Adventure Mart Review

So you’ve just bought into an Adventure Mart franchise. Dollar signs in your eyes, you stand out the front of your newly finished shop, beaming at your gleaming and sparkling store. You turn to look down the street and see a group of worn out adventurers wandering into town, surely looking to restock their supplies. You rub your hands together in anticipation. But … what’s this? They stalk off into another store. WHAT! Another Adventure Mart? Just down the street?! You glance up and down the street, spotting a third … and another one up the hill. Those scum at head office … they’ll sell a franchise to anyone. Well, you’ll just have to undercut your competitor’s prices and take all the adventurer’s sales for yourself. Pray to Mammon for profit!

2-4 Players | 1 Hour | Designed by Digisprite

Adventure Mart had a bit of an interesting journey to publication. Originally developed by Digisprite, it was originally intended to be published via Kickstarter. Part way through the Kickstarter campaign, Digisprite came to a publication agreement with Hub Games, and then cancelled the Kickstarter, opting to go via a traditional retail channel instead. I’ve not seen this happen before and it is certainly an interesting development to see.

Look at these amazing and adorable illustrations!

How does it work?

Adventure Mart is a sort-of-deck-building game with an auction system for earning money (which is points). Players start the game with a ‘starter store’ (deck) and a few dollars. Buy purchasing new stock to attract customers and make sales, players increase their cash flow and capital, building wealth in the hopes of having the highest valued store at the end of the game.

A game of Adventure Mart is broken down in to 5 rounds (days). In each round a group of adventurers will visit the town the player’s stores are in. Players will draw a hand of cards from their deck at the start of each round which they hold until the round is over (through several turns). Players have three options of what they can do on their turn: invest in new stock, staff or store fixtures, play a ‘use’ card from their hand, or attempt to make a sale to an adventurer.

Buying stock and fixtures is a simple procedure. A player simply selects the card they would like from the market and pays it’s cost. Unlike most other deck building games, an item card goes directly into the player’s hand, ready to be used this round. Staff and fixture cards are played in front of the player and offer passive bonuses or special actions. Players don’t need to worry about purchasing cards cutting into their end-game value, as the costs of all cards bought is added up during scoring.

Playing a use card from your hand can result in a range of things happening, it all depends on what the card played says. Often cards will allow you to obtain more new stock, get bonus money, or even upset another player’s plans.

Attempting a sale to an adventurer is the third possible action available to a player on their turn. When this happens the player selects from one of the available face down adventurers to sell to – you never know who is going to walk into your store! Each adventurer has a limited amount of money and some preferences of the kinds of things they are looking for. The player makes an ‘offer’ of goods to the adventurer. Each stock card has a number of ‘quality’ stars on it and the more stars offered to the adventurer, the more attractive the offer is to them. Going around the table each other player may attempt to make a more attractive offer to the adventurer (this works like an auction). Players may offer cards worth more money than the adventurer has in pocket in order to try and secure the sale, but keep in mind they can only pay as much money as they have on hand! The winner of this auction sells their goods to the adventurer and claims money equivalent to the value of the goods or the amount of coins the adventurer had, whichever is less.

Generally players will spend the first few turns in a round stocking up on goods and then start making sales to adventurers. A round ends once all the adventurers who have come to visit have made purchases. At the end of each round, the market is reset and players get ready for another round of adventurers visiting. After 5 rounds, players tally up their cash on hand and the value of all their stock, and whomever made the most money is the winner!

Some interesting wares available from the supplier

What do I think?

I’ve played Adventure Mart several times now at all player counts. Games typically lasted longer than an hour for me, which was a little bit more than my expectations based on the apparent complexity of the game, but things can get a bit heated when several strategy-minded players are looking to maximise their profit!

