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Yes, but does it spark joy?

If you haven't been KonMari-ing your board game collection until there's only Mage Knight left, then it's about time you caught up with the latest culling trend. Just remember to tell the games 'thank you' before you sell them.

Speaking of Mage Knight, I recently acquired a game that has been called a 'Mage Knight killer' or at least a design reminiscent of Mage Knight: I am talking about Champions of Hara. Having not played Mage Knight I cannot speak about this connection but I understand it is based on the Champions of Hara card play.

And indeed, the multi-use cards are among the strengths of this game. Each of the 6 characters is a teenager gifted with supernatural powers. Together they inhabit a strange, fragmented world mostly populated by cute monsters. As they move from hex to hex on the modular map, they try to take out as many monsters as possible, perform skill tests, or eliminate one of the 'corrupted' bosses, usually in order to attain some personal teenage angsty or petty goal: prove one's manliness, find a missing friend, gather people for a party.

This is an unusual game both in terms of gameplay and world-building. Each hero comes with three scenarios: one competitive, one cooperative, one solo. I have so far played four solo missions and one cooperative. Characters begin with a hand of four basic cards and gradually acquire more from their personal deck of upgrades. The cards you play from your hand are rotated and placed on the table, so on the next turn, you have access to a different card effect. This makes for a satisfying, decision-rich gameplay but other aspects of the game may turn the experience a bit sour.

Most of the scenarios are hard to win, and I found the co-op one nearly impossible. As the game is basically one big puzzle, some amount of randomness has been added to the design to make it replayable. At the end of each day, a 'world shift' takes place that forces you to exchange one of the tiles with another. This annoyed me to no end in the first sessions, as it is not convenient to lift tiles with cards on them and change their position. But besides fiddlyness, this tile movement can effectively ruin your chance at winning. One of the scenarios demands that the Baiyu and Oakenmoor areas be adjacent by the end of the game. Good luck with that.

To cut a long story short, am I enjoying this game? Yes and no. Other people may find the theme endearing but it does nothing for me. I am mostly focusing on playing the cards effectively, and don't feel that I'm having an adventure. The illustration on the tiles is very well done but I found the colourful side of the map visually aggressive (and that's coming from someone who likes Dungeon Degenerates). Thankfully, there is an alternative dark side which you can play on.

I suspect that solo scenarios are not actually character-specific and can be attempted by all the heroes. I haven't confirmed this with the designer, though. If not, then there is not much solo gameplay here unless you want to give the co-op scenarios a try. As I said, the one I tested I found way too hard. Will it stay in my collection or be thanked and disposed of? I haven't yet answered this question but I suspect Marie Kondo would give me a sweet smile and take it off my hands.

#ChampionsOfHara #Barber #VanNest #Zimmermann #GreenbrierGames

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