So, this is my one hundredth review and the one year anniversary of my very first review posting…
As I sit here writing this, I look back over the last year and I marvel at the way that something that originally began as a way to pass the time at an otherwise boring job took on a whole other meaning for me. Review writing began for me as an escape and then transformed into a hobby and then into a passion. There was a time before all of this began that I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever be doing this, but now I can’t imagine my life without review writing in it.
So, before I delve into my review, I would like to take a moment to thank all of the people at my gaming group for all of their support. You guys have been the best and it has been a delight and a pleasure to get to know all of you and play games with you. I would also like to thank all of the nameless, faceless people that have been reading my reviews over the past year and rewarding me with their thumbs up and their comments. Without an appreciative audience, I doubt that I would have had the courage to continue writing. And thank you to all of my family, friends, and co-workers who have listened to me prattle on endlessly about board gaming this past year. Your encouragement also keeps me going.
A huge amount of gratitude goes out to all of the various game developers and manufacturers that have sent me their various prototypes over the past year. You’ve not only provided me with a great deal of material to write about, but you’ve also awakened me to a whole world of gaming that I never even knew existed. I can only hope that my efforts on your behalf have, in some way, helped to make you successful in your own personal ventures. Thank you.
There are two people that I do not know personally that I would like to thank by name. First, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Father Geek (Cyrus Kirby). Your advice to me early on in my endeavors helped me to find my voice and develop my style. I love your review style and I am inspired by you. Not only can I feel the passion and love for gaming pouring out of every single one of your reviews, but I can also feel the love that you feel for your sons and your readers. Keep it up, Father Geek.
Secondly, I would like to thank the creator of this game, Ben Haskett. Not only did Ben send me a free copy of this game out of the blue, but he sent it along with a handwritten note thanking me for my efforts on his behalf during the course of his Kickstarter campaign for his second game, Tower. Ben, I would have done it for free. You’re an outstanding person and it showed throughout the entire Tower campaign. The way that you interacted with your backers on a daily basis and kept us all frequently updated about everything that was going on – not only with the game, but with yourself – has become a shining moment in my Kickstarter dealings. Your campaign and the way that you ran it stands as a shining example of what makes a thing like Kickstarter so great. Thank you for your support and friendship over the past year. I feel that one of the greatest rewards that has come out of my review writing is having come out at the other end with a good friend like you.
Lastly, I would like to thank the one person who, above any other, has been my greatest source of support and inspiration… my wife, Jennifer. Jennifer, the day that I met you was the luckiest day of my life. Without you, I don’t know where I would be or what I would be doing with my life. All I know is that it would only be half as fulfilling as it is now. You are the brightest light in my life and you continue to inspire me daily. Thank you, my love. Thank you for everything.
Having said all of that, how about we get to the review?
In the game of Baldrick’s Tomb, the players take on the roles of adventurers who are delving into the dungeon known as Baldrick’s Tomb in search of riches and the fabled Baldrick’s Gem… a jewel of inestimable value. Along the way there will be traps and magic and monsters aplenty. But, beware, the clock is ticking and the tomb is not holding up so well to all of this new traffic. The entire structure groans uncomfortably under your feet. Can you find the gem and make it out before the entire structure collapses?
Baldrick’s Tomb comes packaged in a sleek, sturdy box. On the front of the box, we can see a scene from a bottom-up perspective. On each edge of the box, we see the upper half of the faces of the four different adventurers. At the top of the box, is a blonde man. He strong jaw, surly expression, and closely cropped haircut suggests a man of a military nature. Along the right hand edge of the box, we can see another man who looks vaguely Indian in appearance. His expression suggest a hidden mirth and a clever mind. At the bottom, we see a girl, her hair in haphazardly gathered together with a green bandana. Like the blond man, her attire suggests a military nature. On the left edge of the box is another girl. Her pleated red hair and the head wrap she is wearing suggests someone of a gentle nature, but the look in her eyes suggests a deep intelligence.
In the four corners of the image are various scenes from the game… monsters, treasure, traps, and a flaming phoenix. In the middle of it all, shining brightly is the fabled Baldrick’s Gem. Clasped in a golden claw, the gem vaguely resembles the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings. Floating just above and below the gem is the name of the game in bold, yellow lettering. The edges of the box reveal each of the four adventurers is greater detail. The blonde fellow is, indeed a warrior. The Indian guy is a wizard or a sorcerer of some kind. The girl with the bandana is a jaunty thief. The gal with the red hair appears to be some kind of swashbuckler. These images are accompanied by the game’s logo as well as information regarding the suggested player ages and time constraints. On the back of the box is an illustration of the game in action along with a description of the game.
