Champions of Hara is, at last, the Mage Knight we deserve

I spotted this at The Compleat Strategist sitting right next to Unicornus Knights. Apparently they have a dedicated (but unlabeled) section for Tom Chick Unexpected Recommendations.

Name associations as I read this review:
Walter Barber = Barbara Walters
Bass Hunter = Basshunter

“mine and a monster[’]s”
“of the all the cards”
“you’ve found [its] number”

So having just listened to the podcast where you raved about how Too Many Bones makes its characters unique, how does Champions of Hara compare on that, Tom? Is TMB still top dog or is there a new contender?

Apples and oranges? Too Many Bones gets its personality from the crazy complexity of character builds and weirdly imaginative tweaks to rules sets and varied character builds and unexpected synergies and extreme randomness. But Champions of Hara is more about broad changes to the basic verbs of “move” and “attack”.

It’s like the difference between Gloomhaven and Mage Knight.

For instance, as you may know, Too Many Bones has sixteen dice for each character, and each die is like a skill, so you almost think of it as sixteen levels, as well as separate advances to hit points, basic attacks, basic defense, and the number of dice you can throw. There’s furthermore some unique mechanic for most of the characters. And it’s all in service of a pretty detailed tactical combat system against enemies with lots of different behaviors in the context of that tactical system.

But a character in Champions of Hara doesn’t have that much detail or even variability. You will only ever upgrade three times. That’s it. You start with four cards. Then you’ll eventually get another red card (choose one of two), another blue card (choose one of two), and another green card (choose one of two). Your character is comprised of those seven cards, and one special mechanic, without any of the crazy wiggle room you find in more detailed games. You’re committing to broad and directly meaningful choices. And there is no way to get more hit points, you don’t go up levels, you can’t improve an armor class or anything.

They both have imaginative ways to make their characters unique, but they play so differently that I’m not sure I’d directly compare them.


I played three solo games this weekend and am really enjoying it! I think I like it better than Mage Knight as well. It’s pretty simple and easy to get into. I wish there was an in-depth phase sheet, though. I keep forgetting steps (the world shift or the scenario effect most commonly).

The items really do feel like the star of the show. They dramatically change the feel of the game.

One part of the Mage Knight comparison that feels missing to me is army building. I like the fantasy of gathering allies on the field to fight foes. There’s the “Ally” bonuses which are a bit similar, but doesn’t really fit since it’s an instant effect. This is more a hero story than a clashing armies story (which is great in a different way).

What are your favorite scenarios @tomchick? They seem pretty uneven from my first few plays, but I think I only have a general sense what I like and don’t like about them.

Here’s what I tape to the wall when we play.

Yeah, that’s definitely a casualty of Hara shifting from a deck builder to its current form. But if you want to know what bullet we dodged when Hara stopped being a deck-builder, check out the state of the game when they launched their Kickstarter campaign.

I don’t really like the solo scenarios, because one of my favorite things in this game is the interplay among the characters. How one character can just “give” an action to another character during his turn. Lots of cool opportunities there, especially during the early game.

As for favorite, easily Lights in the Dark, the #2 scenario. It’s just all the gameplay, no frills, full enchilada Champions of Hara: win against any one Corrupted, finish a quest for each character, and they all have to get to maximum energy. It puts a clock on the Corrupted I’m not sure it needs, because you definitely want to get rid of whoever’s rampaging across the board early on anyway. But otherwise, I like how it’s full-on no-frills Champions of Hara.

Among the more gimmick-based scenarios, I like Shattered Worlds (#4) where you have to stop the map from falling apart. It’s nice to get a respite from those scenario effect rolls, which can really throw a wrench in the works. The scenarios that force you to chase randomly dropped tokens really flex characters with movement powers. In terms of playing to how much personality is in the game’s lore, I like Drop in the Well (#7) where you have to carry water for that weird little Jurojin fellow while A’shura chases you around the map.

Do you have Chaos on Hara? It’s got four uber-difficult scenarios that I haven’t tried yet, but I feel I’m at the point that I’m ready for them.

Which scenarios did you like or not like? They’re definitely a mixed bag.


