In this review, I take a look at the first expansion for the Aventuria Adventure Card Game, The Forest of No Return.
Aventuria: The Forest of No Return is an adventure expansion for Aventuria and features a new hero, plus three short adventures and one long adventure.
Disclosure: Thanks to Ulisses Spiele for sending us a copy of this expansion. Links in this post may be affiliate links. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps support this blog and our podcast. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What do you get in Forest of No Return for Aventuria?
The Aventuria Adventure Card Game was designed by Michael Palm and Lukas Zach. The adventures in The Forest of No Return were written by Christian Lonsing, Michael Mingers and Markus Plotz. While I would love to credit all the artists that worked on this project there are twenty-two of them and that would take far too long. The English version of this expansion was published by Ulisses Spiele back in 2016.
This was the first expansion for the Aventuria Adventure Card Game. You need a copy of the base game to use the contents of this box. This expansion has an MSRP of $29.99 and is designed for one to five players.
The Forest of No Return contains a new character, Hilbert from Auen, a Blessed One of Peraine. Along with this druid-like hero the expansion also includes three adventures. Two of these are short one-act adventures and the last is a longer three-act adventure. Each of these adventures is a stand-alone experience but, of course, you are welcome to use the same group of heroes for each of them. As usual, there are four difficulties presented for each story adding replayability to this boxed set.
For a look at the components you get in this box, making sure not to spoil the story at all, check out our Forest of No Return unboxing video on YouTube.
In this box, you will find a hero deck, a hero counter, a life wheel, and a liturgical chant counter for Hilbert, the new character. You also get a number of tokens including another fate point, grabbed counters, body control counters, and additional doom/time counters.
There are also cards for each of the three adventures, twenty-two new Henchman Cards, four new reward cards and a selection of event and leader action cards.
The card quality here matches all of the other Aventuria stuff, which is good, but the tokens and life wheel are actually a bit different from what I already own. These have a glossy coating which really sticks out when compared to my other Aventuria stuff. Additionally, the life wheel is constructed differently from what you get in the Aventuria Wheel of Life Expansion, this one, once assembled doesn’t come apart. That said, none of this really matters as far as gameplay is concerned, the gloss sticks out but doesn’t have any gameplay impact.
What does Forest of No Return add to Aventuria?
There’s quite a bit of new content in the Aventuria: The Forest of No Return expansion box, so let’s take a look at each component one at a time.
The New Hero: Hilbert of Auen the Blessed One of Peraine
Blessed Ones are the holy people in The Dark Eye setting, and they use Liturgical Chants instead of magic. Hilbert is an experienced adventurer who realizes that everyone is not as peaceful and calm as he is. He seeks to stand up for the weak and protect them from all danger. He felt drawn to distant lands sensing that the people there were in greater need than the folk of Auen. “He who works a lot must also eat a lot” is his motto.
Brother Hilbert is what I would call a druid style character, not a D&D style priest. His cards include liturgical chants for both attack and defence as well as cards that protect, heal and buff. Many of his cards can affect die rolls in play, both his own and his opponents, and he features all three attack types which turn him into quite a powerhouse later in combat. Skill wise he’s great at Craft, good at Persuade and Survival, but not so great at the physical stuff like Body Control, Perception, and Stealth.
The liturgical chants are a new type of card that use a new mechanic where you have to pay endurance for each one in play at the end of each turn or else they get discarded. Hilbert’s character ability lets him pick one chant in play and ignore the cost for that one card for the remainder of combat, which can be very powerful.
The Short Adventures:
The first short adventure, called Head Money, has your characters tracking down a murderer and stumbling into something much more sinister. This is very much a horror adventure with some rather strong depictions of gore including mutilation and body horror. It features three tests and one combat, the difficulty of which will be modified by how well your group does on the tests.
The other short one-act adventure, Selmian Delusions, follows the same format of three tests followed by a combat. In this quest, your group is trying to rescue a princess who has run away from her father and gotten involved in something unsavoury. This adventure is also quite dark and includes even more adult-oriented content including an orgy involving men, animals and non-humans, though all of this is just mentioned in passing and not in any great detail (not like say in the 18+ Veil Dancer expansion set for Aventuria).
The Long Adventure:
The longest adventure in this expansion is where this box gets its name. Forest Of No Return is a full three-act adventure that includes thirty-seven adventure cards! In this adventure, you are hired by King Kasimir himself to recover a very valuable piece of parchment, his family tree, needed to prove his legitimacy and prevent a civil war.
