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Reviews - A Touch of Evil: Hero Pack One
 
by Lee Valentine


ATOE: Hero Pack 1 expansion box

A Touch of Evil: Hero Pack One expansion

Published by Flying Frog Productions
Designed by Jason C. Hill
Contents: 4 Hero character boards; 1 Villain character board; 4 plastic Hero miniatures; 6 event cards; Manor card; Olde Woods card; Windmill card; Abandoned Keep card; full-color rulebook. 2-8 players
$24.95

 

Hero Pack One (HP1) is an expansion for Flying Frog Production's game A Touch of Evil (ATOE). HP1 contains 10 new game cards, four new Heroes, and a new Villain.

The Heroes
Four new Hero character boards (sheets) and their accompanying gray, plastic miniatures make up the bulk of HP1. I'll give a short commentary on each new character's abilities.

Adrianna, the Foreign Traveler, is a blind martial artist. Her visual impairment keeps her from using books and maps, but she can attack with weapons, even guns, as well as any sighted character. Like the Werewolf Villain, she has a "first strike" capability, landing her blows before her opponents can respond. She has the ability to trade Investigation to force an opponent to re-roll Fight Dice. Lastly, she seems to have a sixth sense, which she can use to readily learn the secrets of the Town Elders.

Lucy Hanbrook, daughter of Lord Hanbrook and Lady Hanbrook (from the ATOE base game), is a spirited girl, but a sub-standard combatant. She has only two Wound slots, but her youth grants her the ability to heal one wound at the start of each of her turns. Clearly this is a callback to Flying Frog's game Last Night on Earth, where characters with "Youth" can take fewer total wounds but can regenerate. In ATOE, however, two wound slots is a pittance, and Lucy Hanbrook often ends up flat on her back during the early game until she is appropriately armed, or unless she flees instead of fighting every time. She is, however, lucky, and she can force her opponent to re-roll one of his Fight Dice against her each Fight Round. She starts the game at the Manor with a couple of extra points of Investigation. While this latter note is only of mild interest with regards to HP1, the Something Wicked expansion allows Heroes at the Manor to use a secret passage between the Manor and the Monastery on a separate game board, setting up Lucy to move on to the Echo Lake board as her very first move of the game.

Harlow Morgan, the Inventor, is a cunning fellow, but like Lucy, is not much of a combatant at the start of the game. He is a genius, however, and as such he gains free Investigation at the start of every turn. He can trade that Investigation in to gain bonus dice in a Fight in addition to its myriad other uses. His power as an Inventor is rarely used - it lets him discard any two of his Items to take another Item out of any discard pile. Typically there are few items in the Location discard piles, and this is particularly true with the Something Wicked expansion, since there are so many more Locations to visit. I have only been able to use this odd power once out of several games with Harlow, where I believe that Harlow somehow shot his Horse with a Pistol and changed them both into a garland of garlic.

The Scarlet Shadow, whose backstory calls him a "masked avenger" and a "daring outlaw", is the fourth hero. He has great attribute scores, but is difficult to equip with weaponry, because he is wanted by the militia of Shadowbrook. Every time he steps foot in the town he takes the chance that he'll be spotted; if he is, he'll either be fined (Investigation) or thrashed within an inch of his life (taking Wounds). The Scarlet Shadow starts at any road space on any board, allowing him easy access to the Echo Lake board if you also own the Something Wicked expansion. He has an occasionally useful ability to "Shadow Move" to any space on the board whenever he rolls a 6+ on his Movement die.

The Scarlet Shadow and Adrianna usually make me think harder when I play them, and are thus more interesting. Harlow and Lucy, however, represent thinking inside the box. I was not given enough reasons to prefer them strongly over pre-existing characters.

Miniatures
Each of these characters comes with a custom sculpted gray, plastic miniature. While each of these is of high quality, the variety of poses is limited enough that, for example, it is somewhat difficult to tell the miniature for Victor Danforth, the Playwright (ATOE) apart from Harlow Morgan, The Inventor (HP1) at a quick glance. Those two miniatures appear like mirror images of each other from any significant distance. I found that Arianna, whose character is armed with fighting sticks, has a tendency of having her sticks bent slightly out of shape if I store her miniature with other characters instead of in her own individual storage space in the HP1 package.

Ten New Game Cards
HP1 comes with ten new game cards. They all feature costumed characters in a variety of situations ranging from an eerie painting that's watching you, to aggressive combat stances. The cards have been die cut so that they are slightly larger than similar cards from the base game.

Lucy and Harlow practically beg to be equipped with a "Runic Amulet" or the "Tools of Science" to allow them to fight with Spirit or Cunning instead of Combat. Typically in a competitive game there's only one of each of those items for sale at the Blacksmith shop. HP1 adds an extra "Runic Amulet" as a card for the Olde Woods, and an extra "Tools of Science" at the Abandoned Keep. While these are great cards, they can get lost in the shuffle (literally) as each new expansion adds more and more cards for the original Corner Locations on the Shadowbrook board. Should Harlow have the wild luck of finding the "Tools of Science", his Inventor power will keep them handy for the rest of the game.

The Windmill adds a "Vial of Poison" which can kill off an Ally, Town Elder, or Evil Elder if you are disreputable enough to use it. Outside of a Showdown, this is about the only way to get rid of an Evil Elder, so this is an interesting new card.

The Manor's new card is the least interesting. Unlike the others, which all can readily be positive, this new card is a skill challenge which may give you insight into a Town Elder's secrets, but is actually more likely to instead add an extra Secret to both Lord Hanbrook and Lady Hanbrook.

