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Digital Subscriptions > The Best Games of 2019 > The Best Games of 2019 > HELLBOY: THE BOARD GAME

HELLBOY: THE BOARD GAME

Hell to play

HELLBOY: THE BOARD GAME

Hell to play

Hellboy: The Board Game lands with the punch of the Right Hand of Doom.

Released in time with the new cinematic reboot of the series, but hewing closer tonally and visually to Mike Mignola’s original comics, Sophie Williams and James Hewitt’s rompy dungeon-crawler pits the agents of the B.R.P.D. against evil frogs, eldritch tentacle monsters and, worst, the ticking clock of encroaching doom. Mignola was himself involved in producing the look of the game – and it shows. The cards and player boards are faithful to the comic-book artwork, while the purple, turquoise and blue hues of the garish map tiles that make up each modular layout are a breath of fresh air against the dank dungeons and murky forests of so many bland dungeon-crawlers.

The blending of exploration and combat lands somewhere between the winding Lovecraftian narratives of Mansions of Madness and the room-by-room adventure of Hewitt’s own Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. The players generally spend the first act of each scenario gathering clues, dispatching minor monsters and clearing room, racing to progress their insight against a creeping doom counter. Whether the players are prepared or not, a final confrontation is eventually triggered, with the team’s efforts to investigate the paranormal goings-on putting them in better or worse stead against a final boss and/or their gribbly minions.

Tbe two-act structure gives a strong backbone to hang the meat of Hellboy’s gameplay on. An intuitive test system combines three dice of varying strength – dictated by the characters’ individual traits – with an effect die that can trigger events both good and bad, from extra damage and rerolls to guns running out of ammo and enemy special abilities. Dice can be upgraded or downgraded as the result of various situations – firing into an area with multiple characters, taking damage, spending additional action points – letting fights feel pleasingly dynamic and strategic without bogging rolls down in endless rulebook-checking. Character abilities and the opportunity to load up with equipment before a mission invite replayability and co-op experimentation as you hurl enemies into scenery, wade into groups to dish out melee blows or pick off baddies across the map. It’s still a dice-chucking dungeon-crawler at heart, but one that manages to feel fresher and more exciting than many of its peers.

Much of this satisfaction comes down to its creators’ clear willingness to just let players have a good time. Hellboy can be punishing, but it never punishes the players. There’s no permanent player elimination – as in Silver Tower, characters can rest to recover health and revive knocked out allies – and dice rolls can almost always be boosted or modified to help avoid the frustration of bad luck.

As well as the overarching ‘case file’ scenarios, Hellboy uses decks of exploration and event cards, dubbed the Deck of Doom, to inject semi-randomised situations into each playthrough. While the broader storytelling means that Hellboy’s scenarios lack some of the narrative richness such as Mansions, the peppering of thematic flavour into the moment-to-moment dungeoncrawling experience gives the game an effective feel of the comics and helps colour in each scenario and the characters. The bosses – major archenemy Rasputin joins a giant frog monster and tentacle monster in the core set – similarly feel more than robotic pistol fodder thanks to boss behaviour decks that come into play during the finale.

While its gameplay feels designed to stand up to repeat plays, Hellboy is held back by the lack of enemy variation and small number of case files in the core box. Without picking up one of its expansions, you’ll find yourself facing off against just four frog minion types during each playthrough: something that can become a bit one-note. Given the efforts of the rest of the game to keep its scenarios as fresh as possible, it’s a disappointing sticking point. flat accepted, the core box is a strong foundation to build on.

Hellboy is a game that thrums with the energy and attitude of its big, red star. It’s an accomplished dungeon-crawler, a riotous experience and a hell of a time.

WE SAY

Offering up more interesting gameplay and richer scenarios than the typical dungeon-crawler fare, Hellboy is a fitting tabletop tribute to the seminal comicbook character and his world.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

► Hellboy miniature

► Liz Sherman miniature

► Abe Sapien miniature

► Johann Kraus miniature

► Game tiles

► Door and furniture tokens

► Custom dice HQ board Action cubes

► 8 minion miniatures

► Rasputin miniature Tentacle monster miniature Giant frog monster miniature

► Core agent cards

► Encounter deck

► Requisition deck Deck of Doom Case file deck

► Enemy deck

YOU LIKED… WARHAMMER QUEST: SILVER TOWER

Hellboy builds on elements of codesigner James Hewitt’s past dungeon-crawler, making sure to put the feeling of fun first.

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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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