In the test for Robin Hood and the merry men, the German version of the board game, published by Taverna Ludica, does well - here and there, however, there are problems. At the end of the day, there is still plenty of fun to be had with this mixture of worker placement and dice rolling with a semi-cooperative basic concept. But it could have been done a little better - as is so often the case with Final Frontier Games.
Final Frontier launched the campaign via Kickstarter and over 6.700 supporters took part. Together they made the idea a success with a total of around half a million US dollars. The board game was released in its original version in 2018, and a year later the small publisher Taverna Ludica Games launched a German-language version of "Robin Hood and the merry men" in this country - the English title, however, remained.
Robin Hood and the merry men - if you hear or read this title, you would expect a great adventure from a board game. After all, the legend of Robin Hood stands for exactly that: epic fights with sword and bow, a romantic love story as a sidekick and a framework story about heroes and villains. In the end, the designers Ivana Krstevski, Vojkan Krstevski, Maja Matovska, Martyn Poole and Toni Toshevski as well as the publisher Final Frontier Games left almost nothing of this image of the medieval folk hero. Sure, Robin Hood remains Robin Hood - and his companions are also part of the party, but in terms of play it is much more subtle than in the hit-and-run films that you know from TV and cinema when it comes to the robbers from the Sherwood Forest goes.
Taverna Ludica Games writes about the story: “Nottingham 1100 AD: The true king resides in the Holy Land and the evil tyrant Prince John seeks rulership of England. But news of outlaws in Nottingham spread across the country. In an effort to get rid of these outlaws, Prince John sharply increases village taxes, posts guards in towns, and punishes anyone who dares to aid the outlaws.” Two paragraphs later, but basically that's it with the story.
After all: Very roughly, the themed euro board game is based on the story about the “good villain”. Players slip into the roles of well-known characters and defend Nottingham. The board game quickly builds the bridge to the Eurogame: in the end only one player can win and he has the most points in his account. The goal: to become the captain of the outlaws. In any case, Robin Hood would drop his quiver in shock at the sight of this trick.
Robin Hood in ruins
One has to give Final Frontier Game credit for having approached the topic in a different, previously unknown way. Worker placement, hand management, dice rolling and set collection replace that part that Robin Hood board games otherwise knew how to fill with a story. Robin Hood and the merry men is mechanical, that's a curse and a blessing at the same time. As is so often the case with Eurogames, you have to ask yourself why? Why is there a topic at all if it's ultimately just about a hunt for points? Why is everything so complicated that the gameplay suffers as a result? Why the fuck do you have to collect "renown" in every euro board game even remotely based on a saga?
Even Robin Hood and the merry men can't answer all these questions - what's the point? In terms of gameplay, it makes a difference, at most in terms of optics, whether you take the Sherwood Forest as the setting or Mars or any underwater research station. So if you sweep the story and background aside, the mechanics remain: and they are quite exciting in Robin Hood and the merry men. In their two phases per turn, the players work their way through Nottingham, carry out actions (worker placement), something to collect resources, or play cards (hand management) to prepare early for the final scoring.
At least a little bit of "Robin Hood" comes into play when it comes to stealing taxpayers' money from the rich. You can also set traps and implement many other actions on the board - the detailed instructions on 25 pages provide information about even the smallest detailed rule. By the way, there are many of them, which sometimes disturbs the flow of the game. The presentation is successful: you like to rummage through the colorfully illustrated set of rules, you can – often, but not always – understand what is required, but that does not mean that you agree with it in every situation. The processes sometimes seem too cumbersome, the authors seem to have been too focused on the construct of the Euro board game.
Typical Final Frontier
The optics don't make it easier for the players. Final Frontier dug deep into the moth box in order to use the well-known playing field structure for Robin Hood and the merry men that was already hated in Rise to Nobility: In the middle there is a playing field, on the left edge symbols proliferate. Some of them are too small - the overview suffers. The rest of the presentation is a force that can be summarized briefly: Colorful game pieces, beautiful cards, fancy dice, great sack. The chosen theme is recognizable in every game action, it's fun to steer the fortunes of Sherwood Forest as Robin Hood or companions.
