“Better than rain or rippling brook is a mug of beer inside this Took!” – Peregrin Took
Many adventures have begun and ended with a mug of beer. A little beer can give you courage and strengthen you, too much and you can… well… die? Heroes of Barcadia is a competitive dungeon crawl adventure where your beer, or drink of choice, is you. That is to say, I hope you’re not thirsty, because if you finish your drink, you’re dead.
How it plays
Heroes of Barcadia was designed by Maddy O’Neil and published by Rollacrit. In the game, each player chooses a pint glass with a character belonging to one of the typical fantasy rpg tropes. You can be a barbarian who does extra damage when low on health, a wizard with a personal portal, a rogue whoexcels at disarming and reusing traps, etc. Players then explore the dungeon, reveal new tiles, battle monsters and each other, and collect power ups and loot in a race to find and defeat the Grand Drink Guardian and claim the Drink Hoard.
Set up for the game is quick. The dungeon layout is customized by the players at the start of the game with everyone taking tiles and linking them together facedown any way that they want. There are multiple ways to move tiles and even teleport yourself with portals or magic during the game, so don’t be too worried about the layout. Once the dungeon is set up, everyone fills their health to 100 and begins at the Starting Point.
Turns are super simple and, hopefully, quick. There are only three actions in the game and you get to choose one each turn. You can reveal and enter an adjacent room, enter a revealed adjacent room, or attempt to claim the drink hoard. When you reveal a new room and move into it, you have to battle whatever monster is there. Some monsters are individual fights while others are team battles with shared rewards or boss battles that can be extra difficult. During and between turns, players can play as many loot cards as they want if they meet the current phase criteria. If you are familiar with the game Munchkin, loot cards are very similar to that game. There are cards that power the player up, cards that power the monster up, force rerolls, teleport, extra damage, and more.
While you move through the dungeon you are doing two things. Looking for Power-Ups and looking for the Grand Drink Guardian. You need to find and defeat the guardian to win the game, but you can’t challenge him until you possess three Power-Ups. The Power-Ups are powerful items that you keep until you either die or they get stolen, unlike loot cards that are one-time use. Once you have three and defeat the Grand Drink Guardian you win the game.
Combat in Heroes of Barcadia uses D20s and is a simple threshold check or opposed roll depending on the type of encounter. Loot cards and Power-Ups can be used to influence rolls and adjust final results. Roll higher and you win.
What’s in the box
The retail edition of the game comes with six pint glasses, so you can play with a fairly large group. If that’s not enough, there are expansions that bump that even higher. The glasses are plastic and feel sturdy enough for what could possibly be a rowdy game. They claim to be BPA-free and need to be hand washed to preserve the artwork.
All of the dungeon tiles, cards, trap tokens, and rulebook are also plastic, making the game completely waterproof. Even the outside of the box has a plastic coating to it. All of the artwork in the game is of a cartoon doodle style that I really enjoy and fits the pun filled theme of the game. There is a mix of bright colors and black and white that gives the appearance of a handmade game. The D20s feature the same bright player colors and the trap tokes are bottle caps.
The player characters and monsters are all based on the best possible puns. The barbarian’s name is Kegger and the wizard is Merlot. You might find yourself fighting Mudslidra or the Micro-Brewnicorn. As a connoisseur of dad jokes, I was chuckling non-stop while playing this game. If puns bother you, then I suggest you acquire a sense of humor.
To drink or not to drink
Heroes of Barcadia is a drinking game. The name and the box with a window in it that features the pint glasses should be enough to give that away, but in case it was unclear, this is a drinking game. But does it have to be?
My answer? Yes. Your mileage may vary. The rulebook has a little section that talks about how you can drink whatever you want and don’t need to drink anything to play the game. That is technically true, but I would never do it. The is an incredibly light game and with a win condition that is random and somewhat arbitrary. Heroes of Barcadia is a mechanism to sit around a table and have a few drinks and laughs with friends while rolling dice. I’m not saying you need to drink in order to have a good time, I just wouldn’t recommend this game as anything other than a drinking game.
Now that I have made the case for Heroes of Barcadia being a drinking game, there are some issues that arise from that assumption. The first being the core mechanic of the game. Your health is your drink. Thirsty? Too bad. You don’t want to die do you? Lucky dice rolls smashing everything to bits and never taking damage? Analysis paralysis friend taking 5 minutes to decide between 1 of 2 actions? Hope you enjoy warm beer. You get the point. Your drink WILL get warm playing this game. I guess you could put water in the glass and drink something else separately, but that’s just not in the spirit of the game in my opinion. Plan your drink choices accordingly.
The other issue that arises from your health being your drink is the loot cards that heal you. The pint glasses are conveniently 12 ounces, so your entire beer is already in the glass. Now you need another beer on standby for health refills, but you only heal five or ten health at a time so now you have not one, but two beers sitting and getting warm. Bring an ice bucket? This can all be even more complicated if you bring this to a brewery or out somewhere and have to wait for another drink order to come through.
If you’re not a beer drinker then all of these problems are moot, however, I do have one gripe with the game itself. You need to collect three Power-Ups before you can challenge the Grand Drink Guardian, but then you can’t use them in the battle. The final battle to win the game is a straight-up, unalterable, 25% chance dice roll. Why am I spending all game collecting these things? It’s incredibly anti-climatic and can feel really bad when you miss the roll and someone else swoops in behind for the kill. Fortunately, the game is so light and silly that it’s more about the friends you made along the way than winning, but if you are a person who plays to win, beware.
A life long video gamer, Mark caught the Tabletop itch in college and has been hooked ever since. Epic two player strategy games are his favorites but he enjoys pretty much everything on the tabletop, just no Werewolf please. When he gets a break from changing diapers and reading bedtime stories he can usually be found researching new games or day dreaming about maybe one day having time for a ttrpg. Some of Mark's favorite games are Star Wars: Rebellion, A Feast for Odin, and Nemesis.
Heroes of Barcadia
Heroes of Barcadia is silly fun, and a great way to spend an evening sitting around the table with friends and enjoying a few drinks. The production is high quality and won’t be spoiled by a spilled drink or two. While it may be light on actual gameplay, that doesn’t stop it from being a good laugh and great time.