20th Dec2018

‘Heroes of Terrinoth’ Card Game Review

by Matthew Smail

heroes-terrinoth-box

Heroes of Terrinoth is the latest game to join the ranks of the ever-expanding number of card driven adventure games that have recently exploded in popularity. Games in this genre aim to replicate bigger, more expansive dungeon crawling and RPG experiences without the same commitment in time, effort and often money that come with games like Descent, Dungeons & Dragons or Gloomhaven. RPG’s have always favoured commitment and long term play, but what if you could replicate some of the excitement of a story driven campaign, but with a five minute setup time and a much lower outlay?

That, in a nutshell, is the concept of Heroes of Terrinoth. This medium-sized game comes from Fantasy Flight Games and features ten quests in the base game, plus more through various expansions. One to four players can experience it and when played with friends, it is an entirely cooperative experience. There is a generous range of twelve heroes in four varied classes to choose from and since Heroes is set in the same universe as Rune Wars (and several other FFG games) you’ll recognise names such as Kari Wraithstalker popping up here and there.

With a quest and a party of heroes all chosen, Heroes of Terrinoth introduces itself by having the players build various decks of enemies, locations and item cards, all of which will be stacked in a particular order that falls in line with the narrative of the particular quest. I’ve avoided spoilers in this review where possible and the only pictures I show here are from the “The Goblin Problem” which is generally considered to be the tutorial quest. In any case, there aren’t really any components that are secret – it’s more just the order in which they appear (which is semi-random) that should be handled with care if you want to make the most of the experience.

On almost every occasion (unless a rule states otherwise) the quest will spawn a number of minions into the shadows, which essentially means that they will be placed face down in front of the hero cards that represent the players. Players then use their four different action cards to dictate what they do on their turn. Each hero has a fight card, for example, which will allow them to engage an enemy and then roll fight dice for both parties. When an enemy is engaged, it moves from the shadows and becomes attached to the hero it is engaged with, meaning that it is flipped face up and will not attack any other hero.

When a player uses one of their action cards (such as the attack action above) it must be turned sideways, meaning that it cannot be used again until the hero uses their rest card. Resting will often allow heroes to regain health, draw success tokens or to do something unusual – all of which will depend on the heroes class. The other action cards are explore or aid, with explore allowing players to advance the current location, or draw item cards (for example) and aid allowing the players to help each other – sometimes with direct healing, or on other occasions by drawing enemies away from a weaker ally.

A very nice feature of this action card system is that when heroes gain experience, they can sometimes upgrade their basic action cards to more powerful versions by advancing into a specialist class. Should you decide to take an upgrade card from one of these specialties, then the next time you upgrade a card, you’ll have to look at the cards from the same class, which means that a bit of long term planning across an entire play session is needed. I like this concept a lot and it’s a very quick and rewarding upgrade system, however it’s a bit of a shame that there are only two upgrade paths for each class. I have absolutely no doubt that FFG’s release model will expand upon this in expansions to Heroes of Terrinoth that come later.

A slight downside of the action card system, however, was in the way that I felt it reduced thematic connection to the game. One player, for example, might be engaged by two foes and fighting furiously for their life, whilst another might be casually exploring or even resting. I struggled to suspend my disbelief a little bit as a result, but that might be because I do have some experience of playing deeper, more complex RPG’s that would use a GM to orchestrate this kind of situation in a more fluid way. Even though the rest card shows a campfire, for example, you can simply imagine that it represents taking a ten second breather before re-engaging.

Combat (and a few other scenarios) are resolved by rolling dice, with the player looking for successes and hoping to avoid the hit symbols on the enemy dice that will be rolled at the same time. It’s a very simple system and many of the action cards (especially for the Warrior) influence the success rolls in different ways, or allow characters to target multiple enemies, those who are still in the shadows etc. Essentially, most of the classes (and the individual special abilities of the characters themselves) allow for rules to be slightly bent or broken. This means that there is a fair bit to keep track of, but as long as each player is aware of their own characters abilities, then they can be put to best use very simply and with little ambiguity.

On a similar note, the enemy die does have a kind of skull system on it, which will generally activate the “big bad” enemy for the current game. In The Goblin Problem, that boss is Splig and rolling the skull die will have one of three outcomes depending on a time track on the quest card itself. There are certainly other, more dangerous foes to contend with, but Splig’s special skill largely means that he throws more and more enemies at the heroes and attempts to overwhelem them. Heroes of Terrinoth isn’t a super hard game thanks to quite high hero health (and a very good player count scaling system) but I did still lose a few times.

In short, Heroes of Terrinoth is a brief (roughly one hour per quest) adventure game that uses very attractive cards and not a lot of table space to create a compelling narrative based around pleasingly diverse hero characters and engaging enemies. The story isn’t delivered through a lot of text, instead it comes together organically through the run of the game and as such, there’s a lot of fun to be had here for younger and more imaginative players. The base set contains a good number of quests and therefore offers a lot of gaming time, but Heroes of Terrinoth is also quite replayable thanks to high variability during setup. There’s a slight downside in the fact that the simple, focused scope of the design will mean that some experienced players will feel a bit limited in how they express themselves during gameplay, but then again I think it’s more likely that Heroes of Terrinoth is aimed at younger or less experienced adventurers anyway.

***  3/5

Heroes of Terrinoth is available online at 365Games.co.uk, or at your local games store. Don’t know where yours is? Try this handy games store locator.

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