CoraQuest and the Keep on Questing expansion will bring your family together

In the reviews business, context is everything. Because everything written or spoken is subjective, it’s important to understand where the reviewer is coming from and what makes them tick — otherwise you can never be sure that what you’re reading will be balanced. Full disclosure then; I came to CoraQuest from the perspective of a dad. And for a dad, the most important thing is to see his children happy — and CoraQuest will make your children happy. 

Bursting with childish enthusiasm, CoraQuest is a dungeon crawling game designed by seven year old (at the time) Cora and her dad Dan Hughes, with art from both Cora (at a concept level) and artist Gary King. I’ve met Dan, Cora and Gary and my own children have had some of their own creations turned into CoraQuest art by Gary — which is an additional important context for you. 

So, whilst I wouldn’t say that I am personally invested in the CoraQuest project, I would be inclined to say that almost everyone in the UK board gaming scene is to some extent — such is the proliferation of CoraQuest at conventions and gatherings over the past few years. The energy pumped into CoraQuest is quite infectious and given that it was designed largely by one of their peers, why wouldn’t I want to play this game with the children?

CoraQuest is best summarised as a straightforward (but not condescending) introduction to dungeon crawling. It features a book of quests, a deck of dungeon tiles, stacks of item cards and a number of playable characters and boss enemies (as well as lots of basic mob enemies). Movement and health are based on character cards and weapon or spell range and damage is set by weapon cards — so whilst this is a child friendly game, it retains modern design standards (there’s no roll to move or similar). 

In terms of how CoraQuest sets up then, it’s technically similar to games like Zombicide: 2nd Edition, but somehow it manages to be considerably more streamlined. Use of character standees rather than miniatures keeps the cost low and means that setup and teardown is done mainly in baggies — which is a lot quicker than finding the space to set up a CMON miniatures tray, or worse still, having to pack one away. 

Monster spawns are also done initially by the tiles you draw, but also by the quest setup (which might make reference to specific tiles and what enemies appear on them.) If the players fail to explore the dungeon for two turns in a row, then giant spiders will begin to flood the dungeon, and so CoraQuest continues to move at pace, with simple consequences for dithering, and nothing to look up or do in terms of drawing spawn cards or setting up a wandering monster or whatever. 

Both my kids and I found that the amount of agency that CoraQuest gives was particularly refreshing for a game aimed at younger players. You will feel the incentive to press on (as above) but the choice of how to do so is entirely based on the player’s preference. Sometimes we split into two groups, sometimes we stick together, and occasionally we do both and then try and manipulate the dungeon tiles so that they come back together on or around the boss fight.

CoraQuest uses a clever and straightforward way of linking dungeon tiles to the quest book, with most “generic” tiles being numbered and then tiles that have some quest linkage being lettered, instead. When you draw tile E, rather than 5, 6 or 7, for example, you’ll know that you need to jump back into the quest book to read about whatever is happening — maybe you’ve stumbled on a missing gnome and must now face the kobold chef that was just about to start preparing him for dinner!

Combat is dice-driven, but again, CoraQuest hides its cleverness behind simplicity. There are both light (white) and heavy (red) dice available in CoraQuest, and different weapons generate different combinations of dice. Items and skills can potentially add dice on a temporary basis, and range plays a big role as well. If all of this is making you think “that sounds like the teen and upwards dungeon crawlers I play” then I would say yes — yes it does. Again, CoraQuest is a kids game, but it doesn’t condescend to children. It gives them decisions, and it helps them make meaningful choices that they can be proud of.

With regards to the new expansion CoraQuest: Keep on Questing, there’s a bit “more of the same” and also a completely new campaign setup with two separate adventures. Characters can now level up between missions and keep their treasure, with little colourful bags provided for players to store their loot. Again, this expansion adds to the complexity a little, but it treats young players with the respect they deserve and we never struggled to accommodate the new rules within our games. 

CoraQuest: Keep on Questing continues (and even doubles down) on some of the colloquial themes that I loved in CoraQuest, with a handbook guide to “West Orcshire” driving both of the campaigns. These, sequentially, are The Curse of Hoodez and A Spotters Guide to the Dungeon — both campaigns consist of five quests or missions each, and can be completed in anywhere from two to five sessions, depending on how long the attention span of the players lasts. At seven and nine, my kids are now quite happy to play two or three quests in a row, and each one lasts about thirty minutes on average when you factor in a bit of setup time.

I found that generally, the kids responded really well to the ability to add persistent skills to their characters and to collect coins to then spend on specific items. The kids both took very different approaches to this, with one of them choosing to build what effectively amounted to a glass cannon, and the other going for more of a conservative, defensive build that is very much in keeping with her risk averse nature. In both cases, I loved watching them rationalise and make those decisions. 

If you have kids under ten, you will not find a better dungeon crawler than CoraQuest, with or without CoraQuest: Keep on Questing. I’ve tried other games such as Andor: The Family Fantasy Game, and whilst many are fun and do engage the children, none have quite the same balance of simplicity and agency as CoraQuest does. Nor do they have quite so much replayability or scope for varied experiences (especially when CoraQuest: Keep on Questing is added.) For our family, CoraQuest has become a firm family game night favourite, and if my kids ever do grow beyond it (which I guess they will) I will treasure the memories it has helped us make very dearly. 

You can purchase CoraQuest and CoraQuest: Keep on Questing on 365 Games.

Looking to get your friends or family into board games? Check out our list of great, accessible games, perfect for just that, here.

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