They Need a Hero!

I’m still on the trail of simple, quick, fantasy games I can solo.

This week I’ve been trying my hand at more delving with Heroes of Tenefyr. I’m not really done with it yet, so it’s hard to come to many solid conclusions. What I mean by that is I’ve played it a bunch of times, and it’s slaughtered me each one. Granted, that will at least partly be to do with me stubbornly playing it on the hardest setting all the time, but, you know.

There is a shadow over the land…

Before we go any further, a couple of things you need to know so the following makes sense. First, you lay out all the possible dungeons and rewards (for completing them) before you start. This means that you can enter them in any order and ignore ones which don’t have monsters in you want, or rewards that help. When I say monsters you want, this is because of the second useful thing to know: each monster card you defeat is reversed and placed in your discard pile as an improvement over your basic cards. This is the deck builder part. There are five levels of dungeon, each with increasing difficulty and reward.

My overall impression so far is that it’s not as good as Unbroken, but it’s more engaging than either CtA or PG. Also, unlike Unbroken, it can be played multi-player, and that might be interesting too.

As some reviews have pointed out, the things you do within each turn is very simple, perhaps too simple. But I think that some have missed the bigger picture. This, for me, is where many of the more important and more interesting decisions lie. Sure, the draw three cards and keep or bin them turn is less than stellar. It’s like playing patience though; you don’t worry about the dealing because that’s not really the game.

The fun stuff is in managing the bigger picture: pondering which dungeon I go down and how far I push that. Which monsters do I fight, and do I just try to cherry pick the ones I want for my deck, or do I want to empty whole dungeons so I get the reward? Those reward cards can make a big difference.

Set up and ready to play. The dungeons are each represented by stacks of cards, two for each of levels 1-5. A reward for completing a dungeon is above or below it depending on which row it’s on. You can see the top monster and the reward for each dungeon, enabling lots of strategising.

The whole game is about managing your deck to give you a chance against the Boss, and there are a number of ways to improve the cards. At least, that’s what I’ve bene doing, but on the shortest timer I’m getting run out of Dodge pretty swiftly. Those Bosses all have really nasty special rules, and roar through your deck at a scary pace. That’s bad because you can only go through it once when you’re fighting all 4 cards of the Boss deck. So, on the one hand, you want more cards to give you more draws and so more time. But low value cards aren’t much help as they won’t kill the big scary stuff, and so you want to purge them, or avoid them in the first place. But you can’t take the tough monsters to add them to your deck without building up some momentum first by duffing up the smaller ones. So there are some choices to mull over.

One nice thing about HoT is that the pace is entirely down to you, and this is where the strategic options come in again. I’ve still got a bunch of approaches yet to explore, but so far I’ve tried mining the whole of the lower dungeons in order, dotting about to cherry pick the monsters I wanted to add to my deck, and focussing on a few specific rewards. Still losing. I’m not giving up though. There’s a winning strategy in there somewhere.

In fact, while I think about it, perhaps the simplicity of the basic turn is designed to give you the space to focus on the strategy more. Not to get you bogged down in the details. That would be a nice bit of design.

Anyway, I’m coming back to Heroes next week. Then I’m sure I’ll have more to say. And, I hope, I’ll have a victory or two to report.

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