Oh man! Those spinners sound a bit too thinky for me. Especially if I was running two characters and trying to remember what was in their decks to build towards!

I don’t have Chaos on Hara, but plan to pick it up if it becomes available again.

I played Kaoru’s solo mission (#3) and Soff’s solo mission (not sure on number) first. I think Kaoru’s is a great introduction to the game. It starts with these really clear targets (getting to 6 damage to kill the elites) and expects you to run around upgrading to accomplish it. I did not like Soff’s solo mission at all. I’m not sure I played the rules of it right, for one thing.

Then I played Lights in the Dark (#2) with Kaoru and Thomas and loved it. I think that’ll be the mission I’ll use to introduce others when I start trying it non-solo. It also made me think I should skip the rest of the solo missions and just run two characters for solo play from here on out.

For those of you who are interested, the expansion is once again available direct from the designer.

It is hiding in the “products” section of the page.

Ah, great news! Here’s a direct link to the expansion in their shop:



What’s the elevator pitch for the expansion? Does it add anything mechanically to the game or is it just more stuff?

Oh, the new characters certainly add new mechanics. From the review:

So, yeah, more stuff, but not just in the sense of rearranging what’s already familiar (i.e. this guy has more hit points, this guy does more damage, this guy can move faster). More stuff that changes the way the game plays, with more scenarios that actually change the game based on the new stuff, and more Corrupted that further add new concepts. Basically, if you like Champions of Hara enough to want to explore all that it has to offer, you’ll definitely want Chaos.


The problem is that once they saw how successful the original game was, they invented a bunch of characters that never existed in that world and made a expansion just for the $$$.


You’re saying the expansion is not historically accurate? ;-)

Ok fine, I’m in. But I still bet they do another KS.

Well, it took me a while to get it played, but this game is every bit as awesome as Tom made it out to be. Or at least, it sure promises to be. I just did a Versus with a friend - I’m more interested in the coop but in theory the scenarios are the result of a Versus win and it’s their recommended way to learn - so I haven’t exactly dug deeply but jeez. So colorful, exciting, and a really interesting mix of tactics (in card choice and play) and chaos (in the random appearance of monsters and events, and world shifting).

So glad you got a chance to try it! Which characters did you try?

One thing you’ll want to keep in mind as you’re feeling your way around it is that using the Corrupted makes a big difference. I think I might have soured @Brooski on the game by dropping him into a player vs. player game in which our two characters just sort of danced around each other until one of us was powerful enough to punch the other to death.

The monsters and events are all good and well, but ultimately, they’re opportunities for the characters rather than threats. They’re your resources for leveling up and getting useful items. The real pushback in the game, and where you’ll really have to get tactical and creative with how you play, is when you’re dealing with the Corrupted.


Uh. I forget his name, but the big Grit-powered dude with the bear (my friend) and Soff (me). Unfortunately, he managed to kill a couple of Ice Phoenixes and collect their down before ever getting low enough on health for it to be worth me attacking him deliberately, and that’s basically a get-out-of-death free card. Otherwise I would probably have won - I literally had full energy and was one Blastwave activation away from the Dojo when he got to full and beat me to it. Even one defeat at my hands (preferably an opportunistic range 3-4 sniper shot) would have swung the balance. Oh well.

I tend to agree that it’s not a very PvP-intensive competitive game, but for me it was just enough direct interaction to feel like we were actually playing against each other and not just the board (I did kind of incidentally ding him a couple times, he used his geomantic powers to slow me down a few times, and if I’d gotten Blastwave sooner I might have messed around with him that way as well). Still more interested in the coop, but I feel like competitive play works well enough to be worth doing occasionally, which is not something I often say about games that do both modes.

Just popping in to say thanks for this recommendation. I received Champions of Hara for Christmas (thanks, QT3 Secret Santa!) and really dislike how the manual presents scenarios (i.e., “play a competitive game, then play three specific scenarios at different player counts”). Knowing that I could dive straight into scenario #2 let me hurdle over a pretty huge barrier to entry.

Good review. I wonder why this game is not popular at all, unlike Mage Knight