Review – Herocard: Rise of the Shogun by Tablestar Games and designed by Alexei Othenin-Girard
Please note that the folks at Tablestar Games provided a copy of this game for review purposes
Funny how some games float around on your radar for a time and you just don’t seem to get to them, and yet they intrigue you enough to nag at you to get them to the table. Well this is one of those for me and I finally managed it.
I’ve been aware of Herocard: Rise of the Shogun for a while and as I am always up for a game set in Japan with ninjas and samurai, well it was time to get it to the table. This is a game for 2-4 players, and aged 12+. In the small box, there is a fair amount of stuff. There are card decks for Samurai and Ninja characters in the 2 player game and castles, pieces representing peasants and shrines as well as cards for Treasures and Missions for the strategic game. Unfortunately the plastic pieces smell kinda nasty which is a shame and there is a bit of board warping which is disappointing. Please note that there are enough pieces for a 4 player game but you need to purchase the Prince and Miko expansion decks in order to play with 4 players.
Set in a mythical medieval Japan, this is really two games in one. The core game is the Herocard combat system which is card based. Note that this system is used in all of the Herocard games and cards from each game can be used interchangeably which can make for some interesting settings and mixes of characters and settings across the set of games. The beautifully illustrated cards for both the Ninja and Samurai players provide attack and defense options across three Attributes – Body, Mind and Attribute X which is particularly stylized according to the genre of the character making for some interesting extras added on to help the character or impede his enemy.
The combat system works well and is relatively straightforward. The rules are a little bit unclear but I was able work them out without too much difficulty. There is little down time between the players as the card combinations for attacks and blocks are resolved simply by who scores the highest points during the action phase. In the base Herocard game, you get one point for winning the winning the round and 3 points wins the game. Very fast and very lethal. as a refreshing change from the usual collectible card games with all their permutations, the Herocard combat system is a refreshing change as you have a set deck to use. Yes there is the luck of the draw as with all card games and this can be frustrating , especially if you don’t have useful cards in your hand but there are some choices in how and when you place your attacks and blocks.
The real meat of the game is the strategic game on a map representing medieval Japan which has the players seeking to form alliances with lords represented by castles. You form alliances by conducting Missions which include fighting your enemy, for the lords you wish to ally to. As you do this, each castle brings victory points. You also establish trade routes between your castles using peasants. These trade routes chains can bring victory points but can be disrupted through attacking peasants. Lastly, you can visit shrines which bring special treasures such as extra victory points and monsters you can unleash on your enemy.
Each turn moves quickly enough and the players are always having something to do through attacking and defending each turn making for continuous activity. This is a good aspect of the game and makes it more fun than many games where you sit there and wait for ages for the other players to do a long list of actions.
All in all, the game system works simply and reasonably well. The theme is evocative of the genre and is fun to play. It is simple enough to play without getting bogged down in mechanics. The combat is handled with the base rules and the strategic game is tied together with it.
Did it work for me?
In the main, it did. Herocard: Rise of the Shogun is a nice game. The theme is played out on a simple level and the combat works for the most part although not choosing useful cards is no fun. I do like the variety of attributes and the tension of trying to play the most effective cards. Not a game which will lead to much analysis paralysis which is a good thing.
This is a simple game which has a nice feel to it although it just seems to be lacking in depth and I would guess needs some optional scenarios to add more strategic choices. It works as a basic game and works on that level as a diversion and reasonably fun game. The mechanics are nothing really new and earth shattering but it works in general and is playable and that is important if you don’t have a lot of time to play games.
I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a family game although older kids may like it. Its not meant to be one. More for the hobby gamer and those who like the theme.
Boardgames in Blighty Rating – 6 out of 10
For more information about Tablestar Games go to – http://tablestargames.com/