Bloodborne: The Card Game Review
Stats at a glance
In the world of Yharnam, blood is everything. It strengthens, it heals… and it corrupts.
A group of hunters enters a Chalice Dungeon to eradicate the monsters lurking within.
The corruption has spread and turned the population into monsters. Even those who claimed to help the people have become warped monstrosities that need to be hunted down and eradicated.
In the Chalice Dungeons monsters lurk through the halls, and only the hunters have the strength to slay the beasts.
Many hunters may venture into the dungeon but how many will come back out? Let’s dive into our Bloodborne review to find out!
Brief Overview of Bloodborne: The Card Game
Bloodborne was originally a video game that may remind you of Dark Souls. In the Bloodborne video game, you take on the role of a single character in a grimdark world, in which everything was faster and stronger than you… and everything really wants to kill you.
If Dark Souls had a fantasy aesthetic, then Bloodborne could be said to be a gothic, almost steam-punkish world. Imagine if Christopher Nolan, Quinten Tarantino, and James Wan (the director of Saw) all decided to make a game and you might end up with something like Bloodborne.
In the same vein as Dark Souls, Bloodborne has very rich lore hidden behind the game. I’m not as familiar with it as Dark Souls because I only played a little bit of the video game, but I can tell that it’ll require hours and hours of vidya game time and speculation to figure it all out.
Luckily for board game players, you don’t actually need to know any of it to play the game and Bloodborne: The Card Game is a fun, simple, and semi-cooperative game that can be picked up and played pretty easily by anyone.
Versions & Expansions
Bloodborne: The Card Game – The Hunter’s Nightmare
The Hunter’s Nightmare expansion adds just more of everything that I loved about the original game. The additional mechanics are streamlined and fit right into the rules as if they belonged there from the beginning. The expansion also almost doubles the cards and equipment from the original game.
CMON changed the dying mechanics so that now players who die will also be punished by receiving death tokens. These will negatively impact your score at the end of the game.
Ready for the challenge?
Bloodborne: The Card Game Game Night Kit
CMON puts out some fun promo kits as well. If you check with your FLG (friendly local game shop), you may find something called a Game Night Kit. These are stand-alone dungeons for up to 10 players. CMON even puts out prizes for players who compete and for the shop who hosts. Keep an eye out, because they’re pretty cool-looking.Bloodborne: The Card Game Game Night Kit
Unboxing Bloodborne: The Card Game
The artwork from the video game was fantastic. Lucky for us, they used the same artwork for the card game too. The weapons are all brutal and gothic-looking and the scenery is grim and creepy (in an awesome way).
The only thing that doesn’t translate well is the bosses themselves. They look like monstrous Lovecraftian gothic horrors but unfortunately, the artwork on the cards loses a lot of the horror in comparison to the video game.
The problem arises when you have a 3D model that moves and flaps around you onscreen and then you try to represent that with a single 2D image. Some of these bosses move fluidly or open up to reveal gaping maws in the video game. You lose a bit of that scare-factor with some of the still images on the cards. They honestly look a lot alike to me and I don’t think there’s really anything you can do about that.
How to Play Bloodborne: The Card Game
Bloodborne: The Card Game starts out in much the same way that a deck-builder does. Each player will have an identical hand of cards that can be played. Every turn, players will work their way through a dungeon deck, gaining blood tokens and trophies from killing monsters.
The final scoring at the end involves tallying up trophy points and blood tokens.
The cards in your hand (Action Cards) come in 3 flavors:
- Red: Melee Weapons
- Blue: Ranged Weapons
- Grey: Utility Cards
1. Choose a card
2. Transform Weapons
3. Instant Effects
4. Monster Attacks
5. Hunter Attacks
6. Monster Escapes
7. Hunter’s Dream
8. End of Round
Let’s take it step-by-step.
Phase 1: Choose a Card
Each turn, players flip one of the chalice dungeon cards to reveal what monster players will be fighting.
In this part, all players can converse and strategize. You’ll only be able to play 1 card each turn, so you won’t be able to blast all your most powerful weapons in one turn. To actually kill monsters and reap the benefits, players will need to work together. Players are also under no obligation to tell the truth either.
