Designer: Brian Sowers
Publisher: One Method Monkey
Time: 45 minutes
Times Played: 3 times, with a review copy I received from the designer
Everyone always talks about the hero – how well they did in battle, how strong they are, how many lives they saved and so on. They never talk about how they got so successful though; I mean, who does their laundry, packs their lunch and keeps their swords sharp and polished? Hero’s Crossing aims to highlight the people behind the scenes – the shopkeepers, potion brewers and smiths who keep those heroes in top form.
Your goal in the game is to attract the best heroes to your shops by having the best wares and the ability to deliver a requested order to a hero. The setup of the game includes a central warehouse where available buildings are housed and a market, where 4 heroes are waiting with their shopping lists clearly displayed.
The game starts with each player receiving 4 randomly-drawn building tiles and 2 land tiles. Each player chooses a building tile and passes the rest to the left, continuing until all tiles have been distributed. Players then flip the tiles up and form their own town in front of them, using the land to separate the buildings (buildings cannot be next to each other).
Each player has a set of 4 dice in 4 colors, as well as 2 modifiers that allow you to adjust the value of a die. At the start of each round each player rolls their dice. The first player also rolls the zoning restriction dies, which indicates the direction in which you can expand your town that round. That player also draws and reveals an action card; the card determines the available actions for the round. Actions are paired, so when you use a die to take an action you are also able to take the action listed with it. Every card has different pairings.
On your turn you select a die and an action pair to take. Available actions include:
Bid on a Building: Discard a die to place a bid marker on a building; the die must match the color of the building (so a green die to bid on an apothecary, which is green). You can bid on a building someone else has already bid on by placing a die of higher value on the same building; you can also place an additional die to increase your previous bid.
Building types include production centers, specialty shops and special tiles. Both production centers and specialty shops have different levels and must be built in order. (More on that later.)
Get Land: discard one of your resource dice of any color to take a land tile and place it in your town, adjacent to another tile, following any zoning restriction in play (you need land to separate buildings as buildings cannot be adjacent to other buildings).
Produce: discard a die to produce goods in one of your production centers. The die must match the color of the production center (so a red die to produce in your Smithy, which is red). Production centers produce based on their level – a level 1 production center produces one good, a 2 produces 2 and so on. If using a die of value 4 or greater you produce on extra good.
Move Goods: discard a die to move goods from a production center to its matching specialty shop. The die must match the color of the good. The number of spaces you can move is based on the value of the die – for example, if you roll a 6 you can move 3 goods 2 spaces or 1 good 6 spaces. You can’t move through another building or a spy, though and you cannot stop a resource on a land tile; it has
Place a Spy: discard one die of any color to place your spy on any land tile in another player’s town. This prevents that player from moving through the space with your spy on it.
Expel a Spy: discard one die of any color with a value of 4 or higher to remove a spy and return it to the supply of its owner.
Attract a Hero: select a die of a color that matches the shopping list of a visiting hero and place it on that hero, along with one of your workers. More than one player can try to attract the same hero; additional dice are placed below the original bid. A player can also add to their bid on a subsequent turn.
Take Modifiers: discard one of your resource dice of any color to take modifiers. If the die has a value of 1-3 you get 2 modifiers; if it has a value of 4 or higher you get 1. Each modifier can add 1 to a die roll, and multiple modifiers can be used on a die.
Return Resources: As a free action on their turn players can return 4 of any combination of resources to the supply for a victory point.
Not happy with your dice choices? At the start of your turn you can steal a die from another player. Choose the die you would like to take and give that player one of your remaining dice and one dice modifier.
After the action round, you proceed to resolving hero attraction. Players who took the attract heroes action are now able to sell resources to those heroes. Heroes are resolved from left to right. The player with the highest total of dice gets to sell first and sells the hero as many of the resources they are looking for as they are willing or able to do by moving the appropriate cubes from their shop to the card. That player receives victory points based on the level of the shop it was sold from – a level 1 shop earns 1 victory point, a level 2 earns 2 etc. Once a need is filled it is done; that player or another player with dice on that card cannot fill it again.
Once the hero’s shopping list is completely filled the player who fulfilled the last need takes the hero card and places it face up in front of them; the player will get victory points for that hero at the end of the game and can use any special power listed on the bottom of the hero card for the rest of the game.
Once Hero Attraction has been resolved you begin the Cleanup Phase. The first step of this phase is resolving the building bids. Players receive the building(s) they have bid on and place them in their town, following the building rules (buildings can’t be adjacent and they must be built in level order – if you buy a level 2 building it must be built on top of a level 1 building if the same type). Restock building as needed.
The next phase of cleanup is restocking heroes, if any were satisfied during the round. New cards are flipped over from the hero deck, which is set up with level 1 heroes on top and level 3 heroes on the bottom. If a new level of hero appears, the buildings of that level are now available and are added during the next restocking phase.
Players collect any workers still on the board and a die of each color and the next round begins. Play continues until one of two things happen – there are no more heroes in the draw deck, in which case there are 2 more rounds and the game ends, or all heroes have had their needs filled, in which case the game ends immediately. Final victory points are tallied and the player with the most is the winner. Tiebreakers are most heroes followed by most dice modifiers.
My thoughts on the game
I am always somewhat suspicious of Kickstarter games, since I have played so many that were poorly developed or have confusing, inaccurate rules. That is definitely not the case here; the rules are clear and reasonably laid out and the game play works well with no issues or bumps.
The components are well-made and attractive. Since the idea of the game is based on video RPGs, the art is bit-based. The level 1 bits are 8 bit, the level 2 bits are 16 bit, and the level 3 bits are 32 bit. It’s a cool idea, and it’s fun to see the progression through the game; if you look at the hero card picture above you can see what I am talking about.
While that art is attractive, the symbols that show you the building type are a bit too small; it can be hard to see what building are available in the market or what buildings other players already have, which can influence your choices. The icons on the heroes are a bit bigger, which makes it easier to see.
The game play itself works well. The dual action system is really interesting; you always get to take two actions with each die, and the pairings change with each round. I thought that was really clever and allowed decisions and turns to be more interesting. One player was frustrated by not being able to get the building that they needed from the market; they had a smithy production and it was several rounds before the smithy shop came out, making them feel that the random tile draw was a bit too random. Other players did not find this to be a big concern and noted that you just needed to keep your options open; there are also special tiles that will help adjust requirements or allow for other actions that will address this.
The die stealing action was a bit of a mixed bag for me. If you rolled well and no one else did potentially you won’t get to use any of your dice and are stuck with what other leave you with. It’s hard to plan when you don’t know what you are going to get left with, particularly if you just finally got that dice you needed and no one else has a substitute. I would prefer it be more limited, but I am also not a fan of mechanisms like this. It didn’t break the game for me, though – it was more mildly frustrating than anything else – and I can see the benefit of mitigating bad dice rolls.
There is only one winning strategy – deliver as many goods as possible to the heroes – but there are subtleties to this, too. You can deliver fewer goods if you can always manage to be the one who delivers the last good, and planning so that you stop other players from being able to deliver is also key. I also like the puzzle of building placement, trying to minimize the space between production center and shop while still diversifying. The zoning restriction die, which limits which edge of your board you can build off, didn’t really seem to have much effect most of the time, but you did need to keep it in mind when planning.
I have played with 2, 3 and 4 players and it worked well with all numbers; I have yet to play the solo mode but will give it a try at some point. Overall, I liked the game and am happy to have played it.
This is thematically similar to the recent Bargain Quest, but it sounds much better.
I haven’t played Bargain Quest, but one of the people who played it with me made the same comment.