Game Review : Hunter’s Guild

Hunter's Guild by Robb De Nicola
Hunter’s Guild by Robb De Nicola

A card-game modeled after your typical Vampire-slayer mindset, Robb De Nicola’s successfully funded KickStarter Hunter’s Guild pits players against one-another in a race to compete and be the first to take down one of those pesky sun-deprived, eternally manic, blood-drinking fiends that stalk your neighborhood mischievously throughout the night. You know– your in-laws.

Mildly competitive and a heckuva lot of fun the game takes course over several turns with players equipping themselves with the best weapons, armor and various other types of Special items to go on the most holy of missions known to man- Vampire slaying.

The Goal

Hunter’s Guild is a turn-based card game where Players win by collecting a set of Vampire repellant cards, things like Holy Water & Stakes and mill through one of two separate Decks, Day and Night, until they reach a Vampire Lord. Vampire Lords are found in the Night Deck. The first player who encounters a Vamp Lord and has the requisite set of Vampire-killing tools wins the game.

Components

Vampire Lord's - The Goal of the Game Epic Scale Games
Vampire Lord’s – The Goal of the Game
Image Copyright: Epic Scale Games
  • 7 Hunter Cards
  • 100 Day Cards
    • – 24 Repel Cards
    • – 10 Armor Cards
    • – 12 Shield Cards
    • – 14 Weapon Cards
    • – 40 Special Cards
  • 100 Night Cards
    • – 12 Vampire Lord Cards
    • – 44 Event Cards
    • – 44 Creature Cards
  • 1 instruction set
  • 1 Backer Sheet
  • 1 twenty-sided die

Set-up

Players separate the two decks into the Night and Day decks. Players then either randomly pick their Hunter class cards or choose which ones they wish to play. Classes include the Knight, Ranger, Thief and Warrior and each player has one card corresponding to their Player Character which also lists their total number of hit points (4 Max). Following this, players are dealt four cards from the Day deck to their hand and play begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

    Hunter's Guild Ranger     Image Copyright: Epic Scale Games
Hunter’s Guild Ranger
Epic Scale Games

Game-Play

Game play is divided into turns, with each player getting a ‘turn’ and the entire group going through a Day Turn and a Night turn. These Day Turns or Night Turns correspond to which deck players draw from, either the Day Deck or the Night Deck.

So for example in a three-player game, each player gets 1-Day turn going around the table: player A draws a card from the Day deck, equips, uses items then play passes to the left, where player B draws a card from the Day deck, equips, uses items then play passes to the left and so on. Then each player gets one Night turn, again going around the table with each player drawing, this time face-up, one card from the Night deck. This cycle repeats throughout the game although Day/Night can change based on Event cards. The mechanic is basically Munchkins kicking down the door and looting, except separating it into two phases and with a bonus card draw before you go marching to your doom.

Hunter's Guild Weapons & Armor Cards
Hunter’s Guild Weapons & Armor Cards
Epic Scale Games

As explained, on a Day Turn, players draw 1 card from the Day deck. These cards consist of Weapons & Armor cards, Event cards or Vampire Repels cards. Players can equip Weapons & Armor cards at any time during their Day turn, but not during a battle– again closely following Munchkin‘s mechanic. Players can also play any special Event and Special cards anytime they are able; like Holy Water etc.

Its the Night phase however, when things get interesting.

Night Deck Event Cards Epic Scale Games
Night Deck Event Cards
Epic Scale Games

The Night Deck consists of Event cards, creature Cards and Vampire lord cards. Event cards are one time instantaneous events like loose armor, Swap a card from your hand with another player (blindly) or miraculously turn day into night (think Blade with his awesome tech gear).

creatures-HG
Night Deck Creature Cards
Epic Scale Games

Creature cards are the main focus of the game and are drawn from the Night deck and are what the entire game is designed around. They come in two varieties: Solo and Team.

When a player draws a Creature card form the Night deck they must fight it. Depending on a small icon, (A/S) the player must either face the monster alone or the entire party must face it.

Card Rotation MechanicEpic Scale Games
Card Rotation Mechanic
Epic Scale Games

Each monster has a number of Hit points denoted by Red Blood diamonds symbols or gems. Hit points come in maximum of 4 and proceed down to zero, the same as for players. To designate damage, monster cards are rotated to face the current player with the corresponding number of Blood Gems, or health points it currently has. So a monster or creature with 3 starting health would have the side of the card with 3 Gems facing the player who drew it from the Night Deck.

Monsters also come with a Level. This is the attack roll score needed to damage a monster. So a level 13 monster needs to have a 14 or higher to do damage to it. A roll equal to the monster level on the die face itself completely kills the monster: so in this case a d20 roll of exactly 13 destroys the monster outright (i.e. a Critical Hit).

Attacking a monster consists of rolling a die and adding any weapons you have equipped to the roll, but you may also play event cards during or after a roll to affect the die.