“Hey, I’ll totally help with this fight! (Jk lol) Good luck dying, sucker!”
Players need to work together but only up to a certain point. They can also bail out of combat by using their * card or they can even attempt to wipe the monster out and steal the kill from their fellow hunters.
Phase 2: Transform Weapons!
One of the defining combat mechanics in Bloodborne is the transformation of weapons. In a practical sense, I don’t know if it actually makes sense… but it does look pretty sweet.
I mean, who doesn’t want a cane that turns into a bladed whip? Seriously that’s cool.
Transforming your weapon is a tactical choice in the card game. It allows you to play your weapon after looking after everyone’s cards. That way, you have a bit of extra knowledge when playing your cards so you don’t waste awesome cards on a worthless fight (or you can hit something for just enough to steal the kill from your buddies).
Phase 3: Instant Effects
Bosses (and the Final Boss) will usually have instant effects that take place before any combat damage is calculated. There are some pretty sweet bonuses you can perform here if you have the right cards. However, there’s also the possibility of getting wiped out before you even make it into combat.
Phase 4: The Monster Attacks
Your enemies will always get to hit first. You’ll know what kind of damage range they can perform from the information on their cards. Enemies also show different colored dice to show how dangerous they can be.
They use the standard traffic light system to determine the threat level. If they use a green die, they’re weaker than others, yellow is a standard threat, and red is uber dangerous.
If you bail out of combat and make it to the Hunter’s Dream, you’ll still get hit here but you’ll take half damage rounded down.
Phase 5: The Hunter Attacks
Finally, it’s time to do some damage! Players go around the board, starting with the first player and do damage to the creature according to their weapon stats. Each weapon has a blood cost on it. That’s the number of blood tokens taken from the monster that you’re fighting. If all the blood tokens are gone, the monster is defeated and each player gets a trophy. Players also keep the blood tokens they took from the monster.
Trophies are added to a track on your player board. The further up the track you get, the more bonus points you’ll receive at end-game scoring.
Phase 6: The Monster Escapes
FLEE!!! After exchanging blows for a single round, regular monsters bail out. If you don’t manage to kill them in the first round, they escape. Nobody gets a trophy and you may have used up some good cards for little or no reward. Try harder next time.
Bosses and the Final Boss do not run away. They are bosses after all. You’ll continue facing a boss round after round until it’s defeated. Even if you’re killed, you’ll have a chance to jump back into the fight. I’ll talk about dying in a minute.
Phase 7: The Hunter’s Dream
This is an alternate dimension/world. It’s kind of like the rift between worlds. If you’ve seen the Doctor Strange movies, you’ll know what I mean. It’s just less Marvel and more Lovecraft.
Each player will have a card that lets them escape into the Hunter’s Dream.
Escaping to the Dream places your character outside of the current fight. They’ll still receive ½ damage (rounded down) and they can still die if they lose all health while in the Dream. The Dream is the only place where you can reshuffle your discarded cards back into play. It’s also where you’ll pick up upgraded Hunter cards.
Each player starts with the same standard Hunter cards in their hand but as they visit the Dream, they’ll be able to upgrade to more powerful weapons and abilities.
The next thing they’ll be able to do is to take all of their blood points they’ve received from attacking monsters and bank them. They’ll move to different sections of the board and those points are locked-in until the end of the game. They can’t be touched.
If you die without visiting the Dream, you’ll lose all of those points when you die. This is the only way to save them for final scoring at the end of the game.
The last thing visiting the dream does is heal you on the way out. On exiting the Hunter’s Dream, you’ll put your health back up to max (8).
Phase 8: End of the Round
There you go! You’ve renewed all your cards, gotten an upgrade, and fully healed yourself. Now get out there and hunt some nasties. Rinse and repeat.
You’ll continue to work your way through the dungeon deck, either forcing enemies to flee in terror at your combined might or destroying them until all of the cards in the dungeon deck are gone.
There’s 1 final card you’ll have to deal with, though. Remember the final boss you chose at the beginning of the game? You still have to defeat it before the game can end and these guys are all much stronger than anything you’ve faced thus far.
