I’d been told that a solo hero could not Defend the Realm, so I set out to prove this to be true. One slightly cowardly Paladin set out on a one way mission into war and hell. The following is from another play-test of the forthcoming Companions & Catacombs expansion using a single hero:
The sunlight glistened on the spears, polearms and helmets of the orc battalion as they scoured the forest for their elusive quarry. The weight of their numbers was terrifying - the earth seemed to shake as they stormed about, grunting and barking at each other. Amongst their number the gigantic, looming form of their feared General towered over them, pushing them about and urging them to hurry. “He must be found”, Gorgutt snarled. Redoubling their efforts in silence the green skinned beasts continued poking their weapons into the thickets of bushes which covered the area.
In the shadows of a nearby cluster of bushes the Paladin’s heartbeat quickened and he held his breath as the monsters approached his hiding place. An orc sergeant spotted movement in the bush and grunted an order to his men. They turned as one to regard the now obvious hiding spot. From the depths of the bushes there came a long, loud fart of fear.
“Oh, screw it,” the Paladin murmured. He leapt from the darkness, eyes closed and wildly swung his sword about him screaming, “Go away, leave me alone!”
Several minutes later, he reopened his eyes and glanced about at the carnage. Here an orc’s head was hanging from a branch, there a pair of orc legs stood up still, blood pumping from the waist where a torso should have been. Shaking, the Paladin lowered his weapon and breathed a curse of disbelief. Thudding footsteps approached from behind him.
Turning on his heel the Paladin was suddenly faced with the heart-stopping vision of the giant Gorgutt charging towards him. “You killed all my men!” Gorgutt roared in rage.
“I didn’t mean it!” the Paladin shouted back, raising his sword in front of him and bracing for impact. Gorgutt tripped on a loose rock and tumbled into the pointed end of the raised sword, face-first.
The first ten cards I’d drawn were green – so clearly I had no choice but to go after Gorgutt. This being the worst case of shuffling in my whole gaming life I quickly reshuffled the Hero Deck again for about five solid minutes and then carried on.
“A hero to save us at last!” the cries of the villagers seemed to come from everywhere. Where had they been hiding? Had they been watching all along? The Paladin stepped back and withdrew his sword from Gorgutt’s eye and swallowed a mouthful of sick as orc brains slid in grisly lumps from the blade. A mob of rapturous villagers piled towards him and swept him up onto their shoulders, cheering. They carried him off to the nearest Inn and shared tales of his bravery with the local adventurers there, who eyed him dubiously. A couple of brave souls even offered to join him.
“Well, to be honest I think my work here is done,” the Paladin started, “I was just looking to get a place in the country and settle-”
“But, Sir!” cried one of the more vociferous locals, to whom the Paladin had already taken a manifest disliking, “The Black Knight plots against us from his dungeons this very hour. His revenge for the death of Gorgutt will be terrible and swift – you must stop him!”
“Yes, t’is said he possesses the Harp of the Gods,” blurted another do-gooder, “It must be found or he will rule the Realm!”
“Then together we shall find it!” declared one of the beleaguered Paladin’s newfound friends – Jack or something – with a heroic flourish of his blade. Before he could even finish his mead the unfortunate Paladin was paraded all the way to the dungeon entrance by the enthusiastic peasants, and thrust into the darkness below, shouts of encouragement and praise echoing from behind him.
As he sauntered into the dungeon with his new Companions, the Corridors seemed Endless, but every time he stopped for a rest his companions dragged him ever onwards. “What are your names anyway?” he sighed with resignation.
“My name is Balikk. I’m a friend of the Duke, who was most impressed with your petition for his help. Some say that the time you spent gathering signatures could have been better spent fighting the Dark Lord’s minions, but we like to do things by the book where I’m from, so your work was greatly appreciated. And your penmanship is excellent.”
“And what can you do, Balikk?”
“I can create magical fire.”
“Alright, no need to shout...”
“SHOW ME!!!” cried the Paladin pointing at the Trolls charging down the corridor at them.
Balikk panicked and yelled an incantation. In an instant the caves were awash with magical fire, leaping from Balikk’s outstretched hands. “I can’t make it stop!” he yelled above the raging inferno. The Paladin stood behind Balikk and manoeuvred him along the corridor and into the next room as the arcane flames continued firing out of the bemused wizard’s hands. A coterie of demons crawled out of the shadows at the intrusion but they were obliterated instantaneously.
The fire from the Wayward Wizard’s hands sputtered and went out, just as the heroes staggered through a doorway onto a crumbling stone bridge.
“I bet this old thing falls to pieces if we try to cross it,” the Paladin mumbled.
Their feet beat the stone as they raced to the other side and stumbled to the floor, panting and heaving. Whilst recovering their breath the Paladin looked around at his motley crew. “Okay, so what do you guys do then?”
“My name’s Drake. Jake Drake.”
“Where you from?”
“The amazons sent me after you envoyed them. To make sure you don’t go back.”
“That’s one crazy land, that amazon place. Chainmail must be very scarce around there,” the Paladin smiled wistfully. Jake coughed and shook him from his reverie. “Sorry, yes, what do you do, Jake Drake?”
“Things that you thought happened I can make not happen and then happen again in a different – or perhaps the same – way. I call it, the Power of Rerolling.”
“Useful. And how about you, lad?”
“I’m Ian Hawk and I brought my donkey.”
“I see. And where is this donkey?”
“Um. It’s outside.”
“You know that I have a trained war stallion outside, right?”
“Well, my donkey knows hidden paths through the mountains.”
“My stallion was trained by the mountainfolk to fight at their very peaks, and track foes through the great passes and ridges for days at a time.”
“My donkey’s called Herbert.”
“I’m just not seeing what exactly you’re bringing to the table here, Ian.”
“Hey, look – a magic pool, let’s go for a swim,” Ian enthused suddenly.
“Wait – listen,” hushed Balikk.
They could hear the sound of a strumming harp coming closer and someone chanting under their breath, “Dah, Dah, Dah, Der, da-DAH, Der, da-DAH!”
“What’s that?” whimpered Ian.
“T’is I, the Black Knight!” the voice shouted. From around the corner a figure clad in black armour emerged. “I shall teach you a grave lesson for trespassing in my domain. Just let me put this harp down over here...”
The heroes watched as the Black Knight clumsily unswung his harp and, cursing, dropped it to the floor. Recovering his composure he raised his sword and set his evil gaze on the Paladin, “Prepare to die, fool!” He started at a canter towards the Paladin, who looked around for an exit.
“Hahaha, you’re going to die,” roared the Black Knight, increasing his pace.
The Paladin glanced behind him at the broken Stone Bridge.
“Hehehe, I’m going to run you through,” the Black Knight chortled, charging maniacally.
The Paladin quickly stepped aside and watched the Black Knight careen past him and off the Stone Bridge into the gaping abyss below.
There was a bewildered pause.
“Right, pass me that bloody Harp,” sighed the Paladin, “let’s go kill some Generals.”
“And lo, didst thine brave Paladin taketh the Harp of ye Gods, and, twixt his hardy companions, didst his Holy Quest taketh him to yon edges of ye worlde, whereupon with vexation didst yon Dark Lord’s Generals inter themselves to the ground after visitation with our hero Paladin’s sword,” whispered the old farmer to the gathered crowd at Gryphon Inn. He took another long slurp of his ale, then continued, “And, yay, was the land of old restoredeth to our noble king, all thanks to our Illustrious Commander, the Conqueror Paladin of the great domain of Monarch City.”
In the corner of the tavern Jake Drake and Ian Hawk shared a look whilst Balikk rolled his eyes...
Actually pulled off a solo hero win! 3 Companions, 2 quests, took the harp of the gods from the black knight in the catacombs. And I was just one taint away from doom, which was the very next Darkness Spreads card...