Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails Kickstarter Review

Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails Kickstarter Review

Jamie Noble Frier, designer of Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails, has specifically asked me to avoid referencing Munchkin in my review of his game. And who can blame him? Munchkin is a stodgy mess that takes far too long and is far too chaotic, its no surprise that our resident fan of all things bad, Mr Jon Cage, rather likes it. But its difficult to talk about Hero Master without mentioning Munchkin, as on the surface the games are so very much alike.

Both games involve a party of bumbling heroes going on adventures, both games put their humour front and centre-with humorous card names and silly flavour text-and both games teach us that victory is best achieved by playing the most erect of dick-moves. I could go on, but while Hero Master may cover the same broad strokes of theme and style, it is a vastly superior game as it provides a tight and strategic experience that still manages to be chaotic and downright silly.

Rather than being the mighty heroes of yore, in Hero Master you are the C-team of adventurers. You are the adventurer that gets picked last for epic quests, mainly because you’re a little bit rubbish and a lot annoying. You’re the priest who spends more time preaching the holy word of your god than smashing the undead, or the wizard who thinks a polymorph spell is the only solution to every problem, even if nine times out of ten it results in polymorphing an easy-to-kill oversized rat into a far more terrifying giant ogre.

These quirks are represented by fumble cards, and are the aforementioned dick move that is there to ruin your opponents’ day. The aim of Hero Master is to kill the monsters, providing you with cold hard cash and magic items. There’s none of this teamwork nonsense going on, you either smash the bad guy or someone else does and to do that you need to ensure that you are either hitting it hard and fast, or fumbling your opponents’ attacks to give you an edge.

hero master cards

And this is what makes Hero Master a much more strategic game than it would first appear. You get three chances to kill a monster, three slots that you can load up with attack cards from your hand. Of course your cards, and your hero’s abilities are limited, and splurging all your good cards on the first bad guy to make an appearance can leave you lacking in later combats. Subsequently, there’s a surprising amount of bluffing to be had. Opening with a strong attack, invites you to receive a fumble, but only those players who are also attacking can play a fumble card on you, thereby opening themselves up for a fumble (a phrase which is sounding dirtier the more I type it). With limited cards available, and a plethora of different attacks and damage types, there’s a surprising amount of information to consider in a game that appears, on the surface, to be just another take that game with humorous art.

I don’t know whether its intentional, but there are more than a few times were Hero Master appears bloody difficult. In our demo game I would look at the strength of the monster, look at my hand of cards and struggle to see how I was going to cause enough damage. I was playing a priest, which means that to really power up my attacks I had to heal my opponents or pull off some other cunning selection of cards. It set off a little analysis paralysis within me, as I tried to compare my cards and abilities to the monsters and what my opponent had in play. My brain decided at that point in time that it needed to perform a software update, a problem exacerbated by Tabletop Simulator being buggier than a termite mound and crashing every few minutes.

This being a demo play through of the game, I can’t comment on Hero Master’s variety or longevity. There were a plenty of monsters to combat and Hero Master’s system of combining one of four class and four race decks means that out of the box you should have 16 different character combinations to play with. Whereas, I can see this roster being expanded in the future, there’s a feeling that Hero Master is rather well balanced in its current form.

I must admit that I was impressed by Hero Master. Although it will no doubt be compared to a certain other game of take-that fantasy nonsense, it is its own game and introduces a level of bluffing and strategy that is surprisingly deep and allows it to step out of that other game’s shadow.

Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails , is available on Kickstarter in September

This Kickstarter preview is based on a digital prototype version of the game, played with the designer via Tabletop Simulator; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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