The Ruin of Thandar is a campaign mode big box expansion for Hero Realms. It makes use of the asymmetric character packs that are available (Thief, Ranger, Wizard, Cleric, and Fighter). It is a replayable campaign as you can play as different character combinations. You can try out the different special abilities as well as also being able to choose your own adventure element. There are a few points during the Adventure book where you are able to make a choice about what the party does next. This will determine what happens in the story and which fearsome boss you face next.
Hero Realms is a small box pure deck-builder with a fantasy setting. It is a reskin of the space themed Star Realms. The gameplay in the base box is similar but Wise Wizard Games (previously White Wizard Games) have diversified the games with a series of small and large box expansions. The majority of the expansions come in small foil packets, that reminds me of my childhood cracking open Pokemon cards. Although in this case, I am interested in the gameplay of the cards rather than whether there was a shiny card tucked within the boring duplicates that usually made up the booster packs of my childhood.
What’s in That Box?
The game box is pretty jam-packed. Alongside the rulebook, there is the Adventure Book which talks you through the story and tells you who your adventuring party are coming up to next. With this being a deckbuilder you will, of course, get more cards. One hundred and fifty new regular sized cards and eight oversized Master cards to be precise. These are the new cards required for the campaign scenarios known as the setting, mastery and encounter cards, the treasures and rewards cards that you gain by successfully completing the missions.
How Does This Build on the Base Game?
This campaign game gives you a chance to develop your characters. It is an expansion, and to play you will need a character pack per player and the base game. The market deck and fire gems from the base game are used as well in the campaign. The basic actions of Hero Realms remain the same, you draw five cards and build your deck by adding cards from the market. The main difference though, is that you are now playing cooperatively. As a team, you pit your wits against the Master for that encounter and defeat them to “win” the chapter.
Each Encounter will begin by reading the chapter story text. It sets the story and lets you know which of the Masters you are facing next. You then set up the Master’s deck using the cards specific to that Encounter, the five Mastery cards, and a number of the Setting cards (the amount of setting cards changes with player count).
It’s Character Building...
Once the Master deck is ready, you set up your character decks. This involves selecting a campaign skill and ability. Bits of role play style character development happens throughout, allowing you to strengthen your character with new abilities. However, the Character Pack mini expansions can be used in the base game to give players asymmetric start positions. I’d recommend the Ancestry pack for this. This gives you asymmetric start positions in terms of start deck, abilities, and starting health.
You want to build up your check full of powerful cards to smack the Master, hard. The Master will put out minions and hazards into your area that are a first-class pain in the neck. Each time it comes to your go, start by completing the Master Step. You draw a card from the Master deck and complete its faction action. Most of the faction actions will hurt. The red one will hit you hard, blue will stun some of your champions, yellow will heal the Master. Usually, green will discard some of your hard earned cards.
Once you’ve survived the dreaded Master step, you begin your own phase of the turn. You play your turn attacking minions in your area, removing hazards and if you can, attacking the Master. The campaign is co-operative, and you can aid any players next to you as well on your turn. There’s quite a bit of chatter in this game. Not all of it sighing and muttering about the violent attacks the Master and his Minions are inflicting on you. You need to work together to remove minions and attack at the right time. Partly because the characters have differing strengths, but also you want to build each of your decks to specialise in certain factions and get as many synergies going as possible.
Playing Like a Good Team Player
Synergy building in deck-builders is something that didn’t come naturally to me. I saw the market and wanted to get the best value for my limited funds. Then I started to play smarter and look to specialise in a colour to ensure I got as many additional powers as possible. I might go all in greens and get the opponents to discard cards every turn, weakening them. I might go for all reds and thin out that deck by removing the weak starting deck cards. Usually, I focus on one or two colours and try to avoid getting cards of other colours.
Trouble is, in a duel to the death, you might want to pick up a card purely to prevent your opponent from getting it. This is hate drafting as it doesn’t wholly benefit me to have that card. However, letting my opponent have it would significantly aid them in possibly winning. In the co-op mode, you want to be not doing that. Which does mean possibly not taking your usual selection of cards.
To aid with the co-op spirit of the Ruin of Thandar, we have taken to playing with our cards face up on the table. This is so we can see what is coming up next for our companions as well. The discussion around the table with this game adds to this different feel that comes with the campaign expansion.
What is Not to Love?
Now, I’m going to be honest and admit I LOVE Hero Realms. There is always time for a quick game of Hero Realms. It takes 15 minutes to play two-player and it’s always a good time regardless of whether I win or lose. I have most of the expansion content and keep it in the large Adventure Storage Box. Along with a set of 10 dice that I use to keep track of health, instead of using the cards that come with the game. This is because of my unending ability to knock health cards with my elbow! I don’t know why I knock them so often, but clearly, I have abnormally large elbows!
My destructive elbows aside, this is a fantasy themed game, a generic fantasy theme. It has wizards and clerics, necromancers and demons. Everything you’d expect, and nothing you wouldn’t. The artwork is nicely done, it’s engaging but not ground-breaking. The cards are well laid out and the wording is clear. The symbology used is simple and easily recognisable.
This was my first campaign game that I had played in this style where you had an adventure of mini games that needed to be set up individually. Each encounter has a different master and needs different cards to be combined with the required setting and mastery cards to create the Master deck. I found this quite clunky and a bit more difficult than I was expecting as the base game is so straightforward to play.
Having replayed recently and chatted with others, I don’t think that the game itself is clunky, but the rulebook is not perfect. In the continuation of the campaign in The Lost Village, there have been some addendums that have streamlined it. So huge kudos to the publisher for listening to feedback.
I haven’t overplayed it yet, and I imagine that may never happen owing to the huge replayability and no two decks built in a game being the same. However, even though I love Supermix Haribo the best of all the Haribo bags, I will occasionally have some Tangfastics. The Ruin of Thandar changes up the base game like Tangfastics. It is a different vibe in a familiar game. If you like deckbuilding and campaign games, then you really need to check this game out.