Hellboy Week: Agent Actions
Hey, Hellboy fans! Has it been two days already? I swear, this week’s flown by - probably some kind of time-dilating effect caused by our alarming proximity to the start of the Hellboy Kickstarter. It’s launching in FOUR DAYS - are you as excited as we are?
We’ve played so many games of Hellboy this past couple of weeks, just to make sure it’s as polished as possible, and I’ve got to say it’s looking really swish. Andy from Blackjack Legacy (you might remember him from the interview I did when he came down to the Hellboy playtest day) was over at the Needy Cat offices yesterday, along with my long-time gaming buddy Adam (who designed the Needy Cat Logo). They played through the demo scenario, Andy as the stoic and inquisitive Johann Kraus and Adam taking on the pyrokinetic powerhouse herself, Liz Sherman. After weeks of tweaking and polishing it was so satisfying to watch what happened - a solid, well-paced adventure, with several nail-biting moments and and ending that… well, you’ll have to keep an eye on Andy’s channel if you want to know more ;)
Anyway! Enough about that. You’re here for Hellboy week, and today I’ve agreed to divulge some secrets about how Agent Actions work. If you've not been keeping up, there are a load of links in yesterday's post over at the Mantic blog!
At the start of each round in a game of Hellboy: The Board Game, each player takes a trio of Action Cubes and puts them on their Agent Card. These cubes can then be spent in the Agent phase, each one fuelling an Action. What’s really interesting is that there’s no set player order - the Cubes can be spent however you wish. Hellboy could use a cube to shoot a Frog Monster, then Hellboy could leap in to punch it, then Abe could follow… it’s entirely freeform, which leads to some very interesting discussion around the table!
There are plenty of Actions to choose from, some of which you might be using more than others. Here’s a nifty breakdown...
This is the most straightforward Action, letting an agent move up to two areas. However, even this is not without an interesting wrinkle. If at any point you try to leave an area that’s occupied by any enemies, you have a decision to make. Either you try to dodge past them, taking a point of Damage in the process, or you let them follow you into the next area. If another agent in your area is feeling gracious, they can discard one of their own Action Cubes to distract an enemy and give you the chance to slip away. This is the first of many situations where you can spend Action Cubes together, giving a real feeling of teamwork and interactivity between the players.
This action lets you attack an enemy in your area by making a test against your FIGHT skill (we covered dice in a previous post, didn’t we?) Other enemies in your area will downgrade your dice, while other agents in your area can discard Action Cubes to upgrade your dice. Again, this is really important - a character like Johann, for example, might not be particularly great in a fight, but he can provide assists just as well as anyone else.
This one’s similar to Fight, but it uses your SHOOT skill, requires a Ranged Weapon and targets enemies in other areas. Agents can’t assist you here - in fact, if there’s another agent in your target area or in the path of your shot, they’ll downgrade one of your dice unless they discard an Action Cube to get out of the way.
One of the things that really makes H:tBG stand out against a lot of other games that look similar is its focus on investigation. Throughout a Case the agents will have multiple opportunities to advance the Information Gathered track by examining Clues (making a test against their EXAMINE skill), hoping to gain valuable Insights which will help them in the Confrontation. Also, the Case File deck will often throw in checkpoints in the form of Points of Interest - the players will need to search the area for the appropriate point of interest then successfully examine it in order to turn the next card in the deck.
Agents can use this action while standing in a doorway that leads to an unexplored area, letting them flip and set up its Encounter Card. Exploration is key to progress (and, as you should know by now, progress is something you always need to be thinking about), but you should be careful - explore a new area too late in the turn and you’re bound to get jumped by some bad guys before you have a chance to clear them all out.
As the game goes by, the board can get clogged up by things like Frog Swarms (which, being awful harbingers of ancient evil - don’t ask - can cause the Impending Doom track) and Fire (which can burn important things like clue tokens, useful scenery and the more flammable variety of agent). Clear actions are your chance to get rid of these annoyances. We recently had a game where Johann’s player spent several turns in a row making increasingly passive-aggressive Clear actions, giving Liz’s player vicious side-eye and muttering things like “oh no, you carry on, I’ll just put this enormous inferno out, shall I?” and “it’s fine, not to worry, everyone’s obviously just as fireproof as you are”. The important thing to remember is that this game’s fully co-operative.
At the start of each Case you’ll kit your team out with everything from big guns to lucky charms, but sometimes you’ll get halfway through and realise someone else might put your equipment to better use. The Trade action lets you swap things around and keep everyone happy.
Those are the seven basic actions that are available to everyone, but each Agent also has a set of Unique Actions - things that only they can do. Some of them are more powerful versions of the standard actions; Abe’s Dash, for example, is a once-per-round Move that lets him go three areas rather than two, and ignores enemies. Other actions are truly unique, though, like Hellboy’s Hurl Furniture (which creates some hilarious moments of group discussion - “I reckon I should throw that bookcase at those Frog monsters.” “Wait, I haven’t had a chance to examine it yet!” “Yeah, but… it’ll kill them.” “Seriously, we need that information!” “Yeah, I’m throwing it.” “Argh!”)
So there you have it. Actions in a nutshell. Check the Mantic blog tomorrow for one last taste of Hellboy Week before the real countdown to the Kickstarter begins! I hope you’ve enjoyed this glance into the workings of Hellboy: the Board Game, and that check out the Kickstarter on Wednesday. I’m really proud of how this game’s turning out, so thanks in advance for your support!