For a "How to Solo" video with some sample turns, click here.
What is this game about?
Maiden's Quest is a game in which you are a princess who is fed up with being locked in a tower, so you ransack your room for supplies and try to escape. But Maiden's Quest isn't just any dungeon crawl. It's one of the more interesting games I have seen in a while. In fact, I have never seen a game quite like Maiden's Quest.
Before beginning a game of Maiden's Quest, you construct a deck that is unique to your game. The cards that go in depend on two factors: your princess and your captor. You have several choices for each, which will give the game quite a bit of variability. Once you've built your deck and shuffled all of the cards together, your deck will fit in the palm of your hand. No table required. Gameplay is deviously simple. Every time you run into an enemy, you can choose to flee—which will cost you a bit if you are at the same level as an enemy or higher—or to fight. To fight, you fan out the next five cards in the deck and hope to match the symbols on those cards with the symbols that are necessary to win the battle. (Each enemy has a different symbol requirement.) To flee, you fan out five cards and choose one to downgrade.
At first, fanning out cards and failing might seem like a bit of a luck fest. How are you supposed to control what symbols show up? But the real key to Maiden's Quest is paying attention to the symbols you have and deliberately manipulating your deck to maximize your chances of success. You can rotate cards in your deck to upgrade or downgrade them, and it's up to you to make the best choices as you go. Upgrades give you more symbols to work with, so you need to pay attention to what you've seen in order to give yourself more of the ones you need. And even downgrades aren't all bad—sometimes, as your princess gets more desperate, she fights harder even though she has lost a bit of health. There are also multiple ways to beat the game. Defeating your captor is one way, but if you come across any key symbols, you can also search out an exit and try to escape through it.
Maiden's Quest is also interactive in a way I haven't seen before. While you essentially play the game solo, using your own deck, you can choose to cooperate with others by having them reveal cards from their own deck to help you in a conflict. This is particularly useful if another player has plenty of a specific symbol that you're lacking in your own deck. Even more exciting is "Serendipity," which allows two people who are playing Maiden's Quest to team up for a couple of battles. The game even comes with special cards to use as "gifts" in these situations—and the cards "level up" over time, because every time you team up, you can ask your friend to sign your card and give it a little more oomph the next time you use it.
How does it play solo?
Maiden's Quest is essentially a solo game that benefits from the occasional intervention of others. You don't need other people at all to play it. But it also lends itself well to "multiplayer solitaire," because you can temporarily team up with someone else and then go back to doing your own thing.
I really enjoy Maiden's Quest, and I think the concept behind it is extremely interesting. I have more agency in the game than I initially realized, and I enjoy getting better at manipulating the cards to my advantage. This game is really teaching me to count cards and to notice when specific combinations of symbols haven't shown up in a while—observational skills that are key to deciding whether to engage in a conflict or whether to make an escape attempt. I also love the theme, and the idea that handbags and high heels are actually dangerous weapons capable of felling goblins, orcs, and the undead. There is some delightful wordplay on the cards, and other little touches that show how much love was put into this game.
I also like the possibility of "Serendipity." Although I am unlikely to run into people playing Maiden's Quest "in the wild" (if only), it's an awesome game to have at cons, and each box contains enough cards for two people in the house to have an active deck, meaning that you and another player could entertain yourselves and each other by playing Maiden's Quest. I also love that this game fits into the palm of your hand and can be started or stopped at will. This game is actually small enough to put into a plastic baggie and take out whenever you have a dull moment in your day. I played a bunch in the airport after Dice Tower Con and it was cool to be able to pass the time with a game, but without much setup/cleanup. Sorting the cards back out and setting up a fresh game can take a little time, but it is no big deal, especially once you know what you are doing.
My main complaint about Maiden's Quest is that the rulebook is a bit of a mess—but you MUST read that rulebook to pick up all of the little nuances of the game. If you don't know the rules, you can't work them to their fullest extent and achieve victory. There are a lot of little quirks to learn, and they make the game harder to sink into. It took me a few plays before I fully understood the possibilities that Maiden's Quest can offer to its players. But honestly, it's been worth the investment. There is a fun and innovative game in there if you're willing to get through the awkward "getting to know you" phase.
Do I recommend it?
Yes. If you want to play something innovative, then Maiden's Quest is worth a look. It isn't necessarily a solo game for the ages, but it introduces concepts that are unique and that should demand our attention. It's also continuing to grow on me play after play, and it has more depth than I initially realized. In a world where so many games feel the same, I'm delighted to see and to support something fresh. I expect Maiden's Quest to be part of my rotation for a while, and I hope to see the game system expand and develop. Just be warned: There is a pretty high bar to entry for a game so small, and you'll have to spend a lot of time sifting through the rulebook.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.