Quick Look: HELLBRINGER
Designer: Maxime Gauthier
Artists: Maxime Gauthier
Publisher: LES ÉDITIONS SMASH
Year Published: (Kickstarter campaign now Live – Link at bottom)
I got to connect with designer Maxime Gauthier on this project just before its launch on Kickstarter in November, 2022. I tried the tutorial and solo mode before reaching back out to Maxime to hit up a co-op game via TTS. I thoroughly enjoyed this card-based dungeon crawler and its theme which was heavily inspired by the Diablo franchise. The game is a solid addition for both group and solo players and as someone who has personally played somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand hours of Diablo, I was ready to jump in when I got a chance to look at this one.
From the Publisher:
Hellbringer is a Solo/Co-op Dark Fantasy, Roguelike card game where you play as a hero venturing into the darkness of a dungeon to slay its mighty demon. As you venture deeper and deeper in the dungeon, you will equip items, learn skills and earn attributes points by eliminating monsters, making you even more powerful.
Disclaimer: The publisher played the TTS prototype copy of HELLBRINGER online with me. The opinions expressed in the review are completely my own.
I did not play a physical version of this game. I only got to see the TTS version online. From the incredible art and attention to detail on the digital version, I would feel confident to say the production quality will match it. They also put serious time into scripting the TTS mod to make gameplay quick and smooth. The art of the game is phenomenal.
This was a tough choice, so there will be a few honorable mentions. I’m going to choose the “Sight”, perception-based combat as my favorite part of the game. It just did a fantastic job of tying the game together, keeping things interesting, and maintaining a balance of the game difficulty as your character(s) progresses. This is the first instance I can think of that a card driven game managed to make me truly feel a “fog of war” experience akin to trudging deeper into the unknown. Honorable mentions include companions, the cleverly designed player board with equipment and skill slots, the huge variety of monsters, equipment and skills, oh, and lots of dice rolling!
There were some wording issues I noted in the rulebook that made my solo play a bit clunky and left me some guess work. I later clarified these items and passed it along to the designer who let me know that all the components, art and rules were finished but not finalized at this point. Other than that, with chance or luck elements in a game, sometimes you can have a bad beat or an easy win (though I feel the former more likely), be prepared to dig in and face the enemy head on.
Mechanics and “SIGHT”:
I’m going to take a quick minute to talk about one of the main elements of the game and that’s sight (perception). As you go deeper into the dungeon, as specified by location cards when drawn, monsters become harder to see. Each monster -and character- has a base perception. This value can be altered by cards and items as well as where you are in the dungeon. If your character’s perception is equal or higher than an enemy, then you can see them and therefore attack them. If the enemy has a higher value, then you cannot attack them even with group damage attacks. This can get intense as they can still attack you! There is an excellent enemy board used for this to keep things from getting confusing. It has three rows and you place monsters in them based on their perception vs your own: The topmost row is for unseen, the middle for mixed visibility, and the bottom for openly visible. Mixed visibility is only used in the co-op mode and simply means that 1+ characters can see the monster, while 1+ characters cannot. I wrote on this topic specifically because I thought this element of the gameplay was masterfully done and it was one of the highlights of the game.
Other mechanics in the game are unique character ability, modular setup, action points, event cards, dice-based combat damage, leveling, turn-based, trading, all-or-nothing.
The gameplay and art of Hellbringer has me hooked. I really want to see it get published and get my hands on the finished product. I don’t have anything else in my collection that provides the same gameplay or experience and that’s exciting for me. Besides having gorgeous table presence, it is a game I know would be a hit with several different groups I frequent and it would be great to share it with them. It is medium weight and could be a bit much to keep track of or wrap your head around for beginner players but I think the effort is worth it. Experienced gamers can pick it up and go.
- Variable character abilities
- Perception-based combat
- Outstanding art
- Earning and assigning character attributes (akin to leveling)
- Balancing of the game and combat
- Solo and co-op modes
- Multiple scenarios
- Easily digestible rules
- Smooth gameplay
- Nice difficulty to get through and win the game
- Custom dice and most notably the enemy dice which determines what they will target for their attack and if it’s successful
- Monsters having abilities as well as attacks
- Two types of damage (Attack and Poison)
- Large variety of monsters, spells, skills, items, equipment, etc. Just a lot of content in general
- Companions that can assist you in combat
- Single and group target damaging
- No damage tracking – an attack either kills the target outright or not
- Box can fit card sleeves
- Wording of the English rulebook/cards
- I’d like a free trade system between players
- First turn is a bit bland as all your action points go into equipping your starting item(s). Maybe you can start the game having one item of choice equipped – standard requirements still followed.
Base Game (without add-ons):
- 240 Cards (multiple types – see KS page)
- Dice bag
- 41 Dice (1 enemy, 25 damage, 15 poison)
- Enemy board
- 4 Player boards
- 4 Chalkboard markers
- Scenario Booklet
- Game box
I didn’t have a whole lot bad to say about Hellbringer. I ended up being more into it than I had expected and I already thought it was going to be good. As an aside, I liked the solo mode but had a much better experience with the co-op. I’d probably still test myself against the different scenarios alone but I’d play through them all in co-op, one hundred percent. I’ve gotten a bit more into solo play as I keep being introduced to impressive solo titles, but at my core, I’m a social gamer. I love getting to the table with friends, families, or complete strangers and sharing some good times. I think this game would fit right into that too.
I‘ll see you next time, back here at The Game Table,
Here’s a link to the live Kickstarter campaign and the website:
Find out more at BGG.
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Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”, is a construction project manager and electrician by trade who was the owner of a 6-time award winning electrical company. His passion for board games has led him from playing hundreds of original titles to creating a design and publishing company of his own, Convivial Games. As an up and coming collaborator on many projects, he is always eager to try new games and meet new people.
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All of Brad Hiscock, aka “Zerility”‘s reviews can be found HERE.