Zucchini People Games

Johnny Pyro vs The Excrementalist: it’s heroes vs villains in card battling game Hero Brigade

Johnny Pyro vs The Excrementalist: it’s heroes vs villains in card battling game Hero Brigade

Hero Brigade is something akin to a super hero-themed mashup of deck-building games like Dominion as well as card-duelling games like Magic: The Gathering. You duel with a pre-made deck of heroes or villains while constantly drafting new abilities and mercenaries into your forces.

Hero Brigade is far more accessible to new players than existing games, while still carrying an impressive strategic depth. 

The biggest plus in Hero Brigade's favor is that although it shares a lot in common with Magic: The Gathering, all of the cards in the game are included in the box you purchase. There are no booster packs, no opponents with $200 ultra-rare 20-year-old ultimate cards that render your entire deck useless. The game is designed so that both players are equal.

Unlike most card battling games, the goal here isn't to deal damage to your opponent, but to deal damage to your opponent's deck. When an enemy hero/villain is defeated they stay in your deck, but the player must banish a certain number of cards in their deck from the game. Each player is trying to paralyze the other's deck.

Similar to Magic: The Gathering's creature spells, hero/villain characters in Hero Brigade are played onto the playing field at the beginning of the turn. What's unique about this game is your characters occupy one of five spaces on your playing surface. Depending on whether they're in the front row or the back row their range of abilities will change. For instance, the hero Vasilisa deals 3 damage to a single enemy (a powerful hit) while she's occupying a front row spot, but if she's in the back row then she becomes a healer, healing 2 damage on an allied hero.

Alternatively, every hero has a “play” ability which allows them to take an action (drawing a card, dealing damage) even if there's no space on the board for them to be used. What's neat about this system is that it basically ensures that every card you draw can do something useful if utilized properly, and every card has multiple options to give it better odds of suiting your situation. This helps alleviate the massive, random disappointment that is so common when drawing cards in games like Magic.

Big choices

It's great to see how much depth can be found in a game with only two decks. Every turn is complicated by many choices to be made. Where will I place my first character? Which character will I attack with first? Which character will I attack first? What is my opponent's likely plan and how can I disrupt that? Should I place this character on the board or use its ability to kill an opposing hero, or use it to acquire a mercenary card/character enhancement? What do I want my deck to look like in the future, and what cards should I acquire to fulfill that?

Most of those questions don't have right or wrong answers, as it's about how you choose to play. Those choices can be agonizingly difficult at times, and they can have repercussions for the rest of the game. 

Hero Brigade is fast-paced, in theory. The way it's designed means that players could zip through a game fairly quickly, but at the same time those decisions put the brakes on everything. Sure, you could just plop down whatever card in whatever position, but it's much more fun to look at this as a chess board. The perfect play is there, you just have to find it.

Single player

The base game of Hero Brigade is designed for two players, but the developer has also included a single-player varient of the rule set which allows you to play against a deck of powerful enemies. This single-player is not easy at all, but gives you an easy and fun way to learn the game before you play with a friend. Or if you're just looking for something to do alone and you're tired of Solitaire.

Not many card/board games include a single-player rule varient and its inclusion here rounds out the package. It wasn't originally planned in the game's Kickstarter, but was thrown in as a stretch goal reward in Hero Brigade's highly successful funding campaign and I'm glad it made it in. This is a much more complete game with the option to play solo.

I don't think I expected much from Hero Brigade when I reached out to creator Nicholas Yu of Zucchini People Games for a demo; it was a relatively low-budget Kickstarter game so my expectations were tempered, but the characters looked fun, the art was great, and the fact it's two-player made it easy to coordinate games so I decided to give it a go. It wont dethrone the all-time classics of the card game niche, but it's a fun and enjoyable game with suprising depth.

Hero Brigade is currently in the final stages of development, and will be available in November when the Kickstarter orders ship. It will be sold online at Game Salute Shop among other retailers or it can be ordered from your local board game store.