Board games were a massive part of my childhood. Not the type of games I play these days, but not Monopoly either. Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit and Dingbats were the main offenders and it instilled in me not just a lot of games, but the social environment that games can create for people of all ages.
It’s something I’ve wanted to recreate with my friends and family, but sometimes fail to do so. Often, I think it is because I choose the wrong type of game, a game I would play but not necessarily one that would work for the people I’m actually playing with. Sometimes my enthusiasm blinds my common sense.
It means that I’m always on the lookout for that perfect game that crosses over between the two worlds. A game that is primarily fun, easy to teach and keeps me interested too. It is worth mentioning that if my son plays the game needs to be short too! I’ve had some success with games like Flyin’ Goblins, Hibachi and Canvas but how would Once Upon a Plunder fare?
All By Myself
Once Upon a Plunder is a one vs many games. This means that one player will be working against the other players who act as a team. Generally, the lone player will have some advantages while the team will have to work together to overcome the odds.
Once Upon A Plunder is set in a fairy tale crossover world where a team of fairy tale heroes are trying to build their dream village, in the territory of a dragon. The vague intro seems to suggest that the heroes are actually the ‘bad guys’ here, stealing from the dragon and taking his land! Whatever the case the dragon player is alone versus the other team.
Four location cards are played to the middle of the table: the orchard, the armoury, the treasure room and the village. A number of wooden resources are played onto the first three locations, depending on player count. Apples on to the orchard, shields on the armoury and treasure chests on the treasure room. Next to the village, a number of wooden house tokens are placed.
To win the game the heroes must empty two of the first three locations or build all the houses in the village. The dragon player must burn a number of players or last all 10 rounds without the heroes winning. Each player is given their own copy of each location card and the heroes are given a tent card to keep their resources on. The tent card is played to the table.
Burn Baby Burn
Play is quick and simple. Simultaneously everybody plays one location card face down in front of them. When everyone has done so, everyone reveals the location they visited. If a hero visited either the orchard, armoury or treasure room, they take a resource from that card unless the dragon has also gone to the same location. At the village, the hero will build one house and can discard treasure chests to build another house per treasure chest - unless the dragon is also at the village.
If the dragon is at the same location as one of the more heroes they breathe fire on them. Marking each one on a separate player board. Those players will miss their next turn unless they discard two apples or one shield from their tent. If the dragon visits the village as well as burns any heroes there if also removes one resource from their tent and places it back on the relevant location card.
Make The Right Choice
Once Upon A Plunder is a great family game or a sneaky game to play with a group that knows each other well. Its simple ruleset allows for the true game to rise to the surface. And that is a game of bluff and guts. I won’t play this game with my son unless we are on the same team, because he can read me like a book.
A book with single-syllable words and waterproof pages. Every move I make he predicts with scary accuracy. I’ve cost myself and my team countless victories when facing off against my boy!
Once Upon A Plunder seems very balanced for such a small quick game. I’ve played a lot and the only weakness seems to be me rather than the dragon or hero team. You will play a lot too as the game takes 10-20 minutes and you will end up switching who gets to play the dragon.
As is usually the case in this type of game, as you play more a metagame will develop between you. Tells and ticks will be developed and friendships temporarily put on hold as dragon flames lick at your heels or shoot from your snout.
An Apple A Day
Once Upon a Plunder is not the greatest game ever made. It’s no Great Western Trail, Ark Nova or Kemet. But it is a game that can be understood by anyone, played in a lot of places, and transported easily. It is the type of game that can entertain children or give non-believers a digestible glimpse of modern board games.
It takes one vs many and distils it into its streamlined core, with a sprinkle of hidden movement. While it’s not an essential game for your collection the type of game it represents is essential in everyone’s collection. Quick to teach and play with, good components with a small footprint and box.
Whether Once Upon A Plunder is for you or not games like this are a perfect brain break from heavier games. Sometimes I can be guilty of being a bit snobby about board games, but then I play a game like Once Upon a Plunder and I laugh and everyone has a good time and concepts like winning or losing fade away. Much as I love a crunchy game I also want to laugh.