What is the outcome when you combine the game mechanics of Star Realms with a fantasy theme?
Yeah, you guessed right: Hero Realms!
Do you guys remember the story of when I bought Star Realms?
Ok, well… sorry to disappoint you, but the background story behind this game is not as interesting as it was for that one.
In fact, there’s actually no story at all.
It was just a few months after buying the above-mentioned game, that I was on the hunt for a similar one with a different theme: fantasy indeed.
That is always my first choice when it comes to buying a game or deciding a movie genre to watch.
Let me tell you that it didn’t take too long before finding Hero Realms, as its reputation preceded its name, but for some unexplainable reasons, I never bought it.
I had this game in mind (and on some online shop’s basket) for so long, that my girlfriend eventually decided to surprise me by purchasing it.
So thanks to her, today I’m bringing you my personal review of this amazing game.
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Hero Realms is a fantasy deck-building board game designed by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, in 2016.
Your goal is to rule over Thandar, a city-state that is home to people from different species and nations.
To accomplish this and win the game, you must build a powerful deck and destroy the opponent’s military forces.
Each player starts the game with 50 Health. If the opponent’s Health drops to 0, you win the game.
How to play Hero Realms
Each player begins the game with a deck composed of 10 cards made up of: 1 Dagger, 1 Shortsword, 1 Ruby and 7 Golds.
Dagger and Shortword provide respectively 1 and 2 Combat.
You can use Combat to attack your opponent’s Champions and Health.
Ruby and Gold respectively provide 2 and 1 Gold.
You can use Gold to acquire cards from the Market Row to add to your deck and make it more powerful turn after turn.
There are three types of cards in the game, Champions, Actions and Items.
All of these types of cards can give you different effects, such as:
The main difference between the three types of cards is that Actions and Items are drawn, played and discarded every turn, while Champions remain on the playground until they get destroyed by the opponent.
In the middle of the playground, we can find the Market Row; this is where you can acquire new cards by spending your gold.
This game is about drawing cards, expanding your deck, playing better cards while the game progresses, and eventually destroy the enemy army.
In this game there are four different factions, each of them with a unique set of skills and power.
- Guild Faction;
- Necros Faction;
- Imperial Faction;
- Wild Faction.
“The fortune in trade that flows through Thandar has fueled a powerful organized-crime syndicate known as The Guild” –
The Guild Faction specializes in generating large amounts of Gold and deal a good amount of damage.
They are also good for board and deck control, thanks to the useful Ally abilities triggered when you have 2 or more copies of the same faction in play.
I mostly use this faction in the early game when I need a regular Gold-flow to buy better cards and to deal direct damage to the opponent’s Health since it’s unlikely to have “guard” Champions at that point of the game.
Hit Job is an amazing card that has 7 Combat and an insane Ally ability if the opponent has Champions; for just 4 gold is a no-brainer buy.
“The demon-worshipping Necros cult festers in the city’s underbelly, preying on the homeless, the forgotten, and any that dare challenge them” –
The Necros Faction is a damage dealer faction.
Almost all the cards can generate huge amounts of Combat (also thanks to the Ally abilities) meanwhile keeping the deck size under control thanks to their abilities to sacrifice cards.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this faction, in fact, I mostly tend to have just a few of them for the deck control abilities, which are insanely useful.
They deal huge damage and you could easily win if you’re able to leverage it, but that damage mostly comes from their Ally abilities and I don’t see myself building the deck around that.
The Rot is a must-have card if you build your deck around this faction. For just 3 gold you can buy an action with potentially 7 Combat and the ability to sacrifice a card.
“The Empire still clings to its military traditions. Its highly-trained soldiers, reality-bending wizards, and deadly dragons comprise the best fighting force the world has ever known” –
The Imperial Faction is probably the most well-rounded of them all, as their cards generate Combat, Gold and Health.
