Saturday, October 03, 2009

Heroes of the World

So, after several on-again/off-again posts about what was in the booth at GenCon, it's time to talk about what (in my opinion) was the best new game in the booth.

That's not to say the other games in the booth were bad - in fact, one reason I like demoing for Asmodee is the fact that I won't get stuck demoing a lemon. I can honestly and without hesitation say that I liked every game in the booth. I'll admit that I'm a bit burned out on Ghost Stories, but I'll still tell you (honestly) that it's a good game.

The Game of the Show for me? Heroes of the World.

It's funny that I like this one, too - after reading a few of the comments posted about it on BGG, it really doesn't sound like a very good game. In fact, it sounds boring and derivative.

That is not at all the impression I have of the game. At the moment, I have more recorded plays than anyone. I don't know if that makes me an expert, but it does mean I've played it more than just about anyone.

The game is very simple. Each turn, players will add a Hero to their hand, and then choose a Hero from their hand to play.

You then run through four steps with each Hero.

Step 1: Add population to the board. You get to add a number of population markers equal to the number shown on the Hero you play. They can only be played in regions influenced by this particular Hero, however.
Step 2: Educate the People. Some Heroes provide Discovery Markers, which are drawn from a bag and must be played in the regions influenced by that Hero. These are things like "Pottery" and "Roads." Each Marker also has a point value. There are "bad" advances - Slavery and Epidemic, for example, are worth 0 points. If playing a marker causes one Region to completely fill, then the turn pauses so that region can be scored. I'll go over scoring in a bit.
Step 3: Make War. Not all Heroes have a conquest value. If they do, you may choose a region (which, again, must be on the Hero's card), choose a target, and roll the die. Four results are good for the Attacker, one is good for the Defender, and one is bad for both.
Step 4: Make & Spend Money. Each Hero has a Treasury number - this is what is added to the player's pocket. You can then spend money on one of three things: Moving population around, Wonders (which have a variety of effects), and Victory Points.

I mentioned that I'd get to scoring:
Once all of a region's Discovery Marker spaces are full, each player counts the number of Population markers they have in that space. The first three places may score points - First place scores the total value of the Discovery Markers in that Region. Second scores first place, rounded up. Third place scores the lowest value Discovery Marker in that region. The scoring timing gives an edge to the player who triggers the scoring, as they have the ability to inflate their numbers before triggering the scoring.

Once four of five regions are scored, the game is paused again to set up for the Modern Epoch. The unbuilt Wonders are discarded, and the draw pile of Heroes is swapped for a different set. There's a different set of advances for the modern world, too.

The game ends when seven out of eight regions are scored.

So what's new mechanically?

Not much, actually. Area Control is old hat. Role Selection is old hat. Card Drafting isn't new. Using money to move pieces isn't new, either.

But re-using old mechanisms doesn't mean a game is bad - Mission: Red Planet is a lot of fun, and it's mechanics are all recycled. It borrows its role selection from Citadels, and its area control (and scheduled scoring) from El Grande.

Heroes of the World sold a copy every time we demoed it. Over the last five years, we have had some really good games in the booth, but never before has every single demo led to a sale.

Of all the games in the booth this year, it's the one I've played the most post-GenCon, as well. It's also held up very well to repeated replays - I love Ghost Stories, but I got burned out on it after GenCon. Although I'm getting the itch to play it again ...

I love Senji, too. Again: Burned out on it.

Part of the reason for the lack of burnout is the "weight" - Heroes of the World is a fairly light game. But don't mistake its weight for anything resembling weakness.

Next week, I'm probably going to talk a bit about Dungeon Twister: Prison. It's out in Europe and the rules are available online, so I can talk more freely, now, and I have a few things to say.

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