About a week ago (it’s Aug. 29, 2020), I received Part II of the Ruin Of Thandar Campaign: The Lost Village in the mail. It was originally a Kickstarter, but I ended up ordering it from Miniatures Market and got it as soon as it came to retail. There are a lot of Kickstarters that have already gotten their copy, so I am late to the party, BUT it also seems to be sold out already at most online stores at the time of this writing.
What Is The Ruin Of Thandar Campaign?
The Ruin of Thandar is a cooperative expansion campaign for Hero Realms. The Lost Village itself is Part II of that campaign (with more obviously planned). For those of you who don’t know, Hero Realms is a competitive, 1 vs.1, deck-building game. I liked the original Ruin of Thandar cooperative expansion so much it made #4 on my Top 10 Cooperative Deckbuilder Games (and it probably should have made my Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Fully Cooperatively, since the base game REQUIRES these expansions to be fully cooperative).
Besides the base game of Hero Realms, you also need the Character Packs (see below). The Character Packs give you a little more specialization (almost but not quite Variable Player Powers), and a little more flavor to the game: Each Character Pack has 18 cards (replacing the base starting cards, and adding two “ability” cards).
Hold on, we’re not there yet. In addition to (a) Hero Realms and (b) The Character Packs (one pack for each player), you also need (c) The Ruin of Thandar expansion Part I.
Why do you need the Part I Ruin of Thandar expansion? In the campaign game, you “level up” as you play (getting new cards, new Skills, new Abilities, and new Treasure). Once you are done playing the Ruin of Thandar, you will have a lot of cards from that expansion explicitly for your character!! These cards are needed for The Lost Village!
SO: you will have to have played all the way through Part I, saved/remembered what new cards you upgraded to, and THEN you can finally play The Lost Village!
Unboxing and Components
The Lost Village comes with a bunch of new cards and two books.
One book is the “rulebook” (although not quite, see below) and the other is the Adventure Book. The Adventure book outlines the adventure the players will experience. The Adventure book is broken into “Chapters” and depending on whether you win or lose, you go to a different “Chapter” (kind of like Choose Your Own Adventure games).
The game is cooperative because all the players work together to take down “the Big Bad”. In the base Hero Realms, you damage to each other. In the cooperative, you do damage to the “the Big Bad” or the Master.
As the bad news cards come out (this is a cooperative game, so bad news cards HAVE to come out), each card (see below) will activate one of the special abilities of the Master: the color in the upper left of the bad news cards corresponds to the ability on the Master card(s).
If you get 3 of the Mastery cards (see diamond picture above), you can flip the Big Bad to the other side which is Level 2 and harder!
There are “essentially” 3-4 Scenarios/battles/adventures you will play through, and the bad news cards related to each scenario are labelled on the bottom left (4,5,6 since this is PART II of the adventure which already did 1,2,3).
The rulebook for the Lost Village is … okay. The game doesn’t make it 100% clear up front, but YOU NEED THE RULEBOOK FROM The Ruin Of Thandar TO PLAY THIS GAME!! Since this is Part II of a campaign, all the Lost Village rulebook does is “augment” the Ruin of Thandarr rulebook. IT IS NOT A FULL RULEBOOK!
The text is a little small. I wish it were bigger, but since the boxes are pretty tiny, I guess they had to make it fit. It was still much better than the Disney Shadowed Kingdoms rulebook though! Eh, the rulebook was ok. I got through it.
The original Ruin Of Thandarr rulebook seemed … better. It felt like it had better editing, better layout, better examples. I guess since The Lost Village was just an expansion, they didn’t have to do as much?
The game is really just the deck-building game of Hero Realms or Star Realms. You buy cards from the market (upper part of the picture above) and add them to your hand. The object is to do enough damage (cooperatively) to the “Big Bad” in the middle to win the game. Cards start simple, giving you either coin (to buy new cards) or swords (to do damage). As the game progresses, your deck gets better and better as you buy better cards, allowing you to cull, draw more cards, etc. It’s a deck-builder!
