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Once Upon a Plunder

Tho' the fairy tale/adventure setting is very different, there is much in Matt Greenleaf's Once Upon a Plunder that's reminiscent of the 2016 game Not Alone (Geek Attitude). Both are asymmetric one vs many contests where most players are playing cards to select the location they are visiting while hoping that the monster - in this case, a dragon - won't catch them by choosing the same location.

Once Upon a Plunder tho' is a simpler, more family-friendly game. One player takes on the role of the dragon, while the other 2-5 players each take on the role of one of the available heroes: Snow White, the Pied Piper, King Arthur, King Triton or a pantomime-style 'principal boy' version of Robin Hood. The hero players each have a card representing their individual camp plus a hand of four cards representing the four locations they can visit: orchard, armoury, treasure room or village. Players collect corresponding wooden tokens from the first three locations but for the village, when they visit, they place houses on the village card.

The dragon has four cards that similarly correspond to the four locations, and the dragon also has a board on which they track the number of turns and each occasion that they choose the same location as a hero. If either of the dragon's tracks reach zero (ie: after a maximum of 10 turns) then the dragon player wins. For the heroes to win, they must either get all the house tokens built at the village location or they must collect all the tokens from any two of the other three locations. The number of tokens in play varies according to player count - but you'll need to note that when the rules and cards refer to the number of players, they mean the total number playing and not just the heroes!

Whenever the dragon chooses a location that one or more of the heroes has chosen, the hero is 'scared': the dragon player gets to take back a token from that hero's camp and the hero has to pass on their next turn unless they discard either two apples or a shield token. Players who choose the village location can build extra houses there if they discard treasure chest tokens.

Once Upon a Plunder is an accessible easy-to-play game, and a good way of introducing families to cooperative gameplay (at least, it's cooperative for the hero players!) There's an element of bluff and counter-bluff, plus a degree of push-your-luck over the choices players make. And the 10-round countdown timer keeps the pressure on and ensures that gameplay never exceeds the 20-30 minutes accurately indicated on the box. With its printed wooden tokens and attractive art from Barbara Lucas, Gigamic have once again done a great job with the production - and it's good too to see it all come packaged in a relatively compact box. Once Upon a Plunder is distributed in the UK by Hachette Board Games.

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