Even if it may have read differently up until now: you can definitely play entertaining games, but the board game just doesn't make it particularly easy to have fun. So it doesn't start with strategic considerations, but patience. This is a required soft skill for anyone planning to engage in Robin Hood and the Merry Men. The possibilities are overwhelming at first, it takes time to grasp what can be used profitably or profitably on the game board and what should be avoided if possible. The passive cards, for example, seem so inefficient that they could have been left out.
The luck factor is also noticeable – you have to like that. Yes, Robin Hood and the merry men is a strategic board game, but the authors weaken the controllability in many places. Cards that are not drawn do not shake the course of the game to its foundations – a suddenly enormous advantage seems out of place, as does a disadvantage. The idea of the semi-cooperative mechanic mix still works, even if the cooperative part should hardly pose a challenge for frequent players.
But there are numerous ways to get points - that distinguishes Robin Hood and the merry men as a good, but not outstanding Euro game. If one focused purely on the fun factor through optimizations, the title could easily be replaced by much better ones. Robin Hood and the merry men is good because a rock-solid board game was made from a variety of interlocking factors: optics and story complement each other with the gameplay and its actions broken down to the topic; various game mechanisms are interlocked, the options are understandable, but only after a few games.
Number of players: Solo / up to 5
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 60 to 140 minutes
Long-term motivation: medium
Genre: Strategic Board Game
Sub-genre: Euro board game
Core mechanisms: semi-cooperative, rolling, set collection, hand management, worker placement
Authors: Ivana Krstevski, Vojkan Krstevski, Maja Matovska, Martyn Poole, Toni Toshevski
Illustrations: Mihajlo Dimitrievski
Publisher: Taverna Ludica / Final Frontier
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2019
Cost: 60 Euro
The arbitrariness of the King or Sheriff of Nottingham isn't the big gameplay problem of Robin Hood and the Merry Men - it's the arbitrariness of card effects. There are moments when the green avenger is simply knocked out of his shoes when individual overpowering cards suddenly turn the course of the game. You could celebrate that admiringly and attribute great emotions of joy and sorrow to the whole thing - but in the end it destroys the entire playing time invested in advance. A little more fine tuning of the concept and a solid Euro board game would have become a great one with a topic that was far too rare. In the truest sense of the word, Robin Hood and his companions save their board game: the presentation coupled with the nostalgic setting rip it out at the end.
The pure production makes up for it: high-quality material, pretty looks, the finest illustrations – Robin Hood and the Merry Men looks pretty good on the table. The title just doesn't want to keep up in terms of gameplay. The Euro board game is too small for that. As a passionate point optimizer, you could get something out of this circumstance if it weren't for the luck factor, which can make every strategy, no matter how good, fail. In the end, it's not really clear what kind of gaming fun the authors want to sell you. You want to like it so much after unpacking it, given the weight of the full Robin Hood equipment: cards, figures, bags, tiles, sticks, even the metal coin is included - there is a lot of themed material at a fair price.
For the very different Robin Hood parlor game, which sometimes does not depend on wild brawls, you are happy to accept some flaws. The title makes it too difficult for the player right from the start: the rules are comprehensive and by no means all sufficiently explained. Although you get an impression of what is required, you cannot do without looking it up as the game progresses. The problem: Robin Hood and the Merry Men has to land on the table several times so that the board game can also develop its dormant potential, but the motivation is not really high. You fight an inner struggle because you know: this board game could have been much better than it is.
The specified 24 minutes of playing time per player sounds like entertaining fun - unpacked and started, a game usually takes much longer and often too long. What is fun at the beginning degenerates into pure work through repetitive actions on the way to the best possible score. The problem is inherent in the genre: almost every Euro board game comes to a point during the game where you've seen everything and done it several times, but it just doesn't want to end because the rules don't allow it. So further optimization is inevitable. Fun? Definitely, but not for everyone. Exciting until the end, some say given the climbing on the points strip. The others find it tedious, because not much else is happening than climbing on the points strip.
Some light still shines through the treetops: Anyone who dares to bring Robin Hood and the Merry Men to the table with a certain regularity will be rewarded. The solo game, on the other hand, is quite well done and maybe the secret highlight that is hardly communicated.
|Final Frontier Games FFN3001 Robin Hood and The Merry Men *||49,00 EUR||Buy|
Last updated on 10.03.2023/XNUMX/XNUMX / Affiliate Links / Images from the Amazon Product Advertising API. * = Affiliate links. Images from Amazon PA API