Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Adventure Mart

Game: Adventure Mart

Publisher: Hub Games

Designer: DigiSprite

Year: 2020

Adventure Mart is one of the many stores that you might choose to frequent if you're an adventurer, about to set out on an adventure. Their store mascot, Hank, is a rather charming dragon, but nevertheless each player in Adventure Mart believes that they can build a store to rival Adventure Mart, filling it with stock appropriate to catch the eye of any adventurer.

In this deck-building game you'll create a store with just a couple of members and staff and some furnishing, but the items you choose to stock will really make the difference in whether the array of adventurers each turn will buy from you or your rivals. Each adventurer only has so much money in their pocket, so you might even choose to under sell to make sure they spend with your store.


Adventure Mart takes place over a series of rounds, each representing a day of the week. At the start of each day you will reveal the day's special, which will change the gameplay in a slight way, perhaps making customers like a product type more, perhaps making new stock cheaper to buy. Then a number of customers, goods, staff and fixtures will be dealt out depending on the player count. Each player will draw a hand of five of their stock cards from their deck and the round is ready to begin.

On your turn you will do one thing, then it is the next player's turn. Often this thing will be buying new stock to add directly to your hand. To be a successful store you need the best goods to sell after all!  Should you not want to enhance your stock range, you can instead hire a member of staff, or install a new fixture. These give you either ongoing bonuses, or once per turn powers that can drastically alter your sales ability. Staff tend to be more powerful, with the catch that you do have to pay their wages after using them, or let them go.

The last, and most important, action is to sell to an adventurer. To do this pick one of the face down adventurer cards and flip it over - this will reveal the adventurer complete which which items they like out of the 3 categories (martial, magic and exotic) and any special ability they may have. You will then take the Hank mascot token (worth a bonus 1 money and quality for your bids) and begin bidding.

You bid in terms of Quality, the stars on the top of the item cards, placing a number of cards face up to show what you have bid. The next player may then increase the bid by bidding more quality stars worth of product. Some items, and many staff, have actions that can manipulate the bidding process as it goes on. Ultimately one player will have played the highest quality bundle, and with no-one else able (or willing) to raise the bid the items are sold to the adventurer. Adventurers won't pay full price though, they only have so much money lining their pockets, so you have to be careful not to overbid your valuable items!

The game will end after five days if selling. At this point players will add up the value of all their stock that they bought, fixtures installed and cash remaining. You can also gain rewards from review items which offer end game scoring. The richest store manager wins!

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Adventure Mart has all the deck-building elements you expect, and yet the way you use the cards is different to every deck-builder I can think of. Buying stock directly into your hand lets you counteract a bad draw somewhat, while the face-down adventurers with their inconsistent demands means you can never be fully prepared. In theory the game included a good counterbalance to luck as generally a win early on means that you don't have to stock in your hand to sell successfully to later customers.

Unfortunately, in my experience this could sometimes fail to happen, a bad hand was simply a bad hand, or at least poorly suited to the current, random batch of adventurers. This is particularly apparent in a two player game. The theoretical counterbalance of wiping your opponent out of stock only applies if you had the appropriate stock in hand to begin with, so if you lack any magic gear one turn and all the adventurers are mages you are going to have a bad time. I strongly recommend holding onto a staff member than can shut your opponents down just for such situations, but sometimes even that isn't enough.

But while it's possible to have a bad turn, when it comes to actual enjoyment you are unlikely to ever had a bad time. In part due to the sheer wonder that is Adventure Mart's art style. The characters are unanimously cute as a button, while the stock is not only adorable, but also filled with more obscure fantasy references than I could name. And I'm a huge freaking nerd!

Adventure Mart has a fun theme, incredible art, and a dragon in an Apron named Hank. Frankly if you aren't on side after that sentence I don't know what to tell you. Most of the time, when you aren't having terrible luck, the game runs extremely smoothly, with some great chances for counter-play, particularly as the player count goes up and the bidding gets more competitive. Overall it's a unique little deck-builder, oozing with charm (and charming oozes) that is certainly worth picking up.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Whilst I am a seasoned board gamer, the rest of geek culture really passed me by. Typical fantasy tropes mean very little to me, so some of the jokes in Adventure Mart probably fly over my head. Even so, there's plenty to enjoy in the artwork and item cards, that had me, as a pretty mechanically focused gamer, making lots of table talk as I tried to offer my wares to an adventurer. Every time we play we discover an adorable new character or an new pun that really makes Adventure Mart one of those games that simply makes you smile to play it.

Behind the wonderful theme and artwork is a game whose mechanisms I really enjoy too. Deck-building has always been a favourite mechanism for me, and Adventure Mart provides all of the best bits, including opportunities to make combos and opportunities to shed cards from your deck. In addition, Adventure Mart is a game that does more with deck-building - you're building your deck for a reason. I still love Dominion and Star Realms, but I don't think any standard deck-builder is going to topple them from their throne. Games like Clank!, Aeon's End and now Adventure Mart, all let you use your deck for another purpose. I don't often enjoy bidding games, and they don't often work well for two players, but having the three adventurers to bid on in each round really makes the bidding work and in most cases brings about some fairness where the person who drew the worst hand should still win at least one adventurer when their opponent runs out of cards or doesn't have items of the right type.

The biggest downside for us has been the risk that one person gets more luck than the other in the game. We've had games where I might focus on magic items early on and I get lucky that a lot of magical adventurers are drawn, meaning I have more money and can become more powerful as a result. We've also had games where I held the first player marker through most of the game and got the best item from the market in each round. Adventure Mart definitely makes bidding work for two players and it's a fun two player game, but having more players might spread the luck around a little more and also mean that you see more of every deck, which in itself has a balancing value.

Adventure Mart is a great twist on deck-building and I like discovering that designers can still think of something new to pair with one of my favourite board game mechanisms. Mechanically, there are a couple of areas where I might not like everything that happens in a single game, but the games is quick and it still charms me every time we play, so it definitely holds a spot in our deck-building game collection.

You Might Like...
  • It's very easy to get into the theme and add your own flare to the game as you offer your store's wares to the passing adventurers.
  • Making bidding mechanisms work in a 2-player game is a rare treat.
  • If you love deck-building but want to 'do' something new and different with that deck you've built, then Adventure Mart lets you find a purpose to your deck that we've not seen before.
You Might Not Like...
  • A bad hand of cards or the wrong adventurers coming up on a given turn can certainly feel like a lot of bad luck.
  • If you aren't familiar with fantasy or RPG tropes, then a lot of the jokes might be lost on you.

The Verdict
7/10 Adventure Mart has a truly charming theme, brought to life by great artwork and humour filled cards that should bring a smile to the face of any geek. As an approachable game, the cuteness will hopefully also have appeal to families outside the traditional geeky sphere too. Adventure Mart cleverly combines deck-building with a bidding game, in a way that works for two players, as well as higher player counts. At times, luck can feel like a factor and 2-player games can be widespread in terms of score, but the game is fast and fun, so nobody tends to get hurt feelings. If you’re looking for a game with a unique and endearing theme that brings cute animals to life for a dungeoneering shopping adventure, then Adventure Mart has a ton of appeal.

Adventure Mart was a review copy kindly provided to us by Hub Games.

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