Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Custom Heroes

Product-Custom Heroes

Producer– AEG

Price– $25.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Alderac-Entertainment-Group-Custom-Heroes/dp/B07117V56Q

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Build a hero!  89%

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Basics- Cards!  Assemble!  Custom heroes is another in the card crafting games lineup from AEG.  This game is a trick taking game where one player will play any number of cards of one number, and every player after them will play cards of the same number or higher numbers until no one can play any more cards, and the last player wins the round.  Then, the player who went last starts again. An example would be starting with three 4s, and then play continues to 3 10s. You can also skip other players by playing the exact same cards as the previous player, so even if that player has an awesome play, they might not get a chance get it out there!  Players continue until they have no more cards in hand earning various rewards. The first player out in a round then earns victor points, power chips, and inserts, while the last player left in a round loses a point, but gains many more chips and inserts.

And here is where the game really takes off!  Each insert will give you a new base number, add, subtract, or provide a new power.  When the round comes to you, you can insert as many inserts as you want into a card, as long as they don’t cover ones already there, and then play these new custom heroes.  The game starts with base cards numbering 1 to 10, but I have seen three 18s played on a turn! Powers have to be activated with power chips, but if you don’t use the power, you gain back a chip.  While you modified that heroe, they are part of a common deck, so you might watch as the hero you made one turn is played by a different player a turn later

The game continues until a player has 10 victory points and wins.  So you might be over the 10 victory point top, but unless you are the first one out with that many, play keeps going.  Three way battles between players with 14 or more victory points make for some tense games!

Mechanics-I have a lot of trick taking games, but the custom nature of this one is really fun.  You get a bit more choice in the game. Lots of games like this just screw you on the flop, but now you get the ability to build your own numbers should the ones you are dealt suck.  But, what’s really fun is how much this little game will make you think. You really do send your time thinking about the different math combinations you can pull to make your next play.  This is a simple game that hides a much deeper one! 5/5

Theme- Here is where this game gets screwed by my love of theme.  Hearts is a fun game, but it has absolutely no theme. This game has some good art and the nature of how the inserts customize what the heroes are doing is fun, but there really isn’t a story.  It feels like some anime world, but beyond that, there isn’t much here. This game has a fun, but not deep, theme. It tries! There are descriptions of things in the book, but again, this is like asking for a custom, story based, version of poker that doesn’t change the cards in any fundamental way.  3/5

Instructions–  Did you see the instructions up above?  That’s the rules! The book says it nicer, shows pictures, and reads quick.  This game isn’t hard to get into, and the rules make that transition quick. 5/5

Execution-Overall, i really like this game!  The art is cool with a nice anime vibe.  The inserts are great quality, as they build awesome heroes.  The one things I don’t like are the card sleeves. AEG has to walk a hard line here.  The card sleeves are the game, so they have to be rough and tumble enough to be used over and over.  BUT, they are a bit too tough. They stick to each other way too much! Often when I’m about to hand out the 10th card for the round, I have everybody count to see if I have given them 10 already because the cards are stuck together.  It’s not game ending, but it’s a slight annoyance that will drive you a bit mad. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3TAXTdlFGWA   4.75/5

Summary-Custom Heroes is just fun.  It’s a small box game that teaches quick, plays fast, and isn’t bogged down in being too much.  The art is great, the rules read easy, and the inserts are a fun addition to a simple game concept.  I’d like to see more of this. I wish there was a story that we could build upon here to make more theme, but this is a simple game that any card player knows what to do next.  Overall, it’s a blast that you will want to replay as soon as you finish your last game. 89%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Mystic Vale

 

Product-Mystic Vale

Producer– Alderac Entertainment Group

Price– $45 here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DMZR1QU/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 60 minutes (2-4 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Not perfect but amazing none the less.90%

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Basics-  Only you can save the vales!  In Mystic Vale each player takes the role of different druid clans attempting to restore the world after a magic calamity.  Each player has a deck of sleeved cards.  At the start of each of a player’s turns, he or she reveals cards until three spoils symbols are revealed.  The last card with a spoils symbol is placed on top of the player’s deck of cards and is “on-deck.”  Players can also push their luck and harvest their on-deck card.  If they do, they can continue to reveal new cards on-deck, and place them in their field.  If they do, they may get extra points, but if they reveal another spoil symbol, then their turn is over.  This game has a built in bonus for when a player does this however.  A player has a token that if they spoil, they get to turn this token over and it allows them to use it as an extra mana, or purchasing power, in a future turn. The on-deck card is not part of a player’s “field” or cards a player can use to buy cards or gain points.  

