As a teacher, I get a few weeks off for summer break. Most summers are filled with working side jobs to supplement that amazing teacher salary, but in between, there is time to relax and actually play a few games and recover from the craziness of the school year. When I first entered the world of Skyrim through my Xbox console, I was engrossed in the vast world full of interesting characters, crazy side quests, and unrelenting dungeon encounters. This resulted in playing hours from the seat of my couch. Needless to say, that summer didn’t hold much else other than Skyrim sessions, waiting tables, and not many dates…but I digress.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim video game was first released by Bethesda in 2011 on PC, XBox 360, and Playstation 3 and has since been updated with graphic upgrades, bug fixes, and a variety of different expansions. The game has also been released in VR and the Nintendo Switch where players are able to use the motion controls during combat, and most recently, an anniversary edition and ports for the next-gen consoles. Throughout the game, players explore Skyrim, the northernmost province of the realm of Tamriel where all of the Elder Scrolls games are set. In the main storyline and numerous side quests, players are able to take any direction they would like with their character, leveling up different skills based on their play style. The ultimate goal is to stop a prophesied dragon from returning and destroying the world. The combination of character development, story depth, and immersive gameplay have led many people to claim Skyrim as one of the best video games of all time.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – The Adventure Game is the tabletop adaptation of the video game from Modiphius Entertainment. With a GameFound campaign funded in December of 2021, Skyrim was recently released to backers and the public with a variety of gameplay options. The core game, reviewed here, comes with everything 1-4 players need to work their way through two different three chapter campaigns. The story of the board game takes place before the events of the video game where players will control a member of an organization called the Blades and their experiences in the midst of a civil war ripping throughout the realm.
Similar to the video game, players will choose a character from a variety of options that all have different characteristics that evolve throughout the game. Players use an individual player board to track health, stamina, and magic levels and organize different equipment and resources through their gameplay. As they level up, players are able to extend their health, stamina, magic levels, and acquire new skills that assist players during different skill tests in the game. Players will also collect, upgrade, and enchant different weapons, armor, and other wearable items to assist them on their journey.
The gameplay of Skyrim revolves around rounds of player actions. Players can work together to complete different events and tasks that the game presents, while also working on their own individual quests and objectives. Each chapter will present different challenges that the players must overcome together, while still exploring dungeons and completing personal goals. Players will move around a board with a modified map featuring a variety of districts each with a stronghold and dungeons to clear. Players will recognize the districts and strongholds from the video game and encounter similar events and characters such as the ruler of the district called the Jarl. Players will constantly be facing threats from various enemies and situations throughout the game. The threat is represented by tokens and may be assigned to different quests and strongholds. Quests that reach their threat limit will automatically fail and strongholds can lose the ability to visit markets, enter freely, and even start rioting which will spill over into neighboring areas if not mitigated. Players will constantly be deciding where to assign and keep the overarching threat at bay.
Each round consists of a series of steps. Step one involves flipping an event card and resolving the text on the card. Sometimes there is an ongoing condition that affects all players until a new effect replaces it, others will add global quests open to whomever wants to complete them, while others will add and move roaming enemies such as trolls and vampires to the board. After the event phase, players are free to move up to four spaces, or five with a horse, toward their objectives. Objectives are marked with arrows in the player color representing personal quests or gray arrows representing public events. Other spaces on the board offer different types of dungeons for players to clear, wilderness areas for players to encounter different challenges and quests, and cities or strongholds to explore. Strongholds are where players can buy and sell items, upgrade weapons, and explore all the happenings in the city. Once on a location, players will interact with one of the personal or public quests, draw an encounter from one of the specialized decks, or fight the enemies guarding a dungeon.
Encounters and quests usually call for skill tests to advance through the mission and are completed by rolling a set of dice with one of three faces with different probabilities of being rolled. Players can add dice to their rolls by being trained in specific skills used for the tests. Players can also reroll dice by spending specified resources from their supply. Most skill tests will have players roll three dice as a baseline, but others will require players to roll dice equal to specific attribute track levels.
