Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hero: Immortal King: The Lair of the Lich

I picked up the card game Hero: Immortal King: The Lair of the Lich during a sale at my local comic book store for $5, a significant discount from its $22 list price.  The basic concept will be familiar to anyone who has played any version of RPG:  there is a bad guy hiding in an underground dungeon, so you collect your band of heroes and proceed to kill everything in said underground dungeon between them and the bad guy.  There are three games in this series, but in this particular game the big bad guy is a lich, which is an undead magic user.  Not that it really matters, because all of that is just window dressing for what is primarily a resource management game.

There are two ways to play this game, either two-player or solitaire.  During a two player game, one player controls the heroes, while the other controls the bad guy and all of its minions.  During this version, the bad guy player primarily manages his Fear Tokens, little discs of black plastic that are accumulated as the heroes screw up and roll poorly.  These are spent to make bad things happen to the heroes.  I've never played the game with two players, because it sounds like it would be really boring to play the bad guy.  Instead I've played the game a few times solitaire.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but I can now slam out a game in 15 minutes.

While playing solitaire, you play the heroes.  There are a small number of heroes that you can choose from at the start of the game.  To build your hero team you select a total of five cards, including characters and equipment cards.  All of the characters have a special ability they can activate, and the equipment cards provide certain bonuses to combat rolls or other events during the game.  Building a workable combination of characters and equipment is critical to success, and choosing a bad mix can lose the game before it even starts.

Once you are ready to venture into the enemy's lair, you build the dungeon by sorting the 48 dungeon cards into three different decks of 16 cards, face down (though one of the characters lets you build four decks of 12 cards each).  Each turn you choose which of these three 'paths' you want to venture down, and then you flip over the top card to see what you encountered.  Some encounters are relatively easy, while some are totally impossible to defeat without using special abilities.  According to the rulebook the other games in the series include traps as well as monsters, but this game only comes with monsters.  To fight a monster you roll a six-sided die and compare the number rolled to the monster's Strength.  If you equal or exceed that number, you win and take the card.  Otherwise it smacks your team around and they retreat, causing you to lose one of your Courage tokens.  If you ever run out of Courage tokens, the hero player loses the game.

So, the game consists of trying to find the path of least resistance to reach the lich while being as miserly as possible with your resources of courage tokens, mana tokens (used to activate some character abilities), collected monster cards (used to activate some equipment cards and some character abilities), your equipment, and the number of Fear tokens the bad guy is accumulating.  Proper management of these resources will lead you to victory, while squandering resources (or really bad die rolls) will lead to defeat.

Really, this is a pretty simple game, but one that is mildly entertaining if I'm in the mood to play a short game but don't want to think too much about it.  It was worth the $5 I paid for it, but if I had spent the $22 list price I would have felt cheated.

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