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Here is where the game gets interesting.  Each card has a number of symbols on it.  These symbols are mana (money for extra card pieces), victory points, growth to counter spoils, and spirits (a second currency to buy vales or permanent cards).  If a player doesn’t spoil, that player gains victory points, and then can spend mana to buy card inserts or spirits to buy vales.  A player can buy two of each, each turn.  Vales are placed in front of a player and provide a constant benefit and inserts are inserted into cards in a player’s field.  Here is the major strategy of the game.  A player doesn’t build as many intercard combos, but instead crafts intracard combos as new inserts unlock new abilities based on the symbols on the card.  Additional symbols called guardians provide benefits only if a card has an ability that triggers off guardian symbols.

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This game uses a victory point based mechanic to determine when it ends.  Each game starts with victory point pool.  When the pool is empty, each players receive an equal number of turns, but now take victory points from the box.  After everyone has the same number of turns, players count count victory points on their cards, their vales, and the physical victory points they earned during the game.  The player with the most points is leader of the best Druid clan and reigns supreme!
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Mechanics-The card crafting mechanic of the game makes this an amazing game.  I had a blast building different card combos.  In addition, the nature of building your field means you can build off turn and have almost no down time.  I’ve seen games take as little as 20 minutes when four experienced players hit the table.  I also love any game that has two different markets.  I get bored when the victory strategy is build the biggest card to win, and this game doesn’t have that at all.  The drawbacks of the game are player interactivity and a runaway victory.  I am basically running a race against myself. Other other players steal cards from you, but only from the buying pool.  I really don’t need the other people at the table.  Furthermore, if someone has the best card inserts due to the available cards, then that person will win.  There is strategy, but if they play better, they will win and nothing you do will stop them.  You can only just be better at the start and not fall behind.  It’s not a bad game, but know that going in! 4.25/5

Theme- Mystic Vale has a ton of theme, but it is a theme you must find yourself.  The game can be simply played as deck builder with a new mechanic of building cards instead of decks, and this will not detract from the game at all.  However, if you are like me, you really want to have a massive amount of story to your game.  It’s here, but you need to dig for it.  From the terms like field being where you harvest your mana to the idea of spirits revitalizing the mystic vales, you get a story as you play.  But, that means theme is not front and center. 4/5IMG_20160630_172022720

Instructions-This is an awesome game that teaches quick, plays fast, and masters instantly.  You don’t feel stupid stepping up to this game as you get a quick intro with enough introduction to get you gaming quickly.  By the end of turn two you have the game down pat.  Also the helper cards are amazing!  They really do get you gaming faster. 5/5

Execution-I love everything in this box, but the game’s execution suffers from its main mechanic.  The art is amazing.  The cards are good quality.  The box has beautiful dividers.  This game is almost everything I want to see in a deck builder.  But, every card has three sections.  Since you want to have the new cards inserts work in each spot, you have to divide the card insert pool by one-third.  That means the game can grow a bit stale semi quickly.  Luckily two expansions have been announced already.  It’s a minor problem, but it’s one worth mentioning.  If you want to see a full unboxing check out our video here https://youtu.be/cPVRTU2h5bk 4.75/5

Summary-Mystic Vale is one of my new favorite games.  It’s fun to get to the table. It’s phenomenally fast to learn and play.  It’s gorgeous, and it’s fun to insert cards into sleeves and unlock their power.  That said, it’s not without it’s faults.  The game doesn’t fix common deck building problems.  The theme isn’t as strong as I’d like, and you might get tired of seeing the same card after 10 plus plays.  But if you play a game over 10 times, then the game is a win as it keeps you coming back for more.  It does for me.  Despite the faults, I’d recommend this over many other deck builders out there.  90%