Everything looks here like in a fairy tale. Above the valley spans a rainbow, from nearby rocks pour noisy waterfalls and number of satisfied citizens is sitting around the river. They are probably having a picnic. This view stayed with me, when I arrived to the land of fairy tales. But wherever I go, there is darkness in my foosteps. Or is it the other way? That really does not matter, because it was not different even here. Oone of the rocks in the valley suddenly showed a cave and dangerous creatures came to the world.
Such a valley is ready for player visiting in the board game Heldentaufe, which was prepared in thoughts of Simon Junker, who then brought it into reality. Unique illustrations are work of Mathieu Leysenne and whole game was published in early 2017. Game has successfully passed test of Kickstarter, where it received fifty thousand swiss francs from more than 800 fans.
All lovers of adventure and beautiful graphics are immediately caught, since the first look at the graphics of this box. All interested players will find inside a rulebook, a poster and foremost game board representing underground. Cave fills left side, while right half shows us three monsters, that settled inside, and a hint of their terrifying powers. This board is set aside, because the middle will be controlled by hexagonal tiles. Using those, all heroes will join forces to gradually build map of their valley. Therefore, they create a supply of these pieces and place the one with campfire in the middle to start on.
Afterwards they must equip the aforementioned game board. At the bottom of the Netherworld (as the underground is called) is placed a treasure token, cardboard monsters in their house and round trap tokens randomly face down on their places. Individual monsters then get pyramid of teeth – three, four and five, going from the bottom most powerful monster to the top one. All vacant spaces shaped as a heart are then equipped with such heart token, that represent monster lives. Cardboard boss marker is set aside, as well as supply other pieces. Each player chooses his hero, gets his board, equipping it with hearts and also to three random cards quests. He places a cardboard miniature on the campfire spot.
In their turn, players have equal four action points, that can be freely shared among all optional activities. They usually have a choice of two, but once they get underground, there might be even three actions to choose from. And the easiest (always available) option is to exchange goal card – discard one card from hand and draw a new one from the deck. Much more important is movement. Hero first has to know, which way he will be travelling – in one of six directions – and player then moves his figure in that direction. If this area is unexplored and no tile is lying there, player draws one tile, reveals it and connects to actual valley map.
According to the site, where they stopped their movement, players can expect different effects. Visiting newly discovered forest for example means an immediate end of their turn. But player is compensated for it by opportunity to roll treasure dice and get corresponding reward (found in the forst). Profit can be one of the basic equipment (boots, ring, sword) or small tooth token. Some places offer profit in ingredients (mushrooms, apples, fish), while laboratory allows them to improve their equipment, as well as at the blacksmith.
Much more interesting place is explored, when hero comes on location with stone portals looking a bit like door. Now, and only in this spot, players can spend next point movement and descend into the Netherworld. But here comes change. Monster roam the cave. At that moment (when first player descends), he places between himself and next player in order a cardboard boss marker. This indicates moment, when monsters will act out their turn.
And while player can use his action points to move his hero, the other rivals relaxing safely in daylight will take on role of monsters. All three monsters share four action points among themselves, that can be arbitrarily divided and used to attack heroes or block their movement. It is crowded in the underground, so there is not many ways to evade enemies and each other.
It is here in the underground, where finally players can put their collected items to use as well as their experience gathered from the outside world. They will challenge monsters to a duel, which is also the third yet unmentioned action. Player rolls battle die, adds its value and gets number of hearts, that will contested monster lose. If a player at the same time defeats evil inhabitant of the cave by discarding its last heart, he gets as a reward in form of top tooth from lair of the beast. But the enemy is only wounded. That’s because next tooth is revealed and it may show bonus power or heart, that is added to its basic statistics.
But it works in reverse as well. In the moment, when player is attacked by a monster (and thus in extension by opponents, who are in the upper world), its strength shows, how many hearts he loses. And it may even knock him out. Hero wakes up in broad daylight on one of the portals with only one heart remaining. This is also the moment, when players will appreciate abilities of collected food. Using them, players can regain some health even without paying any action points.
When a hero is underground, he may also run into traps, that stay revealed. Bad luck and revealing a trap can mean loss of one heart. If player wants to leave Netherworld, he must return to the portal or drink a potion of teleport. If at least one of the other heroes still remains underground, nothing changes and game continues. But if last of the characters climbs back up, whole dungeon will be generated as a new underground world next time. Upon new entering, players again randomly distribute hidden traps and boss marker gets a new position next to that player. Monsters however heal only hearts, not teeth.
In addition, players can (and will) also fulfill their undercover assignments in the form of quests. They can get better equipment, but also teeth for completing them. Game ends, when one player acquires teeth of fixed value (depending on number of players). There is no reason for doubt, because there is no other way to win. That player becomes a hero of the common people and winner of the match.
Heldentaufe is a wonderful adventure game, that has soul and is visually very unique. Processing can not be simply overlooked, so we will deal with evaluating it at the beginning. Graphics of this game is absolutely gorgeous, and although there are no miniatures, it all fits together, so you will not sigh even a bit for figures. This game simply sets a new standard for graphics. Just look at mission cards or a beautifully illustrated rulebook.
This game is not only beautiful, but also full of experiences. All heroes spend their earliest turns exploring the game world and improving their heroes. Only when they feel ready enough, and still a little bit scared, they go down to Netherworld. They wait until first player goes there (and also first portal has to be explored), because fight awaits there for everyone. And also luck in the form of traps, which often can not be avoided and are hidden. Their distribution is random and only some tokens have really wounding effect.
Even in daylight, your roleplaying is stitched by surprises. The most important result is better outfit, which then adds chances of survival in those dark caves.
Game offers a completely easy rules for all those, who like to play. And it’s all enriched with a great deal of replayability. This is guaranteed by building the top world from scratch every match. And its exploration is part of deciding the results. This is because teeth can be acquired even for completing quests, that take place under the light. But the real gains are submerged in the darkness.
Absolutely great is fact, that monsters underground take commands from other players! This ensures, that heroes always go for hurting each other. That is also main reason, why leaving warm rays of the sun is so dangerous. Additionally, the more time elapses in the struggle, the stronger the monsters become. They get bonus hearts and swords with every defeat, and next level always represents a much tougher nut to crack, than last time.
Whole match is a real experience. Certainly, processing has a substantial share of this, but the actual gameplay is also unmistakable with two different words to enjoy and some nice ideas. Game takes around one hour to complete. The more opponents participate in the battle, the better. In addition, each player brings more fun in Netherworld and also forces players to cooperate better in controlling monsters, if there are more of them in the upper world. We just hope, that the light of the world sees some expansion with new heroes and monsters. Game would certainly benefit of this in the longer run.
Heldentaufe is a fantastic family entertainment, that will be enjoyed immensely not only by children, but also by adults. All together or just one group alone. There is no difference. It does not matter, because Heldentaufe is primarily great game full of adventure, dice rolls, equipping heroes and completing tasks. Matches are quick, filled with meaningful choices. We can only hope, that it can get more exposure. Heldentaufe certainly deserves it.
+ fantastic graphics
+ can entertain everyone
+ great adventure, that includes everything essential
+ improving heroes
+ monsters are moved by opponents
+ fantastic graphics
- fantastic graphics? Just kidding, no negatives here!