Hero: Tales of the Tome is a fast playing card game that isn't overly difficult for experienced fantasy card combat games to get going.
Theme and What is it?
Hero: Tales of the Tomes is a direct combat card game with a simple gimmick. No one has a unique deck, there is a single shared deck of everything the game offers that all players can interact with. Players will have different hero powers, and their hand management skills dealing with what they have drawn will determine the victor in a battle to the death.
Each new set of rounds, players level up gaining new stat upgrades for their hero or a new special ability. Then on their turn, players will draw one card and play as many cards as they wish to and can afford. Spells cost blue mana to cast and some can be played in response to other player actions at any time during the game (when you can still afford it) while companions can be played up to a total value of the current level.
If the top card of the deck shows a quest back, it is immediately flipped and will impact the game in some way special to itself. There are some interesting ways to protect a card by shielding it with a companion. This usually forces the shield to be destroyed first or makes attacking the main target less efficient.
For me, trading card games, collectible card games, and living card games are on the outs. They just offer too much time between games and attempts at selling me more product over and over. I just want to play good games and not read about, buy, and look at all these game options I am unlikely to ever even fully utilize. Hero: Tales of the Tomes doesn’t do anything like this but captures the gameplay experience of these style games. There is one deck. No one needs to read anything in it before starting the first game.
You just open the elegant book-like box and within a few moments are ready to play. The rules might take some getting used to if you have never played something like Magic The Gathering or other direct combat card interaction heavy games. But if you are familiar with these systems, it mostly felt familiar right from the start without actually being in any way a copy.
Game Build Quality
The hero cards have a colorful foil artistic design. The tokens are wooden rather than cheap punchboard tokens. The cards are high quality and feel good upon shuffling. This is an excellent production for a game. And it is small! The entire box takes a much smaller footprint on my shelves than most games will and utilizes the entire capacity of the box. I must admit, it doesn’t look like they considered the extra space necessary for sleeved cards. The size of the hero cards means that transporting a sleeved copy in a standard card game carrying case might mean having extra components in a second box or having the hero cards being laid into a lid with the possibility of sliding out the edge or bending under pressure. Overall, I am fantastically pleased with it.
Hero is a fantasy realm! So you get fantasy style artwork. Creatures, animals, demonic creatures, dragons, and many more familiar thematic elements will make their mark on your play table as the tome is opened. To be honest, I cannot tell the difference just examining the artwork itself and what I would expect Magic The Gathering cards or other collectible games to deliver to me.
Each game will be different. That is the nature of a large deck with complete randomness in what you draw from it during the game. Totally new combos and challenges to respond to. If it doesn’t go your way, play again and see how the next one plays out. The one thing that will be constant is that you have a hero card! To keep that from having any stale moments, as you get to level 4, 6, and 8 you get to pick a new special power from a double-sided card. The combinations of these abilities and how to adjust to the current game progress is exceptionally fun.
Age Range & Weight
12+ is fair. The fantasy theme is something that each parent needs to assess for themselves. One of the heroes is a demonic creature and these can be a turnoff for some parents. It would be easy to cull these options from the game with almost no effort and keep things friendlier.
Alright, weight of the game. When this was handed to me I did what I always do. I checked Board Game Geek to see what main mechanisms were involved and what the time to play / weight of the game was rated at. IT HAS A 4.0 COMPLEXITY RATING! I was absolutely staggered and terrified. I play a lot of games in the 3.5-4.5 range. Anything in the high 3’s often requires more than an hour to prepare to teach. Anything in the 4 range usually takes SEVERAL hours to prepare to teach, and I usually find some small mistake by the time we are done or upon playing for the 2nd time.
That makes this a terrifyingly complex game. Good news. That rating is WRONG. I have never said that about a BGG rating before. They are usually really close to how I would place the game. But Hero is significantly easier to learn than that. Especially since the target market have probably played direct combat card interaction games like this before. Other similar games weigh in at 3-3.2 on the complexity scale used on BGG, and Hero is probably a 3.0 itself in reality.
So, the wrap-up. Hero: Tales of the Tome is a fast playing card game that isn’t overly difficult for experienced fantasy card combat games to get going. It offers an extreme amount of replay value. The artwork and production quality are excellent. The box is amazing, and I have had a lot of questions about it purely on the aesthetics while it is sitting on my shelves. There are some games that people ask about on my shelves and I want to crawl under a rock or hide the game in the basement because I am afraid they will ask me to play it. Hero will never be in that category. I will play it anytime.
There’s a lot of reasons not to leave your house right now.......