Ancient Terrible Things - Board Game Box Shot

Ancient Terrible Things

| Published: 2014
54 58 6

This rainforest has some creepy stuff going on… wait… why is that guy wearing boxing trunks?

go to: Who would enjoy this game?

Overview

Ancient Terrible Things leads you down a dank jungle river to a handful of Fateful Locations where Ominous Encounters will lead you to precious resources (or ruin) while time hurls you closer and closer to the Unspeakable Event. Sound bleak? Well don’t fret… you’ve got all you need in a handful of dice and a few thoughtfully purchased pieces of Swag. Now bring on the Yawning Chasm and the Accursed Shrine!

Ancient Terrible Things Wide

Set Up

Ancient Terrible Things is a dice game with a large footprint. To get started you need to set up a full-sized game board and create several draw decks for the different types of cards you will encounter or acquire throughout the game. The primary deck of cards – the Ominous Encounters – provides the mechanism for moving the game forward. You’ll create this deck with a player-count-appropriate number of red encounter cards (the most difficult) at the bottom, followed by yellow, then green (easiest) on top. Once the deck is created you’ll draw the top 6 cards and place one on each of the board’s Fateful Locations.

The remaining decks are more basic; you’ll simply shuffle the Feat and Swag decks and place them on their designated spots. The Swag deck – which features all of the powerful items you’ll need to give yourself a chance of surviving the Unspeakable Event – is located in the Trading Post, a decrepit riverside shack rife with arcane artifacts. Three starting artifacts are revealed from the deck and start the game face-up.

ATT Trading Post

Next you’ll create the Expedition Track (which would have been more accurately titled the Terror Track, but that name was taken). This track provides a secondary source of pushing the game’s momentum, and it houses all of the bad things that will happen to you should you fail an encounter. Each of the included Terrible Thing tokens (16 in total) has an image of 0, 1, 2 or 3 tentacles on it. Each of these tentacles provides one negative Ancient Secret (Ancient Terrible Things‘ victory points) for end-of-game scoring. You will randomly draw between 7 and 13 of these tokens (depending on number of players) and place them face-up in tentacle order on the Expedition Track.

Finally, each player will need to select their character and collect the appropriate starting resources. This is a variable-player-power game, so choose wisely!

Gameplay

On your turn you take control of the riverboat and perform one circuit of the board. You choose which Fateful Location to stop at along the river, have an Ominous Encounter there, then retire to the Trading Post to spend any spoils you may have acquired in your journey. Once finished, you hand control of the riverboat over to the player on your left.

The adventure of the game lies in the Ominous Encounter phase. Once you’ve chosen the location you’ll attempt to overcome, you will collect all resources sitting on that location and prepare to throw your bones. Note that you receive any goods sitting on a space whether or not you succeed at the encounter; it may behoove you to face an encounter you can’t succeed at just to get a resource you’re in desperate need of. The Ominous Encounter card residing on your chosen location shows the numbers you need to roll on your dice to succeed.

Ancient Terrible Things close-up

You have a pool of 5 green dice available to you initially, which you can re-roll in its entirety twice each turn if you choose. Success will grant you the Ominous Encounter card and its associated victory points; failure will thrust upon you the lowest-tentacled Terror Token remaining on the Expedition Track and its negative victory points.

There are numerous means to manipulate your dice in Ancient Terrible Things. The resources you collect will be your first line of defense:

  • Focus: by expending these green tokens you earn the right to re-roll an individual die. You can keep the dice you want, and re-roll one die for every Focus token you spend.
  • Feat: by expending these blue tokens you can add 1 to the value of any blue dice you roll. Blue dice are not a given; you will only be able to add them to your pool by acquiring a Feat or Swag card that allows it.
  • Courage: by expending an amount of these purple tokens equal to the victory points an Ominous Encounter provides, you can completely circumvent rolling the dice and automatically succeed.

The final resource you’ll collect – Treasure – can’t manipulate your dice directly. Rather, it provides the monetary unit necessary to purchase Swag cards, which may offer their own dice manipulation powers.

Play continues until either of two occurrences triggers the Unspeakable Event:

  • The final Terrible Thing token is removed from the Expedition track
  • There are no Ominous Encounter cards left to explore

ATT Expedition Track

Players immediately total their Ancient Secrets (which will come from Ominous Encounters beaten, certain Swag cards and the First Player marker, and will be lost to Terrible Thing tokens). As this is pulp horror, nobody actually wins… the player with the most Ancient Secrets merely survives the Unspeakable Event, only to loose his/her mind in the aftermath. The other players, naturally, perish in the Unspeakable Event.

Components

Pleasant Company Games manages to pull off quite a bit as a first-time publisher with Ancient Terrible Things. While you don’t go into a dice game expecting a beautiful board, you get one here. Schematically, there is a place for nearly all of the game’s components. But more importantly, the strikingly unique artwork serves to keep you tied into the theme. Press-your-luck dice games are frequently prone to theme ambivalence, but the board alone will keep you from forgetting where you are and what you’re rolling those dice for.

