In my review of Hero Realms I made no secret of the fact that the core game is very similar to Star Realms, another deck-building game from the same designers and White Wizard Games. It's when you add the character packs into the game that Hero Realms really starts to come into its own.
Each of the five character packs are sold individually. It contains a unique starter deck of 10 cards, a double-sided character card and two ability cards. The character cards replace the need for the base game's starter decks, but you'll still need its market deck and Fire Gem cards. I bought all five character packs at the same time as the core game, and I never play it without them, even if I'm playing with first-timers.
How do they Work?
Each of the character packs represent one of five common fantasy archetypes: wizard, thief, ranger, cleric and fighter. Each character has their own unique identity, which comes out through the cards in their starter decks and their abilities.
The starter decks will be fairly familiar. They contain 10 cards, just like the standard Hero Realms starter decks, and a mixture of gold and combat. However, they are asymmetrical - while every character has a few gold in their deck, their other cards are unique to them and promote various different strategies. Unlike the core game, some of these starter decks also include Champions, though as you'd expect, they're much weaker than those you'll find in the market deck.
Alongside the starter deck, each character also comes with its own starting life total and two unique ability cards. One of these represents a powerful effect that you can only use once per game, while the other one is a recurring ability that you can use once per turn if you pay two gold to do so. These cards really give the characters their identity, and make you feel that the players are actually acting as them within the game.
The Five Characters
Each character has its own unique identity, with cards and abilities that steer you towards certain strategies. We'll take a quick look at each of them.
Perhaps the most straightforward of all the characters, the Fighter is all about damage. He has the highest starting life total (60) to protect him as he uses combat-centric cards and abilities to do as much damage as possible in a short space of time. The Fighter doesn't lead you towards elegant strategies - he's all about killing your opponents as efficiently as possible. For all that his strategy is pretty one-dimensional, he's surprisingly fun to play.
The Cleric is a balanced character, with ways of doing damage, gaining life and boosting trade in her starter deck. What she really likes, however, is Champions. She comes with two in her starter deck - more than any other character - and her abilities are designed to keep Champions on the field for as long as possible. There are a few different directions you can go strategically with her, but she's happiest when surrounded by a big army.
The Wizard is really going to appeal to a lot of fans of strategic card games. He's probably the trickiest nut to crack, and his recurring ability requires you to pay life to draw a card. His starter deck rewards you for playing Action cards, and he's the character that starts with the most combo potential. Players are rewarded for good stewardship of health as a resource and the ability to craft synergistic decks.
Maybe I'm just a bad person, but the Thief, with her disruptive discard and stealing abilities, is my favourite character. Her starter deck is fairly non-descriptive, but she has two of the most thematic abilities in the game and can really frustrate opponents. As much as I enjoy playing her, I do find that her abilities can be a bit dull for other players, so I tend to limit how often I play her in head to head games.
My second favourite character, and the one I play the most, is the Ranger. His deck leans towards Champions, though not quite as heavily as the Cleric, and his abilities promote deck-filtering and card draw more extensively than any character save the wizard. He's a fun, balanced character who can start you off on both big trade and aggressive strategies - I imagine he'll be a hit with many card game fans.
Is it Worth Getting the Character Packs?
Unreservedly, yes. The Hero Realms character packs give the base game a unique fantasy identity, allow players to express themselves and massively improve replay-ability. Not many deck-building games - especially pure deck-builders - incorporate asymmetry in their starter decks, and the abilities do a good job of making the character's differences go deeper than theme alone. They promote genuinely different strategies and increase the number of meaningful decisions that players can make throughout the game.
Another thing I love about them is that each character card is double-sided, with a male character on one side and a female on the other. It's a small, simple touch that significantly ups their inclusivity and encourages players to identify even further with the characters they choose. Many other games could learn from this example.
Not only are the character packs great for the base game, but they've also given the Hero Realms series room for expansion beyond the basic head to head deck-building format. The co-operative, legacy game-esque Ruin of Thandar campaign game makes use of the character packs to give players a clear role within the story, and the fantasy class system that has been chosen for the characters makes the campaign feel more like a card-based RPG.
In short, the character packs turned Hero Realms into a distinctive, unique game with a world of future possibilities; without them it's simply a slightly more explosive re-theme of Star Realms. I would strongly recommend buying them if you already own the base game, and would also suggest buying them along with the base game from the start if you're looking at getting into Hero Realms. They don't significantly increase the complexity and they vastly improve the playing experience. Really, they're a no-brainer.
You Might Like
- Increases the number of meaningful decisions in Hero Realms.
- Turns the base games into a unique deck-building experience.
- Promote different strategies and styles of play.
- Great feature of double-sided character cards.
You Might Not Like
- Fairly generic fantasy theme.
- Having to buy five packs separately from the base game.
You Might Like
Increases the number of meaningful decisions in Hero Realms.
Turns the base games into a unique deck-building experience.
Promote different strategies and styles of play.
Great feature of double-sided character cards.
You Might Not Like
Fairly generic fantasy theme.
Having to buy five packs separately from the base game.