When I was at Play NYC 2017, I encountered a game that looked like you built a little RPG town with tiles. I'm a sucker for games that let you build things, and Hero's Crossing by One Method Monkey is definitely that sort of game. My initial impression of building a town was correct, but what I did not know at the time was that you build a town competitively and go up against other players in a quest to be the best RPG town out there.
Hero's Crossing is all about those classic video game RPGs of yesteryear, and that's evident in the artistic choices made by the game. The board tiles and characters are made in pixel-style graphics that increase in fidelity as you encounter more powerful heroes and buildings. However, you won't be playing as the heroes in this game (although you can get them to join your cause) - you'll be playing as the town.
The core objective of the game is to attain as many victory points as you can before it's all over. Victory points are earned through a number of methods including attracting heroes, using certain hero abilities, and owning special tiles. It sounds simple enough, but the logistics of it can be quite dizzying at times. I've seen many "sure wins" upset at the last moment by a single tile that awarded just one more victory point over an opponent.
A game of Hero's Crossing begins with selecting who will go first, usually by rolling one of the several dice provided to each player. Once that's decided, a tile draft begins. One pile of four Level 1 building tiles per player are randomly arranged and handed out. Each player takes a tile from the pile and passes it to the player on their left until everyone is left with four building tiles to form their initial town along with two plain land tiles. The building rules forbid placing building tiles next to land tiles, and this starting assortment will allow you to get things off of the ground.
Once the initial towns are put together, the first set of visiting heroes and initial land tiles up for bidding are revealed. The zoning die (which determines which direction you are allowed to build) is rolled by the first player, the action card is revealed, and players draft dice. Each player is given four dice of different colors: white, green, red, and blue. The dice colors directly relate to the resources on the board and certain actions can only be completed with certain dice.
One of the more interesting things about the game is the Dual Actions system. The action card has four pairs of actions. A new action card is drawn each round, so what exactly you can do with your dice is a little different with each successive turn. These are the actions players can take:
- Produce: Produce resources at the indicated building. A roll of 4 or higher will produce an extra resource.
- Move: Move resources from a production building to a shop. Resources move at one point per tile and must end at a shop.
- Bid: Bid on a building up for sale to add to your town. The bid is the value of your die.
- Get land: acquire a piece of land from the pile and place it wherever you like as long as it matches the direction indicated by the zoning die.
- Attract: Solicit a hero's business to one of your shops. If you win the attract bid, you can sell as many of the appropriate resources to a hero as you like.
- Spy: Place a spy on a land tile in an enemy town, blocking their ability to move resources through that tile.
- Expel: Expel a spy from your land. Requires a roll of four or higher.
- Modifiers: Acquire modifiers which can be added to any die roll to increase its value. You get two modifiers for a die on 1-3, and one modifier for a die on 4-6.
The Dual Actions system keeps each round interesting, and the existence of the modifiers means that there is no such thing as a bad roll. Suppose that you rolled four 1s - absolutely terrible. You can instead use the Modifiers action four times and get eight modifiers for future turns. It acts as a nice failsafe against low rolls completely ruining your turn, and the modifiers provide a cushion against just missing the roll that you needed. Modifiers are typically used to make a roll just slightly better to get a bonus, and the game's design prevents you from abusing them too much to get a lead. (As an example, you can never produce any more resources by amping up the die roll beyond the threshold - it's either the set number of resources with a flat +1 bonus if you roll a 4 or better.) The only situations in which modifiers can be stacked on to crazy levels is in bidding for buildings or trying to attract heroes, two facets that don't necessarily have a snowball effect on the game that producing a large quantity of resources at once might have.
Players can also steal dice as a free action. Stealing a die can only be done once per turn; you give one of your dice to another player along with one of your modifiers. This would allow you to complete two actions of the same color in one turn. It's best not to hoard two dice of the same color; if you do, you'll telegraph your move and someone else will steal the die you just stole.
As the game progresses, players will acquire more buildings, expand their town outward, and generally have their eye on one of the four heroes on the board. Each hero has unique requirements for the resources they want. Some heroes will accept only one or two resources, some heroes will take anything, and some of the higher-end heroes will demand one of each. The last person to fill a hero's need will add that hero (and their requisite power) to the party.
Once the first Level 1 hero is taken, a Level 2 hero comes into the game. This progresses the game to the next era, putting Level 2 buildings into play. Level 2 buildings either produce one additional resource or award 2 victory points per need filled during an Attract action. Eventually you'll get to Level 3 in a similar manner, and once the fourth Level 3 hero is revealed the game is down to two final turns.
In short, Hero's Crossing plays out like a competitive economic game. You want to create as many resources as possible to attract as many heroes as possible for the most points at the end of the game. The powers that each hero provides offers opportunities to change the game's mechanics in unique ways (such as treating a certain die as a die of any color or outright destroying an enemy's tile). You must carefully construct your town and smartly respond to the ever-changing random factors such as the zoning restrictions or the content of the Action Card.
My tabletop group encountered one or two areas lacking in clarity when it came to the rules (which have been passed on to the developer). Save for a handful of minor issues, the game seems excellently designed. Multiple failsafes exist so that no one turn or action seems like a waste. A large stack of hero cards further ensures that no two games will be the same. My group had a lot of fun in the three games we played over approximately eight cumulative hours. I struggle to think of any flaws (save for the handful of rules issues), even if I were to go looking for them. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, and when Hero's Crossing comes to Kickstarter I think it would be worthwhile to check it out.
The copy of Hero's Crossing used for this preview was provided by One Method Monkey.
What do you think of Hero's Crossing? Does it seem like the sort of game you would enjoy? What other economic games are you fond of? Let us know in the comments below!