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Geki
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Bloodborne is the latest design by Eric Lang (arguably the most successful designer of recent years, especially for thematic games) published by Cool Mini or Not, fast expanding and still-not-bought-by-ANA hot publisher. So, despite my complete lack of knowledge of the video game that provides the setting for this title, my interest was peaked when I first heard of Bloodborne. Here goes my review.


General Overview:
Players play cards simultaneously trying to collect points from a pool (“blood” from “monsters”) and avoid getting killed. While the point collecting part is quite mechanical (but still very interesting), much of the tension comes from the risk of dying and losing any “unsaved” progress. To secure your hard-earned points, you need to take a resting and upgrading turn, but if you wait too long you could die even when trying doing that. This back and forth, and another couple of clever timing interactions make for a tense, fast paced, fun experience.



Components:
It is expected, by now, that everything CMON publishes will be of the highest production quality, and this is the case even when, like here, they go with the “or not” choice and ignore miniatures
While the theme is unappealing to me, the art is solid, the graphic design exceptionally clear and efficient, attention tis payed to details. On a personal note, I love dials, and it’s nice to see them even beyond FFG (which seems to have one in ANY game). Overall, once you get past the overwhelming amount of black on the table and choose to focus on individual cards, boards, etc., you will hardly find any flaws in product quality.

Gameplay and mechanical analysis:

The game is set in the dark world of Bloodborne where, apparently, there are “hunters” (the players) chasing down monsters and dying-and-respawning often while doing so.

Every game will consist of the players battling 7 monsters and 3 mini-boss monsters in random order, and finally a super boss monster, which is visible throughout the game and also dictates special rules for the specific game (e.g.: Hunters are capped at 6 life instead of 8, or some other shenanigans).



Each turn, players secretly choose, simultaneously reveal and then sequentially resolve (with first player rotating every turn) their battle cards from the 7 they have in their hand; this simply tells them how much Blood they will take from the monster. However, before they can resolve their card, the monster will deal damage depending on dice: while there are 3 different levels of dice, each of them can “explode” and call for additional rolls, therefore no one is ever completely out of danger. Obviously, if you die you loose your blood loot and don’t participate in the current monster bashing. Next round, you come back at full health.

Each monster has a limited amount of “blood” to be taken, therefore players coming later in turn order can use ranged weapons that inflict less damage but, if played by only one player, allow them to go first. This creates an interesting interaction and double thinking, especially considered that
1) cards stay on the table, so that you cannot simply play the strongest one (or the ranged one) over and over again).
and
2) participating in killing a monster gives additional bonuses in the form of movement on different scoring tracks.
This means that often when to strike is as important as the total blood marked on the card.

One special card included among the starting ones is “The Hunter’s Dream”, which allows a player to “bank” their collected blood (converting it into permanent victory points), take back all of their played cards and go back to max health. This happens at the end of the turn, though, so one is still at risk of dying, despite the Dream granting some damage reduction.

To make things interesting, anyone who dies and/or has played the Dream gets to select an “upgrade”, i.e. a card to add to his hand. This are considerably stronger than the basic cards, and come with various abilities that interact with the way damage is dealt and the order of play, and can even inflict damage to your opponents!

Throughout the game, timing is of the essence. This, indeed, is the core of the game: timing, splitting and choosing your battles. Your options change throughout the game, and so does the relative standing of the players, so that later in the game you will not simply try to maximize your blood collection, but also to kill repeatedly players who are in the lead.

The rhythm of play is exceptionally paced, with no downtime to speak of, intuitive yet increasingly layered mechanisms and a fun (albeit very gruesome) theme.

Variety/Replayability

There is a ton of variety in the box. Each monster has some kind of special ability influencing damage, cards played or things like that. Even the order in which mini bosses alternate with regular monsters can make a significant difference, so that every game will be different. Even beside the monsters, what card upgrades player choose create an ever evolving player interaction, which would probably provide for an interesting experience even beside the 30 different monsters that are included. I have no doubt that, with the right group, this could be played over and over.



Designer Corner

Eric Lang was explaining how when playing the video game he got a punishing feel and that this was the main design goal for the card game version. I must say that more than punishing (he seems to like the persona of evil designer ) the game is cleverly crafted to force you to guess your opponents and time your efforts. At this point, it is hard to pinpoint one standard comparison for the author of, among others, Blood Rage, Star Wars LCG and the new Arcane Academy, but is beyond doubt that once again he was able to deliver a solid, fun and interesting game.



Final Thoughts:
I blabbed enough, so there is not much to add. Despite my absolutely positive impression, everyone at the table always likes this MORE than me, since I usually don’t favor this kind of interactive games. The shortish playing time (40 minutes with 5 players) is actually a positive, for it balances the possibility of someone dying often and be almost cut out from the win. For me, the biggest risk I could see would be for people to want to play this again immediately after we are done. Yes, I know it sounds like a strange problem to have, but I like to change narrative or efficiency ark from one game to another. Overall, a solid, interesting game.

I hope you enjoyed my review and I look forward to comments and feedback. For more reviews, both written and video, please check out my geeklist, here on bgg.

Thanks for reading
Geki
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Pete R.
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Great review - thanks! I'm really looking forward to adding this game to my collection. I do think that the first player token was a missed opportunity to include a miniature - the cardboard standee is definitely not cool and clashes with the elegance of the mechanics, art & theme. I'm sure it was a cost issue.
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Randy Espinoza
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I got you covered: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0132I8EKY/?tag=article-boardgameg...
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Geki
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Strom40 wrote:
I do think that the first player token was a missed opportunity to include a miniature.z


You have a point there, a mini of that awesome looking dude on the cover would have been fitting!
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Jeff Lozito
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Strom40 wrote:
I do think that the first player token was a missed opportunity to include a miniature - the cardboard standee is definitely not cool and clashes with the elegance of the mechanics, art & theme. I'm sure it was a cost issue.


I spoke with Eric Lang at GenCon (while getting my copy signed ), and he echoed the same point: That his only disappointment with the game was in the first player marker being a standee rather than a miniature.

The proverbial salt in the wound comes from including a BB hunter miniature as a stretch goal in Rum & Bones: Second Tide KS campaign.

Oh well, the game is still every bit as fun without it!
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Darrell Goodridge
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The cardboard standee is an odd choice, especially considering both sides are his back, but my one disappointment is the lack of variety in the upgrade cards. There are at least two of everything, and at least one must be 3x in order to get 35. I don't remember any unique upgrades at all. In a 5 player game they all come out too, so less chance of something getting stuck in the pile. This is the area where they can obviously expand upon.
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Claudio Hornblower
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geki wrote:
... Even beside the monsters, what card upgrades player choose create an ever evolving player interaction, which would probably provide for an interesting experience even beside the 40+ different monsters that are included...

Aren't the monsters exactly 30?
- 18 "Chalice Dungeons" (6x Humanoids, 6x Beasts and 6x Kins)
- 7 Bosses
- 5 Final Bosses
 
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Geki
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Mythologem wrote:
geki wrote:
... Even beside the monsters, what card upgrades player choose create an ever evolving player interaction, which would probably provide for an interesting experience even beside the 40+ different monsters that are included...

Aren't the monsters exactly 30?
- 18 "Chalice Dungeons" (6x Humanoids, 6x Beasts and 6x Kins)
- 7 Bosses
- 5 Final Bosses


Ah, the joys of not having the components handy. Thanks, edited.
 
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