A Preview of Heropath: Dragon Roar
This week Board Game Gumbo is excited to bring you details about a new game from a brand new designer. That game is Heropath: Dragon Roar, and the designer is Izik Nevo. Board Game Gumbo was provided with a mostly prototype copy of the game for the purposes of this review, therefore certain aspects of the game will have changed during the game’s production. While the main aspects of the game have stayed the same, some minor alterations have been made. If you’re curious about the game you can find their Kickstarter at the following link (the project has already funded and completed, but you can still late pledge): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/579780696/heropath-dragon-roar-0
Heropath is a competitive game for up to 6 players that can also be played solo (the base game is limited to 4 players, but each expansion adds one new character). The setting will be familiar to any D&D enthusiast; a group of heroes have found themselves in a local tavern, each of them there to slay a dragon that is terrorizing the surrounding area. But instead of working together to achieve their goal, each hero wants the glory to themselves.
If I’m ever given the opportunity, I will always play a Dwarf.
Each player chooses their character and is allocated a certain number of attribute points, broken up between Vitality, Faith, Experience, Skill and Wisdom. Vitality is a character’s ability to take damage, while their Faith can be used as backup hit points as well. A character is defeated only when they take damage and cannot lose either Vitality or Faith. Experience is gained through defeating enemies and can also be spent at various locations to raise other attributes. Skill and Wisdom are primarily gatekeeper attributes to using gear and spells, respectively. Some of the most powerful spells require you to have a Wisdom attribute of 5 to even use.
Heropath does something interesting here that’s different than most of their peers in that the attribute system is more of a Euro/resource management mechanic. Throughout the game your attributes will naturally increase and decrease through your actions. If you take damage from a fight you will actually lose an attribute point in Vitality, while winning that fight would increase your attribute in Experience. Your total attribute points are also the combat strength of your character. So if your character has a total of 12 attribute points, when they battle an enemy they will roll the character combat dice and then add 12 to the total.
This is perhaps my favorite aspect of the game, probably because I’m partial to Euro games in general. Throughout the course of the game you have to manage your attributes for various reasons. You might want to increase your Skill to use a particular piece of equipment you’ve attained, but that costs you points in another attribute. Or maybe you’re planning to do a lot of fighting so you try to simply increase your attributes as much as possible to make those fights easier.
Some of the equipment you’re hoping to gain during the course of the game.
Battles themselves are fairly simple. Each enemy rolls either one or two combat dice and then adds a certain amount to it. Similarly the heroes roll two character dice and then add the value of their combined attributes. If the hero meets or exceeds the value of the monster, they win! Every victory gives you one experience attribute and one Fortune card, which can be equipment or events. Losses cost you a point in Vitality, but if you lose twice in the same turn you still gain an experience attribute.
The board is certainly appealing to the eye. Those 3D locations really add a great element.
Heropath itself is a relatively simple game to learn. Each hero starts in the same spot, and in turn order can perform four actions. Those actions are Travel, which allow the player to move up to 4 spaces, Rest, Visit, Encounter, and Battle. Rest allows a character to gain Vitality and possibly gold, Fortune cards or even spells through a random die roll. Visit is how characters interact with the various locations that come out on the board. Each location has a triangular 3D piece and grants a player a specific ability when they visit. Some allow you to trade Experience for other attributes, some allow you to buy various cards from the market, etc. Encounter is how players interact with each other. As I’ve said, Heropath is a competitive game, but players can still trade items with each other if they find themselves sharing the same spot on the board. They can also negatively affect each other by either stealing from them or locking them away in the Goblin Cave, a remote location that the player will have to return from.
There’s a lot to like in Heropath, and for me I really enjoyed the games I got to play. There is a very interesting draft system that starts the game that I really enjoy. Each player is dealt a hand of cards and then drafts them one at a time as the cards pass around the table. That’s not anything new, but in Heropath you can always throw the cards you drafted back to get a new one. So you draft one card, and then pass the remaining to the left. From the next set of cards you add the card you drafted back in, and then draft two cards. This increases by a card every time until all the cards can be drafted. I like this simple variation on drafting because it adds some extra strategy to drafting. You aren’t ever ‘stuck’ with a card you drafted previously, even if your strategy changes because of other cards you have access to.
As I’ve already said, I like the resource management aspect of the attribute system. Instead of just being good at something all game, you can customize your character’s attributes to meet any situation you run into while playing. Maybe that first equipment card you bought is really good, but your Skill attribute started low. Instead of just not being able to use that equipment, you can make your character better in order to use it.
The figures that came with our copy weren’t the final product, but looked pretty good already.
There were some aspects of Heropath that I didn’t enjoy as much, but for the most part they were minor issues. The various mini-sized cards for spells, equipment, etc had iconography that let you know what they are, but they also included text that provided the same information. I would have preferred the cards simply to have the iconography and leave a little more space for the card art. The cards are also not a standard size, which for someone like me who has to sleeve every card in every game he owns, that’s a concern. Again, small issues, but the cards also are not rounded. I think these are just things that players get used to when they play a lot of board games and it’s a bit jarring to not see them in a game. ‘Industry standard’ might be a dirty word to some, but it does make a game more approachable, I think, when it meets some of those standards.
Overall I really enjoyed my plays of Heropath and I think it’s a game that’s worth a look if you’d be interested in a RPG/D&D themed game that isn’t the same standard dungeon crawler/co-op. The art might turn a few people off, but personally I don’t mind it. One of my favorite cooperative games is Defenders of the Realm and it employs the same sort of 70s style artwork.
Heropath is a game that both attempts to do something new without throwing out the solid mechanics you’d expect from that style of game. As the inaugural game from a new developer, I think it’s quite excellent. More than anything, Heropath makes me excited for what’s next from designer Izik Nevo.
Bradly’s Final Review: 3/6
Thoughts from other members of the Krewe:
Bryan: Bradly’s review was pretty spot on for the gameplay part. I agree with his rating of 3 out of 6. There was some minor production issues that caused me to lower my score. Also, I felt some of the cards were a little out of balance, and there was some parts where I feel like what buildings were out dictated what actions you took.
BJ: I was excited to try this one out, too. The locations are marked with these unusual triangular turrets, and what seemed gimmicky, was really not once they were put into play. These location markers really help you scan the board quickly, as opposed to small square or round markers on the board.
Bryan mentioned the cards — wow, there are a lot of cards in this game! They give you everything from special powers, animals, upgrades, magic, etc. and each one of the categories adds a lot of depth to the game.
And that’s where I ran into trouble with this game. (Well, to be honest, there were also a lot of rules questions that would be easily fixed with a good rules editor, but this is the pre-production copy we were provided, so I am giving it a pass for now).
What should be a relatively intuitive world-exploring, character-upgrading game, became a quest to see every combination of card that came out in the market and to consider the possibilities that each may bring to my own player board. I think repeated plays will help in that regard, but these were some pretty large obstacles to overcome.
I did like the unique character traits and skills mechanics that Bradly references in his recap, and I could understand why many people will be very happy playing this game. I also give it a three out of six, basically a game I am happy to play if someone else breaks it out, especially if the final rule set is edited for clarity.
Until next time, laissez les bons temps rouler!