3-5 players, Competitive, Card Action Selection Monster Slaying
Designer: Eric M. Lang
Artwork: Sean Chancey
Release Year: 2016 & 2018
NOTE: I will be reviewing the core game and the expansion: The Hunter’s Nightmare. I’ll call out the expansion portions in the review so you know which is which.
This was one of those games that I picked up purely because I enjoyed its videogame counterpart. Played it one time with a group of three and was not impressed. Went through it and saw pretty much the same cards being drawn, the same monsters and there were only a handful of bosses. Ended up shelving it for about a year and then saw that an expansion was due to be released. After reading up on the expac, I noticed it added a BUNCH of stuff! Namely many more items and monsters and bosses. Basically, it expanded on the game in every way and on top of that added an interesting new strategy in the form of new Rune cards and Death tokens. I didn’t want to give up on the core game as I could see potential there so I picked up the expansion to try and breathe new life into the game. Did the expansion succeed? Read on to find out…….
Overview of Gameplay
In Bloodborne: the card game players will be working together-ish to take down monster after monster collecting trophies and new items all in a concerted effort to collect blood tokens. Eventually after enough monsters have been destroyed or escaped, players will confront the final boss of the chalice dungeon. Once that monster is vanquished players will total up their collected blood tokens and points based on how many collected trophies they have from monsters they battled. Whoever has the most points wins!
At the onset each player is dealt their main hand of five cards which are all identical for each player. Players will then simultaneously select one card from their hand to play and all reveal at the same moment. This will determine each players action such as attacking with a melee or ranged weapon or slipping into the Hunters Dream to recover. At the beginning these actions are pretty predictable as everyone has the same cards so you can kinda get an idea of what a person is plotting based on their health and spot in turn order. However, as the game progresses and players start gaining and replacing their cards in hand, this becomes much more strategic.
So, cards are revealed and the any instant actions listed on cards are taken in turn order kinda like the starting hunters pistol ability that If you are the only player to play that card, you get to damage the monster right then instead of waiting until AFTER the monster attacks. A useful card if you are last in turn order so you at least get a small piece of the beast before the rest of the players take their fill. Once cards are revealed and instants are taken, the monster gets to attack. The player with with first player token rolls the specific dice that is displayed on the monster card. Green = easy, yellow = medium and red = hard. Some of the numbers on the dice also “explode” so to speak where you have to roll them again and add additional damage. Once all damage is applied to the hunters, any surviving hunters can now do their damage from their played weapon cards. This damage is applied in turn order and players will collect blood tokens based on the amount of damage they do. Once all the blood tokens are removed from the monster it is defeated and the players who got to attack it that round will also collect a trophy based on the type of monster they fought. However, if the hunters were not able to deal enough damage to kill it, then it will escape and no one will gain any trophies.
Regardless of what transpires here a new monster is drawn and the process starts anew. This will continue until all the monsters are defeated. There are 7 regular monsters combined with 3 boss monsters that are shuffled up to form this “chalice dungeon deck” Plus 1 Final Boss card that you fight after all the others have been defeated.
Now all those blood tokens you collect from fighting monsters are placed on your character board BUT they are not safe! If at any time you are killed you will lose all the “unbanked” blood tokens on your board. The only way to make sure your stash is 100% safe is to slip into the Hunter’s Dream. This is one of the cards each player starts with at the beginning. If, at any point you are getting paranoid you might be killed or perhaps you just have a plethora of unbanked tokens you can choose to play your Hunter’s Dream card instead of a weapon attack card. This will halve the amount of damage you take during the monster attack and after all the players have finished with their attacks, whoever played the Hunter’s Dream card will regain all their life, “Bank” their blood tokens, regain all their previously played cards AND gain a new card from the “market” that is displayed on the table. You can only have a max of 7 cards so after you gain a couple cards you will end up replacing some of the original starting cards as you progress through the chalice dungeon. This will drastically alter strategies and play styles of players.
EXPANSION NOTES: With the expansion they have also included these Rune cards that are dealt out at the beginning of the game, each player is dealt two and chooses one to keep. These offer up much more strategy and give players a kind of direction when starting out. Adding the insane amount of extra item and weapon cards to the core set also allows players to work very specific strategies when slipping into the Hunter’s Dream and selecting new upgrades. Furthermore, there are the Death tokens that actually can limit the amount of trophies a player can get if they die. This creates more tension and actually gives even more reason to not die rather than just losing unbanked blood tokens.
The game has some pretty nice components! The three dice are nice looking and have a good weight to them and the round dial life trackers are fun. Each player board is a nice thick sturdy cardboard of which I have not experienced a lick of warping from. All the cards are of a nice quality, some of which are oversized (the final boss and Rune cards). The plastic blood tokens are really nice looking with a bit of a marbling effect held within. There is no game board as each player monitors their trophies and blood tokens on their individual player boards and the cards for the monsters just sit on the table in the middle.
