Heroes of Graxia Review

A game that I was able to re-play today (so that it would be fresh in my mind for a review) was Heroes of Graxia.

Heroes of Graxia is a deck building game in the same vein as Dominion, Thunderstone, and Ascension Chronicle of the Godslayer. Specifically in Heroes of Graxia, the player takes on the role of a Hero that is able to recruit Armies, Henchmen and Merchants to fight for him against monsters and other player's characters, as well as being able to buy equipment for his units and spells to play during combat. On any given turn, a player can take up to two actions, which can include drawing an extra card, equipping units, playing new units, healing units, or attacking. Also on a player's turn he is able to buy new cards for his deck without spending any actions (though he does discard the cards that were used to pay for the new purchases - you cannot also use them for combat that turn).

Graxia introduces several really interesting mechanics. First, when building your "legion", you have a concept of different types of units. You can play as many Armies as you want, but you can only play one Henchman, because this card represents your Hero's "right-hand man". Also, you are able to play Mercenaries during the battle to represent that they are not permanently in your legion, but only present when you are able to recruit them. This concept of types of units is pretty neat and works pretty well - it's a definite "pro" in Graxia's favor.

The next innovation that Heroes of Graxia has over other deck building games is that there is player versus player combat, not just player versus monster combat. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game is horribly broken. I played this the first time and we were amazed at how easily you were able to win by simply ignoring the monsters and pummeling an opponent. And the person who won was simply the person that wound up attacking first. Figuring that we may have missed something or that the game just works when it is two-player, I tried it again, this time two-player. This time the combat was even worse! Once I defeated my opponent's legion and killed his Hero, there was no way for him to come close to being able to defeat me. Yes, the game attempts to compensate for this by giving a player extra cards and actions if their Hero is eliminated, but if the Hero is eliminated early enough in the game, then a player may simply not have good enough cards to be able to defend themselves against the next attack.

Another problem was that we had several points in the game where we encountered a situation where we told ourselves "this can't be right", but we would look at the rules, and sure enough, we were playing it correctly. (One example: as in most deck building games, at the end of your turn you discard all of your cards and draw back up to 5. Also, at the beginning of combat, if you're the defender and you don't have 5 cards you draw back up to 5. However, if I attack you on my turn and you spend 4 cards defending yourself, then on your next turn you will only have 1 card in hand, whereas I will have gotten to discard and draw back up to 5, so you will be outmatched if you attempt to attack me and you won't have enough cards to do much else on your turn. I still hope that I missed something in the rules on this issue.)

Another example of player combat being broken is this: you can lose points by attacking monsters if the monsters kill any of your units, but you can't lose points for attacking other players - in fact, you gain a victory point for attacking another player regardless of whether you win.

Another rule that just doesn't make sense: the monster's only attack you back if you defeat them. If they are not defeated, then all the cards you used are discarded and the combat ends (before resolving their damage to you!), but if they are defeated then you calculate up what their damage to you would be, and if you lose units then you lose points as well. This is another rule situation where I hope I missed something.

Overall, Heroes of Graxia gets a 3.0/10. This makes me sad. There were so many positive and neat aspects of the game, and each time I played I hoped that it would work well - there's awesome art, it is a neat concept, the unit mechanics are awesome, but the player combat is so broken that the game just doesn't function well. Perhaps if you ignored player combat and agreed before playing that you would only attack monsters, this game might work, but playing with the rules how they are written is just about pointless.

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