Hands-on Preview of Hero: Tales of the Tomes
Play NYC was filled with new projects and game designers. Even as a relatively small conference, there was so much to take in that it was easy to miss one. Tucked away near the concessions on the lower level of Manhattan Center sat Jimmy Ellerth next to a six foot vertical banner for Hero: Tales of the Tomes. Impressed by the artwork on his banner, I went over to his table to learn about what he’d created. What I encountered was something far more interesting than expected. The most simplified way that I can describe Hero: Tales of the Tomes is to refer to it as a streamlined version of Magic: The Gathering.
Not unlike Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone, Hero: Tales of the Tomes centers around heroes battling to be the last one standing using a decks of cards containing summons, equipment, spells, and special skills. There are enough similarities so that anyone familiar with the aforementioned will have a fairly easy time adapting to Hero: Tales of the Tomes, but don’t you dare call it a clone. Hero: Tales of the Tomes takes the play style of classic CCG and LCG games, but eliminates the need for collecting and deck building. Instead, all players draw from the same deck, forcing them to develop more flexible strategies.
Most card games of this style restrict play to only two players. But Jimmy didn’t like the restrictive nature of the genre, so Hero: Tales of the Tomes is designed to be played with three to five people. At the start of each game players choose one of five characters, with each one having four unique abilities that will unlock over the course of the game. Likewise, each character has a starting attack, mana, and shield stat value that will increase as the game progress. These two aspects of character progression positions each character to be better suited to one particular type of strategy over another, almost acting as a class system.
The goal of Hero: Tales of the Tomes is to eliminate your player’s Hero by dropping their health down to zero. Players all begin with a hand of five cards dawn from the top of the main deck. Each card has a number in the top left hand corner that indicates the cost to play it; blue is mana spend and the orange crown indicates level spend. Whenever cards are played, their cost can never exceed a player’s level. But each round players’ levels will increase by one, allowing them to spend one more point per turn. It doesn’t seem like much, but even at one level per turn, doors open quickly. On odd level turns, player stats (attack, mana, shield) will increase in accordance with their character cards, and on even turns, players gain access to unique character skills.
At the start of each turn, players draw a card that will either turn up as a companion, equipment, spell, or quest. Companions are allies that can be played to either attack opponent players, or guard your Hero from attacks. Equipment, either weapons or armor, add bonuses to your character. Unlike similar games, Hero: Tales of the Tomes does not have an equipment max so players can stack on as much gear as they would like. Spells are all different but can either act as a buff or an immediate spell that can be played against an enemy player or companion. And lastly, when a quest card is drawn, all players immediately resolve the card, competing for the benefits.
It’s unusual that a game of this genre would remove deck building and raise the player count, but it works. The increased number of players turns the table into a madhouse with assassins on all sides. Defense is far more important here than players are used to and you’ll have to strategically place companions to guard your key cards in order to hold the line against so many attacking Heroes.
Hero: Tales of the Tomes is a lot of fun and plays great, but let’s put that aside and take a moment to appreciate that the artwork. Hero: Tales of the Tomes contains one hundred sixty three fully illustrated cards, all designed and illustrated by the very same Jimmy Ellerth. The amount of time and effort that went into creating this game is unbelievable and it’s evident in the final product.
As of right now, Hero: Tales of the Tomes is only available through Kickstarter and there are only a few days left to back. For anyone into fantasy games or competitive card games, Hero: Tales of the Tomes is a must for your collection.