The Good Stuff

  • The artwork and graphic design is super cute and it all ties together really well to create a interesting world with lots of hints at wider lore throughout. I like this kind of subtle world building and even though it’s only a smaller card game, Adventure Mart‘s world feels very vibrant.
  • The game is also well packed with humorous references and the chosen theme supports this. There are lots of things in that game that play off common tropes found in tabletop role-playing games including obvious send-ups and derivations of popular items and concepts. I found these touches really contribute to the experience in the game and give it that little extra spark.
  • The rules for Adventure Mart are pretty straight forward and minimal, and quick to teach. I found the rulebook to be well structured and laid out and a quick read through leaves you prepared to teach others and get into the game. The most complicated part of the game is the auction turn, and that’s pretty much just an auction!
  • I found the auction mechanic thematic and fun, something that is a unique mechanism for generating points in a deck-builder (as far as I know). Player bid using the cards in their hands, and this is the main way cards are used (and move from your hand to discard pile). The strategy of an auction is interesting on several levels – you need to judge whether the current adventurer is worth bidding on (since winning will compromise your ability to win future adventurers). Additionally because it takes your whole turn to put up an action, if you lose it’s a ‘waste’ of a turn, someone else gets the benefit, so you really want to win!
  • There are some good catch-up mechanics in the game. Some are explicit, for example the trailing player gets a bonus fixture or staff at the beginning of each round. Others are implicit in the gameplay, for example it’s not possible for one player to dominate the auctions because they will run out of cards and be forced to pass on bidding.
  • There is a lot of player interaction in Adventure Mart which I find makes this game very fun. But there are a bunch of ‘mean’ cards which I enjoy but some players might dislike.
  • I think the general accessibility of Adventure Mart is quite high. The game has an appealing theme, a low cost and can be played by adults and children alike. I’d say the biggest barrier to playing is the large amount of text. I can easily see this game being stocked at a ‘big box’ store as it does have many of the factors that make mass market games a success.

The Bad Stuff

  • The game is touted as a deck-builder, but in my opinion if you go in expecting a deck-builder you will be disappointed. Yes the game has deck-building, but you only draw a new hand at the start of each round (not turn, there are several turns in a round). Your deck might cycle maybe once per game, it’s entirely possible that you will never see a card you’ve purchased again after its first use. This issue is somewhat mitigated by the fact that newly acquired cards go into your hand for immediate use, but it means that the deck-building strategy element of building up an engine in your deck isn’t really a factor in Adventure Mart.
  • There is a ‘tag’ system for card abilities that indicate cards that have special abilities. I found most of the tags were more confusing than useful as they aren’t really consistent with one another in their usage. Most of the card text explains when the card will have and effect and what it is, and the tag is supposed to help out with spotting that. When I played, players got confused because the ‘use’ tag means you can play a use card during your turn, they thought the other tags would work in a similar way based on their keyword but they often don’t. Some cards need to be in play, some in the market, and some are situational based on game state.
  • There is confusing language on some cards that could have been made more clear with some revision. Especially cards that make reference to ‘you’. Most players might expect ‘you’ to refer to the player whose turn it currently is, but in several cases in Adventure Mart ‘you’ can refer to ‘the player who gains this card’ (which might not be the player whose turn it is). These situations could be made less confusing by being explicit on the card.
  • The staff cards are a very hard sell in my opinion. They are VERY expensive in terms of their points cost and often quite situational. While powerful, it seems most players tend to figure out that they aren’t often worth investing in. You could spend up to 20 points (remember money is points) on a staff card over the course of the game if you use them every round. I think only a very few of the cards, if used effectively and in the right situations, can yield more points than they cost to employ.
  • Spending a turn to start an auction and not win is a big hit and can feel deflating. You essentially hand another player and extra turn when this occurs. This happens a lot and can be quite asymmetric – eg. you start an auction and lose it to another player, and then that player is then unlikely to start an auction because they would lose it to you, so it’s a waste of their action. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that once the market cards run out, players are forced to start auctions. In this way though you can get a bit stuck – without good cards in hand you can’t win auctions to get money to buy cards to win auctions.
A mid-game market

Overall I did enjoy my games of Adventure Mart. It is a lighter game with some interesting mechanics in it. I think the main appeal for me was the super cute theme and styling, there was a lot of comments during gameplay about the cards and also some friendly jibes about whose business was the best run. Based on my personal tastes I don’t think Adventure Mart is something I would plan on playing much more in the future though. The game is a ‘boiled down’ version of heavier deck-building and auction games and I can certainly see people getting a lot of play from this game but I would probably lean towards something heavier to fill the same deck-builder/auction niche. If you want to find out more about the game or pick up a copy visit the Hub Games Store!

The copy of Adventure Mart used for this review was provided to The Boardgame Detective by Hub Games.

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