Aventuria the Adventure Card Game is a non-collectable card game set in the world of The Dark Eye, or Das Schwarze Auge, Germany’s most popular RPG and setting.
The Aventuria: Adventure Card Game box provides all you need to start playing Aventuria including four heroes and rules for fighting competitive duels and cooperative adventures.
In this review, I will be looking at everything you get in the box and both methods of playing Aventuria.
Disclosure: Thanks to Ulisses Spiele for sending me a copy of Aventuria to check out. Some links in this post are affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support this blog and podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get with a copy of the Aventuria Adventure Card Game?
This is the core box for Aventuria that is required to use all of the adventures, expansions and other Aventuria content.
Aventuria is a non-collectable but expandable card game set in the world of The Dark Eye or Das Schwarze Auge. The Dark Eye is the most popular pen and paper roleplaying game in Germany which first came out in 1984 and is still hugely popular to this day.
This core set includes four characters which you can use to play the game in one of two modes, Duel or Adventure. In duel mode, each player picks a character and then battles against other characters with the goal of reducing their life points to zero. In adventure mode, the player’s characters work together to play through a cooperative fantasy adventure. It includes a full advancement system allowing players to improve their characters over time. There is also a system for deck-building and customizing the included character decks.
Duels can be played with two to four players and a single Duel takes around fifteen minutes per player. Adventures can be played solo or with up to four players and tend to take forty-five minutes to an hour per act. Note the three-part adventure in this boxed set can technically be played with six players, but you will require additional heroes that aren’t included in this set.
To see exactly what you get in this card game starter set, check out our Aventuria Adventure Card Game unboxing video on YouTube.
I was happy with most of what you get in this box. The rules are split into two books, with clear directions on where to start. They are presented in a clear logical way and are easy to read with lots of examples.
I rather like the Aventuria dice. You get 4D20 and 4D6, with each featuring The Dark Eye symbol on the result you want the most (a.k.a. the 1 on the D20s and the 6 on the D6s).
The majority of what you get here is of course cards and the quality is excellent. My only concern about these cards is that they feature black borders and years of playing Magic has taught me that this can rub off over time. This is a game where you will be shuffling and handling your cards often, so you probably want to consider sleeving these cards.
What I was most disappointed by in this box is that there’s no actual way to store, sort or protect the cards. I think anyone picking up this game will want to find some form of card storage solution.
One more thing I want to note is that there’s a lot of air in this box. While I understand that game box sizes are based on things like shelf presence and sticking out, this box is way bigger than it needed to be. Now if it featured some kind of insert to hold the base cards and expansions, that would make sense, but as just a box, and empty space, it’s over the top.
What follows is a detailed look at both the Duel and Adventure modes of Aventuria followed by final thoughts on this card game boxed set.
How do you fight a Duel in the Aventuria Adventure Card Game?
Once you’ve sorted all the cards that come in the Aventuria Adventure Card Game (not a small task), the game recommends you start with the competitive Duel rules to learn how to play and only move on to the Adventure rules once you’ve played out multiple Duels. Having learned the game this way myself I completely agree.
To start your first duel each person playing will pick one of the four heroes that are included in the box. They will collect the Hero Card, Skill Card, two Health Tracker Cards, the thirty Action Card deck for that character and a two-sided character token. Each player will also need a D20 and up to 2D6. The game comes with four of each.
Place the hero card on the table in front of you and set the skill card to the side (it’s not needed for fighting Duels). Shuffle your deck of Action Cards, draw five and take a look at them. You have the option of setting these aside and drawing five more, shuffling the ones you set aside back into your deck. Take the hero tokens for all characters taking part in the duel and select one randomly, that player will be the start player. Give them the start player token. You are now ready to start.
There are several phases in each round of an Aventuria Duel. First, players simultaneously each draw two cards. They then select up to two cards from their now larger hand to turn into Endurance. These endurance cards are placed face down on the table. In general, these cards are effectively unavailable for the rest of the game, so choose wisely. Finally, players will ready any exhausted cards.
Next, starting with the first player, characters take any number of actions done in any order until they have no more to take or are done for the turn.
