Ancient Secrets and Ominous Encounters: A Review of Ancient Terrible Things

Ancient Terrible Things

Dark jungles. Ancient secrets. Ominous encounters. All of these things are fair game in Ancient Terrible Things, a "pulp horror" dice game by Pleasant Company Games. If this piques your interest, read on.

Gameplay

The object of Ancient Terrible Things is to collect the most Ancient Secrets (points) by traveling to various Fateful Locations on the board and overcoming Ominous Encounters. Each player starts the game as a different character and receives one token of each of the 4 resources: Focus, Treasure, Courage, and Feat.

On a turn, the current player moves his token to any of 6 locations on the board that contain an Encounter card (i.e., monsters or other obstacles which are dealt randomly on the board). Each location also contains a resource token that is retrieved by the player who lands on that location, as well as a special action that can be performed.

After reaping the benefits at the location, the player must either spend Courage tokens to escape the Encounter or else face the Encounter head on. To defeat the Encounter, the player must roll a certain combination of dice, as displayed on the card. To do so, the player creates a pool of dice, starting with the 5 green Focus dice. He may also play Swag and Feat cards from his hand to add additional dice to his pool (improving his chances of success).

After rolling, the player can choose to re-roll all of his dice up to 2 more times or spend Focus tokens to re-roll individual dice. Swag and Feat cards can also be used to carry out additional actions. In addition to defeating the Encounter, various combinations of dice rolls can also earn additional resource tokens.

If the Encounter is defeated, the player keeps the card and scores points. If not, a Terrible Thing is unleashed (the player retrieves a Terrible Thing token) and he loses points at the end of the game. After the Encounter, the player moves to the Trading Post, where he may purchase Swag cards to help him overcome future encounters.

The game ends when the last Terrible Thing is unleashed or there are no remaining Encounter cards. Players then total their Ancient Secrets and the player with the most wins. All the other players are never heard of again!

Ancient Terrible Things components

Review

We liked it!

In case you wanted more detail, there is a lot to like about this game. It has an exciting, mysterious theme that really draws you in. The production value is fantastic (great artwork, high quality components). There is a lot of dice rolling, which not only makes the game fun, but also is balanced by plenty of strategic planning — in fact, if you plan ahead for an Encounter by collecting enough Courage tokens, you don't even need to roll the dice at all.

We also appreciated the fact that the Swag cards continually change, giving you fresh choices each time you enter the Trading Post. In addition, the game gets progressively harder, as the Encounter cards are stacked in order of difficulty.

The only barrier to whole-heartedly recommending this game to all casual gamers is the learning curve. While overall the game is reasonably casual, it requires 15-20 minutes or more for setup and rule explanation, which is outside our "casual" threshold. Plus, the game is relatively open-ended — how to achieve victory can be a bit unclear at first. More experienced gamers will appreciate this aspect, but newer players might find themselves a bit lost.

Even so, we found Ancient Terrible Things to be a very enjoyable game that left us wanting to play again. While it may not be ideal for an impromptu casual gaming session, it serves very well as the main attraction for a game night.

Pros: Exciting theme, progressive difficulty, good balance of luck and strategy, many in-game accomplishments

Cons: High learning curve, open-ended gameplay may be too challenging for beginners

Full disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.

jedaward's picture
Member Since: 12/24/2014

Do the different characters have different abilities or are they just different art work?

Chris James's picture
Site Admin
Member Since: 04/27/2012

jedaward wrote:

Do the different characters have different abilities or are they just different art work?

The characters differ only in color/artwork.