Robin Hood and the Merry Men

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Robin Hood and the Merry Men attempts to do what few games have – be a good semi co-operative experience. In the game you will take the role of Robin or one of the Merry Men (or women) as you fight to keep Sherwood safe from the plots of King John and his Sheriff enforcer. You will do this through clever use of worker placement which is combined with how you use the cards you …
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Robin Hood and the Merry Men attempts to do what few games have - be a good semi co-operative experience. In the game you will take the role of Robin or one of the Merry Men (or women) as you fight to keep Sherwood safe from the plots of King John and his Sheriff enforcer. 

You will do this through clever use of worker placement which is combined with how you use the cards you have. Depending on which side of your player board you play cards too you will have different options for your worker. Spaces vary from robbing the rich, laying traps for carriages, protecting and gathering at hideouts, and taking part in a push your luck archery contest.

Of course, all these shenanigans could see you sent to jail so you also might need to stage a breakout or three! Over the course of the game you will command your band of Merry Men to set traps, gather resources and weapons, then in the Hero phase you will act out your plans, robbing and ambushing or just showing off in the archery contest. 

Robin Hood and the Merry Men stands up as one of the most thematic games I have ever played. You feel like you are part of the legend, thanks to the theme-based actions and the incredible work on the components, including the Mico’s always excellent art. This does come at the slight price of the game being slightly difficult to learn - there is a lot going on and while the rulebook does a commendable job there is still many parts to the game.

This means that Robin Hood is not one for the new gamer, but those who want a little bit more crunch in their games, or who prioritise theme, will be richly rewarded.

Player Count: 1-5
Time: 60-90 Minutes
Age: 13+

I have to confess this is a strange one to write. Perhaps because over the last year I have come to know the co-designer of this game. Maybe because Martyn, said co-designer, writes for Zatu too, or maybe I’m just overthinking it.

Anyway, subjectivity aside, I’m certain that had things been different and I didn’t know Martyn I’d still be pretty pumped for this game. Robin Hood and the Merry Men combines elements of my favourite genres with the stunning artwork of The Mico (Rise to Nobility, Valeria: Card Kingdoms, Quests of Valeria and more!) What’s not to love?

Robin Hood and the Merry Men

In it’s first eight hours, Robin Hood and the Merry Men has already hit the $100,000 mark. A quick look at the Kickstarter page and it’s not hard to see why. Final Frontier Games run great campaigns that reward the backers. The theme of Robin Hood is surprisingly neglected in board games, and from early previews this is one of the most appreciated elements of the game.

Robin Hood is also semi co-operative, a genre that is hard to get right, and viewed with some suspicion. Here though it makes perfect sense – the merry men are trying to help Robin save Maid Marion while also engaged in a friendly competition to impress Robin and move up the ranks of the group. In practice this means that while you must concentrate on earning points for yourself, you must not neglect to protect Nottingham and stop the Sheriff.

To do this you will gather resources from camps to build traps and barricades, rob from the rich, partake in archery contests, complete tasks for King Richard and more. This is done primarily through worker placement. The little twist here is that you use cards for active or passive effects, passive cards being stored for set collection or to use later. This offers some good choices and flexibility.

After this phase, called ‘The Merry Men Phase’ you have ‘The Hero Phase’. In the Hero Phase, your large meeple can take two actions, but first the Sheriff acts.

Men in Tights

The Sheriff will advance all the ways you can lose the game – guards, carriages and the Sheriff himself. Then each player take their actions to attempt to hold off the Sheriff while also scoring points for themselves. This is all managed through the brilliantly illustrated player and main boards. Similar to Scythe, when players take certain resources off their player boards they get bonuses. Also any trap or barricade that activates during the game scores you points.

Points, points and more points. There is lots of ways to score points in Robin Hood. Perhaps not on a Feld level but there is a lot going on. I haven’t even mentioned the push your luck elements with dice rolls for various activities and tasks. Early reports indicate approximately 25 mins per player, but when you think that most of this time is going to be engaged with the other players that doesn’t sound that long at all.

Yes I’m looking forward to it, yes I’m probably a little biased but so far over 1500 backers agree with me. Soon I will have a chance to play the prototype of Robin Hood and the Merry Men and I’ll be back to let you know if my gut feeling was right!

Nick can also be found at Board, Deck & Dice.

Ah! Martyn Poole. One of our own. His game design for Robin Hood and the Merry Men has been picked up by Final Frontier Games and is looking very promising indeed. Ahead of the planned Kickstarter release in February, I pepper him with questions…

I love Robin Hood and I remember playing Stone Age and Champions of Midgard and realising that a worker placement game set in the world of Robin Hood would be amazing. However, the first time I got ideas down on paper and in prototype form, it was very different to what it is today.

The theme for sure, I wanted to make a TRUE Robin Hood game that felt thematic. I like Sheriff of Nottingham but to me it’s not very thematic. When I first reached out to Final Frontier, myself and Toni looked over my first ideas and we changed almost everything. We tested everyday changing things and adapting it.

Being 1000’s of miles apart (they are from Macedonia), Skype was our best friend. Knowing that they did well with Cavern Tavern and that the campaign for Rise to Nobility was going very well, I listened and learnt at every opportunity – and the things I have learnt are priceless.

Good question, I am confident in my own ability but would I have got this game to a stage comparable, in the same time frame? No is the answer, yes, I can’t say it’s all my own idea, but the help and the things I have learnt has not only made the game better but it’s made me a better designer.

This was the first time Final Frontier had collaborated too, so both parties learnt a lot during this development. In fact, they will be looking for more designers to pitch mid to heavy euro games to them soon, so I guess its been a success on that front too.

Meeting amazing people is the obvious answer but aside from that I have visited Philadelphia, Essen, and Italy already since joining this industry full time. I still get a buzz when I help arrange reviews for an indie project and I see people comment ‘Backed’. There is no better felling than helping a publisher get backers and a gamer find games they will enjoy.

I have a lot of ideas, ideas are the easy part. Now I am in this industry full time I have 101 things to do each day and design is sadly not one of them. Depending on what the future holds I would love to do another game based on this lore, who knows maybe an expansion….

For me it’s to get your ideas down on paper. We all have that moment when we think of something and then we either forget or it’s on our mind so much we can’t think of anything else. At the beginning of Robin Hood and The Merry Men I had a few hundred sentences of ideas in a word doc. If I hadn’t of written them down I would have exploded.

So there you have it! Proof you can go from writing for Zatu Games to becoming a board game designer! Why not join the writing team today?