One of the actions a player can take is to play an Action Card from your hand and put it in play. Each card has an endurance cost in the top right corner. You pay this cost by exhausting (tapping) cards you already have in play as endurance.
These Action Cards include Permanent Cards such as weapons, armour, skills, talents, etc. that stay in play and can be used every round, One-Shot Cards which are played, do something and then are discarded, and Free Actions which are a special type of One-Shot card that can be used on anyone’s turn not just your own.
Many of the Action Cards that you play have actions printed on them. Some of these have additional Endurance costs and almost all of them end up exhausted when used. Note that some cards feature two different actions, one that is used during a Duel and another that is used when playing a cooperative Adventure.
Players can also perform an attack on an Opponent. Every character starts with a basic attack printed on their Hero Card. Several action cards also include attacks. These are found mostly on Weapons and Spell cards.
There are three types of attacks, Melee, Ranged and Magic and in each round, you can only do one of each type. Making an attack involves rolling the D20 and trying to get under the skill rank on your Hero Card for that type of attack.
If you hit you then roll the damage shown for the attack used. All damage rolls are D6 based.
Once you have your damage total the opponent gets a chance to Dodge out of the way. Every character has a dodge rating on their Hero Card. If the player manages to roll this number or lower on a D20 they successfully Dodge and halve the damage they are about to take (rounding up). Finally, if the target has any armour cards in play they can reduce the damage by that card’s PRO (Protection) rating by exhausting the card.
Any damage left is removed from the target’s health total which starts at 40 and is tracked using the Health Tracker cards.
Once a player has completed all of their actions, the player to their left takes their actions. At the end of the round, the starting player passes the start player token to the left and a new round begins.
Once there is only one player left standing they win the Duel.
Along with this basic flow, there are some interesting special rules.
Up first is the Crit system. If you roll a 1 on the D20 you get a Critical Hit, in addition to your action succeeding even if mathematically it should fail, you also get to draw a card from your deck and put it in your hand. If you roll a 20 on the D20 you get a Critical Failure. Whatever you are rolling for fails and you also lose a random card from your hand to your discard pile.
Speaking of your discard pile, in general, there is no way to get cards out of your discard pile and if it runs out you stop drawing cards and are left playing with what you already have in play or on the table.
Finally, there’s a system for Fate Points. At the start of the game, you put a number of Fate tokens in play equal to the number of players duelling times two. Whenever you miss an attack roll you get to collect one of these tokens from the centre of the table (or from an opponent if the supply is empty). At any time you can spend a fate point to re-roll a die, give you 1 additional endurance for that round or draw one card.
While Aventuria Adventure Card Game comes with four pre-set hero decks, there is also a system included for customizing your characters. Each character’s Hero Skill Card includes a list of card types they are allowed to have in their deck. In addition, a number of the cards can only be used by specific characters. Working within these two limitations you are free to build your deck with any of the various action cards. The deck must contain exactly thirty cards and you can only have, at most, two copies of each card.
One issue with this character-building system is that there aren’t any spare cards included in the base box. To modify one hero’s deck you have to cannibalize the others. The Arsenal of Heroes expansion is specifically made for players who don’t want to have to take apart the other hero’s decks to reconstruct their own. It contains copies of all of the hero cards from the core game as well as some cards that were originally con promos.
How does playing a cooperative Adventure in the Aventuria Adventure Card Game work?
Playing a cooperative adventure in the Aventuria Adventure Card Game uses a lot of the same rules as fighting a competitive duel with the main differences being more story elements, the use of Hero Skills and the fact you are working with the other players, not against them.
Starting a cooperative adventure begins with picking which adventure to take part in. This core boxed set includes two short adventures and one long three-act adventure. In addition to being able to tell an ongoing story in the three-act adventure, you can also choose to play each act as a stand-alone short adventure.
Once you’ve chosen an adventure each player will pick a character and gather all of the player materials as mentioned above in the Duel rules. Place the Hero Card and Hero Skill Card in front of you and shuffle your Action Card deck. Don’t draw any cards at this point.
You will also need to find the deck of Adventure cards for the adventure you are playing. Some of these decks are as small as three cards with many being significantly thicker depending on how involved the adventure is. For multi-act adventures split the deck further for each act.
