Play Time: 20-30 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 12+ we think 8+ / Publisher: Wise Wizard Games / Designers: Robert Dougherty, Darwin Kastle
Hero Realms Ratings and Summary
Kids rating from our daughters (8 &11).
Teen rating from our son (15).
Hero Realms offers some nice improvements over its predecessor Star Realms. It’s still a great introduction to deck builders that can be played quickly. However, it doesn’t offer enough differences to warrant owning both, unless you are planning on investing in the character packs which allow players access to unique roles, abilities and starting decks.
- Plays quickly with simple set up
- Great introduction to deck builders as it’s so easy to learn
- Lots of card variety presents varied opportunities each game
- Card synergies can be easily recognised thanks to clear iconography
- Plenty of interaction and direct competition
- Some nice improvements compared to star realms with more varied starting deck and support for up to 4 players in core box.
- There is some luck here due to random nature of cards appearing in the market
- The changes overall don’t make it different enough to warrant owning both games unless you are interested in the Hero Realms character packs.
What You Will Find in Our Hero Realms Review
- How to Play
- Gameplay Experience
- Final Thoughts
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Strategy Tips
Hero Realms from publisher Wise Wizard Games is a follow up to the very popular deck building card game Star Realms. Designers Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle have largely stuck to the successful formula that made Star Realms so much fun but used a fantasy theme instead of sci-fi and made some small improvements. I really enjoy Star Realms, so much so that I had the app on my phone and used to play it regularly. It was simple enough to pick up quickly but offered enough variety to make it addicting. I was really excited to try Hero Realms and hoped it wouldn’t disappoint. The good news is it retains much of what made Star Realms such a great introduction to deck building card games, but it may not be different enough from the original to warrant owning both unless you are interested in the expansion content.
How to Play Hero Realms
The sprawling metropolis of Thandar has flourished and grown into a prosperous city state. Established by the Emperor to encourage peace through trade, it is now home to residents of all the species and nations of the known world. Unfortunately, the vast wealth generated by trade has resulted in endless disputes and conflict amongst its residents.
Your goal is to stay alive and defeat your opponents. Each player starts with 50 health and when that is exhausted a player is knocked out of the game. The last player left alive wins.
Much like Star Realms, Hero Realms is easy to set up and can be ready to play in minutes. Each player will take a starting deck and cards to track health points. Then all the market cards are shuffled and five are placed face up to create the market. Finally, the stack of fire gem cards is placed in easy reach of players. That’s it.
If you have played Star Realms the rules here are pretty much the same but for those that haven’t here’s how it works. There are three phases:
- Main phase – where you can play cards from your hand, use gold to purchase cards from the market, use combat abilities to attack your opponent or their champions and use any relevant ally effects
- Discard phase – where all played cards are added to your discard pile
- Draw phase – where you draw back up to five cards and then end your turn.
If it sounds simple it is. This game is super easy to teach and is a great starting point for introducing deck building games to new players.
The cards you play will typically provide you with either gold to spend on other cards, attack points or health points to replenish your health. They fall into two categories; they can be actions/items which are played and then discarded or champions that stay in play in front of you until they are defeated by your opponent. A guard champion has the added benefit of forcing your opponents to defeat it before they can have a crack at attacking you. It’s kind of like having a bodyguard dive in front of you to take the hit if you’re in danger. These are some of my favourite cards in the game.
Like most deck builders the cards you start with will be pretty basic and unappealing but as you purchase cards from the market and start to thin out your starting cards, your deck improves.
There are four factions in the market deck, and each has its own focus which suits a certain style of play. The blue Guild faction tends to provide a lot of gold, the red Necros faction tends to let you thin out your starting deck quicker, the yellow Imperial faction provides a lot of healing power, and the green Wild faction tends to mess with opponents requiring them to discard cards. The strategy here tends to be about trying to combo cards together from the same faction as often this will trigger a special ally ability on cards that provides additional benefits.
