If parents wanted to get their kids excited about board games, it used to be that the entry point was Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Trouble, or similarly banal and simplistic games. In recent years things have improved with terrific family-friendly titles like Labyrinth, My First Castle Panic, and My First Carcassonne, much appreciated alternatives. But a dungeon crawler to get ’em primed for later Dungeons and Dragons adventures? Tough to find. Until the release of the terrific The Quest Kids, from Treasure Falls Games.
Aimed at ages 5 and up, The Quest Kids requires very little reading and all components are bright, colorful, and easily understood. The entire game serves as a very light intro to not just classic D&D (in theme) but tile-revealing exploration games like Castle Ravenloft and Betrayal at House on the Hill. The game is a fascinating mix of co-op and competitive, where players are competing to score the most points, but are rewarded bonuses for helping their fellow explorers overcome challenges and defeat bad guys. Well, you don’t “defeat” bad guys in The Quest Kids, you “scare them off”, which offers a glimpse into the kid-friendly design.
The game is for 2-4 players, and each picks a character to play: Skylar the Viking, Noah the Warrior, Ivy the Elf Princess, or Crash the Wizard. The board is set up with 42 dungeon tiles, divided into grey, green, and red. Grey tiles can be good or can reveal a bad guy who has to be scared away, green tiles are always good, and red tiles are the toughest area, explored last. The board is enormous too, 20″ x 30″, and is extremely high quality. Indeed, the entire game is characterized by high quality components, plenty tough enough to survive hundreds of plays.
THE QUEST KIDS: SETUP AND COMPONENTS
Let’s start with a photo of the board set up for a two-player game:
The mix of grey and green dungeon tiles is random, Tile cards are shuffled prior to laying out on the board. Players start at the entrance to the caves of Tolk the Wise: You can see Noah (blue miniature) and Ivy (green miniature) poised and ready to go! On the top are the small Quest and Health cards (square) and the three Ability cards; Power (purple), Magic (yellow), and Wisdom (red). The clear, simple rule book is on the right, player boards along the bottom, with the lovely gems between them, and green felt treasure bag containing 25 treasure tokens. Surprisingly, these treasures aren’t all good, as we’ll see.
The really interesting component in the game is on the lower left corner of the board, the pile of Kind Kid cards. Remember earlier when I said that players can help each other overcome challenges or scare away bad guys? Each time you help someone else with an Ability card, you earn a Kind Kid card, and they’re always good. In fact, they can allow a player who enjoys helping others end up winning the game!
Looking more closely at elements, here’s Noah the Warrior’s player card, set up to start the game:
Noah starts with one Power (purple) ability card, tucked below the board, three Health (each of which has a heart and two end scoring stars), and an individual Quest. In this instance, it’s “7 total ability cards”, and once attained, it’s also worth two stars at the final scoring. Note that there’s also a spot for Special Items (gems) and additional spots for treasures and Kind Kid cards, along with dungeon tiles overcome or acquired.
Turns are really easy; you can move through as many empty or unresolved, but flipped over, dungeon tiles as you want, exploring an adjacent unrevealed tile, or you move to an unresolved, flipped over, tile and resolve it! What does that mean? Well, Ivy the Elf Princess can demonstrate, by moving onto a tile and flipping it over. It’s Chompy:
As the tile shows, you need two Power (purple) and one Wisdom (red) Ability to scare Chompy away. When you do, you add that tile to your player board; it’s worth three stars in the final count. Unfortunately, this is the first tile revealed, so Ivy isn’t quite ready to tackle Chompy, even with Noah offering to help. Chompy stays in the Dungeon to scare away later, and Ivy loses one Health card.
Now it’s Noah’s turn and he heads in a different direction, revealing a +2 Any Combo tile:
This is all good; Noah can choose two from any of the Ability cards or he can grab a treasure or two if he wants. Since it’s early in the game, he’s smart in choosing Ability cards to help overcome challenges.
A bit later, Ivy’s back on the move and reveals – cue heavenly choir! – a Tolk Gem! It’s not particularly difficult to attain, just one magic (yellow) and one wisdom (red) card:
This will not only be worth three stars at the end scoring, but it’s also one of the gem tokens in the game, sure to be coveted by players.
LATER IN THE GAME…
Some treasure tokens have appeared as we’ve played The Quest Kids, and you can see that the design is very subtle:
Each token is only about 1.5″ across, making these tough to interpret for anyone without excellent vision. The left treasure is a bad one too, it’s minus one star, unless you’re Crash, in which case it’s -2 stars. The right treasure token is +1 star (which is good) or +2 stars if you’re Ivy. Suffice to say, the design and illegibility of these treasure tokens is the only bad note in the otherwise splendid design of The Quest Kids. In particular, figuring out which character gets the additional benefit (or penalty) can be quite difficult.
Tip: Having a hard time seeing the token graphics? Use your smartphone to zoom in and reveal the lower graphic more clearly.
Later in the game, both players are doing well with dungeon tiles acquired, quests completed, and more. Here’s Noah:
You can see that his “two purple & two red in hand” Quest card is also about to be attained with the significant number of Ability cards on his board. Noah has also acquired the purple Tolk Gem and stashed it in his “special items” area. There are a couple of treasures, but notice that there are no Kind Kid cards. Turns out Noah’s not much of a team player.
When he encounters the Goblin King, he’s ready to scare it away without any help, though:
The red dungeon tiles are more valuable – five stars! – but more difficult to overcome, requiring six ability cards.
Once every dungeon tile has been flipped over and resolved, the game is over and it’s time to count up points. Ivy played a very friendly game, and earned a pile of green Kind Kid cards, along with lots of quests, treasure tokens, gems acquired, and bad guys she’s scared out of the Dungeon:
In total, her score is 10 points from the Treasures, 10 points from Quests, 4 points from Health, 7 points from Kind Kids cards, and an impressive 33 points from overcoming bad guys and acquiring almost all the gems in the game. In total, that’s 64 points.
How’d Noah do with his more aggressive, non-cooperative approach of attacking everything and moving into the tougher red tile region faster?
11 points in treasure, 2 points in health, 9 points in Quests, no Kind Kid cards, and 31 points in bad guys and gem cards. In total, Noah’s score is 53 points. This means that Ivy, with her more cooperative approach, handily beat Noah!
THOUGHTS ON THE QUEST KIDS
There’s really quite a lot to like about this simple, straightforward dungeon exploration game. It’s definitely family-friendly, requires very little reading if your youngest gamers want to join in the fun, and has a great kinesthetic experience with its quality components and huge, table-covering game board. The Kind Kids cards really differentiate this title too, encouraging players to help each other overcome challenges even as they’re competing to have the most points at the end of the game. In the above game, it’s clear that Ivy won because she was willing to keep helping Noah scare off monsters.
Because of the randomized dungeon and card decks, there’s a lot of replayability in this game too, and if you have younger gamers or children in your house who are jealous when they peek at you and your friends playing a game of Kingdom Death or Scythe, they’ll love being “just like mom and dad” with their own miniature, cards, player board, and that lovely big game board.
The only complaint I have is that the treasure tokens could do with a redesign to make them more legible. Other than that The Quest Kids is a winner for families who want to share their love of board gaming with their kids. And it’s definitely a gateway game for bigger, more complex titles down the road. Well done, Treasure Falls Games!
The Quest Kids, from Treasure Falls Games, 2-4 players, 5+. $49.98 at Amazon.com
Disclosure: Treasure Falls Games sent me a copy of The Quest Kids in return for this review. Thanks!