Each adventure will start off with the Narrative phase. One player will read the start of the adventure which will give you the setting and date it takes place and gets the story started. Things will ramp up quickly and one or more players will be called on to make a Check. Checks are called for all kinds of story-based reasons, such as spotting an ambush, preparing for what is to come, praying to an idol, etc. Basically, all of the interesting situations that come up in a fantasy adventure.
A check is made by rolling a D20 and comparing it to your character’s skill level as listed on their Hero Skill Card. Skills include things like Body Control, Perception, Craft, Knowledge, Stealth, etc. You succeed in a check if you roll your skill number or lower. A 20 is considered a Critical Failure and a 1 is a Critical Success (note these don’t work the same as Crits in a Duel). For this narrative skill checks, you will look up the results of your roll on a chart included in the adventure which will tell you what happens based on the four degrees of success (Crit Fail, Failure, Success and Crit Success).
The results range all over the place and are very dependant on the adventure, with most of the results somehow impacting the inevitable combat that will be coming. You may get fate tokens, draw extra cards, gain or lose health, take tracking counters which you may or may not know what they are for, take certain cards from the adventure deck into your hand, put something into play, etc.
After each check, the story continues. This often involves more checks as the story goes on but will eventually lead to combat. While I don’t know if every adventure in Aventuria ends in combat, each of the adventures in this box does.
At the start of every combat, you will place a number of cards out on the table. The game provides a serviceable playmat to help keep things organized. I say serviceable as they tried to make it as generic as possible with plenty of room for all kinds of cards but it works better for some combats than others.
The card layouts include various Adventure Cards that feature Hero Actions that can be taken during the Combat, as well as any Leaders you will need to face and a Time Tracker card set to the difficulty your group selects (each adventure has four difficulty levels). You may also need to create a deck of Event Cards and or Leader Action Cards. Which cards go into these decks will be determined by the adventure.
Next you need to create the Henchmen deck. This is done by looking through all of your Henchman cards and finding ones with specific keywords, such as Orc, Goblin, Pirate, Servant, Undead, etc., as indicated in the adventure. Once you have this deck assembled you shuffle it and start drawing cards and placing them in what’s called the Henchman row going left to right.
Each Henchman card has a threat level on it and you will continue to draw cards until the threat level of all Henchman cards in play meets or beats the adventure threat level which is always based on the number of heroes taking part in the adventure.
Finally, you will note the Defeat and Victory conditions for this fight. There are a variety of victory conditions just in the starter adventures including defeating the Leader, completing a specific hero action a number of times, escaping from the combat, and defeating all enemies before time runs out.
Once you have all of these in place, combat begins. You start with a random hero determined in the same way as for a duel, by randomizing the hero tokens. The start of each phase for the Adventure is the same as the Duel with all players drawing two cards and then placing up to two cards face down as Endurance.
Actual player turns are also almost identical to fighting a duel. You will play Action Cards (paying for them with Endurance) and take actions on those cards, including attack actions. In adventure mode, you use the adventure section of any cards with both duel and adventure actions and your opponents are now the Leader(s) and Henchmen on the table. Your goal is set by the adventure and doesn’t necessarily mean defeating every enemy in play.
Attacking works mostly the same as in the Duel rules, having to roll a D20 under your applicable skill, doing damage using D6s and only allowing one of each type of attack per round. Most Henchmen don’t have a dodge value (most Leaders do) but most have armour that will reduce the damage done. When an Opponent is defeated it’s put in a discard pile and you earn a Fate point for dealing the final blow.
Along with actions from your cards most adventures also feature one or more hero actions. These are skill checks that you can make during combat to make something happen during the battle. These are thematically fun things like swinging from chandeliers, hiding in a crowd or trying to solve a puzzle. What these actions are, what skill they require and what you get for succeeding varies wildly depending on the story you are playing.
Fate Points work slightly differently in a cooperative adventure. Fate can be spent to re-roll a failed attack or a skill roll but not an attribute check. Also, you can use your Fate Points to let another player re-roll one of their failed rolls. Or you can also use Fate points to draw cards or to gain endurance but this can only be done for your own hero, not another player’s hero.