There are 4 variants provided in the rule book that support more than 2 players:
- Free for All – this is essentially the base game for 2+ players and allows anyone to attack anyone else. Last player standing wins
- Hunter First Blood – is for 3+ players and is the same as free for all except that each player can only attack the player to their left. You can however target champions to your left or right. The game ends when the first player is knocked out and the player to their right wins.
- Hunter Last One Standing – is for 3+ players and is the same as Hunter First Blood but the last player standing wins
- Hydra – is for 4+ players and is team based with 2 players in each team. All players in a team share a pool of health, when a teams health pool reaches 0, they are knocked out and the other team wins. There is also a 6-player team-based variant called Emperor but this requires a second copy of Hero Realms or two additional character packs.
Hero Realms vs Star Realms Differences
Both these games have very similar gameplay, but the main differences are below:
- Hero Realms supports 2-4 players, Star Realms core set supports only 2 players
- Hero Realms has a more varied starting deck for players
- Hero Realms has a fantasy theme whereas Star Realms has a sci-fi theme.
Hero Realms Gameplay Experience
As I mentioned earlier, I have played Star Realms a lot but don’t own a copy. I was thinking of getting a copy for home but then I noticed Hero Realms. Although I prefer the sci fi theme, the prospect of a similar game that can support up to four players instead of two sounded like it would give more flexibility. I knew my son would likely enjoy Hero Realms, but I was hoping one or both of my daughters would also like it which would make the ability to accommodate four players quite handy. In short Hero Realms hasn’t disappointed.
One of the main attractions is that it is quick to set up and play so you can fit in a game in about 20 minutes including set up. It’s also really easy to teach, all the cards are easy to understand and importantly the card synergies tend to follow the coloured factions. All of this means that it is an ideal introduction to deck building games, quick, easy to learn and still quite satisfying.
There’s also plenty of interaction here, you are competing directly against your opponents and what you do has a direct impact on other players. My son and I have a blast giving each other a hard time after a particularly brutal attack or when we have managed to thwart our opponents turn with a wall of guards in front of us. It just adds a lot to the social aspect of the game.
There’s also plenty of replay value in the core deck. There is a lot of variety in the market and because it is variable, each game presents different opportunities, so you can’t grind out the same strategy each game and expect to win.
Although the variable market does make every game feel a little different it also adds a fair dose of luck to the game. If you happen to get the faction and type of card you need during your turn it’s great, but you can also end up finding that the cards you need just aren’t coming up. My son often gloats a bit when he knows he got lucky and a card we both would love to have happens to have made its way to the market on his turn, leaving me to curse my luck.
Overall, there are some nice improvements over Star Realms here but ultimately not enough is different about the core set to differentiate the two games much.
The components here are pretty simple, it is essentially a number of decks of cards for the market and players. I think the artwork by Randy Delvin, Vito Gesualdi and Antonis Pantponiou is really nice and fits the theme well, there are some really impressive and mean looking creatures here.
The iconography and explanatory text on the cards are really clear and easy to follow too. The rule book is a fold out sheet of paper and is well written, I had no trouble finding what I needed, but to be fair, the rules are nice and simple here.
The card quality is ok, but I have noticed some wear around the edges of mine after just a few plays. The box is quite snug, so I haven’t sleeved my cards, but it doesn’t worry me too much.
The fantasy theme comes across nicely with the artwork and the different factions having their own style of abilities. I am personally more of a sci-fi fan so prefer the theme a little better in Star Realms.
The challenge is that with the core set you don’t get a unique character to use and so it isn’t as thematic as it could be if you got different characters. In my view the character packs add a lot to the theme with unique abilities and more variety, but you would have to get these separately.
Final Thoughts on Hero Realms
Hero Realms is a great introduction to deck building games much like its predecessor Star Realms. But, without the character packs it doesn’t really have enough to differentiate it to warrant owning both.
