Ancient Terrible Things Review

ANCIENT TERRIBLE THINGS (Pleasant Company Games)

Not the first group to venture out into the dark jungle, there are tales of an expedition that had discovered ancient and terrible things amidst the tangling… almost choking swamp vegetation. Assembled from far and wide and for just as distant of motives, you and your fellow adventurers board the riverboat. Funny the lack of swarming insects you were batting away just a couple of miles further up the river. Funny the deafening silence that starts to set in around you…

Taking on the role of the Prospector, Journalist, Ship Captain, and Heiress, you’re off to explore the jungle and all of its mysteries in Ancient Terrible Things. The board is set up as an easy or difficult game with 2-sided Scenario cards and as a short (30-45 minutes) or long game (60 minutes) with adjustable amounts of Ominous Encounters cards and Terrible Thing tokens. Based off of the game length and number of players, a deck of increasingly more ancient and terrible Ominous Encounters cards is built and then dealt out to the Locations on the board. Terrible Thing tokens are drawn randomly and then laid out from the least to most number of tentacles (representing negative points for those who get them). Player boards are dealt along with starting tokens and that character’s unique starting bonus along with three Feat cards each. After that, it’s time to delve into the dark jungle!

Aptly subtitled as “A Pulp Horror Dice Game,” completing Ominous Encounters is done by tossing a fistful of dice and hoping for certain combinations. On their turn, players look at the available Ominous Encounter cards set out at the Locations and choose which one to attempt. Before dice are rolled, each Ominous Encounter includes a bonus token and each Location offers a special action. After taking the token and bonus, a player has the option to use Courage tokens equal to the Ancient Secrets value to complete the Ominous Encounter outright. Forgoing this option, a player rolls five Basic green dice – aided by any Swag cards or Feat cards that may add other dice or helpful rules. Players are allowed 2 re-rolls a turn and whatever set of dice are left can be spent to complete the Ominous Encounter and/or gain tokens with combinations laid out on the Scenario card.

The interesting thing about the Scenario card and the escalation of Terrible Things tokens is that not completing an Ominous Encounter can sometimes be your best choice. Early Terrible Things tokens can be worth zero points (as opposed to negative points) and other tokens collected through the Scenario card combinations can be used on future Ominous Encounters worth more Ancient Secrets points. It’s as much a “press your luck” game as it is a “make what you will of your luck” game, adding decisions to the adrenaline of a good shake of the dice.

After the Encounter Phase, players visit the Trading Post to spend their Treasure tokens on helpful Swag cards. The final phase of a turn is Refresh, where players draw back up to three Feat Cards and refresh all previously used Swag cards.

Turns continue like this until either all Ominous Encounter cards have been completed or after the last Terrible Thing token is drawn. Ancient Secrets points are then added, subtracting any Terrible Thing points. Whoever has the highest score is your adventure’s lone survivor and discovers the terrible truths held within the Battered Journal from the previous expedition.

Always an engaging and usually a very fun mechanic, Ancient Terrible Things builds off of other dice-centric games by offering a number of different payouts for what’s rolled. While hardcore strategists and rule crunchers may be frustrated by the element of chance, those willing to wipe their brows and rattle the bones will find a lot to enjoy in this terrifying jungle. (Pleasant Company Games) by David C. Obenour

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