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Subject: The Pen Is Mightier than the Sword (an iSlaytheDragon review) rss

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Jonathan Schindler
United States
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Drawing isn’t just for art and recreation anymore. It’s how you get anything done in this world. Level by level, you’re on a mission–-a quest–-to gain experience and fame.

But watch out! This world is peppered with obstacles and with mildly malevolent forces who are out to impede your progress. With a keen eye and a steady hand, you will show your prowess and win renown in Loony Quest.

How It Works

Loony Quest is a drawing game for two to five players. Players earn points by drawing lines and dots on transparencies and comparing them with the objects on the level board. At the end of six levels, the player with the most points is the winner.

Each player receives a mat, a transparency, and a dry erase marker and chooses a scoring token. Players choose from one of seven worlds, and players begin.

Loony Quest's box acts as a stage for the board. Also, this picture is not sideways: not all players will get to see the picture the right way up, so each player makes their drawing from their own perspective.

At the start of the round, the level board is placed in the box in the middle of the table. The timer is flipped, and players have thirty seconds to draw the level’s mission. Missions can be drawing lines from one part of the board to another (while avoiding obstacles), circling objects, or targeting objects with dots, collecting extra points along the way.

At the end of thirty seconds, players overlay their transparencies on the center board and score points for completing the mission, while losing points for touching any of the obstacles shown on the board. Players may also collect power ups (things like extra points, shields, or obstacles to throw on other players’ transparencies) and penalties (which impose restrictions on how players must draw in the next round).

After scoring points, the box is rotated 90 degrees, a new level is placed on the box, and players begin again. At the end of the world (generally six levels), whoever has the most points is the winner.

Win, Lose, or Draw?

The category of “drawing games” seems like it would be pretty narrow. There’s Pictionary, which is essentially charades through drawing, and the many games like it. There’s 2012’s A Fake Artist Goes to New York, which turns drawing into a social deduction game in the vein of Spyfall. And now there is Loony Quest, which is a pen of a different color altogether.

In Loony Quest, there’s no getting the other players to guess anything. It’s a competition where players test their skill in judging distances, essentially. Players draw their lines on transparencies and compare their efforts against their fellows in a nostalgic nod to side-scrolling video games. It’s a novel concept. It is also a ton of fun.

I how I'm supposed to complete the level?

A lot of this fun comes from the game’s novelty. There aren’t many other games that offer a similar challenge, and Loony Quest’s challenge is fun. It’s fun to have to trace paths or hit targets or encircle enemies. All of these tasks are difficult enough to make players feel like they’ve accomplished something when they score points, but not so impossible that they make players want to quit. In fact, Loony Quest is the kind of game that after you finish, you want to play the next world, and the next, and the next, just to see the level of challenge present on each board.

Er...nope. Maybe next time. What was I saying about improving?

The game does get more difficult as the worlds progress, which is a boon to the game. I’ve played the first three worlds many times, and I feared I was beginning, if not to master, at least to fully comprehend the challenge. Then I tried the later worlds, and I realized just how much room there is for my skill in the game to grow. Not only are the challenges you’re used to harder (smaller targets with less margin for error), but there are new challenges, too–-like not being able to look at the level while you’re drawing. With the later worlds, the game should take a while to grow stale, even if you introduce the game a lot to new audiences, which, as you’ll see, you will want to do. (The rules also suggest an arcade variant for experienced players, where a new penalty is revealed for each level. This seems like a good variant once you get the hang of the game.)

Loony Quest includes 42 levels of varying difficulty, so you should be able to find a challenge that's right for your group.

Even though Loony Quest is competitive, it’s light-hearted enough that players usually relax a little while playing. Part of this is due to the power-ups and penalties. These inject just the right level of silliness into the game. It’s fun to make another player balance a mosquito token on their pen or draw around a banana. It’s fun to see someone draw with a straight arm or with an eye closed or try to determine distance on a busy background. Like the best dexterity games, there’s skill involved, but there’s also enough levity to keep even unskilled players invested in the game.

