A Review of Minecraft: Heroes of the Village (a Cooperative Family Game)

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I was super-excited for Minecraft: Heroes of the Village (A Minecraft Family Game) after having such good luck with Minecraft: Portal Dash a few weeks ago: Portal Dash was a surprisingly good game! See our review of Portal Dash here. Heroes of the Village is another cooperative game from Target (I know, enough with the Target already). This is pretty new and I believe it just came out. (I picked it up Nov 4th, 2022). Let’s check it out.

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First and foremost: you need to know this is a lighter cooperative game for families: take a look at the age requirements: 7+ 

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This is a game set in the Minecraft universe.  This is also a family game: that’s very clear.

Unboxing and Gameplay

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Heroes of the Village is a cooperative game about building a village in Minecraft: It’s for 2-4 players.

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Each player chooses an avatar, and takes the appropriate avatar blue/green puzzle piece (left)  and corresponding white piece (bottom): see above.

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Each player also gets a pet: each pet has special abilities.  It’s funny, the character itself doesn’t have any special powers: it’s the choice of pet that gives each player a special power! See list of special powers from the rulebook below.

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Once each player chooses an avatar and a pet, they pick a color and piece together their player board and plastic base. See below.

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Above, you see player 1 with the blue board and panda as his pet.  Player 2 has the red board and the fox as her pet.

Then, you place the appropriate player/pet combo avatar on the home space on the board: see below.  Note, it’s kind of clever how the little marker has space for both the player avatar AND the pet avatar!!!

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This is where the game starts.  The object of the game is to build three village structures before time runs out! See the village structures below:

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Each village structure show you what blocks it needs to be built: these are blocks you’ll be “mining” by pulling from a bag.

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You only have a limited time to build the Village structures; the Illagers (see red avatar above) move closer and closer to you every turn.  if they reach space 1, all players lose!! If, however, players build all three village structures before that happens, players together win!

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The Illagers don’t automatically move at the end of each player’s turn: the current player will roll the white die: if the white die shows an Illager, the Illagers move one space! Otherwise they don’t.  Basically, you have a 50% chance they will move forward every turn.

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Each player gets two actions per turn: they can do any of these actions.

  1. Explore: uncover a new tile, which adds new cubes to the draw bag
  2. Collect Blocks: Go to a space with the mining action and draw cubes from the bag.  You get to keep all cubes matching the space you moved to.
  3. Fight a MOB.  If you ever accidentally collect a black cube, you have to put a MOB (bad guys) out on your location.  You can’t mine (collect blocks) from that space until you kill the MOB. Roll the black die up to 3 times to kill a MOB.
  4. Build.  Head back to the village space, and place some of your cubes out and build partly or completely a village structure!

This game is all abut getting cubes from the grab bag:

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At the start of the game, the bag is pretty empty.

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Every time you explore a new tile, you can put new blocks into the bag.

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For example, if you explore the tile on the right (above), you get to throw a white block into the bag.

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Above, the red player explores and gets a brown and white block to throw into the bag.

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When you mine, you draw blocks from the bag: above, the blue player mined, but he can only keep the grey block because he was on a grey mining space … unfortunately, he also summons a MOB because he drew a black cube!!

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The blue player can then keep up to 4 blocks on his player sheet.  There is also one space for redstone: redstone is “wild” when you draw it.  You can keep up to one redstone if you draw it from the bag.

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Since the blue player draws a black block, then a MOB (little weird piece above) goes on the board and blocks all future minings until someone fights it with the black die.

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If you get enough blocks, go back to the village and and build!  Above, the red player has built the first structure!  

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Basically players explore, mine, and build trying to get the three structures built before the Illagers arrive!

The components are decent.  The game was $29.99 from Target: decide for yourself whether you think they are worth it: see above and below.

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By the time you are done with a game, the board looks nice and colorful … kinda like Minecraft.

Rulebook

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So this rulebook is 44 pages. 

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BUT it’s 44 pages because there are rules for 7 different languages!! (See the back of the box).  

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The English rules are only about 6 pages.  (7 Languages at 6 rule pages each, plus 1 cover and 1 back = 7*6+1+1=44 pages total)

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These rules are so-so.  They do show a components page with correlating text and pictures, but the text and pictures are small and unclear:  see above.  I think some of the components aren’t particularly well-labelled.  As I was unpacking the game, I had to go through the component list about three times to make sure I understood what all the components were.

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The set-up page is good enough: see above (but it still felt under-labelled).

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The rules are pretty good, if not great.  (For example, I never got a good explanation for if there was a “village” tile: I assume it’s the middle home tile).

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It wasn’t the best rulebook in the world.  It was good enough to learn the game.

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The last page (unfortunately) has no icon summaries.

Solo Play

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This game has NO rules for solo play.  (Boo for not following Saunders’ Law).  For my first solo game, I played two characters: the blue guy with the panda, and the red gal with the fox.  See first set-up above.

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I thought, because village structure 1 needs 5 blocks (above), and each character can carry only 4 blocks, I thought I had to play two characters (so that they would build it at once).   Nope!  You can build part of a building and then go out in the world again.  So, you can simplify your game by playing a single player solo.  Two characters worked fine though: the game is pretty simple so the context switching isn’t a real problem.

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The game was very simple and quick. I played in about 20-25 minutes and won: see above. 

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I got pretty lucky in my first game: the Illagers never came anywhere close to the Village. I rolled “no advance” every time!

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It was ok.  I had some fun, but it wasn’t a great solo experience.  The randomness of the Illager die and the MOB fighting (see discussion below) kind of brought down the gameplay.

Cooperative Play

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Cooperative play seemed to go decently well.  There was a little more strategy in the game, as we used the different pets to better plan our actions.  For example, Ivan took the Panda (which allows him to ignore some bad pips on the fight die), so we tended to defer fighting to Ivan if it made sense.