Each act in this story follows the same format as the short adventures. There are three skill checks followed by a combat, all linked by the narrative. While this adventure is designed to be played in order, one act at a time, you can also choose to play any one of the three acts as a stand-alone short adventure.
What is interesting here is that this adventure isn’t nearly as dark as the other two. The tone here better matches the tone of the stories in the core box. Due to this, I would see no problem playing this one with my kids, unlike the other two adventures in this box.
In two of these adventures, the Forest of No Return and Selmian Dilusions, a new mechanic is introduced, that of Environments. There are four environment cards in this set and they are all specific to the included adventures (it’s not like Henchman where you will draw randomly). Each of these is placed in play at the start of the combat and puts additional rules into play for that combat.
Should you buy Forest of No Return for Aventuria?
Let’s start off with the biggest shock to us when sitting down to play through the new adventures in Aventuria: The Forest of No Return and that’s the overall tone of the stories. The short adventures in Forest of No Return are very much grimdark fantasy bordering on horror. The stories are gruesome and dark and involve a lot of what I would call R-rated content. There’s gore, body horror, eroticism, bestiality and more.
Now, I’m not trying to say this is a bad thing, not at all, but I think anyone considering picking up this boxed set should be aware of the dark tone. The tone was a surprise to us due to the fact that the stories in the Master Tailors Poltergeist Demo Kit and the Aventuria core set were much more whimsical fantasy themed. While there was some violence in the core set’s adventures it was nothing compared to what is described here in Forest of No Return.
Moving on from the dark tone of the game I have to say that I really enjoyed this adventure expansion for Aventuria.
While it was a bit strange that the component quality didn’t match up on some of the bits, that didn’t actually matter for play so really isn’t a problem at all. I personally appreciate having a wheel to track health over cards. Though if you do get the Wheel of Life expansion you will now have two wheels for Hilbert. However, the one in Wheel of Life is Flippable to a Gender Swapped Version, Gertraud Swordplower Blessed One of Perine. The cards for that female-presenting version, with a totally different set of skill numbers, are found in the Ship of Stone Promo Pack
I played through one of the short adventures as well as the full three-act adventure with the new character introduced in The Forest of No Return, Hilbert, and I really enjoyed playing him.
Yet again we have another hero that manages to feel and play very differently from every other hero we’ve tried so far. I found Hilbert to be very fragile at first, with only one armour card in his entire deck and lots of cards for debuffing the opponents and improving his meagre attack stats. While his liturgical chants are powerful, the fact you have to burn one endurance a turn can make them very costly, especially in combats where you need to make tests as well as attacks.
Once you get some cards into play though Hilber can be a real powerhouse. He features all three attack types, with cards that do more than d6 damage for all three types, including one whopping liturgical chant, Animal Shape, with an attack that gives you +2 to hit and does 2D6+2 Damage. However, all of that relies on keeping him alive until you can get those cards into play, which isn’t always easy to do with a low dodge of only 5 and very few defence cards. In the first chapter of Forest of No Return, I was down to 4 HP by turn five of seven.
While I think I still prefer playing Arbosh the dwarf blacksmith, I did have a lot of fun playing Hilbert.
As for the adventures we played through Head Money first, with just Deanna and I, and after getting over the initial shock of the gory descriptions in the story, and learning we can never play this with our kids, we had a good time with this adventure. The fact that these short adventures feature three checks is a nice change from the core game’s short adventures, making for a more engaging and longer story. It also featured a neat mechanic where how you did on those skill checks made a direct impact on how many Henchmen you had to face in the final battle.
Next, we played through Selemian Delusions with five players. The combat in this adventure was interesting and had a new twist that made the start of the combat even harder than usual. Part of this involved the new Environment card mechanic. I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens here, but I will just say that I greatly appreciate the work that goes into making each Aventuria combat unique.
Finally, Deanna and I went through the full Forest of No Return story. One thing that amused me about this is that the Forest itself doesn’t actually play much of a role here, your first combat actually happens once you are through the forest. For this reason, I’m tempted to recommend that you play the short adventures first, just to realize how deadly the expansion’s namesake can be.
The new Environment cards are used to full effect in this three-act adventure and the Event deck and Leader Actions decks come back into play, with each now including new cards added with this expansion.
