At last, there’s an answer to the question: What do you get when you combine ex-ThinkGeek employees, D&D-inspired boardgames, and party-style drinking games?
You get Heroes of Barcadia. Heroes of Barcadia is an upcoming Kickstarter from Rollacrit, a company recently founded by some of the awesome folks we at GeekDad used to love working with at ThinkGeek. It’s easy to learn, fun to play, and includes a load of puns related to alcoholic beverages and people who frequently drink them. It will remind you of Munchkin, in that (apart from the puns) it has cards that modify players’ abilities and let you hurt/help yourself or others, but it’s different enough that it won’t feel the same, in that it has a board built by randomly-chosen (but deliberately-placed) tile-laying, health meters (and thus character damage), and a defined goal that doesn’t involve levels. And then there’s the drinking, of course. (But if you don’t want to drink alcohol or anything at all, it plays the same and is still fun, just less uninhibited.)
First of all, the premise:
Heroes from all across Barcadia have gathered to claim glory in the realm’s greatest drinking competition! Alas, on the eve of the festivities a band of monsters stole all the drinks and hoarded them somewhere in a perilous, sprawling dungeon! Do you have what it takes to outmaneuver your opponents and become the hero who reclaims the precious Drink Hoard?
How to Set Up the Game
Everyone picks a character from a selection of six; each has the same abilities and health, so it’s just a matter of which color and punny name you like best (examples: Keggar, Sir Drankalot). You get a character token and a cup of health: this is an actual transparent drink cup that comes with the game, with the character on one side and the health meter on the other. Everyone fills their cup to the top of the health meter with their beverage of choice (keeping in mind that you will likely need more during the game as you drink some when you take damage, and then heal). Everyone gets a color-matching 20-sided die.
Setting up the board starts by placing the starting hex tile, following which players take turns placing a randomly chosen face-down dungeon room hex tile (56 in total) wherever they want, so long as it’s adjacent to at least one already-placed tile. This ensures that the board will never be exactly the same twice. Obviously, players start in the starting hex. Because this is D&D-inspired, everyone rolls for initiative, which determines turn order for the entire game.
How to Play
In turn, players move to adjacent tiles, flip them over if they’re face-down, and deal with what they find. Some hexes just give you free cards, some of which (“power-ups”) add abilities (powers, roll modifiers, etc.) to characters, and some of which (“loot”) you can play at various points during the game to help yourself or sabotage your opponents (or vice-versa, if you really want to, I suppose). Most hexes, however, contain monsters. Every monster has a punny name, a power level, an amount of damage they can do, and a reward for defeating it. The encountering player chooses one of their opponents to roll for the monster, they determine the roll modifiers for both sides (the opposing player’s abilities do have an effect), and (after a pause for anyone to play cards to affect the battle one way or the other) they both roll. If the encounter player wins, they get the reward and leave the tile face up; if they lose, they take the damage and turn it back face-down so it can be encountered again.
There’s more complexity here than it sounds like because some cards let you swap tiles, peek at a face-down tile, or flip a face-up tile back over. And then there are traps, which some cards let you place on a tile so that anyone going there has to defeat the trap before they can even attempt to encounter whatever is on the tile. Some cards also let you teleport between tiles, and there are portals as well that let you zip around without having to play a card.
The ultimate goal is to find the Drink Hoard, which is always on one particular tile, and a player must have three power-up cards before they can even attempt to defeat the monster guarding it. Of course, once the Drink Hoard is discovered, you can pretty much count on it getting a trap or two placed on it, and quite possibly moved somewhere inconvenient. The first player to defeat the monster guarding the Drink Hoard wins the game.
I’ve only played the game on Roll20 over Zoom because the pandemic sucks. But I had a lot of fun, and I didn’t even drink anything stronger than flavored seltzer. The production values appear excellent (though, of course, I’ve only seen photographs at this point), and when have you ever bought a game that came with drinking glasses before? The art is really fun and might be the best intentionally-silly game art I’ve seen that wasn’t produced by (the unequaled) John Kovalic. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be, and is precisely that: it’s a fun party-style game with a D&D slant and a balance of luck to skill tipping towards luck, but not at all boring. It’s quick to learn and can be played fairly quickly; it seems to me you could add house rules that allowed you to reduce the size of the dungeon, for example, since all you actually need are the starting tile and the Drink Hoard, though you’d want to pick a good mix of monsters and reward rooms. This is definitely the sort of game where house rules could be easily applied.
Obviously, the game is aimed at adults, but there’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t use chocolate milk or orange juice, for examples, to record health, and I think that certainly, any kid who can handle Munchkin can handle Heroes of Barcadia, though I’m sure many of the puns will go over their heads.
Heroes of Barcadia will be out on Kickstarter soon; I’ll post again when it goes live, but for now, you should go to the Rollacrit website and sign up to be notified yourself because if you do you’ll get a special power-up only available that way. If you for some reason don’t want a free power-up, you can also check out the page where the Kickstarter will be. The Kickstarter video can and should be viewed below.