.
The other good thing about The Temple of Chac is that, while player elimination is a possibility, the odds are reduced because you can bring in a second character if your first gets killed. While it can be difficult to win from this position (any treasure that your first character had is lost upon death and your second character starts from scratch midway through the board so the opportunity to gain treasure is shortened), you can still stay in the game. This is especially nice if you’re playing with kids since most kids don’t take well to being booted out of a game. If your second character dies you’re out of luck, though, so treat him/her carefully.
Speaking of dying, you’ll do it a lot in The Temple of Chac. It is very easy to die in this game, especially if you venture into the lava room. Successfully navigating this room requires you to hop from tile to tile and hope that the tile you land on isn’t one that’s also represented in the wall room. If it is, the tile collapses beneath you and you die. But you don’t know which tiles are which because they’re all face down. So unless you really took your time studying the glyphs in the wall room (which you probably didn’t because the walls were closing in on you), you’re going to have to hope for the best in most cases.
The lava room is the most risky, but death comes in many forms in this game. Walls can crush you. The boulder can flatten you or trap you in the temple. You can fall into the lava. The bridge can collapse beneath you. You can fall down the waterfall. Each character has a special ability that may help you avoid death, but since it can only be used once per game, chances are good that you’ll die at some point. This means that having your second adventurer enter the temple may not be the disadvantage that it seems to be. Sure, if all of your opponents survive and you’re the only one who dies, you’ll be well behind in the treasure department. But the odds are good that they’re going to die, too, meaning you’re back on more even ground.
The Temple of Chac is best enjoyed as a family or gateway game. The box states an age minimum of ten, but since there is very little reading or math involved, much younger kids should have no trouble playing. They might need a little help to understand some of the special rules for the lava room, wall glyphs, and river, and when sorting out their LL, but everything else is move, roll dice, and pick a card. There’s nothing here that would prove too difficult for non-gamers to understand, either, making it perfect to pull out at family reunions and holidays.
A gathering of hard-core gamers looking for heavy strategy might have fun with this for a game or two but would likely find it tiresome. The game is almost entirely dependent on luck which leaves you feeling like almost everything is out of your control. While you can strategize how long you should spend in each area of the temple, how to manage your LL, and your odds of getting moved down by the boulder on any turn, most of your actions will be guided by luck. A dice roll determines how many actions you get and how far the boulder moves each round. Card draws determine whether you get high or low value treasure and luck mostly determines whether you fall into the lava or not. If you hate randomness, you’ll probably hate The Temple of Chac because it’s almost entirely random. It might make for a fun warmup or cool down game on game night, but it won’t be the main attraction for you.
However, pushing your luck is really the whole point of the game, so if you’re willing to play it for what it is, you may not find the randomness to be as bothersome. You are, after all, trying to get as much treasure as you can without getting killed. The more treasure you’re dragging with you, the slower you go and the less nimble you become, so the more likely you are to die. Be too greedy and suffer the consequences. Or, you may get lucky and get out alive despite your greed. (And don’t we all know people in real life who come out gloriously victorious in situations that should have ruined them.) If you look at it like that, the luck element fits perfectly with the theme and mechanics of the game. It’s not randomness just for the sake of being random.
We love The Temple of Chac at our house. For us, it hits the right mix of engaging theme, quick play, and very light strategy. It’s a fun romp through an Indiana Jones-like movie set and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that. It’s an easy experience after a difficult day and it’s a good choice when family visits or for casual get-togethers. It’s escapism in a board game. Look elsewhere if you’re looking for something heavy and with zero randomness. If you just want to have some quick fun looting a temple (and probably dying), The Adventurers: The Temple of Chac might be for you.