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Diceborn Heroes Review


Quick Look: Diceborn Heroes

Designer: Keith Donaldson
Artists: Grace Avery-Parkman
Publisher: Diceborn Games Ltd.
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 1-4
Ages: 14+
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

Review:


Exploring dungeons and battling monsters is a theme I’m always into, so I was excited for the opportunity to give Diceborn Heroes a spin. I was also excited to see that the designer, Keith Donaldson, is from Calgary, Alberta, because that's around where I'm from. Home town(ish) pride! But that's not important to this discussion.

What is important is the game itself. That's why you're here, after all. Diceborn Heroes is a cooperative game, and pulls off the dungeon exploration in a previously seen way, but with strong implementation. What I mean by that is, Diceborn Heroes is quite similar to One Deck Dungeon in gameplay. However, Diceborn Heroes adds a bit more depth to the scene. Both games are good for what they are, and if I already had One Deck Dungeon (I don’t), I wouldn’t get rid of it because I also have this game.

One thing I really enjoyed about Diceborn Heroes is the leveling up of the heroes. Each player starts out with a hero of a certain class. When one quest is finished, they level up. Leveling up might include changing classes—thus gaining new dice and abilities—or gaining an ability from the class the next step up. Keep in mind, however, that certain classes of heroes cannot change to other classes, but can with to still others. It’s a cool way to build your character. Likewise, throughout the game, you might realize the hero you selected to begin with is perfect for the story you’re working through, so changing classes might not be your best option.

Speaking of story, Diceborn Heroes is a story-based game. Each story has three quests, and each quest has an ally, enemy, or some other event/thing that adds special rules to the game for that quest. By defeating quests a certain way, you are able to gain new items, and even add more attack cards to the attack deck (more on that later). There’s even a short blurb of flavor text on each quest card to help set the stage for the coming adventure.

While I mentioned Diceborn Heroes is similar in nature to One Deck Dungeon, keep in mind that they really are two very different games. If you weren’t a fan of One Deck Dungeon, there’s a good possibility you’ll enjoy Diceborn Heroes. And if you did enjoy One Deck Dungeon, there’s an even better chance you’ll enjoy this one.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the details of Diceborn Heroes.

Setup:

Setup for a 2-player (or solo) game.

Setting up the game is rather simple, which is always nice in a story-driven, character-based game of monster slaying.

To sum things up, players each select a level 1 hero, one of two randomly dealt bounty cards (which are essentially side quests that give you perks), starting dice (as indicated on your hero card), and a hero token (to use for rerolling or activating character abilities). Cards are shuffled into their assigned decks (attack, item, and monster decks).

There’s only a little more to it than that, but again, the rule book will be able to help you set up easily enough.

Gameplay:


The game takes place over a series of phases (quest, combat, and town). In the quest phase, all you do is reveal the next quest card after defeating the previous quest and following any additional setup rules listed on that quest card—this includes placing one monster per hero.

The combat phase is where the bulk of the action takes place, and is divided into rounds. In each round, players roll their dice, and assign one of their dice to an action slot. Dice assigned must match the color of the action slot, as well as be equal to or greater than the value shown in that slot. By allocating a die to your hero, you are now in the fight, and may in turn be attacked back by the monsters.

After assigning dice, reveal one attack card per monster in play. The number on this card, and on your dice, dictates turn order. The hero or monster with the lowest value on their card or die face takes the first action. For monsters, you'll activate their attack, dealing damage and effects as indicated on the card. Monsters attack the ally or hero whose assigned die value is equal to the value of its attack card (or the next highest value if there are none the same). Heroes may attack any monster. For ties, the players choose who activates first. Now, as a side note, you may opt to not place a die on your hero card. By so doing, you will not be attacked. That said, things get pretty sketchy once all the attack cards have been dealt, so taking your time to defeat these enemies isn’t always the best idea.