A quick heads up that the rules on this aren’t very clear. The English rules state: A player may use Fate Points, to allow another player to reroll a failed attack or skill roll. They may not use the Fate Point for any other effects.
Some people have taken this to mean that the only way you can use a Fate Point is to allow for someone else to re-roll. That is not the intention, what this sentence is trying to say is that you can use your fate points to let someone else reroll but you can’t use your fate points to allow another player to do things like draw cards or get endurance.
Once all heroes have taken their actions you enter the Opponents Turn Phase. Here each opponent will take an action starting with the Leaders and then moving on to the Henchman going from left to right. Some opponents will take more than one action and the number of actions is often based on how many heroes there are taking part in the adventure.
For each opponent action, you roll 1D20 and then do what it says on their card. There will be a range of different effects, many of which are attacks. Opponent attacks do not require a separate die roll, they just list the type of attack and damage done. Who the target of the attack will be is listed on the card. Targeting options include things like random heroes, the hero with the most health, the hero with the least endurance, etc. The targeted hero gets a chance to dodge this damage, taking only half the damage (rounded up) with a successful check.
In addition to attacks, Leaders and Henchman have a number of interesting and diverse actions some of which will involve drawing cards from other decks like the Leader Action Deck or the Event Deck. New Henchman may come into play, adversaries may run away, etc.
Once all of the opponents have acted you remove a time counter from the time card. You then count how many time counters are left and see if anything interesting happens. The time card itself will list a number of timed effects but they can also be found on Leaders, Henchman and other Adventure Cards. These do all kinds of things like bring new Henchman into play, cause some effect on the heroes, change hero actions etc.
At the end of the round, the start player token is passed to the left and a new round begins. The combat continues until either the victory or the defeat condition for the adventure is met.
On a defeat, the story ends. Players discard any reward cards earned during the adventure so far, grab the rest of their cards and shuffle them, remove any Practice or Training tokens they earned and decide what to do next. They can play the same adventure again, move on to another adventure, fight a Duel or just stop playing.
With a victory, you get any rewards listed for the adventure. This often involves drawing a number of random reward cards, which come from a deck containing all of the reward cards you own. You then divide these up between the heroes, adding them to your decks if you are playing a multiple-act adventure and this isn’t the end of the last act. You may also get one or more Experience Points. There are other possible rewards but for the adventures in the core box, it’s all reward cards and/or XP. Though the game hints at the ability to earn things like Titles as well.
If the combat you just completed is part of a multi-act adventure you go through a process called Brief Respite. During Brief Respite, if you are at less than thirty health you go back up to thirty. You then get a number of respite points equal to two plus the number of time tracker tokens that were left on the time tracking card at the end of the combat.
These Respite Points can be spent for additional healing at a cost of one point per two health. You can also spend two points to practice, which gets you a Practice Card with five tokens on it which can be spent during the next act to improve your non-combat die rolls, with the option to spend more respite points for more tokens. Or you can Train, which works much like Practice but affects attack rolls. You can also spend points to pray to the gods and start the next game with a fate token. Or you can spend points to prepare by putting one card from your deck into your hand at the start of the next combat (this is in addition to your normal starting hand of five cards).
If you have completed the Adventure, either a single act short adventure or the last act of a longer adventure you now get to spend your earned experience points. Each point will allow you to write down one of the reward cards you earned during that adventure on your character sheet or to increase one of your skills by +1. Each skill can only be increased up to four times.
When you use this same character in a later adventure you can pick up to three reward cards you’ve written down and place them into your deck. When doing this you have to stick to the thirty card limit and must still follow the card limitations on your Hero Skill Card.
After finishing an adventure, successfully or not, you can now pick another adventure to play, with one limitation. If choosing to play the same adventure you can only play it again by selecting a difficulty higher than the last one you beat.
Note: While this does give you the feeling of an ongoing adventure with some form of campaign play there’s no actual limit to what adventures you take part in or what order you do them in. There’s also no restriction on what characters can take part except for that difficulty limit that I just mentioned. You don’t need the same heroes or the same players to continue playing Aventuria. Players can drop in and out whenever they want and can even swap characters between adventures.
There is a lot to like about the Aventuria Adventure Card Game.