Inside of the box we find seven (yes, seven!) decks of cards. First up is the Monster deck. The back sides of these cards features an image that resembles the exit entrance of a sewer or perhaps the lip of a well. Just behind the wooden framing that is holding everything at bay, we can see the glowing eyes of various beasts in the darkness as they attempt to claw their way out of their prison. The front of the Monster cards, while all different, do bear similarities in their layout. Firstly, in the upper left hand corner of each of the cards is a red circle with the monster’s health show inside of it and beneath this is another circle showing how much gold the creature is worth when it is defeated. In the upper right hand corner is an indicator that shows the monster’s level. There are three levels in all.
At the bottom of the card is a rainbow colored listing of numbers that range from one to eight. Each number has its own color. These numbers are grouped together in smaller chunks which are separated by white lines. Above some of these numbers are small icons in circles. Some of these icons are linked together with white lines and some of them are situated singularly. These icons and their meanings will be discussed later. In the top center of each card is a sentence that begins with “OH NO, IT’S A…” followed by the name of the monster that is being fought. Beneath this, taking up the entirety of the card, is an illustration of the monster in question. The lower level monsters are drawn in a comic style and give off a sense of silliness but as the monster level grows up, the illustrations begin to grow more menacing and serious in nature.
The second deck of cards is the Scroll deck. The back sides of these cards features an overhead image of a table. Arranged on the table in a tableau are a collection of scrolls and vials and even a magician’s hat replete with a rabbit and a chain of scarves. The layout on the front of the cards begins with the title of the card at the top. Directly beneath this is an illustration of the card’s effect. At the bottom of each card is an area containing text that describes the ability that the card imparts to its user.
The third deck of cards is the Trap deck. At the bottom of each of these cards is the name of the card followed by a description of what the trap does to the unfortunate individual who has been unlucky enough to stumble upon the trap. The entire rest of the card is taken up by a comedic image of the trap being sprung. The back side of these cards also features a table. Only this table is not as opulent or as friendly as the one on the back of the Scroll cards. This table is covered in mean looking blueprints, hammers, and nails.
The fourth deck of cards is the Treasure deck. These cards feature a large pile of gold front and center. In the foreground of each image are a number of coins stamped with an image of Baldrick’s Gem. The number of coins depicted corresponds with the number printed in the upper left and lower right hand corners of each of the cards. The back side of each of these cards features another large pile of treasure, but this pile of treasure is much more colorful in nature than the treasure on the card front. There are gleaming gems, jeweled swords, and gold aplenty.
The fifth deck of cards is the Skill deck. These cards are much smaller than the other card decks. The back side of the card features an image of a worn and tattered book opened to a page filled with cryptic scrawl. Beneath this is a title reading ‘Skill Cards’. On the other side of the card, we find the name of the skill followed by a description of what the skill does during the course of the game.
The last two decks of cards are for variants which are included with the base game. I am not going to write about those variants here, but I will describe the cards. The first variant is the curse variant. These cards feature the image of Baldrick’s Gem on the back side. On the reverse is the word ‘Cursed!’ at the top of the card. Beneath this is another image of Baldrick’s Gem and beneath this is the title of the card followed by some text describing what negative effects the card imparts to its owner. The second variant is the zombie variant and there are only four of these cards in the box. The illustration on the back of these cards is by far my favorite illustration in the box. On the back of the cards, we see the image of a comically drawn zombie swinging a dead fish in his hands with a swarm of flies buzzing around him. He is dressed in a silly purple outfit.
This game also contains a bevy of cardboard tokens. There are copper, silver, and gold coin tokens numbering 1, 5, and 10 respectively. There are health tokens that have the image of heart on them. There are poison tokens that feature the image of a green tear drop on them. There are monster damage tokens that feature an image of a white sword on a black background. There is a ‘First to Land’ token and an ‘Impending Doom’ token. There is a level marker token that has an arrow icon on it. There is also a Baldrick’s Gem token. And then there are a large collection of dungeoneering token containing the icons for traps, treasures, healing fountains, monsters, and the entrance to the next level (depicted as a set of stairs leading downwards into darkness) on them. The back sides of these dungeoneering tokens features and image that resembles a pile of boulders.