One other new mechanic I liked here was during the skill checks, in addition to having a mix of checks where you pick one character to roll and ones for the whole group, there were a few where it was a group roll but there were additional results if anyone in the group failed as well as if everyone failed. A small twist but a welcome one.
The Forest of No Return story was excellent and much more family-friendly than the two short adventures. The combats are rather challenging. In one act we were both down to under 10 HP by the fifth round and then after squeaking out a victory we failed the next act completely. This leads me to something I don’t think we mentioned in our previous Aventuria reviews, losing an adventure.
When you lose an adventure, you stop where you are, lose any reward cards you earned and re-set your decks. Then it’s just done. You can try again, starting back at act one with a new set of characters, or with the same team. Even the story is written so that it says you failed but another group came in after you and completed what you started.
The important part to note here is that if you fail a specific act, you don’t, by the book, get to retry that act. You are meant to start the entire story over, which thematically makes sense. We of course learned this through experience and that led to another interesting observation of how very differently the exact same adventure can go due to the random nature of the cards and dice. For the act we failed, our second attempt went extremely well. We could have finished with three time tokens left. The big change was which Henchmen we faced and what the enemy did each turn.
Here are some other small bits I didn’t get a chance to mention yet. The new Reward cards are a welcome addition and include some animal-specific cards, which match up with the large number of new animal keyword Henchmen you get in this set.
There is also a new henchman type, swarms. Swarms have low hit points but get three counters put on them when they come into play, representing the size of the swarm. When you reduce a swarm to 0 hit points, instead of killing it and earning a fate point, you instead just remove a counter. With this, any additional damage is lost. The swarm is killed when the last counter is removed.
These new rewards and henchmen, along with the new event and leader action cards, are all great additions to your growing Aventuria collection and are all cards I welcome coming up randomly in future games.
That’s another aspect of Forest of No Return that I liked, and that’s the fact that it merged well with the rest of my Aventuria cards. When setting up the various combats in these adventures we often saw a mix of new and old cards. Unlike The Veil Dancer Hero Set, where the included adventure made sure you only got to see new stuff, this instead presents new things along with the old, which makes the story and the world somehow seem a bit more real.
One final note that I haven’t touched on, having a new hero also means you get a lot more cards to customize your existing heroes and if playing with only four players you now have one “spare” deck you can cannibalize to improve your other heroes. While Hilbert has many new cards he also has copies of some of the more popular core cards as well, which can be great for deck customization.
Overall there’s a lot to like in Forest of No Return for Aventuria and I have very few complaints. While some of the non-mechanical components of the game have a different finish, that doesn’t impact anything during play. My only real concern is making sure that your group is aware of the dark nature of the two short adventures and the content they contain. This isn’t high fantasy but rather grimdark fantasy with tones and themes to match.
The new character Hibert of Auen is an excellent hero. He is a lot of fun to play and manages to feel very different from the other heroes we own. The included adventures are well written and engaging. We’ve been continually impressed by what the writers have done with Aventuria to make each combat unique and interesting, and The Forest of No Return continues to bring more of the same.
Honestly, if you own Aventuria and enjoy the cooperative adventure mode you should pick up a copy of Forest of No Return. The new hero is great and the new adventures are even more involved and engaging than those in the base box. With this box, you are actually getting more story than you did in the original and you are getting a new hero to play through them with. Added to that you are getting new Event, Leader Action, Reward and Henchman cards that will make the initial adventures more interesting and variable, adding to the replayability of those original stories.
Where I’m on the fence is whether or not players who mainly play Aventuria using the competitive Duel Mode would want The Forest of No Return or not. For the cost, you are going to get a lot of cards you won’t be able to use, but you do get one new, very solid, hero who is worth using as they are, worth customizing or worth cannibalizing to make your favourite hero better.
For those of you who haven’t played Aventuria, what are you waiting for? It continues to be our favourite adventure card game published to date and I again have to thank Ulisses Spiele for introducing us to this game world.
In case you haven’t seen it, we’ve got a lot more Aventuria content. If you are curious about this adventure card game set in the world of The Dark Eye. I welcome you to check out our Aventuria Adventure Card Game Review. If you dig the grimdark tone of the short adventures in Forest of No Return, you will probably also enjoy reading our Aventirua Veil Dancer Hero Set review as well.