Andres Montanes-Lleras
Colombia
Bogota
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My first children's fantasy novel EL DRAGÓN DE VAPOR (illustrations by Marcos Toledo Porras)
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SPOILER WARNING. This post is intended for readers who are already familiar and have played through the Ruin of Thandar campaign for Hero Realms, so a spoiler warning is in effect.

Hero Realms has been one of my most played and highly rated games of the year. Though I play mostly solo against Tibus (which many people have found underwhelming), I love how quickly it is to play, how the theme is implemented throughout (which I think works much better than Star Realms) and how the character packs add an element of roleplaying to the game.

From this perspective, I was really looking forward to the release of The Ruin of Thandar campaign. While I knew that it was primarily intended to be played cooperatively, I also knew it could be played solo and was hoping to get an improved version of the Tibus challenge with stronger thematic and role playing elements.

Though I did get some of this, and I think there are some very interesting thematic mechanics and cards in the game, my initial experience with the campaign has not really lived to my expectations, especially regarding the story, which should be the strongest part.

While some people have complained here on BGG about generic nature of the story, I think the main problem is the scope of the events: How everything happens too fast (one day or two at the most) and in a too small a scale (a bar fight, a chase in the streets, etc). Though it becomes more epic and satisfying towards the end, and the intention is clearly to get a larger story going that will be developed in later expansions, the adventure as a whole feels too small, especially for a three game session that can take a while to be completed.

This is even truer of each specific encounter (especially the first two). While each encounter is, of course, intended to be part of a larger story, I think they feel more like events in a single TV episode (to use an analogy that works particularly well with this type of serial narrative) rather than episodes in and off themselves, working within a larger season (even if it’s only the first season of many).

Perhaps most problematic of all, these small scale encounters don’t fit at all with the way the deckbuilding mechanics and theme of the game work: How as each game progresses you are effectively “hiring allies or mercenaries (champions)” and “adopting tactics (actions)” that you get from the Market Deck (a deck that clearly represents the people you can find and things you can do in the city of Thandar as a whole). This would be very unlikely to happen, however, in the middle of a bar brawl or chasing someone around the streets.

Fortunately, all this can be fixed easy enough, keeping not only the basic ideas of the story, but the cards themselves as they are, by simply expanding the scope of each encounter and therefore the adventure as a whole.

Though this will require sitting down and re-writing the story sections of the adventure book (which I might do later on, once I have the time), the idea would be something like this:

Chapter 1. Instead of getting into a simple bar fight at the Inn at Four Rivers, you are returning to your home city of Thandar for an annual week-long celebration or festival, after spending a long time away. Once you get to the city, however, you find yourself in the middle of a city-wide riot caused by the black smoke mentioned in the original adventure book. You now have to find the source of the problem, and bring peace to the city (fighting drunks, getting affected by the smoke, etc. but still having the space and time to gather allies and adopt tactics as the adventure progresses).

Chapter 2. Instead of just seeing the cloaked figures, once you succeed, you are summoned to the Lord-Governor’s palace (as it happens in the epilogue of the original adventure), who rewards you for restoring order (with the treasure and elixir you are supposed to get), and charges you to find his son who has disappeared during the riot (you try to tell him about the smoke, but he does not pay much attention).

Chapter 3. You have two leads in different places of the city. One will lead you the human’s group (or gang, or cult), the other to the imp’s. Just like in the original adventure you will have to choose which one will you follow.

Chapters 4 and 5 (depending on your decision). Rather than simply chasing the individual master and his/its group around the streets, you are investigating their activities (again, fighting the master’s minions, getting attacked, etc. but also hiring allies, adopting tactics, etc. and finally catching the master).

Chapter 6. Very similar to the original, the master reveals that he/it is part of the larger Ruinos conspiracy and how his/its leader, the Ruinos Archpriestess is preparing to use the Lord-Governor’s son’s blood to summon a greater demon that would be “the Ruin of Thandar,” unless, of course, you can stop her.

Chapter 7. Rather than going to the caverns directly, you have to find the place (or places) were the ritual is taking place and stop it (fighting minions, etc. gathering allies, etc.).

Chapter 8 and 9. Very similar, you defeat her or not, gain some advantage or not, but the demon is summoned nevertheless.
Chapter 10. Also very similar, you try to rescue the Lord-Goverrnor’s son, who helps you in return.

Chapters 11-15. Again, very similar, though larger in scale. The demon rises above the city and the streets are invaded by cultists and imps. It is up to you to gather your forces and defeat the demon before he destroys not just the city but the whole world.

Chapter 16. Heroes are victorious. While it will take a long time to reconstruct the parts of the city that were destroyed (this was, after all, an epic fight), you have managed to vanquish the demon and rescue the Lord-Governor’s son who once more rewards you for your efforts.

Epilogue. Very similar to the original: You are named Protector of Thandar and sent to the village of Heart’s End to investigate how the entire village has disappeared, setting the stage for the next expansion.

This is a very rough draft, but I think it not only makes each encounter and the adventure as a whole both more epic and self-contained, but also fits much better with the deckbuilding mechanics and theme.

Feel free to comment and share ideas, as well as build on this if you like.
 
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I am curious what the next box will be like. The box we have is only happy the size of a full campaign box (because they had to include the character progression cards). The next box is supposed to have twice as many enemy cards and contain 6 different encounters instead of 3.
 
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Andres Montanes-Lleras
Colombia
Bogota
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My first children's fantasy novel EL DRAGÓN DE VAPOR (illustrations by Marcos Toledo Porras)
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ThinkingThatsAll wrote:
I am curious what the next box will be like. The box we have is only happy the size of a full campaign box (because they had to include the character progression cards). The next box is supposed to have twice as many enemy cards and contain 6 different encounters instead of 3.


Thematically, at least, it would be very cool if there were some new cards for the market deck representing the change in setting.
 
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Beau Bocephus Blasterfire
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Berrien Springs
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I'd like to see you develop your thoughts out more completely. Looks like you have a good start.
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Comboteur "Crazed 'Beastface' Survivor" Fou
France
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I think they intentionally went for a super generic "story" to let "players fit in better than with an actual and heavily depicted setting", to paraphrase what they've said somewhere else.
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Andres Montanes-Lleras
Colombia
Bogota
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THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE (PLAYER)
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My first children's fantasy novel EL DRAGÓN DE VAPOR (illustrations by Marcos Toledo Porras)
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Razoupaf wrote:
I think they intentionally went for a super generic "story" to let "players fit in better than with an actual and heavily depicted setting", to paraphrase what they've said somewhere else.


I think you are right and, as I mentioned above, for me the generic story, even the generic setting is not the problem, since I personally tend to like more traditional fantasy (LotR, Dragonlance, classic DnD, etc). From that perspective, I think it actually was a good choice for a short game like this to go for that type of story and setting, letting players to fill in the gaps.

Though I do add more details in my suggested rewriting, the main objective was to give the campaign a broader scale, without changing the basic structure or generic nature of the story.
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