Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Champions of Hara from Greenbrier Games.
What is this game about?
Champions of Hara, developed by Leaf Pile Games and published by Greenbrier Games, is set in another world where people have tremendous power over their own destinies— so much so that their wishes can have consequences for everyone else. The corruption that you spawn in the world turns into monsters that you have to fight, rifts that you have to close, and events that you have to resolve. And the way that you do this is so much fun. Each of the characters in the game has a unique deck of cards that are used to move, fight, and heal. You begin with your starter cards, but can add in upgrades throughout the course of the game. Your cards are dual-sided and have an interesting life cycle. When a card is in hand, you can play it for one action. But once you've played that card from your hand, you leave it "on board" and can play it for a different action—after which a card returns to your hand. Figuring out the timing of actions and making the most of your cards is where Champions of Hara truly shines. The overarching game also has a rhythm, as you take turns across days in Hara and spawn new cards at Dawn and Dusk. At the end of each day, you also draw a world shift card that usually causes your in-game map to change.
Each game of Hara will, however, be a bit different. There is a starter scenario that is competitive, but the rest of the game involves playing through a mixture of competitive and cooperative scenarios that focus on the stories of each of the game's characters. The game will be a bit different based on which scenario you play, although the basic cardplay and turn structure will remain the same.
How does it play solo?
Each character in Champions of Hara has his or her own solo scenario. Additionally, you can easily play the cooperative scenarios on your own by controlling multiple characters. The competitive scenarios cannot be played solo unless you want to control both sides and play against yourself (but go for it if you want to!).
There is a lot to love about Champions of Hara. The world itself is incredibly compelling. Each character in the game is interesting and has a cool backstory. The art is fantastic. And the cardplay is so, so fun. Each character has a truly unique deck and set of interesting abilities, which makes it worthwhile to get to know each of them. I also love card-driven games in general, and figuring out how to set up the best possible combos is my favorite part of Champions of Hara. The movement and combat systems are satisfying, and the way that you can gain energy and power up characters gives you a sense of progression throughout the game.
I am not, however, sure that Champions of Hara uses its colorful world and fun gaming system to best effect. Aside from the introductory competitive game, you can't just open the box, pick a character, pick an enemy, and go to town. Instead, you need to go through the scenario book, choose a particular character's scenario, and set it up according to special rules. In fact, there are so many different scenarios with different special rules that things can get a little bit confusing. Being confined to the scenarios, even though there are several of them, also feels like it leaves you with fewer choices. There is only one solo mode for each of the game's characters, which means that the gameplay is somewhat limited—especially if there are some solo scenarios that you don't enjoy (they all have different goals). I might have liked to see some more straightforward solo challenges against the Corrupted characters, which are already controlled by AI. The cardplay in this game is so fun that I would like to see more opportunities to just crack open the box, grab some characters, and scrap it out.
Do I recommend It?
Champions of Hara is seriously fun to play, and I do not regret any of the time I have spent with it. However, if you want to just break the game out and play, rather than set up a bunch of unique scenarios, then Hara will frustrate you.
Overall Rating: 3.5 stars
5 stars — I love it!
4 stars — I really like it.
3 stars — I like it.
2 stars — It's okay.
1 star — Meh.