Note: This preview uses pre-release components and rules. What you see here may be different from the final, published game. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.
It’s hard to distinguish between card games and board games sometimes. Some people define board games as anything which has a board whether it’s for individual players or operates as a shared component. Others fall on the side of the main gameplay mechanism.
In other words, if cards are the main source of action, it’s a card game. This blending and non-definite categorization means that you can often find several common card game tropes in board games and there are also means for board games to fit the more casual playstyle of many card games.
Scale Bird Games, a new company out of Kent, Washington, is hitting Kickstarter this year with Herobane, a card game utilizing personal boards where players construct a personal dungeon to lure heroes, defeat them, and gain rewards. It uses some of the common elements of Magic merged with some tile-laying Euro board game elements to create a hybrid that could attract fans of multiple genres. The game is meant for 2 to 4 players and plays in about 60 minutes.
One of the main focuses of Herobane is the player boards. Since players represent up-n-coming dungeon masters (actual people running a dungeon/lair/what-have-you) there’s a short sidebar for specific powers and then a large 6 x 6 square grid. Within this grid, players will have the opportunity to place dungeon tiles to represent their dungeon’s growing ability to generate resources.
It works like this, at the beginning of a player’s turn, they will roll 2 six-sided dice, one black, and one red. The dice numbers that are rolled are the coordinates on the dungeon grid of which the square is activated for resources. For example, if a player rolls black 4, red 6, they’ll cross-reference from both to square 4 (horizontal) and 6 (vertical). Whatever red or black resources are shown in that square, the player gains those. Since players can upgrade their dungeon, this might result in gaining 4 black tokens and 3 red tokens if the right tile is on the square.
To gain these tiles, players play cards drawn from a single deck. Each player can hold a maximum of 8 cards in hand and draws 3 cards a turn. To play cards, usually players spend black and red resource tokens gained at the beginning of the turn. During a turn, players will often play Minions or Gambits. A Minion is a creature to help attack Heroes while a Gambit is a one-time-use spell that can damage Heroes, buff Minions, or generally temporarily alter something in play. And, as mentioned earlier, there are also cards that allow players to place new tiles on their board. They can replace existing tiles or add new ones.
The aim of all this is to attack Heroes. During a turn, players can “lure” heroes into their dungeon by taking a Hero card from the center row. The player then activates Minions one at a time to attack the Hero. Each Hero card includes one or maybe two stats to represent their Might and Magic thresholds. Think of this as Might and Magic “health”. Any Minion that attacks does an amount of damage by die rolls to one or both of these scores. For example, a “Copperhead Lackey” rolls 2 black “Might” dice to attack. So, generally, players can assume they have a 50% chance (average roll of 7) to take down a Hero with 7 Might health. If a Minion doesn’t roll enough damage to kill the Hero, the Minion does their damage and then goes to the discard pile. If in a very unfortunate situation, a Hero has survived all attacks, they take some loot in the form of black/red resources and leave the dungeon.
The real treasure in the game are the Epic Heroes. If players manage to get just the right Minions with enough punch to do considerable damage, they can be sure they’ll be able to defeat Epic Heroes lured to their dungeon. These do-gooders work the same as regular Heroes, but there’s often some twist in their mechanisms to make them harder to take down. However, their real value comes from their awards of Victory Points. Since they are the prime targets of the players’ wrath, taking out the Epic Heroes in the card row is really how players win the game. The first player to 3 (plus or minus depending on player count) Victory Points wins the game.
The main push and pull of Herobane is the mitigation of the random resource generation. Players should be seeking the most efficient path to spend resources on minions and selecting just the right Heroes to defeat. It’s amusing to see, but there’s a kind of defeating Heroes economy in the game much like serving annoying fast-food customers. If players are interested in that style of gameplay, Herobane is definitely worth a look.
One of the most noticeable aspects of the game is that it has the management style of card games like Magic: the Gathering but it handles multiple players much the same way some conflict allergic games work. Players are never attacking each other. At most, they are denying resources or Victory Points by defeating or luring Heroes before they can be obtained by an opponent.
The system itself is ripe for many future options and one hope is that they’ll add more interaction with the resource board. As it is right now, it feels a little static, but cards that open up more integration between the resource board and the minions would serve this title well. Since the resource generation and card draw for additional board tiles is random, giving multiple options for that interaction seems like the kind of addition the game would benefit from.
Card games with a Magic feel but with a Euro grace are not so easy to find. Even games with players managing a dungeon don’t seem to be very common. With Herobane taking on both these elements, it’s got a mixture that should garner some attention. Even with some gameplay elements that underutilize the options with the dungeon board, Herobane does seem to be on the right track as far as gameplay is concerned.
If this is the kind of mixture of theme and mechanisms that gets your minions riled up, it’s available on Kickstarter on January 12th.
As always, we don’t post ratings for preview copies as the components and rules may change from the final game. Check back with us after the game is produced for a full review. This post was a paid preview, you can find out more information here.