This Diceborn Heroes review was made after playing the game five times. We were sent a copy of this game by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
What is Diceborn Heroes?
Diceborn Heroes is a cooperative JRPG-inspired dice game in which you play as a group of heroes who go on quests to defeat monsters. The game was designed by Keith Donaldson and is published by Diceborn Games.
Diceborn Heroes Gameplay
To begin a game of Diceborn Heroes, you’ll choose one of the eight Quest Packs to play through and then you’ll choose your Level 1 hero classes. Your goal is to make it through the three-part storyline by defeating the monsters that show up, including the final boss.
Your hero/class card will tell you how much health you have, the dice you’ll roll each turn, the actions you can perform, and the special ability you can activate by exhausting your Hero Token. Each hero also has a Bounty card, which is a unique challenge that can be completed to gain a new ability and a second Hero Token.
Each Quest Pack contains three levels of quests, a final boss, and special cards (relics, enemy attack cards, etc.) that could come into play at some point during the game. The three quest cards have unique setup instructions and effects that take place after you’ve completed them.
Each quest has three phases:
- Quest Phase – This is when you reveal the next quest card and when new monsters show up. Usually you’ll reveal one monster per hero. There are three decks of monsters, one for each level of the quest (the higher the level, the tougher the monsters).
- Combat Phase – This is the main phase of the game. You’ll roll your dice, assign one die to one of your action slots, and then reveal an attack card for each monster in play. Characters activate in order, so a 1 will attack before a 2, and so on. However, if your assigned die is lower than an enemy’s attack card, they won’t attack you. That means that the heroes can avoid being attacked altogether if everyone’s dice are lower than all of the enemies’ attack cards. A monster will target the hero who is closest to their attack value. You’ll keep playing through combat rounds until either all of the heroes are knocked out (this is a loss) or all of the monsters have been defeated. The third quest is a bit tougher because you’ll have to first complete the quest and then defeat the boss without taking a break in town.
- Town Phase – During this phase you’ll have a chance to rest (heal), refresh your Hero Tokens, buy items, and level up. To buy items, you simply spend your Spoils (monsters you defeated) and put the purchased cards next to your heroes. You have some interesting decisions to make when leveling up; you can change classes (two new options) and gain a new ability from your old class, or you can keep your old class and gain an ability from a new class.
If your hero gets knocked out, you can be revived by another hero if they have a healing ability, or you can revive yourself by either rolling doubles at the beginning of a combat round or by resting during the next Town Phase.
The attack deck doubles as a timer in Diceborn Heroes. You run through attack cards pretty quickly, but you do add cards back to the deck every time you defeat a monster.
To win the game you need to make it through the three quests and defeat the final boss. You’ll lose if all of the heroes are knocked out at any point during the game or if there are no cards left in the attack deck at the end of any combat round.
That’s just a basic overview of the game. For more info, take a look at the Diceborn Heroes rulebook at BGG.
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- Leveling up is easily my favorite part of Diceborn Heroes. You have a nice selection of actions and abilities to choose from at the end of each quest and you’ll be happy to allow everyone to take their time picking their new cards. There’s plenty to think about since you need to find a good mix of offensive and defensive abilities that work well together.
- I really like this combat system because you have to work together to figure out how to make the most out of the few dice that you have. Usually you want to use low-valued dice to get little bits of damage in while preventing the monsters from attacking, but there are moments when one or two players will use their high dice to get big attacks in while possibly taking some hits for the team. There’s also a good amount of of tension when you’re flipping over those attack cards for the monsters, hoping that they don’t get low values.
- The Bounty cards are also very cool. They give everyone their own objectives, which does change up how each player approaches the game. You really want to get that second Hero Token so you can assign more dice and use your special ability multiple times.
- Setup is a breeze. You just open the Quest Pack, put out the different decks of cards, and choose your starting classes.
- There’s a male and female version of every class in the game.
- The dice are really nice.
- Heroes can get knocked out pretty quickly and sometimes have to wait 5+ minutes to get back into the action. Let’s say you assign a 3, your two teammates each assign 4s, and multiple enemies get “2+” attack cards. In this scenario, there’s really nothing you can do to block the enemies’ attacks and you could easily get knocked out. This is a bigger problem if you don’t have the priest since he/she is the only Level 1 hero who can heal.
- In my opinion, you really want to play Diceborn Heroes with three or four heroes. With two heroes you have fewer abilities to choose from and luck is a much bigger factor. I wouldn’t recommend this as a two-player game unless you like controlling multiple characters.
- The artwork on the class cards is nice, but the board and the monster cards have a dull, foggy look to them that I’m not a big fan of.
Diceborn Heroes is a very solid dice game. It’s not the type of high-tension cooperative game that I prefer, but its Gloomhaven-like combat system is awesome and creating your heroes over the three quests is really cool. I’ve never played a JRPG, but I have a feeling that fans of the genre will get even more out of this game than I have.
I’m very impressed that this is Keith Donaldson’s first game and am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.