Bloodborne: the Board Game - title

I wasn't sure about the Bloodborne board game initially. The Dark Souls board game wasn't particularly good, and I already had a pretty great Bloodborne-themed card game. But I kept seeing good reviews of Bloodborne: the Board Game, and it was designed by the same designer who made the card game, Eric Lang, who I trusted to make a compelling board game. So I bought it. And then it sat on my shelf for a couple years because my friends and I were busy playing other games, like Star Trek: Ascendancy expansions. One of these days, I'll get around to actually playing a new board game promptly after buying it... One of these days ...

A narrative-driven dungeon crawl

First and foremost, Bloodborne is not simply a Bloodborne-themed reskin of the Dark Souls board game. They are made by different companies and designers, and have totally different design philosophies. Dark Souls is built around grinding with no real purpose other than to eventually beat a single boss. Bloodborne is a much more structured and purposeful game, which is built around narrative-based campaigns. In fact, this Bloodborne game actively and explicitly discourages grinding by implementing a strict turn limit. As such, a Bloodborne session (a single chapter of a campaign) takes about 90 minutes to play or less. It won't drag on for hours, or into the next day, like some of my Dark Souls play sessions did. This, by itself, makes it a lot easier to find people who are interested in playing, and to get them to come back for subsequent sessions to finish that campaign.

Because Bloodborne: the Board Game does have narrative campaigns, I actually feel like I need to preface this review with a SPOILER WARNING. Some of the images may contain story-related cards, board configurations, and enemy placements, which may contain spoilers for the first 2 campaigns (mostly the first one). The review itself does not contain any explicit spoilers for any of the campaigns, so feel free to read on. If you are worried about potential spoilers, and want to go into the game as blind as possible, then I advise that you avoid reading any of the text on cards in any of my photos, especially cards that are labeled "Mission" or "Insight".

Bloodborne is more narrative-driven and less grindy than its Dark Souls board game cousin.

The core set comes with 4 campaigns, each with its own short story and narrative branches that take place over 3 or 4 chapters. As of the time of this review, I've only actually played the first 2 of those 4 campaigns. But I've played the first campaign multiple times, with multiple different groups of players, so I still feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the game -- good enough to give a meaningful and relatively informed review.

Each campaign has a deck of cards that provide objectives for the player to complete, as well as the occasional reward. It plays out kind of like an old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, with each card telling the players to draw a specific numbered card after completing the given card's objective. In some cases, the players will have a choice, or the card will have different conditions, and depending on which choice the players make, or which condition(s) is met, the card will instruct the players to reveal one card or another next.

The total of 4 campaigns is actually a solid amount of content, and each campaign can be played multiple times to see the different branching paths. But the campaigns aren't quite as replayable as they might initially seem. Each decision always has the exact same outcome, which means that once you've played a campaign once, you know what choices to make in order to get which results. Knowing the outcomes sucks out a lot of the mystery, intrigue, and threat from the game, and allows players to micro-manage their decisions to optimize their play.

Player choices can cause several branches in a campaign story, opening up different quests and rewards.
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Bloodborne: the Card Game

I've written quite a few wishlist and feature proposals for video games on this blog. But today I'm going to do something that I don't think I've done before: suggest ideas for a board game expansion. In this case, I'm going to outline some ideas for my own user-made expansion ("mod"?) for Bloodborne: the Card Game. An official expansion may be due out later this year, so perhaps designer Eric Lang might come across this post and incorporate some of these ideas.

In my review of the card game, I mentioned that the card game adaptation is very simple, that a lot of stuff from the source material seemed strangely absent, and that it almost seemed as though the designers were leaving the door open for some easy expansion material. So I'm going to go ahead and try my hand at creating some of that material.

This isn't the first time I've ever tried my hand at modding a board game, but it is the first time that I've publicly posted my ideas. One of my better ideas (I think) was to try to write a series of national agendas for each of the factions in Axis & Allies, which would be drawn in secret at the start of the game. Only the faction(s) that fulfilled their agendas (and won the war) would be considered victorious. The idea was to make the game more interesting for more than just two players. Probably my most successful mod idea was for the Battlestar Galactica board game (specifically the Exodus expansion). Nobody in our BSG group ever liked playing as Laura Roslin, as we didn't feel that her benefits offset the handicap of having to sacrifice cards from her hand. In order to make her feel more viable, we all agreed that instead of having to discard two cards, Roslin could chose to take a trauma token. This introduced the risk that she might suddenly die (if a blood stain was drawn), but also allowed the player to keep her cards in her hand if they were going to be needed.

So let's see if I can come up with some workable expansion suggestions for Bloodborne...

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Bloodborne - the Card Game

It seems like everything has a board game these days. I wouldn't think that a license like Dark Souls or Bloodborne would warrant a board / card game adaptation, but apparently, I'm just not creative enough. The kickstarted Dark Souls board game is shaping up to be something similar to Descent, and is slated for release later this year. Bloodborne, on the other hand, already has a card game sitting on the shelf of a hobby store near you since last year. A copy of the game showed up under my Christmas tree this year.

Bloodborne: the Card Game Is very easy to learn, and it plays very fast and smooth! This is good, since most of my games are epic-length, 4-plus-hour games that we rarely have time to play. So it's always good to find a new game that people like and which can be played in an hour or less. Our first learning game of Bloodborne (including reading the rules) took about an hour and a half. We had planned on playing a sample round to learn the rules and then doing a mulligan on the game, but we didn't even need to because the game process is so simple that we all grasped the basic mechanics pretty much immediately.

"Selfish Phlebotomy": A game of kill-stealing

The game is a competitive card drafting game in which players sort-of cooperate to defeat a series of monsters, but compete against each other to score the most points. It's basically a Bloodborne-themed reskin of Cutthroat Caverns. Thematically, each player takes on the role of a hunter, the group fights a series of monsters in a Chalice Dungeon, and the hunters acquire Blood Echoes (points) by fighting and killing the monsters. Blood Echoes are directly earned by damaging a monster with a weapon attack. Each player who deals damage to a monster in the round in which the monster is killed also gains one or more trophies (based on the strength of the monster), which are converted to Blood Echoes at the end of the game for scoring.

Bloodborne the Card Game - Hunter's Dream
You're playing for Blood Echoes, which are lost if you die - unless you bank them in the Hunter's Dream.

The major mechanical gimmick of this game (and the one that is most inspired by the source material, and which most separates it from Cutthroat Caverns) is that when a player's character dies, that character loses all of his or her collected Blood Echoes, and then resurrects to fight again the next round. However, a player can use an action during the round to return to the Hunter's Dream and bank their collected Blood Echoes so that they cannot be lost. While in the Hunter's Dream, a player can also select new cards to add to his or her hand, and going to the Hunter's Dream is the only way to cycle your previously-played cards back into your hand. The drawback, of course, is that you can't participate in the fight and gain more blood. It's a risk / reward mechanic, and it works very well.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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