Creature Card with LootEpic Scale Games
Creature Card with Loot
Epic Scale Games

The player who lands the killing blow on a creature, that is drops its hp down to zero or below, can win the loot, if any, associated with that monster. Monsters have loot represented by icons and are either non-existent, i.e. no loot, solo loot, that is only the killing blow lands it (in a solo that’s only 1 player) or full party loot, where the killing blow gets extra loot and the rest of the party gets some loot for their assistance (yay back of the party help!).

Infected players (see below) also have the option of feeding from some Creatures, which entails gaining health back.

Each time a creature card is drawn from the deck either the current player or the entire party will fight until it is destroyed.

Fighting is a d20 roll with Equipment and Special card modifiers added.

A hit reduces the monsters Blood gems by a damage equal to the Players Weapon damage, while a miss hits the Player for 1 Point which they can, if they are wearing armor or have a shield, choose to reduce that item before taking 1 point of damage themselves. Like Monsters and Players, Armor and Shields come with Gems, these denoting durability instead of Health. They can be repaired and swapped but only one of each is equip-able, just like weapons.

If a Vampire card is drawn, a player is either Infected, or can use Repel cards to repel the vampire, thus staving off infection. An Infected player turns over their Class card to the Infected side. Infected players get a bonus to attacks (+3) but take damage during the Day phase if they choose to draw from the Day deck or can remain ‘slumbering’ and not receive a card. If an infected player draws a Vampire card while being infected and is unable to destroy them or to Repel them, their Hero is killed. If a player has a complete set of vampire Repel gear in their hand when they draw a Vamp Lord, they win the game.

Vampire Itchy-ouchy ItemsEpic Scale Games
Vampire Itchy-ouchy Items
Epic Scale Games

Verdict

The game is really enjoyable. It’s a light, semi-cooperative game that has all the hallmarks of a dungeon-crawl without the dungeon.

The Gem mechanic, which is used for all creatures, Hunter’s, Armor and Shields is very well thought out and easy to implement. It’s got a great visual and tactile sense of feedback during game-play with everyone at the table acknowledging your level and your current abilities. It has that immediate input as to where you are, resource-wise but is very simple to manage.

There is enough variety in the types of weapons and monsters and with bonus and special items so that choices don’t feel limited and you don’t feel you are milling through the deck.

Over the course of play the game definitely ramps up in favor of the players, with early rounds feeling particularly brutal unless players are fortunate enough to get the best weapons and armor due to the fact that creature cards are random and a 17+ monster can be especially hard versus an ill-equipped party. As the game goes on though, and more cards are drawn players have more resources to throw at the threats they face, however card hand-size management then becomes a key issue, with Repel cards competing for slots in your 8-max hand size with Buff cards and other helpful plays.

There are definitely investment trade-offs with the save-ups being geared towards finding a Vampire-lord and positioning yourself to land the killing blow against a creature that the entire party must face, which is where the competitiveness of the gameplay comes in.

The game, at first seems deceptively cooperative, until draw after draw of All-party creatures comes in, and players start factoring weapon damage and Loot mechanics to position themselves to land the killing blow on a creature. Here is one of the minor chinks in the game-play as it can become slightly frustrating when you draw a creature with great loot and realize that your pull is not going to help you in anyway because you won’t be able to land the killing blow simply by not being the last person to roll, or because your weapon is too underpowered. In this respect, the game tilts towards those with better gear easily racking up the booty off of All-party monsters, and thereby getting more and better gear, etc.

Random Item Drops from the Day DeckEpic Scale Games
Random Item Drops from the Day Deck
Epic Scale Games

The tipping balance is the randomness of the draws which also can be somewhat of a disheartening experience as some cards allow your best management to randomly cause you to loose items and gear. This is inherent in a card game and adds to the flavor, but the major drawback is that the winning condition of the game, drawing a Vampire Lord from the Night Deck, is completely random. Which makes winning, when everyone at the table has a full set of Repel cards, completely random, taking it down a notch for strategy. But, considering this is a light game that seems inherent to the design. Play can also drag once players are over-equipped and creatures are no longer a challenge making the game turn to a random, who-draws-a-vampire-Lord-first fest.

Lastly, the game has some minor issues with how card effects happen, and the order by which they happen, which is a typical Stack effect problem for light-games and is really more of an advanced Gamers take-away than anything else.

The artwork is good, with the three-dimensional-like visual giving you a CGI-like flavor. The card stock is glossy and appears durable enough and the box itself its well designed, slick and definitely market-ready.

It’s a solid, light-hearted card game that comes with great art.

Tweaks

Considering its light-hearted feel, the game functions as its meant to. It’s not a strategy heavy game, other than drawing and keeping Repel cards and there is not a lot you can do to invest in tactics.

Given its nature, the only adds would be ways in which to preempt Killing blow steals, other than the Rogue abilities and cards, and some way to ‘peek’ ahead into the Night deck so that you could control the win condition a little more and make it less random.

Otherwise the game functions great as is.

So when you get a chance, feel like staking some night-bumping vampers, pick up a copy of Hunters Guild and

Game forth!

Hunter's GuildEpic Scale Games
Hunter’s Guild
Epic Scale Games

 

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