Penalty tokens force players to adapt their drawings to ridiculous demands like closing eyes or drawing on a busy background.

For these reasons, Loony Quest is the kind of game that “sips” very well, making it an ideal game to introduce others to the world of hobby games. The uninitiated often find it hard to believe that the analog world has produced anything other than roll-and-move, world domination, and crude or otherwise party games. Loony Quest displays something wholly unique that the tabletop space can do, and while playing it, you begin to sense that a new realm of possibilities is open to you. It allows new players to reevaluate their assumptions of what tabletop games are capable of. In a word, it produces wonder.

If you get bored with the early levels, there's plenty of room to improve with the later levels. They are hard!

The instantly tasty nature of Loony Quest’s gameplay is perhaps its greatest weakness. Because the game is so easy to get into, and because players want to advance immediately from one level into the next, it’s easy to get addicted–-and burned out. Like eating candy for every meal, after a certain number of levels, you begin to hunger for something with more substance. But this isn’t the game’s fault; it’s just a matter of knowing where to draw the line. (I had a similar problem with Mysterium, and now that I don’t demand more from the game than it is able to give, it’s a favorite.) With fun games like this, it is admittedly hard to know when to stop playing until it’s too late. But if you ration the number of worlds or levels you play in a sitting, you should be able to keep this game fresh, especially since, as I mentioned, the later levels are so difficult.

The markers in Loony Quest, along with the eraser cloths. These work great.

The components in Loony Quest are excellent. The artwork is stunning and made to look like the video games it (in some ways) emulates. Each level has a different challenge; nevertheless the look of the different levels is consistent across worlds, and the “boss” level for each world fits in its thematic universe. The transparencies and markers work well, and they fit perfectly over the level boards, so it’s easy to judge what’s in and what’s out. Everything fits nicely in the box’s insert, and I love that the box also serves as the functional stage for the game, even offering a scoring track (although getting the included pegs to remain in the track is a bit of a pain). The game includes cloths to wipe player boards clean, and these are excellent, leaving little to no residue. I also like that the box is a reasonable size. I don’t have much room on my shelf anymore, so often I have to make decisions on what stays or goes at least partially based on box size. Thankfully, Loony Quest’s unassuming presence on a shelf makes it an easy keeper.

Power up tokens give players advantages...or can hinder opponents who are doing better than you.

Loony Quest offers play for two to five players, and it works at all player counts. The perspective can be a little more awkward with five players (with four, it’s easy to put one person on each side of the box), but as long as you explain how the perspective works, the game is fine with five. In fact, I’ve played this game with eight players, and it was a lot of fun in a party setting like this. We had teammates switch in and out, and it worked well simply because the game is fun to watch even when you aren’t playing. You probably could play with eight individuals at one time with two sets, but there isn’t a wide enough range of scoring possibilities for this to be interesting, and the rule that players jump ahead if they land on the same space as someone else would be more frustrating in this larger-group atmosphere. Still: know that this is the kind of game that offers you possibilities, even in being creative with player count.

The score track is also marked on the outside of the box. I love that everything about the game is self contained and still manages to keep a small footprint.

And Loony Quest is the kind of game that you want to be creative with. It’s a new concept that seems like more than just a novelty, and it’s the kind of game that you want to share with others. It’s simple to understand, so anyone can play it, and it has a fun premise that new players are eager to try. Everything about the package is friendly and welcoming, from its nostalgic video game look to the intuitive design and task. While without expansions it may not have the longevity of some games that attract new players to the hobby, it is a very attractive entryway, and it’s the kind of game that by its nature gets people excited about what’s possible on a tabletop. Loony Quest isn’t the right game for every situation, but it is right for enough of them that if you have much opportunity to play with people who aren’t familiar with hobby games (or with hobbyists who like fresh experiences), it will likely earn a place on your shelf.

This review originally appeared on (Here's a list of our reviews on BGG.) We were provided a copy of the game for review.
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ace hawkster
United Kingdom
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Wildebeest review of one of my families favourite games one of a very few they will actually go to my collection and pick out and ask to play.
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