The Princess Bride Adventure Book Game gets the most important thing right in turning a beloved film into a tabletop game: It doesn’t &^!@ with the story.
This very light, family-friendly game just sticks to the basics, taking six scenes from the film and using them for single episodes, running about 15 minutes to play, in a cooperative game where players try to move the characters around the board and complete certain tasks before the Plot overtakes them. It’s really easy to play—we have yet to lose any episode—but a great way to introduce cooperative play to younger players, and a nice filler because of the short playing time, although I don’t think this is going to appeal to anyone reared on Pandemic or other more sophisticated co-op titles.
I assume you know the story of The Princess Bride: the damsel in distress, Buttercup, falls in love with farmhand Westley, but ends up engaged against her will to Prince Humperdinck, kidnapped by three mercenaries, kidnapped again by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and so on. This game distills the movie into six scenes, starting with one on the farm, and asks players to complete a few simple challenges to win that particular episode and move on to the next one. Each episode uses some subset of the film’s characters—each of which has a unique plastic figurine—and ties the challenges and artwork to the actual movie.
The gameplay is really simple, in case that wasn’t clear. On each player’s turn, they can move any one figurine two spaces, or any two figurines for one space each, around the board for that particular episode—most of what you have to do here involves getting characters to certain locations at the same time. Players get a hand of Story cards in five different colors that can be used to solve challenges, or they may discard one card at a time to move any character an additional space. Challenges require that you set up certain conditions on the board, such as getting characters into those specific spots, and then discard two or three cards in the designated colors. You have to complete all challenges to finish a board.
The Plot deck is your main antagonist here, similar to the Infection deck from Pandemic or the Storm deck from Forbidden Desert. There are 20 numbered Plot cards, and at the end of every player’s turn, you’ll flip the top card and refer to the numbered table for that episode. In the second episode, your characters are on a ship, being pursued by a mystery vessel; you need to move the main ship token to the end of the path before the mystery ship overtakes you. To move the ship, you must get Vizzini to the same spot as Inigo or Fezzik, or get Vizzini to the Prow; the Plot cards either move the Mystery ship, or move Vizzini (highly annoying), or a little of both. Other episodes include making Westley do chores on the farm, escaping from the Fire Swamp, and, of course, Storming the Castle, the last and most difficult of the challenges.
The other obstacle to completing challenges is the random distribution of those Story cards; many times you’ll need a card of a certain color and just not have one. Players can trade cards with other players once per turn, which does go a long way, but that doesn’t help if the color you need is nowhere to be found (and thus the game is easier with more players). There is a separate Special deck, which you might access once or twice per game, which includes more powerful cards, including the very useful Wild cards that can take the place of any color of Story card. It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I can easily construct a scenario where you get stuck without the right colors and get a few tough draws from the Plot deck. You do get a second chance at each episode—the first time you fail, it’s because the Grandson has interrupted the story, so you flip over the Replay counter to the Grandfather side, which says “Do you want me to go on with this? All right, then. No more interruptions.”
I enjoyed this game for its nostalgic aspects more than the straight gameplay, which is nothing I haven’t seen before, but the nostalgia went a long way with me, especially as we’ve introduced our kids to the movie. I also appreciate that the episodes are short and easy to set up, so you can break this out on a school night and not worry about when it’ll end or how long it’ll take to clean up. The box recommends the game for ages 10 and up, but I’d say this would work for players as young as 8, maybe even younger, as long as there’s one adult involved. It’s a trifle, but one even a warthog-faced buffoon should enjoy.
Keith Law is the author of The Inside Game and Smart Baseball and a senior baseball writer for The Athletic. You can find his personal blog the dish, covering games, literature, and more, at meadowparty.com/blog.