Also included are four player boards. Each player board features the likeness of the adventurer that they will be controlling. There is a key that describes some of the game iconography and to the right of this are three spots for Skill cards to be replaced. Along the bottom of the card are seven circles numbered in descending order from 6 to 0. There are also four cardboard figures that come with their own plastic stands that correspond with each of the player boards.
The last objects of mention are the two eight-sided dice (one colored red and the other blue ), the game board itself, and the rule book. The game board is tri-fold in nature. At the center of the board is the dungeon area laid out in a grid. The grid is numbered from left to right in ascending order. The first square is numbered 11 and the row ends at number 18. The very last number in the grid is numbered 88. The tens place of each number is colored red and the ones place of each number is colored blue. In each corner is a space for the Treasure deck, the Traps deck, the Scrolls deck, and the Monsters deck along with a space for a discard pile of each. Along the left edge is the Impending Doom tracker. This is a collection of circles that are numbered from 1 to 6 and there are a few labels next to some of the numbers (Easy, Normal, Hard) that indicate where the Impending Doom token should be placed based upon the difficulty level desired. On the right edge of the game board is a side view of the dungeon that resembles a tower. This is where the level marker token and the Baldrick’s Gem token will be placed. As the adventurers delve deeper into the dungeon, the level marker token will be used to follow their progress.
The rule book is a bi-folded sheet of paper. It is very well-written and very well-illustrated. It describes in great detail how the game is laid out and played as well as how the different variants are played. It somehow manages to pull this off without feeling too jumbled or clunky. There is one small typo in the rules where it appears that a portion of a sentence got cut off. However, there’s enough of the sentence there that you can guess at where it was going, so it doesn’t slow things down very much.
First, the game board laid out between all of the players. Next the Monster deck is separated into the three different monster levels. The level two and three Monsters are set aside. Then, the Treasure, Monsters, Traps, Scroll, and Skills decks are shuffled. The Treasure Deck, Monster Deck, Traps deck, and Scroll decks are each placed face down into their appropriate areas along the edges of the game board. Once the cards have been laid out, the coins are placed into the area that is just beneath the game board grid. The Impending Doom token is placed onto the Impending Doom track at the starting point of your choice. Then the Baldrick's Gem token is placed on level two of the depth track and the level marker token is placed into the space above this with the arrow pointing downwards.
Once the game board has been laid out, you are ready to set up the floor. A starting player is chosen and they are given the First to Land token. That individual will then draw 10 random rubble tokens and shuffle them together face down along with the entrance token. Then this player will place them all around the game board randomly making sure to leave at least one empty space between each of them.
Next, each player chooses an adventurer and takes the player board for that adventurer into their possession. An HP token is placed on the 6 spot of the health tracker and a poison token is placed on the 0 of the health tracker. Then each player is dealt three Skill cards and these skills are placed face up onto the player board in the appropriate spot. Finally, each player will receive their character in its stand. Each player will take turns rolling the two dice and then placing their character onto the coordinates that come up on the dice. Character pawns may not begin the game on a space that already contains someone else's character pawn, but they may begin the game on a space that contains a rubble token.
THE RUBBLE TOKENS
As a character pawn is moved around the board, it is going to move over spaces that contain rubble tokens. When this happens, the rubble token is turned face up and resolved. The way that the rubble token is resolved depends entirely upon what type of rubble token is revealed. There are six different types:
1. Monsters - when this is revealed, the active player must draw a Monster card and then either fight the monster or run away. Defeating monsters earns you gold, so it behooves a player to not run away too often.
2. Scroll - when this is revealed, the active player will draw a Scroll card and then add that card to their hand. These cards may be held onto until a later time and are not required to be used right away and when used, they provide the player that is using them with some kind of bonus ability.
3. Traps - when this is revealed, the active player will draw and reveal the top card of the Trap card deck and resolve the action that is shown on the card. These are usually fairly unfortunate for the person that sets them off.
4. Treasure - when this is revealed, the active player will draw a Treasure card and reveal it. Then they will receive an amount of gold equal to the amount of gold that is shown on the card.
5. Healing Fountain - Healing Fountains will fully heal any player that lands on it. When a player is healed in this way, they will move the HP token up to its maximum value. However, the poison token does not change its position.
6. The Entrance (or the Exit depending on how you view it) - This is the way that players may leave the current floor of the tomb. In order to use the exit, a player will just land their pawn on the token and declare that they are leaving and going to the next level.
