Hellboy: The Board Game Review
This review is for the retail version of Hellboy: The Board Game.
Paranormal investigator, red, tail, horns (filed) and a great big stone fist. Oh, and anger issues, those too.
Sound familiar? Yep, it’s Hellboy, here in his very own game.
Based upon the iconic series by Mike Mignola, Hellboy: The Board Game brings the comics to life spectacularly. In the game, you're playing as a Dungeon Crawler primarily, utilising several additional mechanics in order to deliver something a little bit different, a little bit special, a little bit Hellboy.
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The miniatures in the game are really nice. I would go as far to say that they're some of the best Mantic Games have done to date. I particularly like the four playable agents; Hellboy, Liz Sherman, Johan Kraus and Abe Sapien.
Mantic Games worked closely with Mignola on this project and it really shows. Each of the agents not only plays differently but they have unique strengths, weaknesses and special skills authentic to the source material. One thing to note about this game is that it's based on the original comics and not the Del Toro movies or the most recent (disappointing) film adaptation.
Of course, every hero needs an enemy and in Hellboy: The Board Game, it's the Frog Monsters from Seed of Destruction (the comic book this core set is based on). Fear not though, expansions are on the way covering many of the other storylines. There are various types of Frog Monsters, each with different rules, along with Frog Swarms, a Giant Frog Monster, Rasputin, and Sadu-Hem tentacles, acting as bosses at the end of the various scenarios.
The rule book is nice and compact. It's laid out fairly intuitively which makes looking up rules a pretty quick process. Of course, this is aided by the fact that there are no missions in the rule book. Instead, missions are presented in Case Files.
Each of the Case Files comprises of just over half a dozen cards and feature the map layout, enemies you will face, and Encounter and Deck of Doom cards required to play the game. Essentially, Case Files provide the setup details for the mission. Each Case has a number of triggers, one of which is on the Doom Track timer and reached during the game naturally, and various objectives for agents to accomplish - reaching these progress the story.
Should you tarry for too long, the Doom Track will trigger the Confrontation with the Boss battle, way before you're ready and way before you've gathered the evidence you need...
The Boss battle is inevitable. It’s going to happen one way or the other and the only thing you can control is how you get there. Do you take your time, investigate all the clues and hope you find enough information to take on the enemy that much easier or do you rush through to the objectives as quickly as possible, hoping to get through the story before the Confrontation begins?
There are, of course, many other factors and nuances to the game; such as Requisition Cards that you can kit your team out with, a Target Priority track that adds strategy to the enemy AI and, of course, the Deck of Doom which can throw a spanner in the works when you least expect (or need) it. After all, the Mignolaverse is a place where anything can (and usually does) happen!
I particularly like the 'combat and wound' mechanic and think they add a lot of character to the game. Each character has four stats. Fighting, Shooting, Investigating and Defense. Rather than messy stat lines and tables, there's simply a different colour for each stat; Red is good, Orange average, and Yellow poor. This is reflected on the appropriate dice face. Take Hellboy for example; he is very good at punching things so fighting is Red. He is pretty awful at shooting so that is Yellow. He is ok at investigating and defence so they’re both Orange.
To take a test you simply roll three dice of the colour appropriate to the stat. If you are punching a Frog Monster you roll three Red dice. Of course, there are modifiers and these can be represented by dice upgrades (and downgrades). For example, if there is more than one Frog Monster in your space, each one after the target will downgrade a die, so one of your Red would drop to Orange. Conversely, if you were to use one of your precious three action cubes to BOOST the roll you could change a Red to a Black.
Each die can only ever be upgraded or downgraded ONCE. It adds a nice layer of strategy to proceedings and is a mechanic I really like. Oh and then there's the 'effect' die...
Remember how I said that anything can (and does) happen in the world of Hellboy? Well, the 'effects' die represent that. As its name suggests, it puts an effect on the roll. It can add one or two to the score. It can grant you a reroll, saving you from those embarrassing blanks, it can even double the score of your highest die. BUT it can also ruin your day. If you roll the Catastrophe effect you have to deduct your HIGHEST scoring die. On the other side (literally) you have the BPRD symbol which acts as a wild result and can also trigger special rules (Hellboy heals on a fight action with a BPRD result for example).
On to the 'wound' mechanic. When you take damage you take a wound token at random and place it on your sheet (the blank side facing up). Characters have five or six spaces for these counters. Once the spaces are full, if you take further damage you will then turn over a counter for each point you take. These will then have detrimental effects; be it to shooting, defence (downgrades), even reducing your amount of action cubes! When you heal, you turn the tokens back to their blank sides before you can remove any. It’s a cool mechanic that gives the idea of injuries without having to mess about with tables and such.
So that’s just two of the mechanics in depth there. The end result is a game that is fast, dynamic and a blast to play.
This board game has a lot of replay value as there are many variables throughout the game which also increase as expansions are introduced. I’ve already played over half a dozen times and I'm eager to play more! Dripping with theme and character and great minis, Hellboy: The Board Game is a must-have for fans and I highly recommend it if you’re looking to get into something a bit different. It’s got a pretty good Board Game Geek rating too. Also, look out for the counter upgrade pack, it upgrades your cardboard counters to plastic tokens and even busts - for target priority, it’s well worth it!
Mantic Games - How to Play Videos
If you enjoyed the review of this board game and you’re itching to start playing yourself, be sure to watch the ‘How to Play’ series of videos, with James and Sophie from Needy Cat Games, on the Mantic Games Youtube Channel - they run through everything you need to know in Hellboy: The Board Game!