Solo Game: Robin Hood – Hero of the People

Coming in third place in The Game Crafter’s solo challenge is a bright, light and fun card game: Robin Hood – Hero of the People.

Robin Hood – Hero of the People is a single-player, card game in which the player plays the characters of Robin Hood and his band of merry people in a story-driven battle to save his friends and beat the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Like the other reviews in this series, I followed a slightly different scoring rubric from the contest. Here’s how this game scored:

Total Theme (5) Art / GD (10) Solo (15) Game Play (10) Creativity (5) Other (5)
74% 4 10 11 8 3 0*

* We deducted all the points from this category since the game did not include rules in the box, which, while not a rules violation, meant that we couldn’t play it without downloading and printing off our own rules.

Initial Impressions ^

  1. By far, this game had the most polished art and graphic design. It could probably go right to production in its current form and wouldn’t miss a step.
  2. This game again had a solid, solo game: player actions were consequential, the game itself was story driven and different with each play.
  3. The game drew nicely on its theme and integrated the game play into it.

How to play ^

In Robin Hood, the player starts as Robin Hood.  To set up, the Robin Hood card is placed in front of the player along with a “bounty” tracking card. The initial bounty is set depending on level.  Then, all of the non-Robin Hood character cards are placed face down on the table. These represent characters who have not yet been recruited. Below these cards, the three King Richard cards are placed face down. And, a shuffled stack of “Sherwood Forest” cards are placed in a deck.

Next, a deck of “loot” cards is shuffled and placed in a deck within reach. The two decks of story cards (part 1 and part 2) are separated and shuffled separately.  The part 2 cards are placed on the bottom of deck with the part 1 cards on top.

You’re now ready to play.

The game is played over a series of turns. Each turn consists of three different phases: “rob the rich,” “action” and “story” phases. Over the course of these turns, the player is trying to recruit all seven other characters and have a low enough bounty before the final story card is drawn.  Also, if at any time, a player’s bounty exceeds 1000, the game is over.

The player starts as Robin Hood. Each of the characters, including Robin Hood, has a base set of attributes: strength, sword, archery, and influence indicated by a set of icons in the bottom.

Starting with the “rob the rich” phase, the player will draw three “Loot” cards into their hand and then play up to three cards to the player’s inventory. Only the cards in the player’s inventory are usable in the next two phases of the game. But, cards in a player’s inventory are also “at risk” during those same phases whereas cards kept in hand are “safe.” There are a number of different kinds of loot cards: gold, strength, attack, accuracy and influence. These loot cards (together with a current character’s default, base values) are used to perform various actions such as recruiting new characters, overcoming story events, activating King Richard cards, and using the Sherwood Forest cards.

Once the player plays cards to the inventory, it is then the “action phase.”  During the action phase, the player can take one of the following actions: recruit or rescue other characters, acquire or play King Richard cards, acquire Sherwood Forest Cards in order to build the outpost, or spend influence to lower bounty.  In the first case, the player can recruit other characters by spending loot from their inventory and combining it with the current characters base stats equal to the “recruit” value on the back of the character card. Once recruited, that character is turned face up becomes “playable” by the player at the start of the next turn — the character can also now by “captured” during the story phase.

Similarly, the player can acquire a King Richard card by spending the requisite loot (in combination with base stats). Two of the cards have one-time effects that can be played immediately or saved for later. The third gives the permanent effect of allowing the player to see the upcoming story card.

The player can also expend two strength to acquire a Sherwood Forest card. Once all of these cards have been acquired, Robin Hood will successfully construct a forest camp.  This means that your bounty immediately lowers and certain characters cannot be captured during the story phase.  The powers of the camp could b

Once the player takes all their desired action, the top card of the story deck is revealed. The story cards have instructions on how to resolve the cards: typically including one way to “succeed” and one way if you cannot and thus “fail.”  After resolving the story card, the next round begins. If the player has another face up card, they can swap their current character for another face up card — only one character is playable at any given time.

The game continues this way until the player succeeds (low bounty and all seven characters recruited) or fails (last story card is drawn or a bounty of 1000).

Where it shines ^

It’s fair to say: Robin Hood is a solid game: fun, interesting, and visually amazing.

The art. This was head and shoulders above the competition on this front. The card design was polished and professional. The character art was solid and easily production-ready. It caught the attention of a number of people when I played the game at a local game shop.

The story mechanism. This mechanism of the game worked better than we thought, except for the issues we note before. There was good variety in the types of story events and they all generally fit the theme.  There also was a relatively good leveling between the first story and the second story decks, so that helped ease into the first games.

The band of merry men. It’s hard to overstate how nice the character art was, but the arrange of playable characters was also well done. Most of the characters have a unique special power and all had a good mix of traits. Players all tended to favor different characters that fit their play style so that suggested they were mostly well-balanced.

Play time.  One of the characteristics of the top three games: they all have a rhythm that advanced the game quickly and effortlessly, and Robin Hood is a good illustration of this. As a result, the game came was easily playable and teachable.

The solo game.  Again, Robin Hood is a good example of a solid solo game: the player was in control of every aspect of the game. No cumbersome AI. No ghost players. A game that advanced on its own with clear goals and objectives.

Where it comes up short ^

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, but games that have the player essentially “guessing” what they’ll need in their inventory can be a bit self-defeating. There was no planning for upcoming story cards — not at least if you don’t have the King Richard card. There was just no way to prepare adequately for every story card, especially if you didn’t know what the range of possibilities were. The best you could do is play for obvious objectives in front of you for which you had the loot to match.

Almost everyone wanted some better planning ability to avoid the feeling that “there was nothing I could do to prevent that.”

Similarly, because “loot” was random, some early games turned almost entirely on the shuffle of the loot cards.

Rules.  The contest rules didn’t require the rules to be in the box, and not having them there is definitely a nuisance and we ended up zeroing out the points that would have gone in the “other” category.

Conclusion ^

Robin Hood is a solid game: fun, exciting and good-looking. The game makes good use of its theme and has an interesting set of mechanisms that feel like you really are recruiting/rescuing your band of merry men and doing battle with the Sheriff of Nottingham. 

Robin Hood is available at The Game Crafter.

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