Fight monsters is one of the main staples of any dungeon crawl and that is certainly no different here. Creepy crawlies await our wandering adventurers at every turn and defeating them is not always going to be easy. When a player lands on top of a Monster token, they will draw a Monster card from the Monster deck. Then they must decide to either fight the monster or run away.
If the player chooses to fight, they will roll an eight-sided die and then compare it to the gauge at the bottom of the Monster card. Depending on which number rolls up and the symbols above that number, various things will happen. If the monster runs away, then it is discarded and the player gets no gold. If the monster attacks, the active player loses one HP and will move their HP gauge down one notch. If the player attack icon comes up, then the monster takes one HP of damage and a monster damage token is placed on top of the Monster card. If a treasure icon comes up, then one gold token is placed on top of the Monster card and the active player will gain this gold in addition to the gold that would normally be earned for defeating the monster. And, if the poison icon comes up, then the active player will increase their poison token one space.
Each floor of the tomb is played in a series of rounds that is determined by the Impending Doom marker placement on the game board. Excepting the very first turn of a new level, whenever play passes back to the individual that possess the First to Land token, the Impending Doom counter will most up one space on the Impending Doom track.
Each player, on their turn, may move a total of four spaces across the game board area. They may never move diagonally and they may never land on the same space as another character pawn (but moving through them is perfectly okay). Whenever a player moves onto a rubble token, then that token is resolved depending upon what it is. If the token is face down, it will be flipped up first. When this token is resolve,d it is momentarily set aside until that player finishes their turn. Once their turn is finished, all of the resolved rubble tokens will be placed back onto the board face up. This placement is determined by rolling the eight sided dice and placing accordingly.
If every player has left the floor through the doorway, then the floor ends and a new floor is set up with a new batch of Monster cards.
GETTING KNOCKED OUT
If a player is reduced to 0 HP or below OR if the poison token and the HP token are on the same space, then that player is considered to be 'knocked out'. When this happens, they will lose half of their gold rounded down. If they happen to be holding Baldrick's Gem at the time they are knocked out, then they must pass the gem to the player with the least amount of gold excluding themselves.
Then that player resets their HP token to its maximum and the poison token to 0. After that, they will replace any resolved tokens as normal. Now they will place their character pawn back onto the board by rolling the two eight sided dice and placing accordingly just like they did at the start of the game.
END OF THE FLOOR
When all of the players have exited to the next floor or the Impending Doom counter reaches five, then the current floor comes to an end. Any players whose character pawns were still stuck on the floor when it came to an end lose half of their gold rounded down. If everyone managed to escape, though, then nobody loses any gold.
Beginning with the second floor, Baldrick's Gem is added to the rubble token repertoire. Each new floor encountered will see the players all beginning with clean slates, their HP set to maximum and their poison token set to 0. As each new floor is encountered, the depth marker will move down one level. If the depth marker can no longer move, then the game is over.
Once the game has come to an end, players will tally up their gold. Baldrick's Gem is worth an additional five gold. Whoever is the wealthiest wins.
The first thing that I noticed about Baldrick's Tomb was the cheeky art work by Derek Bacon. The art work immediately sets the mood for the game. It speaks of a game that is silly, light in tone, and fun to play and the game delivers on this promise. Baldrick's Tomb is a charming game through and through.
Typically, I prefer much deeper strategy games that force me to have to think really hard about what each of my moves is going to be and how those moves will affect future decisions. Sometimes, though, I just want to sit down and have a good time laughing it up with my friends. This game is perfect for those occasions.
The dungeon delving theme is approachable to a wide variety of people and the lack of player on player violence and the concept of being knocked out instead of outright killed helps to put this game firmly into the field of family friendly games. I don't play a lot of games with kids. Most of the people that I play with a very intense, strategic gamers, but this game has a certain kind of charm to it that even managed to win them over.
If you're looking for some good, lighthearted fun, Baldrick's Tomb might be right up your alley. But, if you're looking for some meat to your games, then this game might disappoint you. The game is largely luck based and there is very little strategy to it. Some might consider this a major drawback, but I don't. I normally eschew games that are light on strategy but heavy on luck, but this one has found my sweet spot and I really dig it.
Kevin B. Smith
Lake Forest Park
Thanks for posting this review. Have you tried the co-op mode?
Thanks for the review, David. Glad you enjoyed our game! : D