You see, after each monster activates, its attack card is discarded. These cards range in values from “1+” to “6,” meaning enemies with a “6” value only attack heroes or allies whose die face shows a 6, and the “1+” value means the monster will attack any hero or ally with an allocated die (which means high-value dice rolls aren’t always ideal…but the better hero attacks require higher values). As you may expect, the attack deck starts to dwindle rather rapidly if you take too long to defeat an enemy. Once all attack cards have been used, all monsters act as if they have a card with a value of “1+”. So while there is strategy to not getting attacked, it can also be a double-edged sword. When a monster is defeated, however, it returns a number of discarded attack cards to the bottom of the attack deck, so defeating enemies is pretty much the only way to refresh the deck. Also, the attack deck doesn’t refresh between phases.

Once you’ve defeated all monsters, proceed to the town phase. I should add that you keep each monster/enemy card you defeat to use as currency in the town. (I guess they townsfolk harvest the monsters for other uses?) In the town, all players get rid of poison, stun, and other negative tokens, including refreshing all your hero tokens. If you have damage, you may discard the top card of the attack deck to heal all damage on a hero. Then you reveal the top three items from the item deck, which you may trade monster corpses for. You then level up your hero, either by changing to the next-level class (the available options are on the back of your current hero card), or by gaining an ability from the back of a next-level hero card.

Here, the level 1 Fighter can level up and become a Monk or a Knight (or, instead, gain an ability from the back of either the Monk or Knight hero card).

Rinse and repeat until the third phase is finished. The third phase consists of some quest, followed by a boss. Once you’ve defeated the boss, you win!

I found the gameplay to be pretty straightforward. Easy to remember after playing once (or even during the first time playing). I thought the use of dice was good, and that while there is an element of luck, there are items and abilities that help mitigate it. Likewise, rolling all your dice, but only assigning one, also helps mitigate that luck factor, as you have more decisions than just one die.

I’ll admit that the rule book wasn’t the most clear in some areas, and there was more than just a few copy editing errors. I must apologize to everyone for bringing this up, because I am a copy editor by trade (including that of rule books), so I am probably a little more harsh than I should be. But, I don’t care who you are, your rule book needs to be at least proofed, if not given the full experience. Yes, it was confusing at times, and some questions I had weren’t mentioned in it (or in the FAQ), but it’s definitely serviceable. Just be aware that going into this game, you may want to watch a play through video in addition to having the rule book out.

Campaign Treasure Pack


Included in my review copy was the Campaign Treasure Pack, a small box with even more heroes, quest/story packs, items, and bosses. I don’t believe it comes with the core game, but it certainly adds a lot more gameplay to an already full game. I’m the kind of guy that likes to play as every hero at least once in any given game, so I’ll be playing through this one for quite some time, especially now with this additional Treasure Pack.

Theme and Mechanics:


This fantasy adventure game is strong in theme, and the mechanics suit it well. I love leveling up heroes, as well as the way battle plays out. As far as cooperative games go, it’s pretty solid. It’s also easy to play solo, simply control two heroes. The solo variant is essentially two-handing a two-player game, but for me, it works nicely. I’m a fan, and I’ll certainly be busting this out again if not for the team play, then for the solo play. 

Artwork and Components:


The art is charming, and helps give life to the theme. The components are good, and the dice are normal, yet pretty (I like pretty dice). The only complaint I have here is that of the rule book (as mentioned), but after one play through. you shouldn’t need to worry about it much.

The Good:
  • Leveling up heroes.
  • Single player option.
  • Lots of different hero classes/abilities.
  • Lots of different story packs with varying difficulties.
  • Lots of game in the box.
  • It came with lots of baggies! Hurray!
  • Multiple game modes.
The Other:
  • Perhaps a little too similar to One Deck Dungeon to be considered novel.
  • The rule book could use a solid copy-edit.
Final Thoughts:


I’m a fan, and this is one I’ll be bringing out for a long time to come. I love the story aspect behind the quests, and, again, I’m the type of guy who needs to play through all storylines, so I’m looking forward to the coming adventures. It’s a fairly light game with dice at its core, but there are meaningful choices mixed with challenging scenarios, and that’s what makes Diceborn Heroes a really fun game.

Players Who Like:
If you like One Deck Dungeon, monster slaying, story-driven quests and gameplay, then please give Diceborn Heroes a look. It’s a solid co-op as well, so if you like working together—or playing solo (like me)—then Diceborn Heroes will treat you well.



Check out Diceborn Heroes on:

            


Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.

Diceborn Heroes Review Diceborn Heroes Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on July 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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