Combat is also resolved using the dice with different weapons offering unique maneuvers requiring different dice faces to succeed. Combat can appear through event cards, clearing dungeons, or just running into a monster on the map. Each dungeon has a specific type of enemy that players will face that changes its composition during each chapter of the game. As lower level enemies are defeated and players upgrade their own levels, the lesser enemies leave the game and combat becomes more challenging. Enemies have a variety of different attacks which they resolve through the enemy dice. Different attacks will inflict different types of damage, such as heavy, light, and magic attacks, which can be stopped when specific armor is equipped. When taking damage, different enemy attacks can affect different attribute tracks or put in place special conditions such as paralysis or other inhibitors. Players can enter combat together to take advantage of the different skills each character offers. Players who are skilled in sneaking can even creep up on enemies and give a sneak attack for free.
As players complete quests and win in combat, they will earn experience points to level up. Leveling up allows players to learn a new skill and raise one of their attribute tracks. The new skills can upgrade skill tests by adding more dice or giving players better options when trading and other situations. When players are fully upgraded, they can then learn the advanced version of the skills on their boards.
The story of the game is presented through a series of numbered cards. Each quest that is presented through the main story, event, or encounter cards can lead to new storylines through the success or failure of the requirements outlined on the previous card. Often, players are given a choice of which path they would like to follow, each with unique characters and locations to travel to. Cards are stored numerically in a box with over 500 story, character encounters, and campaign cards. As decisions are made, new cards can be added to the event deck and other cards completely removed from the game. Also presented by way of smaller cards are items players gain and use throughout the game. Players can earn basic and rare treasures by clearing dungeons and can shop at different markets, each with their own unique decks. The decks are fairly easy to maneuver but things can get cumbersome when trying to navigate enchantments and upgrades. These cards are attached to weapons and armor and it can get messy when switching out these items from active to passive spots on the player boards.
Production quality on the game is great. The cards are of an excellent quality and easily organized in the spaces provided in the box. The player boards are dual layered with spaces for the cube attribute markers and spaces to store the different items for each player. One complaint about the resources and the player board though is size. The resource pieces are so dang tiny and each side denotes a different denomination. These tiles are easily flipped and can make tracking resources a little tough if a table gets bumped or tokens get knocked. A larger player board would allow for slightly larger resources. Another small downside to the base game are the roaming monsters. These characters are represented by small diamond cutouts that are difficult to see on the board. Each of these tokens are associated with different enemy cards and it can be difficult to randomize the tokens that are pulled. To remedy the situation, Mophidius released a miniatures pack so you can get some bright red monsters. I may have had some coupons, store credit, and Christmas money which allowed me to splurge on a set of my own. You can see these featured in some of the images. Still, these tokens do not help delineate which of the tokens are matched with each figure.
The gameplay brings me back to digital Skyrim and does a great job of capturing the adventure of the game. Some detractors might say that side quests and the storyline driven turn structure is too similar to the game, but I think that is where the game shines. Being able to evaluate the big game situation and taking a few turns to level up with some side quests brings the player the feeling of control over what happens with their character’s story arc. The scenarios are short enough to keep the player engaged and allow some growth of characters in a few sessions, rather than some of the longer dungeon crawlers on the market. Having decisions and branching paths at the end of quests, allows the player to control their own destiny and allows for replayability in the future. Sometimes it felt a little easy to move through the game, but still offered difficulty and randomness through the roll of the dice. The easy entry point also helped me introduce a new genre of game to my wife (a budding heavier board game player and worker placement fiend) and give her a deeper look into the tabletop world.
Skyrim: The Adventure Game was a welcome home to a world that brought me hours of fun and entertainment. With easy mechanics, a variety of characters to choose from, and more quest, story, and expansion content to explore, I see myself spending many more hours in the realm of Skyrim.
Dan is an educator from Colorado. Growing up as an Air Force dependent gained him lots of new perspectives on the world and a love for making new friends, especially over a good board game. When not at school or playing a board game, Dan is probably at the gym, attending a local sporting event, or performing or attending theater. Dan loves heavy euros, deck builders, living card games, and great solo rules.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - The Adventure Game
Skyrim: The Adventure Game puts a new tabletop twist on an old video game favorite. Choose and upgrade your character and advance your way through two three chapter scenarios in this epic tabletop experience.