The other six cards are actually a pair each of three different Event cards. All grant some form of bonus in a fight. One, "Teamwork", is wildly powerful in cooperative play, allowing you either to prevent damage to a teammate in the same space or to gain lots of additional Fight Dice in a Combat alongside other characters (such as is common in a cooperative Showdown).

A New Villain
The Necromancer is the newest threat to the Village of Shadowbrook. Only cunning and spirited adventurers have a good chance of defeating him. While the Necromancer himself is mildly dangerous in a Showdown, his primary threat is a continuous parade of zombies that march upon the Town Hall of Shadowbrook. Not only does this make the roads a constant threat to travel on, it has the primary effect of driving the Shadow Track like a constant engine each time a new Minion arrives at Town Hall, hot on the heels of the previous Minion.

I had one minor quibble and one complaint with the Necromancer. First, each Villain in ATOE typically comes with a small circular token picturing the Villain, to be placed on the board when he attacks. Except with the Spectral Horseman, this token is not absolutely necessary. The quibble is, this token is missing in HP1 and instead was printed as part of the Something Wicked expansion. The more significant complaint was that, unlike every other Villain in the game that has a custom Minion Chart and custom Minion counters, the Necromancer simply uses the Vampire's Minion Chart and Minion counters from the base game. This means that the Necromancer has bats and wolves, among other things for minions. While this is potentially acceptable in the simple definition of "Necromancer" as "sorcerer", it didn't seem to fit with the army of the dead theme, and it certainly didn't make this Villain stand out as quite unique as other Villains.

Overall, in game play both with the single Shadowbrook board (ATOE) and with the extra Echo Lake game board (Something Wicked expansion) the Necromancer is a credible threat. However, his Minions apply most of the pressure. Provided you have the necessary Spirit and Cunning scores to avoid the penalties his abilities inflict, in a Showdown the Necromancer is one of the weaker adversaries. This bias toward characters with high Spirit and Cunning will naturally advantage Heroes who use those attributes in fights instead of Combat, because they need only improve on their strong suit, while Combat-oriented characters will have to develop Spirit and Cunning up the entire game even though they won't be fighting with those attributes.

Rules
Most of the cards and abilities were fairly clear. I had a couple of rules questions, but this set raised fewer rules issues than most expansions for ATOE. This was probably because of the set's small size - character cards aside, there are only five unique game cards introduced in this set.

There is one odd new rule. Both Lucy Hanbrook and The Scarlet Shadow have been introduced in previous sets as Allies. So it's possible for someone to be playing a Hero (e.g., Lucy Hanbrook) while another player draws a copy of the same character as an Ally. Rather than removing these Ally cards from the game before play starts, when one of these matching Allies is drawn, it summons the Hero of the same name to the Location where the Ally was drawn from. Then both players, the one drawing the Ally and the one playing the summoned Hero in question, gain 2D6 Investigation each.

Packaging
The box for HP1 includes a nice plastic insert that stores each miniature separately, and allows you to store the character boards and game cards as well. Unfortunately, the original ATOE box was not designed with expansions in mind, and there's no place for all these new materials in the original game box without taking everything else out of its original place. The packaging for HP1 itself is of very high quality, but is larger than it needs to be just to store its contents. Given that you may have to carry this around as a separate box to use it with the base game, I found that mildly troublesome.

Oddly enough, Valeria, the vampire Hero character from the Something Wicked expansion is pictured prominently on the back of the box for HP1. While her character appears alongside The Scarlet Shadow on the photo for the "Teamwork" Event, she is not included in the box as a character.

Conclusions
Two of the characters in the set intrigued me, and two left me feeling flat. All four seemed reasonably playable. While The Necromancer is playable, I wish he had had a custom Minion Chart to make him seem less like the Vampire. These complaints are overall pretty minor, and this expansion is a good one.

The biggest contention I have with the product is its price point. Compare this product to the Something Wicked expansion box for ATOE. Something Wicked cost $15.00 more, but comes with over a hundred new cards, four heroes, four villains (each with custom villain counters and minion charts), terrain effect counters, new villainous curses, more items to purchase in game, a new board to play on, and a bigger box. It becomes crystal clear that something is missing at a $25.00 price point. Undoubtedly the inclusion of custom miniatures and what is probably a relatively short production run have impacted profit margins on this product.

Nevertheless, ideally this product should have included the 32 game cards that were available as part of the online expansion sets The Madness and The Allies. Together, those two mini-expansions plus HP1 might have justified an overall price tag of $25.00 or $30.00, instead of the nearly $45.00 total that is charged for these three expansions separately now.

A Touch of Evil: Hero Pack One is a solid expansion, with some interesting play options. HP1 even feels better playtested than Something Wicked. So if you like ATOE, if you are looking for some more heroes, and if you have the $25.00 to spend, then this could be a good fit for you. If you have money for only one supplement for ATOE, then I think your money is better spent on Something Wicked. Both are good products, but Something Wicked will give you more play experience for your gaming dollar.

For Retailers
The production values are high both on this product's game components and particularly on the product's packaging. That could be reason enough to carry HP1 if ATOE sells well at your store. The game box does a good job of exciting the customer about what's inside. The price point is my primary concern. My other concern is that it is being launched at the same time as a larger, more attractive expansion that offers more entertainment value. If your margins allow it, consider offering a bundled discount on Hero Pack 1 and Something Wicked together; that may help sell more of both products. If product margins don't allow for a bundled discount and you have a miniature painter on staff, these sculpts would look great painted; a painted display would help move this product out your door.

Lee's Ratings:

Overall: B (a good expansion, but not a great one)
Appearance: A-
Game Play: B (good game play, but not groundbreaking)
Rules: B+ (reasonably clear cards; a rarely useful, odd rule concerning characters that are both Heroes and Allies)

 
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