There are 110 cardboard tokens used in Ancient Terrible Things, and they are quite thick. However they are prone to fraying, so you’ll want to be patient and careful when punching them.

Like the game board, the game’s cards include some incredible artwork. There are 107 cards in total, and they are each unique. There are monsters… creepy people… magical objects… the pictures on the cards serve to hammer home the story that the game board starts.

Ancient Terrible Things feat cards

Unfortunately, many people will judge the component quality of a dice game strictly on the dice. And while there is nothing at all wrong with the 11 included dice – in fact, they’re high quality translucents – they aren’t custom. With dice games in general we’ve become accustomed to unique dice, and particularly within the pulp horror theme. Some may be let down by this.

Learning Curve

Press-your-luck dice games are simple to pick up, but Ancient Terrible Things adds enough to the formula to require some attention. While the rules of the game are easy to comprehend from one read-through, the multiple means of dice manipulation take a few games to master. Anybody can play the game competently on their first play; to become fluent you’ll need to absorb the nuances of when and where to cash in your scarce and hard-fought-for resources.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {yes}
Horror games are usually taboo for families, but dice games are a staple… conundrum! Ancient Terrible Things does a marvelous job of avoiding gore, and the nifty artwork serves to minimize the “scary” in the images, so this should work well for any dice-game-loving family.
Strategy Gamer {no}
Because dice.
Casual Gamer {yes}
With no complicated rules to master and a whole lot of dice throwing, good luck trying to keep them away!
Avid Gamer {yes}
Ancient Terrible Things is a snap to teach, and the theme and artwork will pull in more players than it will turn off. This is quite easy to get to the table.
Power Gamer {no}
It’s just too quick and light to engage strict power gamers.

Final Thoughts

What a breath of fresh air Ancient Terrible Things is to press-your-luck dice games! It tightly wraps itself within its theme, and quickly makes you forget that your dice don’t have skulls or potion bottles or monsters on them. If you’re planning on spending an hour throwing around a handful of dice, there are scant better or more thematic ways to do it.

Ancient Terrible Things close-up

There is a light-hearted air to the game that makes it easy to love. Like the best B-movies, Ancient Terrible Things is here to have fun rather than worrying about collecting awards or accolades. During your travels in the jungle you’ll cross paths with the expected assortment of mystical shamans and Lovecraftian monsters, but never content to leave well enough alone, Ancient Terrible Things will just as swiftly steer you into displaced dilettantes and boxers. Yes, there is a guy running around the rainforest in his boxing trunks with his hands and feet taped… and you’re going to have to deal with him if you want the treasure he too seeks!

Until an expansion is released, Ancient Terrible Things can run thin on Ominous Encounter cards. If you play a 4-player game you will see all of them. The only variability between games will come from which Fateful Locations those Encounters land on. And, of course, the variability of the dice roll. The other decks are not so skimpy – it’s not likely you’ll get through the whole Fate or Swag decks in a game, and even if you do only a small percentage of those cards will find there way to players’ hands. If the lack of custom dice and an abundance of cards are the game’s only weaknesses, this is easily fixed by one quality expansion. Fingers crossed!

User Reviews (2)

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9
I play black
Guardian Angel
Platinum Supporter
Marquis / Marchioness
8
99 of 101 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 3
“The Dice-Based Exploration Game I've Been Hoping For”

Dice games are not my favorite, but I have plenty of them in my library and play them frequently. They’re great to break out when non-gamers want to play something, and the best of the genre can keep the board-game obsessed among us entertained. When I saw pictures of Ancient Terrible Things (unfortunately well after its Kickstarter campaign) I knew I had to have it. The artwork looked original and creative, and the theme looked just generic enough not to feel too “Cthulhu-y”. After a month of cramming in play after play, it has surpassed King of Tokyo as my go-to dice game (I still prefer Quarriors to anything else with dice, but that’s more deckbuilder than dice game to me).

Observed Set-Up and Play Time
There are a couple of sheets of die-cut cardboard to handle when you break the box open, and they’re pretty poor quality. The cardboard bits are thick and look nice, but they are easily damaged when separating. I’m careful, but I have a handful of tokens that are peeling at the ends because of this. There are also 8 stickers to apply to wooden player markers – be careful when doing so, as I matched the background sticker colors to like-colored wooden markers, and this is incorrect. There are two wrapped decks of cards to open and organize. Finally, the rulebook is well organized and easy to read. You’ll have the board set up and ready to play within an hour of opening the box. My first game was 2-player, and took the advertised 60 minutes. It’s common to finish 3- and 4-player games in around an hour as well.

My Learning Curve and Teach Time
Your speed at mastering Ancient Terrible Things will depend on your answer to one question: have you played Elder Sign? And the time you’ll have to invest in teaching someone else will depend on whether or not they’re experienced with Elder Sign. To put it bluntly, Ancient Terrible Things is about as close to a facsimile of another game as you can get without smacking an IP skin on Monopoly. If you (or the person you’re teaching) have played Elder Sign, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to walk through turn movement and the handful of unique aspects to the game. If you’re seasoned at Elder Sign, you’ll be a master of Ancient Terrible Things on your first play. If you have never played Elder Sign, you’ll figure out all the do’s and don’ts of pressing your luck with the dice in a game or two.