Back in January when someone from Ulisses Spiele reached out and offered to send me some “no strings attached” Aventuria products, I had no idea just how much they would send me. As viewers of our Live Show got to see when I opened the rather large package I received from them, they sent me pretty much every single English translated Aventuria product, including a number of boxes of stuff that weren’t even released in North America yet.
To say I was overwhelmed would be a huge understatement. We’re looking at more than twenty game boxes of various sizes, from tiny deck boxes to the standard Ticket to Ride game box size. I was lost as to where to start and even more confused when I tried to research that online. Many of these products are only on Board Game Geek in their original German and I found conflicting information about a first and a second edition and what’s what.
I ended up having to write my contact at Ulisses Spiele to ask where to start and I have to thank Eric for a great summary of everything I had. After chatting with them I now knew that I should be starting with the box that just said Aventuria Adventure Card Game, the box I’ve been talking about in this review. In addition, I also grabbed The Master Tailor’s Poltergeist demo kit which I will be reviewing next week. This is a small deck box containing simplified hero decks for all three of the heroes and a short adventure that’s great for learning the game.
Even knowing where to start it took me some time to get Aventuria to the table. I fully admit I was scared to dive in. My experience with Adventure Card Games in the past had taught me that there’s a steep learning curve, which you can read about in my Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set review. I expected to find the same thing here and I have to say I was quite pleasantly surprised, and relieved, once I started reading the Aventuria rules.
Aventuria is by far the easiest of the Adventure Card games to learn and get playing quickly. The duel rules are a great introduction to the mechanics of the game as well as being a very good game on their own. It’s the adventure rules that really shined for us though and we found them to be much more elegant and thematic than previous card games we’ve played.
During our first session, we first fought out a single duel and then played through the short adventure in The Master Tailor’s Poltergeist. This was enough to teach us the basics of the system and to get us ready for playing the full game. I recommend everyone start the same way if they have access to this demo kit.
We then went on to play the same characters using the full decks from the Aventuria Adventure Card Game and the game got even better. We both ended up enjoying the duel system, finding it to be up there with many other duelling card games. It’s an interesting mix of mechanics I’ve seen in other games used in unique ways. For example, the Endurance system immediately made me think of Lands in Magic but instead of having specific cards for generating endurance you instead need to basically discard useful cards from your deck.
The manging of Endurance and trying to decide what cards to convert to endurance, when to do this conversion and how much endurance you need for a given battle is a huge part of both versions of Aventuria and I love the difficult decisions it presents in each game.
What did feel a bit odd at first is the fact that most cards in your deck are permanents (a.k.a. cards you pay for which then stay in play for the rest of the combat). While there are a few cards and events that will cause you to discard or re-draw cards in play, for the most part, you play it and it’s there to use forever.
My one problem with this system is that it doesn’t really make a lot of sense thematically. At the beginning of each combat, you start fresh. All you have is your Hero Card with your basic attack on it. During the fight you will ready weapons, don armour, reveal skills and talents and in general build a fighting engine out of your cards. While I understand it’s a game and to make it fun you need to reset everything each game, it just seems silly that my Dwarf forgets his Warfare Skill every fight and can’t locate his best weapon at the start of each battle.
While it feels flawed thematically, this system does work really well mechanically. The slow escalation of gaining only a bit of endurance each turn, the way you start off by playing cheaper and weaker cards at the beginning, then shifting over to having more endurance, more available actions and the ability to play bigger cards, is very rewarding.
This system also works very well emotionally. Every game of Aventuria we’ve played starts off with this feeling of hopelessness and being overwhelmed. You end up taking a lot of damage in the early rounds due to not having any armour up yet or any improvements to things your attacks and skills. There are so many Henchman in play and all kinds of tests you have to make before you can even attempt to win the fight. Then as the game goes on, you improve, you gain endurance, you get to take more actions and do more damage. Suddenly things don’t seem so hopeless anymore. Even late in combat, when you’ve got some of your best cards in play, victory isn’t assured. While we have completed every included adventure here on the Easy setting, and a couple we could have beaten on Normal difficulty, no combat felt too easy.