My son and I both love Hero Realms but we are big fans of deck builders generally. It’s a great game to pull out when we want to play a deck building game but don’t have time for some of our other favourites like Aeon’s End or Legendary Marvel Deck Building Game.
Unfortunately, my daughters aren’t that keen on Hero Realms. For a quick fantasy themed card game, they would much rather play Dungeon Mayhem. The humour in Dungeon Mayhem and the four unique characters make it more enjoyable for them.
So, is Hero Realms right for you? If you do have Star Realms, I don’t think Hero Realms is worth getting as well unless purchasing the unique character packs interests you. If you don’t have either I think it comes down to which theme you like better, and whether one of the sets offers expansion content that appeals more.
Is Hero Realms easy to learn? Yes, very easy to learn.
What will Hero Realms teach my kids? Like a lot of deck builders this game will teach your kids how different card synergies work together and how to experiment with different card combinations. Due to the variable market, it will also encourage them to adapt their strategy to what’s available.
What age is appropriate for Hero Realms? Although the box says 12+, my 8-year-old had no trouble learning how to play.
Does Hero Realms have good replay value? Yes, pretty good replay value due to the wide variety of cards available.
We hope you enjoyed our Hero Realms review. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts on this game please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.
About the Authors
We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time.
As at the time of writing, here are the main expansions:
- Character packs: Each character pack grants new player abilities and base decks; they are made up of 15 cards. Characters available include the Wizard, Cleric, Fighter, Ranger and Thief.
- Ruin of Thandar: This is a campaign deck that enables a cooperative campaign.
- Boss Decks: These decks allow one player to battle a team of heroes as a boss.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do the green vials on cards represent?
They are health bonuses. These cards will replenish a certain amount of health.
If I expend a guard champion during my turn, can they still protect me during my opponent’s phase?
Yes, during your discard phase each turn of your champions is prepared again.
If two cards of the same faction have ally abilities do they both trigger each other?
Yes, both ally abilities would trigger.
Can you gain 2 gold from the fire gem and also use it’s sacrifice ability?
Yes, both abilities are separate. The gold is received when you play the card, you can then choose to sacrifice it for the sacrifice ability.
Can I choose to split my attack pool any way I like?
Yes, you can spread your attack pool across multiple champions or your opponent however you like. The exception to this is if your opponent has a guard in play, in this case you must defeat the guard first before you can attack other champions or the player.
- Buying cards isn’t always a good thing – This is a tip for most deck building games. An efficient deck is more effective than a bloated deck with cards that don’t fit your strategy. If there isn’t a card in the market that will synergise well with your deck or somehow serve a purpose, don’t buy anything. Buying cards that don’t work well with your deck will just mean it takes longer for you to see the good cards you need.
- Gold is more important early game – Gold helps you to get better cards, in the early game you want to get a few good gold generating cards so that it can give you a good head start in the income area. That will let you buy expensive cards earlier than you otherwise would.
- Champions are awesome – Champions not only give you abilities that can be used each round until they are defeated but guards in particular are a lifesaver. Guard champions can end up wasting your opponent’s attack either by forcing them to defeat your guard, or even better if they don’t quite have enough attack, they will waste their attack all together. Make sure you try to get some good champions in your deck.
- Sacrifice abilities are incredibly useful – Cards that help you thin out your starting deck of basic cards mean that the overall quality of your deck improves, and you see your better cards more often. The Necros faction tends to have a lot of cards that allow you to sacrifice, I try to snap up at least a couple of these even if they don’t otherwise work with my deck because of the sacrifice ability. Champions that can sacrifice cards are even better.
- Stick to one or two factions – Hero Realms makes it easy to identify card synergies as factions generally synergise well with their own faction type. Try to focus on one or two factions to maximise the chances of triggering ally abilities.
- Cards that let you draw more cards are almost always worth it – If you have cards that let you draw more cards that lets you cycle through your deck quicker and gives you a stronger hand. These cards can be really useful even if they are not in your preferred faction.