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The board was a little messy with 4 players, and a little hard to manipulate in the middle of the table, but it wasn’t a big deal.  It might be better for future plays if we all played on one side of the table.

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Interestingly, we were able to play 5 players in one game, even though the box says 1-4: I sat out “teaching” the game and essentially managing the bag and the board:  It made the other 4 players turns go a little faster.  This is one of the reasons we like cooperative games here at Co-op Gestalt is because we can do things like this: see our 5th Wheel Becomes the 6th Man blog entry for more discussion.

We did win our cooperative game with some cooperative thinking.  But it was close.

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The group was very divided over this game: Kurt straight up called this trash and wouldn’t play it again.  CC (with his family goggles on) said he thought it was a decent family game and would play it again with kids, but probably not outside of that context.  Junkerman and Ivan thought this would be a good game for the RichieCon library for when families with kids come!

The Blocks

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The best part of this game are the blocks.  By being a bag-building game, as you play, you can introduce your kids to the world of probability! 

“What’s in the bag?  What’s our best bet to get some brown blocks?  Seed the the bag or do a pull now?” 

You can’ t look at bag while you are drawing from it, but you are allowed to look in at any other time.  The funnest cooperative part of the game is trying to figure out when to put cubes into the bags (“explore”) and when to draw to try to get some blocks (“mine”).  As a group, you decide when it makes sense to fill the bag and draw from the bag. 

In some ways, this game feels like a much lighter Ygdrassil (a bag-building game that made our Top 10 Cooperative Games Off The Beaten Path)

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Randomness Thoughts and Fixes

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Hardcore gamers will hate this game.  This game is just really random, as there’s no real mitigation of dice, and combat is just “lucky”: you roll the the die thee times and hope you beat the MOBs!  You have no upgrading weapons, and there is no path for any upgrades. 

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We need to reiterate that this game is for families and younger kids:  the mechanisms can’t be too complex.  Recall that Disney Sidekicks (see our review here) made the fatal mistake of being too hard for its age range.  For Minecraft: Heroes of the Village‘s age range of 7+, I think the dice are appropriate.  But just barely. I am very worried there is a very small window where kids will find this fun and not too simple.

So there are two main problems I had with the game, regardless of the age range. Both of them based on the dice (see below).

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First: The “Advance the Illagers” (white) die has a 50%chance every turn of advancing the Illagers.  Over time, that “about” doubles the length of the track (half of the time, the Illagers won’t advance).

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So, if the Illagers start on space 11 (see above), it will take “on average” 22 turns for the game to be over. While I get that it’s “kind of fun” to have the kids roll every turn and “maybe the Illagers will advance, maybe they won’t”, randomness completely takes this over.  In my first game, the Illagers NEVER advanced via the white die.  I think a better mechanism would be to have a die with 5 “advance the Illagers” side and 1 without, so then make the game have 18 or 19 spaces until the Illagers win: “on average”, the Illagers won’t move 3 times, so the randomness would be much more contained.   I don’t hate the white die, but I just think it’s a little too random.  But I get it: it’s fun for the kids to roll every turn.

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A much bigger problem is the black die used for fighting.  There are a bunch of problems with this, as the die has so many random effects:

  • You can push the Illagers back (with an arrow face)
  • You can bring the Illagers forward (with a Illagers face)
  • You can completely fail to kill a MOB you need to during combat and be very frustrated
  • There is no upgrade or mitigation

Whether or not you kill a MOB on your space (who is currently blocking you from mining) is completely random.  You get to roll 3 times, and during that time you may bring the endgame even closer (twice!) to end if you roll poorly.  This was just … so random.  First of all, I would completely get rid of the of “Illagers move forward/backward” part of the die roll: it’s not thematic, and it doesn’t belong, and it just sows more randomness into the game.  I would simply replace those faces with rerolls.   

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To help mitigate bad combat dice rolls (“I need a 6, but all I can roll is a 4!!”), I would add a cooperative mechanism to the game!! If you can’t kill a MOB on your turn, have a rule that states “for every character on a space when fighting a MOB, you get to add and extra roll and sum the rolls together!”  In other words, if we absolutely have to kill a MOB to win, let’s cooperatively take out a MOB!!!  This seems like an easy rule to add: it’s simple, it makes the game more cooperative, and it allows some mitigation of bad dice.

These aren’t official rules of course, but I think both adjustments would make this game more fun.

Conclusion

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Minecraft: Heroes of the Village was okay, but it has a very small window of applicability.  I think a 7 or 8-year old kid would enjoy this a few times, but might grow too old for it very quickly.  If I want to show a younger kid the world of cooperative games, this is not a bad starting choice!  I’d be happy to play this once or twice with a younger kid.  But just once or twice … the problem is, I personally would tire of it very quickly: it’s just a little too random.  And I think most adults and hard core gamers would tire of it quickly, even playing it with their kids.  There are many games where both the child and adults can enjoy the experience: I can see Flamecraft as a cooperative game being a fun game for all (see our review here and discussion of the cooperative version).  Elia and Something Shiny be a fantastic cooperative game for both kids and adults: see our review here.

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I should be happy that Target has a decent cooperative game for families.  And I am.  Minecraft: Heroes of the Village is not bad if you get it, and your kid may love it, especially because the Minecraft theme!!!  And choosing the pets will engage the youngsters too!  There are a few things you can do to make the game a little funner (see our fixes above). But watch the age range, because I believe this will have a short shelf-life.

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I am going to keep this for the RichieCon collection: we typically have a lot of kids with families coming to RichieCon, and I could see introducing some younger kids to the world of cooperative games with Minecraft: Heores of the Village.  It also looks good on the table.

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