This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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A Game with a World of Potential
Having a good card game is a difficult animal to create. There needs to be good art, great mechanics, in depth strategy, and something to make it different, or else you are just playing spades. Hero: Tale of Tomes from designer Jimmy Ellerth is a one of the games that tries to take on the problems faced with Magic: The Gathering (MTG), namely that it has been and always will be a “pay to win” game. Hero takes this challenge on with a new vision and, as such, is a good little, quick-playing game that most people can pick up quickly. Overall, it is a good game to play with your causal gamer friends and worth picking up from the Tale of the Tomes Website for $35.
Building a story into a card game is a difficult prospect, as there just is not a whole lot of room to shoehorn a great story into a rule book or flavor text on the cards. Ellerth took the safe road with Hero, giving the simple story of players being heroes who are in a battle to the end. While this does not give a lot of stellar points for an engaging storyline, it does fit with the game. Hero is not a longitudinal game where you will be playing a running story throughout several sessions, it is a fast past smash ’em up and those really don’t need a story.
What this type of simple story does allow for is fan fiction to spring up around the game if it gets popular, which is something that Hero has the potential to do. Overall for story, we award Hero a solid 5 of 10, the story fits the game but will likely not directly inspire a movie or series unless there is a large fan following (which we hope happens).
Art, Mechanics, Strategy, and Novelty
The art for Hero is a double-edged sword. Card games live or die by their art. Hero chose to live. While the cards have a simple art to them, the art is deeply tied to the actions within the cards. This gives a totality to the cards which makes them fun to play. Additionally, the avatar cards (who the player is) have an amazing set of artworks that brings the fantasy to life. This leads to a strong performance in art for this game, brining in a 7.5 of 10 for the art.
The mechanics of the game are simple, which they almost have to be with a card game. You have two forms of “resources” to manage, manna and your level. Manna is used to play your spell cards, which allows you to put powerful effects into the field. The level mechanic allows you to play a totality of cards up to your level from companions (who fight for you) and items (which help your character). The manna mechanic is fairly standard over the gold, gems, and manna rubric. The interesting mechanic in this game is the level/value purchase rubric. Allowing a character to play more powerful cards as the game goes on makes it fun and reminds you of leveling up in your favorite RPG. The mechanics for this game bring in a solid 6 of 10.
Strategy for this game is dependent on the character you choose. Mages/druids blast with spells warriors and artificers pound with weapons. While your companions and items may marginally change the strategy slightly, those who stay in their lane and emphasize their genotype will go far in this game. This weakens the strategy score because, unless you have a very wily opponent, they are going to play based on the character they pick. While your hand of cards can vary this slightly, the strategy is fun but simple and geared towards casual gamers. The one high point is the level up cards, these allow the player to pick a power they will use for the rest of the game, the powers are important but do not come into play as often as they could. This give it a 4 out of 10 for strategy.
Novelty is something that card games strive for and few games ever reach the upper ranks of an 8 or 10 in novelty. Almost everything under the sun has been done in the card world, so it is difficult to get an above average score. The big thing that Hero has going for it is that it is trying to fix some of the problems that we saw in Magic, while keeping the moxy of the game. Hero does this, though MTG players will surely disagree. Hero takes the card-flopper genre and turns it on its head with the non-buildable deck game that anyone can play.
Overall Above Average
Hero: Tales of the Tomes is a game with a world of potential. I was disappointed not to see it on Amazon, but you can pick it up from the designer’s webpage. Overall, Hero rakes in a score of 29 out of 50 on the game scale. With even the best card games struggling to break the 32-33 range, Hero has an above average showing on the game scale. With a little tweaking on the strategy (maybe placing quad paths in the level up phase rather than dual paths) we would see the score jump up into the premier range.
This is a good game; it is fun and it is quick. If you have played any of the high end card floppers the novelty of the rules is quick to pick up and fun for your whole group (up to five people). This game has expansion potential (with new cards and new avatars), but this is not a “pay to win” because everyone plays from the same deck. I really like this game and hope that in the future we will get to learn a little more about it.