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Hellboy: The Boardgame
Bryony Stibbons
Author: Bryony Stibbons

A life-long board game addict, but anime newbie, Bryony is gradually getting hooked!

Hellboy: The Boardgame


Players: 1-4

Game Length: 60-120 mins

Theme

If you were disappointed by the recent Hellboy movie offering (as I know many were), don’t be concerned, this game is not official movie merch – it is a game in its own right based on the original comic-book source material.

It is a co-operative game where players (or solo players) take on the role of a B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence) agent. You work together through a selected secret assignment which requires you to investigate a location, taking on minions whilst collecting clues. Ultimately you reach an ‘End-game’ scenario where you take on a "big bad".

The Verdict

If you were motivated by my previous review of the Kick-Ass board game and you played and enjoyed that then this will be right up your ally. The dynamic also isn’t too dissimilar to Time Stories, if you like those, and although you are able to play these scenarios over and over regardless of whether you were successful first time around, the mystery element just isn’t the same.

The tutorial sheet for this game was an absolute Godsend – this is something even I haven’t come across before and is definitely something that I would recommend any budding game designers to include! Working through this 8 page pamphlet whilst setting up and starting the first scenario was so much easier than bedding down with the 32 page rule book for hours! I cannot emphasise enough, having leaned many boardgames myself, how much easier and more pleasurable this tutorial format made learning the game!

The huge amount of pieces for the game is a little frustrating, as I often found myself scrambling around in the box to find the particular thing I needed when the scenario demanded it. This is exacerbated by the fact that the box design doesn’t allow for separate storage of the pieces, other than the miniatures, and not enough plastic bags are provided to separate the different elements. The miniatures are good quality, but it would have been better if more of the elements were plastic rather than cardboard, although I can appreciate that we probably wouldn’t want a price hike on this game.

I don’t know if my team of agents ‘over-debated’ our strategy but I did find that even the short scenarios went on a long time. However, this is something that I am sure would improve when players are more familiar with the dynamic sit down with the game.

There is potential here for expansion. The box contains 6 mission scenarios and only three ‘Big Bad’ characters, so I can see them releasing additional sets with more missions and baddies - we can only hope!

Although the rule-book may make the play dynamic sound complex, it really isn’t once you get going. Using dice for combat is by no means a new board-game concept, the way that the different levels of dice are used in this game is something I haven’t come across before and it adds something interesting and original to the game which is key to how the players work together to take on their enemies.

The game also allows for solo play, which seems to be an ever-increasing trend. I’m a fan of this as I sometimes like to play a game alone and always find I ‘co-operate’ best with myself anyway - however, sometimes the bickering is what provides the fun! Therefore this isn’t one I would recommend for plays to purchase purely for playing alone.

As you can tell, there are some truly brilliant things about this game and a few points that it lets itself down on. It is great to see that this is a solid enjoyable game in its own right and not a sub-par game relying on branding, which can often be the case. You will particularly enjoy this game if you are a fan of any of the previously mentioned similar games but the one that I would actually most liken it to is Betrayal on House on the Hill, so if you love that game I think you will really like this!

 

HOW TO PLAY

Set-Up

There are a huge variety of pieces for this game which you have to push out before you start playing but this doesn’t take long. You are then ready to get going with the help of a great 8-page tutorial booklet. This talks you through (with great images to support) the set-up of the recommended starting scenario and takes you step-by-step through the initial stages. You are then left to continue alone or re-start from the beginning of the scenario if you want, with the support of the rule book to explain or clarify any points if you are unsure as you go along.

Game Play

You start with each player choosing a character and then deciding on the scenario you want to play. Each scenario is rated for duration and difficulty to help you choose which you want to try, and they are each in a sealed packet. The scenario must be played in order, with cards only revealed when prompted to maintain the mystery. The first couple of cards give instructions on how to lay out the game board and which cards to use to make up the different decks.

The Board/Room Tiles

Each scenario has a different ‘board’ (in the loosest sense) made up of selected room tiles of various sizes fitted together to make up the layout of a specified location. Door markers are used to indicate where you can move from one room to the next (al la Arcadia Quest). A marker indicates the entrance where players need to start from, placing their character miniature on this space.

Card Decks and HQ Board

As indicated by the scenario instructions you set up certain cards on the HQ board. This is a board used to manage various elements of the game and the three sets of cards laid on it at the start are as follows:

  • Deck of Doom – Cards drawn once per round to allow some for of mishap to effect the heroes.
  • Enemies – Cards giving details of the specific minions that you will face and their abilities.
  • Encounter cards – One of these is uncovered each time you enter a room and dictates what the agent find in the room.

You also have four other types of cards:

  • Starting cards – there are two of these to go with each character from the start of the game and they give details of the weapons of powers that the agents possess.
  • Requisition cards and back-up agents – At the start of the game the players have a set budget to select some of these cards to take along on their mission.
  • Boss cards – These cards are a higher level of enemy cards used to show the powers of the ‘Big Bad’ that appears in  the ‘End Game’ scenario.

Game Rounds

Game rounds proceed as follows:

There are many small nuances to this game that it would take too long to go through, so don’t take this as a full instruction on how to play, but here is a general over-view of how rounds progress:

  • Enemy Phase - This only comes in from the second round. In this phase enemies on the board move and retaliate against the agents and often doing damage.
  • Agent Phase – Agents each have three actions to take in order to investigate the area, move round the board and take out minions. These can be used in whichever order the agents decide.
  • Rest Phase – Agents can choose to rest in order to heal damage, secure a location or investigate something. However doing this advances the ‘impending doom’ tracker on the HQ board which will bring on the ‘End Game’ sooner. Therefore players should do this sparingly.
  • Doom Phase – A ‘Deck of Doom’ card is taken and resolved. This often also results in the ‘impending doom’ trackers moving on.
  • End Phase – Where action tokens are re-issued.

Combat

A dice dynamic is used in combat. There are four different coloured sets of dice each with different strength levels – e.g. on yellow dice the top score is one, on orange dice its two etc. Each character has a unique set of skills for different types of combat, investigation and defence. For example Hellboy uses yellow dice when firing a ranged weapon, giving him less chance of success, than if he were to battle hand-to-hand where he uses red dice (top score three). A blue dice is also rolled with all dice rolls that adds an extra element whereby scores can be increased or decreased by it’s outcome.

The End Game

Once the ‘Impending Doom’ marker reaches a certain spot (different for each scenario), the ‘Big Bad’ enters the fray, the HQ board is flipped over in order to track your battle against this foe, and the game rules change as dictated by the scenario cards. You will find out what you need to do in order to win the battle!

7
Branding aside, this game stands alone a great co-operative mystery adventure game.
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