Cartographers Heroes

Cover Art - Cartographers Heroes
From the Publisher:
The expedition to the Western Lands is the kind of honour that comes once in a lifetime for a royal cartographer. But these are dangerous times. War ravages the land, and you are sure to encounter Dragul forces determined to thwart Queen Gimnax’s plans for western expansion.

Fortunately, brave heroes have risen to the defence of Nalos. Chart their deeds alongside the queen's edicts and secure your place in history.

Cartographers Heroes is the sequel to the critically acclaimed map-drawing game Cartographers. It includes all-new map sheets, scoring cards, explore cards, and ambush cards with unique abilities.

Cartographers Heroes can be played on its own or mixed with components from the original game for a greater variety of gameplay possibilities.
BGG Link
Designer(s) Jordy Adan, John Brieger
Publisher Thunderworks Games
Player Count 1 - 99
Estimated Playtime 40 min

Game Review

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Journal Entries

September 12th, 2022

I got way too used to having Friday off and using that day for some rules revision. The last two Fridays, I have been making my way through the rules for Welcome to the Moon. This week, Friday was a hectic and long work day, and I didn’t feel like tackling the last complicated Adventure.

So looking at my shelves of shame (yes, plural, and more shelves than I am comfy with), I picked a new solo adventure. After I don’t know how long, it was finally time to tackle Cartographers Heroes!

20220912 - Cartographers Heroes - A bunch of cards and a pad - great afternoon
Some objective cards and a writing pad – more fun on a Saturday than many think!

I backed Cartographers Heroes Kickstarter years ago. I hadn’t even gotten around to opening it until this week! I played the original Cartographers with Alpal and enjoyed it. Backing Cartogprahers Heroes, the follow-up game, I thought I would be set. It turns out Heroes doesn’t come with one type of card – Ruins. This made the rules a little confusing for a minute!

Cartographers Heroes is essentially a tile placement puzzle. You play for four seasons, and score once per season for a random set of scoring criteria. Generally, you can place shapes of various terrain types where you wish. Monsters can be placed by opponents in multiplayer to throw your plans.

In the base Cartographers, if you flip a Ruins card, you must place the next terrain on a Ruins square on your map. These cards don’t exist in Cartographers Heroes, but the ruins are on the map. So confusion reigned for a couple of rule reads! If you combine the original and Heroes though, it gives you a lot of flexibility, so I do like the inclusion on the maps.

20220912 - Cartographers Heroes - Most cards are a choice of terrains for a single shape or a single terrain for a choice of two shapes
Ruins aside, you have a choice on every card so not players have the same map without effort

Once that got settled in my mind, I had to have a couple of test games. The maps with Cartographers Heroes have two different sides. The ‘harder’ side has fewer places to lay terrain than the other. This adds complexity to placing terrains, but each map plays the same way.

Monsters work differently in solo mode, but the titular Heroes give you a way to destroy monsters. In the original game, you had to surround monster squares to contain them. In Cartographers Heroes, you can place a single squared Hero with a unique attack pattern. Any monsters caught in this pattern are then destroyed.

Playing solo was also a lot of fun. Most of the rules are the same as multiplayer, but you don’t have opponents to place Monsters for you. Automata rules for Monster placement are simple in Cartographers Heroes and work well. There is also a difference in scoring.

20220912 - Cartographers Heroes - Pulling a monster first cards is not what I meant by hard mode
“Let’s try the harder side” I said. First card – MONSTER!

In a normal game, you add up the scores of all the players, and highest scores win. Straightforward. In Solo Cartographers Heroes, you add up your score as normal. Then you subtract the scores shown on the objective cards from your total, giving you your final score. You then compare this score to a ranking at the end of the manual, granting you a title based on your performance.

Most solo games have you competing against your previous score. Because the Cartographers Heroes scoring objectives are random, this is a good way to compare performance. It does take a game to get your head around the scoring, but for me, that’s because I was looking for the catch.

And like most rules in Cartographers Heroes, there isn’t one. Some interactions seem complex, and there are steps that seem daunting to new players. But each rule is simple on its own, and it only takes a game to see how the order and interactions work.

20220912 - Cartographers Heroes - Even with only two maps there are a heap of scoring combinations
There are 4 scoring objectives in 4 categories, that can be place in 24 possible combinations. That’s a lot of scoring variety!

So like Welcome to the Moon, be on the lookout for videos of Cartographers Heroes gameplay. And you can even play along and compare your score!

September 19th, 2022

I had a few more games of Cartographers Heroes at the start of the week. I managed to get into the solo game trap of doing well on the first game, then my score went downhill. My average is slowly working its way back up, but I haven’t come close to the high from the tutorial setup!

20220919 - Cartographers Heroes - Score Went Downhill
I went from scoring 30+ to 4 points!

One thing that has surprised me is how much I miss the Ruins cards. On one hand, Cartographers Heroes is slightly easier without Ruins. It has one fewer placement constraint to worry about. But I do miss the random ‘bad roll’ aspect of having to place your land in a specific place. Not enough to buy the original Cartographers though!

Playing Cartographers Heroes with the random scoring rules has an impact on scoring. The tutorial setup allows for combination scoring without much effort. While learning, this is what you want. Right now, I am playing while learning the scoring objectives. Maybe I should stick with a random set for a couple of games, and try seeing how the rules work that way?

20220919 - Cartographers Heroes - Random objectives have been interesting
When and where each objective appears each game is random

Playing Cartographers Heroes made me want to play the original Roll Player. I haven’t played that in a few years. I have it upstairs, but there is a lot more setup than Cartogprahers. If only there was a digital version of Roll Player I could solo with ease…

November 21st, 2022

I played a lot of Cartographers and Cartogpraphers Heroes last week. There were a couple of rounds on the table, but then I tried out the digital version. And frankly, it worked better than I thought it would!

The base game on the Google Play Store was only AU$6.50. Add another $2.50 for Cartographers Heroes and the Underworld expansion, and you are set. Especially for solo play! You can choose to change many options and which cards to use, and be playing a round in seconds.

20221121 - Cartogrpahers Heroes - And we found out the blue whiteboard marker is hard to wash off
The laminated boards worked pretty well. The blue marker, not so much.

I will get some gripes out of the way first. I set my username on my tablet, thinking the bigger screen would be better to play on. I then tried on my mobile and was surprised at how well it worked. Well, how well Cartographers solo worked on mobile. I can’t use my username, as it’s “Already Taken”.

The app prompts you to then sign in with your email address. I tried every email that is on my phone that the app could have used behind the scenes, and none work. This is only important if you want to play online – solo random setup isn’t affected.

If you want to play Cartographers against other players or the weekly challenges, beware. Pick the device you want to play on, and be prepared to lose your username if you upgrade your device in the future.

20221121 - Cartogrpahers Heroes - On the tablet the layout feels more natural
Playing on a tablet felt good

That quibble aside, Cartographers on mobile is a heap of fun. If you have seen Cartographers and wanted to see if it’s for you, it’s a cheap way to try it out.

And I would only recommend the app for trying out the game. None of the expansion packs you can buy for the physical game are available. So if you get hooked, you have to go to the physical copy for more challenges.

20221121 - Cartogrpahers Heroes - But the layout works well on the phone overall
Playing on the phone was a little squished, but worked well and far more portable

But for now, I have enjoyed playing Cartographers Heroes on my phone. I say Heroes more because I play with ruins off like my physical copy, but I am mixing up the cards from both games where possible.

It’s been great kicking back on the couch and playing a couple of games in less time than a single round on the table. Cartographers is not a long setup at all, but having the app do everything in the background is always quicker.