What makes it little more interesting is (a) your special powers (see the left part of the picture above) and (b) you are playing a campaign where you can “level-up” and get new skills, abilities, treasure and (c) you are playing cooperatively. When playing cooperatively, you can help out characters adjacent to you around the table! Notionally, each player has his own “Monster Area” and there’s also “The Master area” (where the Big Bad lives). You usually can’t attack the Master (Big Bad) until you clear your area first.
The game flows very quickly once you get set-up: At its core, Hero Realms is one of the easiest deck-builders I’ve played.
The set-up can be a bit much. In order to play The Lost Village, you’ve had to play through The Ruin Of Thandarr and remembered what cards you got! It’s been quite a bit of time since I have played, so I went ahead and played all the way through The Ruin of Thandar again before playing the Lost Village.
So: set-up: I strongly encourage you to keep cards related to each box next to each other!!! It’s very easy for cards to get into the wrong box because we are essentially pulling cards from (a) the Hero Realms base game (b) Character Packs (c) Ruin of Thandar box and (d) The Lost Village box. See my set-up below.
First, get all the cards that you need out of the base box.
Then you want to get the Character Cards out:
Then the Ruin of Thandarr cards:
And finally the Lost Village cards.
Putting this all together, you can put out your very first play of Adventure 4 (the first Adventure from the Lost Village).
If it seems like I am making a big deal about set-up … I am. It was by far the worst part of the game. Keeping cards and decks separate so that they don’t become unwieldy was a lot of work. It was very fiddly and annoying. HOWEVER, once I had it set-up, it wasn’t too bad. Honestly, the best thing to do is to leave it set-up once you start playing … you DO NOT want to set this again and again!
My first game was to play through all of The Ruin of Thandar (keeping all treasure/abilities/skills cards I got from that expansion). Then I started into The Lost Village. Solo play was easy: you basically alternate playing your deck, the Master’s deck, your desk, the Master’s deck… until someone wins. The game seemed a little easy as a solo game, but there were some unclear rules (someone had to show a green card to stop something BAD from happening, but since I was the only player, I allowed myself to be able to do that). It’s possible I misinterpreted those and it was too easy because of that.
But you know what, I wanted to keep playing and get all the way through the Adventure! Usually, I do my first impressions review after just a little play, but I played ALL THE WAY THROUGH! I was having a blast and I didn’t want to stop !! Of course, life gets in the way, and I had to play this over 3 nights but I really looked forward to my plays.
It was fun and straightforward to play, it was fun to upgrade my character, it was fun to run the bad guy and see what he doing to me, it was to fun to see what craziness would come out, it was fun to explore and read the story! Overall, it was … fun!
So, for some reason, this game reminds me of an Escape Room! Not because of the puzzles (because this is a deck-building, damage-inflicting game NOT a puzzle game), but because of the nature of the The Lost Village. In The Lost Village, there are 3-4 “episodes” in the box, much like 3 “episodes” in the Unlock Game: Epic Adventures. You are probably just going to play each episode once (as they each tell a story) … once you’ve seen the story, it’s not quite as compelling the second time. And the price point is about the same as the Unlock Game: Epic Adventures (assuming you already had all the Hero Realms stuff) at about $20 for The Lost Village. You get about 3-4 sessions of adventure with a story and are kinda done.
I had a blast playing through solo, but the replayability seems limited. The story was fun, but not particularly strong. The scenarios themselves were a hoot, and the levelling-up and found treasure made each game something to look forward to. I will say the whole game is very fiddly ONLY because it’s so hard to keep the base game, Character Packs, expansion I and expansion II separate. (If you don’t keep them separate, you may have trouble putting everything back together to play again).
I liked this a lot. I will be playing through it again with my friends! I look forward to the next expansion …