Sunday 30 September 2012

Review - Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest
Published by Brand Makers International
Designed by people who have (quite rightly) decided to remain anonymous

For 2-5 players, aged 7 to adult.

Today's instalment on Always Board, Never Boring will be a bit of a break from the norm. Usually, I will go out hunting for out-of-production board games at charity shops, and then I will photograph them, announce their arrival in a "News" feature here on my blog, play them, and then eventually write a review. For Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest I have decided to skip the "News" feature and the bit where I play the game and go straight to a review. Yeah, that's right; I'm reviewing a game I haven't (and will not) play. I know that isn't really the done thing, but this game looks so bad in every possible way I just know that I will never be able to bring myself to set it up and subject some of my friends to playing it. Hell, I wouldn't subject any of my enemies to play it either.

So why, exactly, has this game caused me to have such a response? And why did I buy it in the first place?

I found this game in a charity shop marked up at £1.99. I am a sucker for old games at the best of times, but when the money is going to a good cause, and the price is reasonable, I'm always going to make the purchase. However, I think I would have purchased Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest even if it had been much more expensive, simply because I was equally fascinated and repulsed by some of the worst box art I have ever seen.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - box art
The box art - reminds me of my old Spectrum.

The box art looks like one of those loading screens from an old ZX Spectrum game, and the massive hit of nostalgia I got off that alone was enough to pay the price tag. Imagine my joy when I got home and opened the box to find the artwork on the board is just as bad - and even looks like one of the levels in the old Spectrum game Q-Bert. It should also be noted that the game was unpunched and unplayed, which is never a good sign for a game that's 20 years old.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - board
Q-Bert will need to get hopping to change all those green squares.

Okay... So I bought a board game because it reminded me of an old Spectrum game. Probably not the best reason to buy something; and I guess the fact I now have this complete turkey of a game sitting on my game shelf is my own fault. But let's take a closer look, and we can all enjoy a masterclass in poor game design.

The basic premise of the game is that Robin Hood's friends have been captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and taken to the dungeon, and Robin Hood has broken in to rescue them and steal some treasure on the way. This sounds pretty exciting, but it really isn't. It isn't exciting, because to rescue someone you just have to land on a green space on the board and then draw a card from the deck. If it is someone you haven't rescued yet, you keep the card, otherwise you return the card to the deck and try again next time. It is also not exciting because there are no guards in the dungeon, just the Sheriff of Nottingham who wanders around on his own (on a turn, you will first move the Sheriff and then you will move your own playing piece). If the Sheriff lands on your space, you have to discard one card; and then the game carries on.

And that's it: That really is all that happens. On your turn you move the Sheriff - obviously moving him as far away from you as possible and hopefully landing on an opponent - and then you move your own piece, hoping to land on a green space and then hoping to randomly draw one of the cards you need to complete your set. Horrible.

But the craptacular gameplay isn't the thing that bugs me the most. What really gets me is the use of the Robin Hood theme, which is pasted on in a way that would make Reiner Knizia blush. You see, EVERY player in the game is Robin Hood. That's right, Robin hopped in Ye Olde cloning device to make his job easier. Only, he didn't make his job easier, because Marion and all Robin's other mates used the damned thing as well, so now each of Robin's clones is trying to rescue a complete set of his clone friends.

Robin Hood and the Friends of Sherwood Forest - cards
With art this good, why wouldn't you use it as much as possible?

Luckily for Robin, the Sheriff didn't put all the clone friends in a dungeon together, and instead he just left them in different corridors, along with the occasional treasure chest. Even better, the Sheriff decided not to employ any guards, thinking it would be a better use of taxpayers' money to patrol the whole place on his own.


You know what? I can't even write about this game any more. It's just silly. It's a lazy game design (just roll and move and hope you get something good) and it's a lazy implementation of theme in which up to five Robin Hood's all try to screw each other over in an attempt to rescue multiple instances of the other major characters from the mythology. And it's all wrapped up in hideous artwork that would have been inexcusable at the time the game was released, let alone now.

There is nothing here to encourage me to play the game; and if you happen to find a copy somewhere I cannot stress strongly enough that you should not buy it.

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