16 August 2019
And the Beautiful-est
The Boldest can easily put some of the prettiest board games to shame. Its calm, and at first glance understated, art style reveals impressively intricate details the more you look, and tells the story of the game better than any rulebook exposition ever could. This is a story of adventures, of venturing into the forest to defeat mysterious monsters and find precious items and artefacts.
Adventuring in the world of The Boldest is reserved for the best(est) – which, in this case, means strength in numbers. Only the biggest party earns a spot on the expedition and therefore gets to enjoy its spoils. Players, under the cover of screens, select adventurers of the same type and assign them to one of the three expeditions. Once all the choices have been allocated, the type of parties and their number are revealed, and the player who has the most cards in each category heads into the forest (a grid of cards offering a variety of victory points) to collect the rewards.
While it may seem that the bidding in this adventuring auction is quite random, there are actually quite a few in-built tells during each round. For example, most characters can only pick up items from the bottom-most row of the forest, meaning that all players will essentially be competing for the same four items. If one of them is particularly rich in victory points, it becomes pretty clear which cards other players will put down to get them.
It may be really hard to predict exactly how many cards of each type an opponent has, but guesstimating the approximate number is pretty easy. The cards played in the last turn have to skip a round before they can be played again – apparently, the adventuring party ends up feeling a bit hungover after celebrating their successful expedition and needs a day’s break. So if an opponent won the bid for the warrior expedition last turn, it is safe to assume that they won’t have a lot of warriors to compete this time around.
In a nice touch, each faction of adventurers has its own artwork and – and this is important – a different animal companion. Condolences, however, must be given to the red player, who in a roster of animals filled with cute otters, kittens and dogs drew... a frog. Animals serve as the joker cards of the game, able to bolster the strength of any group: another great move from designer Sophia Wagner who demonstrates clearly throughout the gameplay (because another reminder never hurts) that animals are simply better than humans.
There is only one fault with The Boldest: the quality of its components doesn’t rise to heights of the quality of its artwork. The cards and other pieces are thin and flimsy, and even the main board bulges as it is placed on the table. In a less attractive game, this might have been a smaller problem, but when you want to preserve and admire every component of the game, its fragility is disappointing.
The gameplay of The Boldest might be simple: bid some cards, claim rewards, make sure enough cards are left to play next turn – yet it has enough variety and abilities to stay strategically competitive and enticing, without needlessly overcomplicating things. There is always just enough to sustain the players’ interest and encourage them to return to the mysterious forest once again.
PLAY IT? – YES
The Boldest easily stuns with its beauty, even if the component quality does not adhere to the high standards of its artwork. Its auction mechanics are simple, yet offer compelling gameplay with enough depth to keep the game interesting and challenging.
Designer: Sophia Wagner
Artist: Max Prentis
Time: 30-90 minutes
This review originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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