Humour in games is a hard feat. Many games resort to Cards Against Humanity style lewdness, or put the onus onto the players to fill in the blanks ala personal favourite of mine - Balderdash. Hero Master is the creation of UK artist Jamie Noble-Frier, and in a similar vein to Ryan Laukat, everything from the art, graphic design and gameplay is the work of Noble-Frier.
In Hero Master each player will start with a race and class that dictate their starting decks, which are dealt together in a similar fashion to Smash Up. Within these decks are the starting weapons and armour, all of which adds a nice amount of variety. Technically players are venturing into locations to battle beasties together, but make no mistake this is no co-op game. The party leader (first player) token is incredibly important as it lets you choose the location and have first crack at the monsters, should you choose.
After players have entered a location, and a monster has been challenged by one or more players they will take turns playing attack or bungle cards. Attack cards can be boosted by weapons and give the base stats for your attacks, but should anyone have played a bungle to your attack then it will be hard to win. Normally a roll of a natural one is a critical fail, but bungle cards raise this number higher. Play continues this way until Crackletooth the Dragon is discovered, and the player with the most gold wins.
What lifts Hero Master above it's peers is the consistency of design and well crafted writing. The art is excellent throughout, although can fool players into thinking this is a lighter game than it is. The writing is just the right level of wit, raising a smile every time we read it. It doesn't feel forced or crass, rather homely and warm.
Noble-Frier has worked his butt off and this shows, as the passion and commitment is almost tangible. A one man band holds the inherent danger of the designer entering a fantasy land of their own creation, but Noble-Frier has deftly avoiding this with his openness to advice and critique from the wider company.
During my time with the prototype he would message me asking not if I enjoyed myself, but if I'd discovered any game breaking combos. Of course, the answer was always no, and I doubt they will be found given the attention to detail he has shown.
No game is for everyone and those wanting a light quick romp will probably find they have bit of a tad more than they can chew, but should they persevere, or should they want a deeper experience then Hero Master could be right up their street.
The game is due to launch on September 18, and if my sources are right the base game price is pleasing!