Not only that, in fact, they are also great at deck cycling thanks to the ability to constantly draw cards as part of their primary ability!
And on top of that, another interesting mechanic is the ability to gain extra Combat or Health based on how many of your Champions there are on the field.
I love this faction! They have everything you want to build a solid deck. If I have enough gold they are kind of always my first choice.
Look at that Command card. 2 Gold, 3 Combat and 4 Health for only 5 gold. I’ll have one, thanks!
“Elven kingdoms older than recorded human history, ravaging orc war hosts, savage nomadic human tribes, trolls, and deadly wild beasts can all be found in vast wild lands east of the Empire” –
The Wild Faction’s strength is the huge amount of Combat they can generate and the ability to make the opponent discards cards.
They can also be used as deck cycling thanks to the ability of drawing cards (always at the cost of discarding other cards).
The combination of their skills makes the Wild faction an incredible asset to have in your hands.
That Wolf Form card screams to be chosen. 8 Combat and the ability to make the opponent discard a card for just 5 gold means just one thing: mine!
This card is also one of my favourites in the entire game, either because of its power and the stunning artwork.
Something really cool about Hero Realms is that its design allows you to play different types of game, without the need to buy any expansion packs, apart from one mode.
Free-for-all (2+ players)
The default way to play: after randomly determined the first player to go, proceed to play clockwise until the last player stands alive. Anyone can attack anyone else.
Hunter – First Blood (3+ players)
Same as Free-for-All, with the difference that each player can only attack the opponent to their left, and may attack or target the champions of the players to their left or right.
The game ends immediately when a player is eliminated; the player to his/her right will be the winner, even if someone else did the eliminating.
Hunter – Last One Standing (3+ players)
Same as Hunter – First Bloor, with the difference that when a player is eliminated the game continues. The person to the eliminated player’s right gains 10 health and draws a card.
Like in Free-for-All, the last player standing wins!
Hydra (4 players, 2 players per team)
This a classic 2 vs 2 game mode.
Both teams start the game with 75 Health shared between the 2 players, which have their own personal deck, hand, discard pile and in-play area.
Each team takes a shared turn, both playing their hands at the same time going through Main, Discard and Draw phases together.
When a team’s health reaches zero, all the players on that team are defeated.
Emperor (6 players, requires a second copy of Hero Realms or Character packs)
This is a 3 vs 3 game mode, in with team’s members take the role of an Emperor and 2 Commanders.
The winning condition is to defeat the opponent’s Emperor, which can be attacked as soon as one of the Commanders defending him is killed.
When an Emperor is defeated, that team loses the game!
Hero Realms is everything you could ask for a fantasy-themed deck-building game.
The base game itself is quick to play and fun, and the fact that supports a wide range of gameplay options gives the game a lot of replayability, beyond the classic 1 vs 1 mode.
Compared to Star Realms the game box is bigger, but that shouldn’t be a problem at all if you want to carry it with you, as its size is perfect for any kind of bag or backpack.
We recently went for a day trip to Canterbury, here in the UK, and we brought this game with us without any issues.
Artwork wise, I like it, even though there’s nothing really new in terms of characters; also I feel like some of the cards fell into the uncanny valley zone, especially human figures.
All the factions are well balanced and they make you feel rewarded when you can pull off some of the combinations that the game offers.
Also, the great variety of cards and abilities makes the game different anytime you play a new match.
As I said for Star Realms, you get so much value out of a quick and cheap game, so I’d definitely recommend buying it!
Something else that I hugely recommend getting are the card sleeves; they keep the quality of the cards and make the shuffling easier and faster… and you’ll shuffle a lot!
I bought these ones and I’m happy with the choice.
(I didn’t mention any expansions or add-ons of this game as it’s my intention to write a specific review about those).
That’s it for today’s review! Catch you soon in the next one! 🙂
By the way, these are my favourite 3 cards of the game (artwork wise).
2 – 4 players | 20 mins | Age 12+