Group Sizes and Dynamics
Ancient Terrible Things scales really well between 2 and 4 players. You will have a little wait between turns in a 4-player game (around 5 minutes), but it’s fun to watch others attempt their die rolls and hope they don’t gather the resources to buy the one artifact you had your eye on (the “Swag” available for purchase in the game either helps boost your end-of-game victory points or increase your control over your dice… and “Swag” is what they call it in the game… that’s not a word I’d use on my own). When you build a game nearly exclusively around dice, you’ve pigeonholed your target audience as “Casual Gamers”… but as with King of Tokyo, I believe this game will be enjoyed by any and all classes of gamers. It’s light, fun and consistently exciting.

Objectionable Material
While more lighthearted than other horror-themed games, Ancient Terrible Things is still a horror-themed game. There are illustrated monsters, weapons to buy and human villains trying to harm you for selfish means. While dice games can be great for introducing youngsters to games, the aforementioned “Swag” cards – necessities for staying competitive – are entirely reading dependent. I don’t think this will work for children under the age of 10.

Comparable Titles
The similarity to Elder Sign can’t be overstated… but the good news is that it’s the superior game (by a wide margin in my book). The physical board goes a long way to helping you believe you’re exploring unique locations, where Elder Sign always makes me feel like I’m merely trying to roll the matching die faces on a card. Additional dice are much harder to come by in Ancient Terrible Things, creating a real challenge when deciding where you’ll go next. And while I know a few vocal people on this website disagree with me, Elder Sign is the easiest co-op I’ve ever played. Simply being a competitive game makes Ancient Terrible Things a much harder win, and I prefer board games that challenge me.

As I mentioned at the top, Ancient Terrible Things has entrenched itself as my dice game of preference. It’s got all the dice-rolling excitement of King of Tokyo with a surprisingly original (for a board game) theme. I’ve seen people classify it as a “Cthulhu” game, but other than the “Terrible Thing” tokens – which display tentacles – there is little Lovecraftian about it. You’re a group of explorers travelling down a river in the rainforest in search of answers or profit. Like Lovecraft’s fiction, you may go insane on your quest. But you also may be hassled by a professional pugilist who’s presence in the rainforest gives more questions than answers… or you may fall into man- or nature-made traps littered throughout the jungle… or it may be the voodoo priests that get you. It’s very cool.

 
Player Avatar
1
9
33 of 34 gamers found this helpful
“Welcome to the River of Doom!”

With the continual increase in the popularity of Kickstarter.com, a great multitude of board games are being created all over the world. It’s impossible to know just how many of these independently created games are real gems and which ones to forget, but Ancient Terrible Things is certainly one that delivers all the thrills and chills of the Noir Pulp Horror theme.

To begin with, the artwork and production values of the game are remarkable. For their first-ever published game, Pleasant Company Games hit the nail on the head with their quality of components. The box and game board are sturdy with a nice matte finish. The character boards and game cards are all top notch and will certainly stand the test of time. Finally, the translucent dice round out the excellent components and add a lot to the atmospheric theme of the game as well.

Speaking of theme, this game is dripping with it. The lead developer devised the setting of this game from multiple ideas, including the fusion of the Indiana Jones-esque atmosphere of exploration with the supernatural monsters and horrors of Lovecraft’s literature. It’s certainly a darker theme, but in a very whimsical and entertaining way. Anyone could enjoy the game due primarily to the vastly entertaining dice chucking it involves.

Ancient Terrible Things takes place over the course of several rounds in which players travel to various remote and haunted locations along a dark, winding river in the deepest depths of the jungle. The players are looking for secrets and booty to aid them in the uncertain future. At these long-forgotten locations, players encounter traps, villains, artifacts, or perhaps something even more sinister – ancient horrors. They then attempt to best these encounters by rolling five (or more) dice, known as focus dice. If the player matches the required cost of the encounter, they have survived the encounter and gain the rumor card, each of which carries with it ancient secrets – a numerical value signifying victory points.

Play proceeds until the players have been bested by too many encounters along the dark river or when these rumors run out entirely. Throughout the journey, players can acquire unique assets (known as SWAG) to help them on their journey, as well as perform a few tricks of the trade (in the form of Feat cards). Yet, at the end of the game, the Unspeakable Event occurs and all players stand trembling at the onset of their certain demise. However, the player who collected the most ancient secrets lives just long enough to record their fate and leave behind a legacy in a battered journal. It’s a brief victory for the doomed explorer, but better than none at all.

Ancient Terrible Things is an undeniably fun board game with wonderful artwork, top-notch components, and fluid overall gameplay. The ancient secrets await along the dark river; what are you waiting for?

 

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