Maiden, save thyself
Being first to market in a genre or subgenre is a tricky place to be, since there are no other games you can learn from. Maiden’s Quest is the first solo deckbuilder, or at least the first one I’ve come across, and it’s setting a high barrier for other games to beat: clever card mechanics, engrossing gameplay, the ability to stop and resume whenever you want, optional co-op play, the ability to drop in and out of other players’ games, and a rulebook that may set some kind of record for badness.
All games split into two parts: the pure game qua game, and the way we experience the game, which starts the moment we pick up the box.
The pure game of Maiden’s Quest is excellent. You’re a young lady imprisoned in a fairytale tower, who has got tired of waiting to be rescued and decided to rescue herself, using only the standard princess equipment to hand.
Each turn you play cards from your deck till you come across an obstacle, at which point you fan the next five cards and use them to try to beat it. These cards can be weapons and accessories, companions or other enemies. There’s a simple system for making sure that a too-strong enemy doesn’t take you out too early, and a clever system for levelling-up certain cards through four stages of power. This is a fast, neat and – once you understand it – very playable game.
The rest of it is a disgrace. The rulebook is awful: long, unclear, confusing, not proofread and even missing entire lines of text. The sample encounter will take you ten minutes just to set up the right cards in the right order. Some publishers would have made sure these cards were arranged ready on top of the deck. Not Wizkids.
Look, it’s 2018 and ‘Actual Play videos’ won the Diana Jones Award this summer. Almost all games are better demonstrated than explained. There is no excuse for not including a QR code for a video of someone showing how the game is played on the cover of the rulebook.
Maiden’s Quest could have been a hit, but hobbled with this abominable rulebook you’re more likely to find copies unplayed in secondhand sales. Maiden, save thyself.
Designer: Ken Shannon
Artist: Lindsay Archer
Time: 30 minutes
This review originally appeared in the November 2018 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.