24 July 2022
Fantasy melee feels like tome to me
If you’ve ever found yourself tempted by Magic: The Gathering – and in particular its multiplayer ‘Commander’ format – but the idea of tossing bales of cash into a woodchipper puts you off, fret no longer. Hero: Tales of the Tomes steps forth to offer an alternative – a means for you and up to four friends to indulge in a Fantasy brawl with spells, summoned creatures, equipment and special abilities.
Each player picks a hero who comes with their own stats and their own suite of bonus abilities you get when you level up. Levels tick up automatically with each round, providing you with stat boosts on alternate rounds, and bonus abilities on the remainder. The abilities for each character are dual-sided, which creates a nice decision fork where choosing one denies you the other for the game. It also means that, having played as one character, you want to go back and try out the other options to see how they play.
Now your first objection may be – hang on, didn’t Epic already do this? A simple, Magic-lite game where players draft from a single deck, slamming monsters onto the table then attacking, blocking and board-wiping their way to victory? Well, sort of, but Hero – for all its streamlining – offers a touch more crunch, and a more satisfying game arc. Epic does away with things like lands or energy – the cards that serve as ‘currency’ to power your spells or creatures in Magic and Pokemon – which means that you can play big cards from turn one.
In Hero, on the other hand, everyone’s power starts low and creeps up round by round. Your hero can deal more damage, you gain additional abilities, and some cards can’t be played until you hit a certain level. In addition, you’re building a board state via companions and equipment, setting up blockers to protect your hero – once you take damage equal to your life, you’re out – and to swing at your opponents. This gives the game a satisfying sense of momentum which Epic lacks.
Despite the similarities, it would be unfair to directly compare Hero to Magic, or rather, to expect it to offer the depth and variety of experience you can get from a fully customisable game with a cardpool in the tens of thousands. You’re all drawing from the same deck, and some cards are more suited to your character and creatures than others, so there’s a good deal of luck.
But Hero still offers a little bit of what makes multiplayer battles so fun – that is, table talk, politics and threat assessment. Essentially, as soon as there are more than two players, whenever you attack, you’re presented with a choice: who do I target? That immediately kicks off variously silly, wheedling, furious and desperate negotiations as each opponent tries to convince you that they’re not the threat. Most of the time, players naturally gang up on whoever appears to be doing best, which acts as a natural buffer against outrageous good or bad luck.
And all of this squeezes into a tiny box (maybe a smidge too tiny – it would have been nice if it had left room for the cards when sleeved). The artwork is unspectacular but appealing, with key stats and abilities presented in an easy-to-understand format. The Lost Heroes expansion offers 3 new hero options, including Briar of Grindlehallow – representing the ‘plank of wood with rusty nails hammered into it’ archetype – and Gwendolyn Vale, who uses group hug effects to make everyone draw cards before dealing damage.
There’s a definite space in the market for Magic-like games where anyone can jump in and you can be done in under an hour. If you want a midweight, self-contained multiplayer Fantasy card brawl experience that you and a group can enjoy without investing loads of money and time on deckbuilding, Hero is it.
PLAY IT? YES
PLAY IF YOU LIKED Sorcerer
Oddly, the people who may find this a little lacking are fully paid-up Magic players. But if you enjoy less involved Fantasy card titles like Epic, Mage Wars and Sorcerer, this may well be the dollop of scrappy fun you’re after.
Designer: Jimmy Ellerth
Publisher: Jimmy Ellerth Entertainment
Time: 30-90 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 5 Hero cards
- 15 Hero ability cards
- 62 Companion cards
- 22 Equipment cards
- 5 Quest cards
- 46 Spell cards
- 25 Side Deck cards
- 45 wooden tokens (15 Mana, 15 Armour, 15 Damage)
- Level Tracker die
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This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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