Anyway, we played 3 rounds of Hero Realms this past weekend, and since some people seem to be curious and haven't got their copies yet, I decided to note down the thoughts and impressions I have on the game.
First and foremost, Hero Realms is not just a re-skin of Star Realms. You will feel right at home with Hero Realms though, if you're familiar with Star Realms. The core mechanics are the same.
Here's a quick Star Realms - Hero Realms translation guide:
|Star Realms||Hero Realms|
|Destroy Base||Stun Champion|
Well then, here's mechanics that are basically the same:
You start your game with 50 health and a ten card deck of basic cards. Some money, very few damage. You draw five cards from your draw pile (except for starting player who draws three, second player drawing four if there are 3+ players). You buy better cards from the trade row, which shows five random cards at a time, or you buy some Fire Gems. Purchases go in your discard pile, and you re-shuffle when you have to draw but don't have any cards left in your draw pile. Money is pooled and you may purchase multiple cards as long as you have the currency for it. Damage is also pooled and distributed as you like.
When you play a Champion, it stays in play until it is stunned. It then goes to your discard pile. Champions have a health value which has to be reached in order to stun them, otherwise damage would fizzle. Guards protect the player and the other Champions from damage and have to be dealt with first. Regular Champions may be stunned, but you can also choose to bypass them. Non-Champion cards (called Actions or Items) are discarded at the end of your turn.
The player whose health is reduced to (or below) zero first loses. (Variants exist for 3+ players)
The central idea of Ally Abilites exists in Hero Realms and works just as it does in Star Realms. There are four factions, and cards might have an ability that triggers when another card of the same faction is in play (and under control of the active player of course).
You will also find abilities you know from Star Realms: "Target opponent discards a card", "Draw a card", "Sacrifice a card from your hand or discard pile", "Sacrifice Fire Gem for damage", etc.
So, here's what's different (keep in mind I've played three games, and I haven't actually seen all the cards):
Champions come into play "prepared" (i.e. untapped). You activate their ability by "expending" (tapping) them. At the end of your turn, you prepare them, so they'll never be expended during your opponent's turn.
Non-Champion cards are either Actions or Items, all of which can have types that abilities might refer to.
You will find many abilities that depend / trigger on requirements not seen in Star Realms: "If you played two or more actions this turn, draw a card", "Gain one life per Champion you have in play", "Gain one damage per Guard you have in play" (notice the difference between Champion and Guard), "Deal 3 damage to target player and all of his Champions (Guards don't protect from this)", "Stun a Champion that has been damaged this turn", "Ally: Prepare a Champion", "Gain 2 damage if you played a 'Bow' this turn" ...
The base game comes with starting decks for four players. The optional character packs (currently Fighter, Ranger, Thief, Wizard, Cleric) are custom starting decks with different cards, one minor (once per turn) and one major (once per game) ability, custom health tracker cards, and different starting health. Bonus / promotional cards include a single player / co-op challenge, with more to follow. The Campaign Starter Kit hasn't been delivered yet. From what I can tell, it'll be like Star Realms single player missions, but played cooperatively. The plan is to include persistant items that you can find / acquire in one mission and keep for the next. Also planned is a deck for a GM type player who opposes a group of cooperative players (i.e. asymmetrical multiplayer).
<tl;dr> To summarize:
Hero Realms is a hugely expanded adaption of Star Realms, set in a fantasy world instead of a Science Fiction one. It's more open and acts as a foundation for various different play variants, in a way that Star Realms has been too limited to be.
I don't feel quite ready to say whether it's better or worse than Star Realms. I've played over 1500 online matches in Star Realms, according to Steam I've been running it for 500+ hours, and I've had the game before it became available through Steam. And let's not forget the Android app that I'm using on both my tablet and phone. Compared to that, I've played Hero Realms for ... 3 hours maybe? As such, it's new and exciting, while also reminding me of a game I love. It has potential, more than Star Realms in my opinion. We'll see what WWG makes of it.
My friends I played with enjoyed it too, generally (I think) more than Star Realms. This might, in part, be due to them feeling without a chance against me in Star Realms for some reason though.