Maiden's Quest Review
Game Type: Solo Card Game
Number of Players: 1 -2 (it’s mostly solo play though)
Mechanics: Press-your-luck, Set Collection
Recommended for fans of: Friday, Onirim
Maiden’s Quest is an ambitious game. In it you take the role of a captured maiden who has gotten tired of waiting for a rescue and takes matters into her own hands. Taking the old damsel-in-distress trope and flipping it on its head is a nice way of breathing a little life into the overused and potentially off-putting fantasy genre. However, this isn’t what makes it so ambitious.
In much the same way this game attempts to have a new take on the genre, it does the same thing with the style of game play, solo gaming. Maiden’s Quest is a solo game designed, not to be played at home but to be taken with where ever you go and played in lines, at conventions, etc. There is also a semi co-op element so if you see someone else venturing through the castle, you can team up and help each other before going your separate ways.
So, does this game live up to its lofty goals? Read on to find out.
The game play in Maiden’s quest is fairly straightforward. You have a deck of cards that is split roughly in half between things you encounter, such as obstacles, enemies, and treasures, and your hero’s health and items. All the cards are either double sided or have four sides with the card having different things on each side and being split down the middle with the right-side upside down. Cards with four sides can get upgraded to the better side by turning it upside down or downgraded by flipping it to its back side (and then sometimes downgraded further by turning it upside down when its flipped!)
Each turn you cycle through the deck till you come to an obstacle the same level as the level of the castle you are on, which you have to face or run from. Either way, to fan out the next five cards in the deck. If you ran, you downgrade one and keep cycling till you get to the next obstacle. If you fought you look at any symbols on the top left of the five fanned cards, if they match the symbols on the obstacle you beat it and get a reward (usually upgrading cards), if you don’t match the symbols you are defeated and have a penalty (usually downgrading cards). When you go through the whole deck you reshuffle and increase the castle level, meaning you’ll have to fight more difficult obstacles. The game ends when you defeat the very powerful captor card or downgrade all of your cards with hearts.
You can play co-op by taking turns with other players cycling till you get to an obstacle. Then deciding together how many cards out of the five you fan from each deck, then splitting the rewards or penalties between you. While this game is mostly appealing as a solo game, it’s nice that the co-op mode is set up so that if you see someone playing it, you can pull out your deck and ask to jump in with them.
This game is not very hard to learn but the rule book is a little messy. Things are explained in an odd order that makes it a little difficult to find rules questions and on top of that, there is no index! I found a spot in the text seems like there was supposed to be more but it was never printed, yikes! I will give them credit for including a quick start guide with play examples. The game is not unlearn-able but the rules could have used another pass by the editor.
Even though this is a simple game the theme comes through really nicely! After a round or two you start to feel like you’re running through a castle fighting goblins and bandits trying to escape. Some of the card mechanics weave the theme together too. For example, you may run into savior cards which both help and harm you representing a literal white knight butting his nose in to “save” you.
At the start of the game you pick and captor and maiden card which tell you how to construct your deck. This goes pretty quickly, but when you have to break down your deck and un-flip everything, it can get a tad tedious.
This game is all cards and they are really nice quality. Everything shuffles well together and the gloss on them seems like it’ll hold up for a long time. The art is fine. It’s your typical fantasy fare, but with the game doing so much subversion of the fantasy genre, I really wish they had gone with a little more of a goofy cartoony style of art.
I like this game a lot! The theme is refreshing, game play is interesting, and the whole concept of taking it to conventions and jumping in with someone else you see playing it is really cool! The game does have some issues though. It’s pretty simplistic and most of your choices are what to upgrade and what to downgrade which doesn’t have an immediate impact and can leave players feeling like their choices don’t have any weight. It’s also worth mentioning that while the idea of jumping into a game with someone is interesting, the co-op is not very different than two people playing solo next to each other.
In spite of these problems though, I’m still giving this a Buy This Game rating. Maiden’s Quest plays quick and is interesting enough that you can easily overlook it’s few flaws. Plus, at a price point of $19.99 you’ll definitely get your monies worth.