Welcome home, good hunter. What is it you desire?
Bloodborne is one of the most unique video games of the current hardware generation. Especially when it comes to the atmosphere. Waking up in a ruined XIXth century laboratory, only to get attacked by a rabid hound and discover hordes of angry mobs and monstrosities outside is hard to forget.
Everything that followed was even more disturbing: the city of Yharnam with its tall, towering spires, a snake and poison filled forest outside the cathedral ward, old wooden village of Hemwick with its famous witch, nightmarish realms accessible only to these who solve riddles leading to them and much, much more.
From Software and Board Games
The atmosphere, mixed with a dash of tweaked, faster Dark Souls gameplay, made for an adventure that’s hard to match. Is it possible to turn it into a good board game? There was already an attempt at From Software’s Dark Souls by Steamforged Games, but it felt lacking. This time the game is developed by a completely different bunch – CMON, who seem to be getting their hands on more and more awesome licenses tied to video games.
Crafting the Game
How did CMON deal with translating Bloodborne’s mechanics into a tabletop game? They started by picking some capable people. The rules and mechanics were developed by Michael Shinall (Xenoshyft, Rum & Bones, The World of SMOG) and Eric M. Lang (Rising Sun, Chaos in the Old World, Blood Rage).
Bloodborne: the Board Game consists of 4 story driven co-op campaigns (3 chapters each), all related to places known from the original game. Apart from them, we’re also getting new ones thanks to stretch goals and add-ons (some of them exclusive to Kickstarter).
Your character develops after each chapter and gets progressively stronger. A system of “Chalice Dungeons” allows for creating your own randomized maps with additional replayability.
Since Bloodborne, is known for punishing mistakes and rewarding tactical combat, Lang and friends have decided to get rid of dice and other randomness related components. Sure, we still have cards, but they mainly represent our skills and abilities used by bosses, which can be predicted to a certain degree.
After selecting a chapter to play, players pick a character with his or her unique trick weapon, a firearm and a basic stat deck. Cards represent all your basic abilities, and the deck will evolve as you progress through the game.
Next: players place some additional dashboards like the Hunt Dashboard, Hunt Track and set up rest of the cards, including consumables, upgrades, mission cards etc.
The set-up phase is finished by placing tiles according to the map on a scenario card. Every scenario has a special goal called “Hunt Mission”. To complete it, players will also need to gather Insight by tackling smaller “Insight Missions”.
Fighting Your Way Through Yharnam
While working on completing hunts, hunters will spend each turn attacking, moving, interacting with tile elements, using consumables, trading, transforming their trick weapons or taking trips to Hunter’s Dream. The amount of things to do is huge, and players can decide their own turn order, which allows for additional group strategy. Still: every person can only take one action per turn.
When monsters reach positions occupied by hunters (or the opposite happens) – combat ensues. Each weapon has its own set of actions, and these possess varying speeds, damage numbers and multipliers. Attacks should be picked based on the enemy type: some are easier to defeat with series of fast attacks while others should be smashed with some bigger force.
To attack you choose one stat card from your hand and place it on an empty slot on your weapon’s dashboard. To see what the enemy has in store for you, flip a card from his deck and check what attack does it mention. Faster attacks hit first, so determine who was quicker. Next subtract the amount of damage specified in the attack’s description. If the second combatant is still alive, you also resolve his attack and subtract the damage he has dealt.
Bloodborne the Board Game
Did CMON succeed in creating a perfect transition from a video game to a tabletop game? Well, the visuals are without doubt stunning. Yharnam looks dark and eerie, just like it should. The miniatures are incredible, and worth getting for fans even if they don’t care about board games. Mechanics feel similar to other games from the co-op “dungeon” crawler genre, but have that hint of strategy and danger we know so well from the games by FromSoft.
Gameplay wise Bloodborne seems satisfying, but there are some things I don’t like about CMON’s approach to the title. For example: the core box includes areas known only from the really early part of the game. Bosses are either human or werewolf-like, and anyone who played the original knows, that there is so much more to explore. Sure, some might be added as stretch goals, but so far the choices have been pretty strange. I’d love to see Micolash or Amygdala!
“I’m really not a fan of kickstarters with big and costly gameplay add-ons. They make me feel, like I’m backing a skeleton of the game and need to pay more to get the full experience. One $40 addon with a campaign + a single boss has already debuted on the KS page, and more are bound to come, increasing the price from $100 to at least twice or thrice the amount. Please announce these at the beginning, not just when the pledges slow down. “
The campaign is doing pretty well right now. Sure, titles like Zombicide or Rising Sun have reached bigger numbers faster, but you have to remember, that Bloodborne is aimed at people who know the original game. And that game happened to be an exclusive title available only on Playstation consoles.
Still, 2 million in a week is a great result, and a first hint at CMON getting their stuff together after a weaker period. I’m going to skip Bloodborne (a friend backed it already, no need for 2 copies), but I’m eagerly awaiting Trudvang Legends, that’s supposed to be their next big thing.