Are you a fan of collectible card games and history? The designers of Heroes of History certainly are. I mean, this thing is packed full. It even has a Game Constitution instead of just a rulebook.
Heroes of History is a collectible card game (CCG) that comes completely ready to play without even having to collect anything. The game comes with enough cards to build two decks, which is enough for a 2-player game. It also comes with two fold-out “combat maps” to keep track of your battle.
It’s designed so that you can buy more decks and combine them to make your own individual deck; although as far as I can tell, this is the only set available.
So let’s look at the gameplay:
Both players start the game with 50 state points (very thematic), which will serve as your health or HP during the game. On your turn, you have lots of options as far as actions. You can send one of your Combatants into your trench, you can attach a Weapon to a Combatant, you can play a Battlefield card, play an Action card, or a Supply card. Some of these actions can only be performed once per turn, others are unlimited, but you only have 5 cards in your hand on your turn, so your options are limited.
After you have played the cards you want to, you move on to the Battle phase. If you want to attack your opponent, you choose one of your Combatants to attack a specific Combatant on your opponent’s team (you also have to pay 1 State point per attacking Combatant).
When attacking, you compare your Attacking card’s stats with the current stats of the card you are attacking. You see, the Combatant cards that are in your Trench can be either Attacking or Defending. Their current status determines which stats you use for the battle. If they are in Attack position, you use the ATK stats. If they are in Defense position (turned sideways) you use the DEF stats. When battling, you compare stats and whoever has the higher total (base stats plus all modifiers) wins. Any additional ATK points your attacking Combatant has over those needed to defeat their opponent are applied against your opponent’s State points. This is how you whittle away their points to win. (Example: if you attack with a 10 ATK and your opponent has a 4 DEF, they lose 6 State points.)
There are a lot more restrictions as to which cards can be played and when. Some cards require you to pay a “tribute” to play, which you do by discarding cards. Some cards duplicate the effect of other cards, some allow you to bring in additional units as Combatants. Really, each card is different and has its own special ability, which is what makes the game unique every time you play it.
You play until someone loses all of their State points or cannot draw up at the beginning of their turn.
So, what do we think?
Well, I’m partially torn.
The gameplay is solid. There are lots of opportunities to customize your experience, both in your choices in game and in building your deck initially. Each game is completely different because the card abilities are so varied. All of this makes for a really rich experience. The player combat mats are a nice addition that fold up and fit in the box, enabling you to take them with you for each game.
The attention to detail is also very nice. The discard area is called the Museum. You each get to play a Battlefield card to add to the realism (although I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be a battle if you are born on separate Battlefields).
And there’s History. Each card has flavor text in it, describing the historical context of the Battlefield or Person or Weapon, which really adds to the theme immensely. I really like this. It is what initially attracted me to the game. I am not usually a CCG player, but I was a History major so I figured I’d give it a go. I wasn’t disappointed. The theme is great and I liked the actual gameplay way more than I thought I would.
So why am I torn? What’s not to like?
My main problem is with the cards. Not the cards themselves, they are of good quality and appear really durable, easy to shuffle, etc. No, my problem is with the art and the text size.
Let’s start with the art. Some of it is amazing.
There are fantastic illustrations of weapons, fabulous depictions of battlefields, historical events, and even some of the Portraits. The problem for me is that there is no consistency – which may not matter to most people, but to me, it’s somewhat distracting. There are a couple that are just unflattering. The credits in the rulebook list 6 different freelance artists which is probably what is throwing me off.
I’m not trying to pick on anyone, they are far better than I could draw, they just took my mind off the gameplay.
My real problem is with the text size. It is tiny. I’m over forty and I don’t need glasses, but I could barely read most of the text in this game. The rules and the Action/Ability are primed with extremely small text. And I can’t read the flavor text (which is even smaller) at all without magnifying it.
Which is a shame really, since that’s one of the most interesting parts of the game. It really makes me sad. It seems like maybe the art on the card could’ve been a little smaller to allow for more space, or even possibly eliminate the flavor text altogether. Even though it’s one of the best parts, I would’ve sacrificed it to make the actual gameplay easier. As is, it’s just really frustrating.
I really want to like this game. I really want it to succeed because I think it is a fantastic idea, combining games and education. I’m all for this. I just think that the cards let the game down. It’s really hard to get past the look and usability of the cards, especially the ones with less-than-stellar artwork. The gameplay, as I said, is solid. It wasn’t overthought and seems very well-balanced, and I actually enjoyed a CCG (which I wasn’t sure was possible).
But, if you can’t read the cards, it’s hard to play the game.
To be fair, the font size will be larger on the forthcoming sets, so that should help. There will also be other rule changes to streamline gameplay and keep players focused.
I really think a lot of people will be drawn to this game for the theme, I just hope the cards don’t drive them away.
Bradan’s World sent us a copy of the game in exchange for an honest review, which is exactly what we gave.