The box…………..ohhhh the box. The box size is on the small side and it does fit everything nicely (including all the expansion materials!) AND it has a nice insert that is form fitted to hold all the components in places in very specific positions…….BUT………It doesn’t hold them well. I hate to see this, especially with such a nicely designed insert but the cards and tokens just spill out all over the place if this game is stored on its side. The player boards are meant to sit on top of all the stuff and hold them in place but there is just a slight gap between the inside lid and the boards, which is JUST enough to allow the spillage of the components. Now, if you store the game flat you won’t have any issues. Also, as mentioned above all the expansion stuff does fit in the core game box but it basically maxes it out so any new expansions will be unable to fit.
Visual Appeal /Theme
It looks as all the artwork is taken directly from the videogame and it looks great. All the items and monsters that fans of the videogame are on full display here and heck even some of the stuff I have never seen before. It is admittedly a darker theme so if this might not be for everyone and if you haven’t played the videogame then a lot of the items and monsters might be lost on you. That said, even IF you haven’t played the game, if you like this sort of dark atmosphere then you will most certainly enjoy the artwork.
The theming does a decent job although I never really felt like I was making my way through a chalice dungeon. The game is just fight, fight, fight, heal. With new random monsters and bosses appearing after one is dispatched or escapes. Of course, I might be getting a little too ambitious with this as this IS just the card game.
The rulebook is really good! It has colorful pictures to explain the cards and it does a really good job of explaining the actions. The turn structure is also listed on each player board which I always love so players can easily remember what to do and in what order. Although I do think some of the actions could have been combined to make it more streamlined. Perhaps, play action cards/instant actions/transform weapons could all have been under ONE action instead of three separate ones. Granted there is a specific order to do these things but when a new player first sees, what, eight actions during a round? That seems daunting when REALLY it’s play cards, monster attacks, hunters attack, Dream, Draw a new monster.
Player Interaction/Fun Factor
So now this is interesting to me. I had very little fun the first time I played the game at the three player count minimum with just the core game. HOWEVER, playing at the full five player count WITH the expansion I had a BLAST. I’ll go into player count more in the next section but suffice it to say I think the more players, the more fun with this one. Also, player interaction is also intriguing here. So, this game is competitive BUT players are all kinda working together to bring down the monsters at the same time. There are items and weapons such as the cannon, that will also do damage to other players. This is a tactical decision because you could cause players to get killed by the monster and then they won’t get to collect any blood BUT if the monster isn’t killed then you won’t get that luscious trophy…….decisions, decisions. Also, you don’t really have direct interaction with the other players other than the random damage you deal to them. Indirectly though there is a lot of action to be had here and it’s all based on player order. Each round the first player marker is moved to the next player and this is VERY important in this game. You see, the first player gets first pickings of almost everything. First attack (unless another player has an instant action that does damage) which means they get the first batch of blood tokens from the monster so they usually don’t have to worry about missing out. They also get first pick of the displayed upgrade cards in the Hunter’s Dream if they played that card. If multiple players played that Hunter’s Dream card they will all get to choose an upgrade card………in player order and those are not refilled till the next round. In any case, this game does a great job of creating some interesting indirect player interactions.
Optimal Player Count/Replay Value
I think the more players you have playing, the more fun this game is. As I mentioned before I played at 3 players but it just didn’t tweak me but at 5 players it really opened up. A part of this could be because I was using the expansion content as well, and I’m sure it is, but with more players there is just more strategy and tactics to manage. More cards get snatched from the upgrade pile and this creates more tension.
There is a tad bit of replay value with the core set as you do get 5 final boss cards that are different to go against and with the shuffling of the monsters and bosses you have a different selection each game…..but you do end up seeing a lot of the same things again and again. Especially with the item cards. The item cards were actually my biggest disappointment with the core set. So many of the same items and they just weren’t that exciting. Also dying wasn’t THAT big of an issue, I mean yes you would lose your unbanked blood with are victory points down the drain, but that was it.
NOW, with the expansion the replay value was kicked into overdrive! They added a bookoo more final bosses all completely different. More regular enemies and bosses to add even more variability to each game. And low and behold numerous new items and weapon cards all interesting and fun! I mean these additions along vastly expand upon the replayability but with the addition of the Rune cards to make each Hunter a bit different, I mean yeah VERY high replay value with the expansion.
Positive Final Thoughts
Components are good, the theme is good and the overall gameplay is excellent at higher player counts. I love, love the expansion content and would recommend you pick up the expansion if you plan on getting the game. The interesting rune cards and the numerous new monster, item and final boss cards from the expansion just breath life into the base game that it sorely needed.
Negative Final Thoughts
I probably wouldn’t get JUST the base game by itself. I mean it’s not a BAD game but it just feels so….lifeless and drab without the expansion. It’s incredible what more variety and the addition of specific player abilities will do for a game.
The Bottom Line
Get the game WITH the expansion if you are interested. I wouldn’t recommend just the base game but the amount of fun I’ve had with the expansion content alone makes this a worthy purchase and one that I plan on keeping. The base game with the expansion content is truly worthy of The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction.
The Fuzzy Llama Silver Seal of Distinction.