The publisher gifted me a copy of this game; however, I always strive to provide fair, honest opinions.
Game at a Glance
The Sheriff of Nottingham is terrorizing the villagers and has imprisoned Robin Hood. In Rescuing Robin Hood players take on the role of a member of Robin’s band of Merry Men (and ladies, too!) and work together to come up with a rescue plan. Over the course of 5 days players will rescue captured villagers to help form a powerful mob capable of storming the castle and rescuing Robin Hood!
In this cooperative game players assume the role of one of eight band leaders such as Little John or Maid Marian. Each leader has different strengths in the form of attributes and/or skills. The villager cards add to the players attributes, which are indicated on a tracker, and may grant skill tokens as well.
During the first four rounds of the game, players take turns fighting off the Sheriff’s Guards in an attempt to rescue villagers. These guards are represented by mostly unrevealed cards arranged in rows. These rows of guards are escorting at least one villager to the castle to join Robin Hood in his fate. The entire row of guards must be defeated to complete a successful rescue. If the Band Leaders and their crews are able to work together they just may be able to release villagers that can be used to form a stronger crew for later rounds.
After both day two and day four are complete, players will use rescued villagers to refine their decks in an attempt to create a band strong enough to successfully storm Nottingham Castle and rescue Robin Hood. Optionally, players may choose to continue their siege and arrest the Sheriff of Nottingham with Robin Hood’s help.
Rescuing Robin Hood is a cooperative game unlike any I have played before. This is not a deck building game in the traditional sense – it is more deck construction. Each card is unique but they do not grant actions. Instead they adjust the players’ attribute tracker before battle and/or add flexible skill tokens to a player’s arsenal.
Each player has four main attributes to boost but they should craft their hand wisely to ensure their power is concentrated in a few areas rather than attempting to be a “Jack of all trades” sort. Players are limited to two attacks a day so it is important to try to specialize. Cooperating with partners to ensure that the rescued villagers go to the right player is crucial. There are very strong villagers who simply won’t be a good fit for your strategy.
The attributes allow for different types of attacks on the guards. Wit permits a player to pick off guards one at a time until the player is done pushing their luck. Stealth allows a player to pick and choose any cards in a single row, revealed or unrevealed, to attack simultaneously. And Brawn permits the player to attack an entire row at once in an all-or-nothing brawl. Jolliness can be spent to boost any of the other 3 attributes before the battle begins. If at any point a player doesn’t have enough attribute power to overtake the enemies they agreed to attack, all guards are placed back in the row and the player loses the spent power and that action.
Any Jolliness or Brawn leftover at the end of a turn passes to the next player which makes for some interesting decisions in the game. So do the addition of skill tokens which grant quite a bit of strategic flexibility. The order in which different attacks are executed along with the use of skill tokens will make a huge difference in player success and initiates a lot of discussion amongst teammates.
The game scales very well. There are two different options for solo play described in the rulebook so people can adventure alone. For higher player counts setup is very easy – scenario cards are used to set up the game and are clearly labelled for different player counts.
Replayability comes in the form of varying scenario setups and different mixes of villager cards. And for players who are able to best the Sheriff easily, there is an Expert Mode described in the rulebook to add to the difficulty.
There is a lot of math and some light statistics-driven decisions involved here which means there are opportunities for growth in mental math for both older kids and adults. Younger kids might really struggle with strategizing on this one, though. Children who want to play this game should be able and willing to cooperate on strategies with their parents, something I know from personal experience that not every child is willing to do. But with the right kids this could be a wonderful educational math game disguised in Robin Hood’s clothing.
The game is played with two difficulty levels at the same time. Children can feel accomplished rescuing Robin Hood, which is fairly achievable in my experience, but competitive adults will find themselves unsatisfied until the very tough task of taking on the Sheriff is complete. It’s clever to combine two win conditions into every game like that – it’s a good way to please both beginner and advanced gamers at the same time.
Although this works for children, Rescuing Robin Hood is still fun to play with adults because of the high level of interaction and cooperation it fosters. A lot of cooperative games are prone to suffer from the quarterback problem where one player takes over the strategy and tells everybody else what to do. So far in my plays of Rescuing Robin Hood with my husband we have both spent roughly an equal amount of time giving strategy suggestions to each other. I suspect one reason quarterbacking was not a problem in our games was that neither of us wanted to take responsibility for insisting the other take risky actions – the cost of losing a battle can be very steep.
We both see different paths to take in the battles and discussing the best way forward has been a lot of fun. There are different ways to spend skill tokens effectively, and the addition of some of the attributes getting passed on to the next player makes the battles interesting puzzles to solve together as a team. It really has been a unique interactive experience so far.
The look of the game is charming with minimalist vector cartoon artwork. Many of the villagers come with pun-names that are silly, yet fun. It all works together to create a tone that is light-hearted (despite the fact that you are trying to rescue Robin Hood from execution). For fans of the tale of Robin Hood, there are many familiar characters in the game and a whole cast of new ones. The game also comes with a character guide so players can discover all the familiar and new faces in the game.
Component-wise, Rescuing Robin Hood is solid. The game includes a really wonderful box insert, wooden cubes, cardboard tokens, and cards. Everything seems to be of very good quality. Dual-layer attribute trackers would have been a nice extra but I didn’t find myself knocking my cubes around.
Tabletop Mom’s Opinion
Gamers should take note that Rescuing Robin Hood has a healthy dose of luck involved. Players making conservative decisions based on statistics should be able to rescue Robin Hood most of the time; however, in order to defeat the Sheriff players are going to need to take a few risks and hope that luck is on their side. If the risks don’t pay off, you may get put too far behind to have any chance of capturing the Sheriff. I would argue that this works well thematically in the Robin Hood universe.
The fun in this game comes in the form of surprises – revealing the guard cards can be quite nerve-wracking and tense. You can do the math and look at the statistics, but sometimes luck just won’t be on your side and you are going to reveal a row of high-powered guards that you are unable to defeat. And that can be terribly frustrating at times, but also exciting when things go well. If you cannot handle that level of luck then this may not be a good fit. But if you are the type who enjoys the taking risks this is a good game to check out.
Rescuing Robin Hood is a game with varying challenge levels built in. It fosters a high level of cooperation and discussion. At only ~20 minutes per player it is very easy to play this one back-to-back (and we have, several times). It is not easy to capture the sheriff and the excitement of coming close but not quite getting him keeps bringing us back for more. This game is probably the most enjoyable math lesson I have ever played and I recommend it to people who enjoy the thrill of gambling and pressing their luck.