Bloodborne started out as a PlayStation 4 exclusive and despite not hitting other video game platforms is now available in a rather different medium, as a card game. Well known board game designer Eric M. Lang has got his hands on the concepts and themes of the video game’s Chalice Dungeons and has transported them to the realms of board games. Should the hellish monsters and bosses have been left alone or is this a worthy card game adaptation that could stand alone? Let’s find out!
Players will be working together to overcome 10 random monsters and a final boss. The random monsters are made up of 7 basic monsters and 3 boss monsters. Adding to the replayability of the game, these come from a deck of unique monsters so chances of running into the same 10 each time you play are extremely low. After the monsters have been randomly chosen they are shuffled to mix the boss and basic monsters. A final boss card is randomly chosen from the pile of 5 and turned over to unveil its effects.
One aspect I found that adds an air of intrigue is the shuffling of the 5 final boss cards. Although everyone will know which boss will be appearing at the end of the dungeon, from the start of the game, each boss adds a unique trait to the entire game. Gerhman, The First Hunter, for instance simply adds two health to every other monster players fight. It doesn’t sound like much but if monsters come up with already large health pools the dynamic changes from will I be able to collect any Blood Echoes to can we as a group even kill this thing?
As players are all attempting to beat each other points wise the final boss we found hardest was Rom, The Vacuous Spider. Turn over Rom at the start of the game and players that die a second time are completely removed from the game. It almost forces players to want to work together but on the odd occasion that a player is removed from the game early on they found it off-putting that they had to sit out for the entirety of the rest of the game. Rom adds difficulty and a risk factor above and beyond the other final bosses. It is just a shame it comes at the expense of players having to be completely removed from the game.
Each player starts with the same starting hand of 5 identical cards. Two of these cards are basic melee weapons that are acceptable, but often the Saw Cleaver is the first card players will look to completely discard. Everyone also gets a Hunter’s Pistol. The pistol allows the player to inflict damage first in battle; under the condition that no other player has also attempted to use the same pistol card. The remaining two cards are Utility cards. Transform is the first of these and it allows players to hold back from playing an actual card until everyone else has revealed what they are playing. Enabling players to see if their “teammates” are telling the truth about what they said they would play.
The final card is Hunter’s Dream. Playing this card means that you do not attack the monster that round. Instead of attacking, on top of only taking half damage during the round, at the end of the round you return all previous discarded cards to you hand, return to maximum health, move any collected Blood Echoes from simply collected to banked and you get to choose one of the five visible upgrade cards. These upgrades are better weapons. They often do more damage or have an ability. Abilities give the player situational advantages.
This upgrade card is taken at the very end of the round and is when Bloodborne The Card Game’s comeback mechanic comes into play. If a player is killed they lose all collected, but not banked, Blood Echoes. However, to give them an advantage, stopping them falling completely out of contention, they are also allowed at this stage to return to full health and take an upgrade card. These dead players are not allowed to pick up their discarded cards unless dying after playing Hunter’s Dream. It is a fairly balanced system that punishes dying players but doesn’t make it too hard to still be decent opposition to other players. This is a good thing as all players will most likely die quite a bit in Bloodborne The Card Game.