All of the final bosses have a passive ability and usually have some more nasty surprises in store for the players.
Once defeated, you’ll get into final scoring.
Tally up all of your banked blood tokens and all of the points you’ve received from your trophies.
Your First Game of Bloodborne: The Card Game
Set up the decks and choose your doom!
The first thing you’ll need to do is to figure out which Big Boss you’re going to be fighting. You can do it randomly or simply choose if you have a particular one you want to fight. The official rules say to randomize it.
The boss card gets set off to the side and will be the final encounter of the game.
Set Up the Decks
Next, you’ll need to set up the encounter deck. It will consist of 7 random monsters and 3 mini-boss monsters. This gives you a total of 10 cards in the deck for a total of 11 encounters including the final boss.
Each player starts with the same setup and hand of cards. You’ll all have the same weapons and abilities in the beginning.
When playing cards at the beginning it’ll be easy to know who has what but as the party goes deeper into the dungeon, it’ll be a bit harder to remember who has what abilities.
Do not forget about the Hunter’s Dream. A timely retreat will save all of your blood tokens and you’ll be able to pick up some new abilities every time you leave the Dream. Dying mid-game can completely negate all of your hard-won blood tokens, basically negating a round or two of work.
It’s all about risk vs. reward, so keep an eye on your health and don’t let your buddies leave you out in the cold to fight a monster you can’t handle.
Pros & Cons
- Streamlined mechanics
- Awesome production
- Quick setup & play
Bloodborne is just a well-designed game. There’s no obscure mechanics or thousands of tiny little things players need to keep track of. It’s very streamlined and simple.
That doesn’t mean that strategy is simple though. Players will need to seriously balance their own cards while potentially bluffing other players to end up with the most points at the end of the game. You won’t be able to kill anything on your own, so you’ll have to work together. If you’re completely selfless, however, you’re going to lose. It’s a great balance.
Speaking of simplicity, Bloodborne: The Card Game can be set up and started in about 5 minutes. Dungeon-crawler type games usually require a crazy amount of setup to even get the board ready. That doesn’t even include rules explanations either. I’m a huge fan of getting into a game quickly, especially because I’m the only one that reads rulebooks at my table.
Company politics and Kickstarter strategies aside, CMON puts out high-quality components in their games. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game produced by them that wasn’t top-notch. This is a bit of a deviation in that there aren’t any minis (from a company called Cool Mini or Not) but the artwork and card-quality are all fantastic. I particularly like the player boards and weapon cards. They just look so cool.
- Brutal boss fights
- Limited number of cards
The only downside I can really point to is the number of cards that players have available. I like the game but after a few games, I can see myself memorizing the upgrade cards and searching for my favorites. That limits the shelf life of the game a bit if you play it extensively and constantly.
There are a few expansions that spice up the game, though.
Bloodborne Review (TL;DR)
Bloodborne is a semi-cooperative card game designed for 3-5 players.
It works well with all of the suggested player counts and is very well balanced.
Players must work together to defeat monsters in a dungeon by clearing cards in a deck. The final card is always a much harder final boss monster.
Players will need to work together to kill the monsters but can also bail out on their teammates for personal gain/safety.
For a video game adaptation, Bloodborne: The Card Game does some incredible things as a tabletop game.
It plays quickly, players interact quite a bit, and there’s always a strategic element to every move that you make.
If someone created the same game as a generic card-based dungeon–crawler it would still be a great game, and that’s the difference between this game and a cash grab that slaps an IP onto a product.
Bloodborne: The Card Game is first and foremost an excellent card game. The thematic elements are just a bonus.
When you look at the team behind the Bloodborne card game it begins to become clear why everything works so well.
It’s published by CMON (Cool Mini or Not) which is known for high-quality components and minis, and it’s designed by Eric Lang. If you do a quick Google search on him you’ll know that he’s also responsible for some of the currently most popular and hyped games like Blood Rage, Rising Sun, and Chaos in the Old World.
The man knows his stuff.
We hope you enjoyed our Bloodborne review! Have you tried Bloodborne: The Card Game or its expansions? Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!
Find more card games to play here: