TTRPG Review: Bloodborne
By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
It took me a while to dive into “Soulsborne” video games, but once I did, I was hooked, Bloodborne being the first I played. Dark Souls has had its tabletop installments for some time now, and I haven’t brought myself to pull the trigger on it. When I saw Bloodborne’s tabletop version sitting on the shelf, though, I immediately snatched it up. Being a fairly dedicated miniature painter, I could at least enjoy painting minis from one of my all-time favorite video games and possibly use them in another RPG if I wasn’t a fan of the gameplay.
All of my opinions on games typically boil down to one factor: did I have fun? Mechanics, aesthetics, pacing; all can be forgiven if the game is still fun in the end. Bloodborne’s tabletop edition, from the accomplished folks at CMON, doesn’t seem to be lacking on any of those fronts. The rulebook may seem complex at first, but the basic operation is pretty straightforward, with the rest of the material covering situational guidelines. They also provide each player with a quick-reference card that helps keep you from flipping back and forth through the rulebook during play. While it’s relatively quick to learn, it is every bit as brutal as the Playstation game and not for the faint of heart. Unlike many tabletop RPGs, you aren’t rolling dice here either. All skills, upgrades, rewards, and consumables are represented by cards, which still leaves some up to chance but allows for some strategic character builds along the way.
Bloodborne is a one to four-player action/adventure, campaign-based RPG with dungeon crawler and rogue-like elements. The base game offers four options of which hunter you would like to play and four separate campaigns - each spanning three chapters. Once these are selected, the campaign cards instruct you on which enemies and city tiles are needed for that scenario, and you’re off to the races. Slay enemies to obtain blood echoes to spend on upgrades, complete insight missions to gain insight and progress through the hunt, and collect consumables that help you along your way. Complete the main hunt mission to close that chapter and progress through the campaign. Again, some of the game is left up to the luck of the draw depending on what city tiles you draw and what cards you have in your hand, but the game does not leave you feeling like you got smacked by Lady Luck when you fail. Your choices certainly matter.
One thing I feel is a common inaccuracy in the tabletop realm is estimated playtime. I get the impression that most games’ estimates assume you have the game set up and ready to play. All and all, participants are dead focused, have already eaten so that they won’t get up for snacks, and thoroughly dehydrated, and so there’s no chance for bathroom breaks. The box gives you an official estimate of 45-75 minutes, but I’d say realistically, from box opened to box closed, plan for around an hour and a half to complete a chapter—more if you have any new players present.
The all-knowing, all-powerful Board Game Geek gives Bloodborne an 8/10 score, and I’m inclined to give it the same. If you’re a fan of the video game, you won’t be disappointed. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the digital counterpart, it’s such a pretty game and is highly intuitive; I’m sure you’ll have a good time with it if you’re a fan of tabletop RPGs and dungeon crawlers. The base game will run you around $100 at your local shop and has enough expansions to last you till your kids’ kids graduate college, each adding their own set of highly detailed miniatures to the collection. I’ve enjoyed Bloodborne both solo and with a full group, and it definitely won’t be collecting dust on the shelf anytime soon.