While Duels are interesting and fun, more so than I expected, the real joy we’ve had playing Aventuria has come from the cooperative adventure mode and the stories involved. The writing here is excellent (ignoring some minor translation issues) and the stories are evocative and fun. They have each been very distinct, presenting a variety of interesting narrative experiences and combats that are surprisingly varied given that they all use the same basic system. While formulaic, in the fact that they all have you do one to three checks then have a fight, they have still been interesting and engaging.
What you won’t get here though is any real roleplaying experience. There are no actual decisions to be made during the narration phase. While you are rolling some checks, you don’t get to pick what checks to make. At least in the adventures in this box, you are never presented with any options. You just follow along with the story, make some checks and take whatever advantage or disadvantage you get for passing or failing those checks. While the stories feel very much like a fantasy adventure from The Dark Eye, you aren’t getting the player agency you would with an actual RPG.
Getting back to those translation issues. Sadly there are a number of them but thankfully in every case, we were able to figure out what the intended meaning was. Mostly the issues are just sentences with a missing article or two, a missing The, A or An. There is one layout issue in the section about resolving the end of an adventure but again it makes sense, just a sentence starts in the wrong place on the page. The biggest problem we found was in Act III of the three-part adventure where it seems they copy-pasted the combat section from the last Act. There’s a list of cards to put into play which are the Adventure Cards from Act II and not Act III. Again we were easily able to figure out what should be there based on other sections of the text and what the physical cards said, but it’s a pretty glaring mistake.
Another aspect I like about Aventuria is the fact that there’s some form of character advancement, even if it isn’t much. Actual progression is very limited, as the most you can have are three new reward cards added to your deck plus some bonuses to your skill checks. While skill checks do come up, especially during the Narration Phase, they aren’t really that big of a deal. They may get you a small bonus or let you avoid a penalty. They don’t tend to have huge effects on the combats which are the core part of Aventuria gameplay.
While I would have liked more of a continuing story campaign system, I also greatly appreciate that I don’t need to get the same people together at the same time week after week to enjoy this game. It will be interesting to see if future expansions add more of an ongoing story element or not.
Overall I have really enjoyed checking out the Aventuria Adventure Card Game. I went from being completely intimidated by the pile of boxes I got from Ulisses Spiele to very excited to crack each of them open and see what new things they have to offer. I can’t wait to check out additional heroes and hero decks. I want to open everything just so that my Henchman and Reward decks can be more full and varied. I look forward to more options when Dueling, but most importantly I can’t wait to go on more adventures and experience more stories in the world of The Dark Eye.
If you have enjoyed any of the other Adventure Card Games out there, I think there’s a lot you will find to like in Aventuria. I found the onboarding to be excellent and the learning curve to be much more shallow than with similar games. I dig the fact that this game includes two modes of play, including a Duel mode that I think is up there with other duelling card games. However, it’s the adventure mode that we really enjoyed with the included adventures telling interesting and engaging stories that each felt very different despite using the same mechanics. If you dig games that let you take part in a great story check Aventuria out.
What you won’t find here is a roleplaying game. This is a card game that tells RPG like stories but lacks any player agency in regards to that story. If you are looking for a roleplaying experience you may want to check out The Dark Eye Core Rules instead. Though if you are lacking the time, the commitment, the group, or the GM to play a full RPG, Aventuria may just scratch that roleplaying game itch.
Personally, I’m loving everything I’ve seen in this game so far. I’m excited to play through the adventures we’ve already beaten at higher difficulties and am looking forward to diving into all of the great-looking Aventuria expansion content.
If this game sounds good to you, you may also want to check out my Pathfinder Adventure Card Game review. It’s a very different take on card-driven fantasy adventures that I also enjoy.
Since originally writing this review, I’ve played quite a few more games of the Aventuria Adventure Card Game, including going back and playing through some adventures I had already completed, and I’m pleased to say that the game is still quite fun even if you know what to expect. The randomness in the cards, especially the Henchman deck, keeps the combats interesting.
One thing I did discover is that Aventuria is on Tabletop Simulator and I’ve been using that to share my newfound love of this game with my co-host Sean. The TTS implementation is excellent, it even has some scripting for two of the three adventures included in the base box.