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Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Designed and illustrated by Maxime Gauthier, and published by Les Éditiones Smash, Hellbringer is a challenging solo and cooperative card-driven dungeon crawler where the player(s) have to fight their way past monsters before confronting the demon (boss monster) that's the focus of the scenario.

Players each start by choosing one of the generic fantasy game classes (warrior, paladin, sorcerer, monk, druid, hunter) and an equipment or companion card to assign to them. During the course of the game, other cards can be equipped but may require specific card slots on the player's board. Your character has various starting stats and, in a neat touch, you record these and the modifications that occur during play (for example, loss of hit points) using a dry-wipe pen: white against the black of the board.

The draw deck will include cards that can be used by the players but they'll need to power up to be able to utilise some of the cards. For example, players all start off able to take just one or at most two actions per turn but the more powerful cards demand a much higher number of action points before they can be used. There are 'starter' monsters loose from the start of the game but more and rather tougher foes will come on when triggered by cards seeded in the draw deck. We especially appreciated the 'sight' requirements for encounters with monsters. One of the stats that players have is a number for their sight. Monster cards have a similar number and if it's higher than that of a player, then the player cannot see it to attack it! It's a simple numerical way of representing line of sight but without fuss of having to measure distances.

As the game proceeds and you work through the draw deck, you encounter story cards that affect play. And burning thro' the draw deck represents venturing deeper into the dungeon. As you might expect, this makes things tougher for the adventurers by adding to the monsters' sight stats... Attacks involve the usual dice-chucking but with custom six-sided dice, and separate dice to reflect attacks involving poison. The monsters also roll a custom six-sided die to determine whether or not they attack and who they target.

As with Sanctum (CGE), the setting of Hellbringer inevitably prompts comparisons with Blizzard's Diablo videogame, but Hellbringer stands on its own two feet (more if you're playing as a coop) as a challenging hand management game. For sure, both you and the monsters will be at the mercy of those dice rolls but the appeal of this game is the way you manage your cards and build up your capacity to use them. The game scales well for different numbers of players: if you play with four, for example, the monsters will activate twice as frequently as in a two-player cooperative game.

Hellbringer is returning to Kickstarter on 1 March. We'll add a link to the campaign when it goes live.

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