Monday, February 26, 2024

Review: Heroquest - Avalon Hill/Hasbro Plus


For Christmas this year I got this nostalgia-bait.  I had this when I was a younger person, and played the heck out of it.  I also used my existing D&D and WHFB minis to expand the heck out of it.  You could say, it was the first game I actually heavily modified as a budding wargame designer!  New enemies, new heroes, and new magic!  I also used it as a gateway to suck a lot of folks into RPGs and Wargaming back then.  Mwahahahahahahaha! 

Therefore, when it came back out I knew I would eventually get it.  Lo and behold, here it is!  One of my big projects for this year will be to get this bad boy painted up so I can use it to corrupt more people into wargaming!  So, let's dig in and take a look at what is in the box.  

Right off the bat I can tell you that this box is much thicker than the original game!  Despite the thickness the contents look surprisingly similar.  A nice fold-out board with that all too familiar lay-out,  Two trays of miniature components.  A single sheet with some punch-out tokens and the Zargon screen.  Finally, it has a slim rulebook and a Questbook.  

Inside the Miniature Trays you will find all the familiar furniture from the first game, all the cards, and the character sheets.  The other has the dice and the miniatures.  No doubt the miniatures in this game are top-notch and better looking than the originals.  They definitely style them differently than the GW predecessors.  The Fimir is replaced by an "Abomination".  The Orcs and Goblins also look like they have three different sculpts of each as well!  It seems as if the term Chaos is also replaced with "Dread" instead, i.e. Dread Warriors, Dread Spells, etc.  The Zombies have two poses.  For dice you get 6 proprietary "skull" dice and two red, standard 6-sided dice. 

The minis themselves seem to be made of a hard plastic material and are of good quality.  They have some flex to avoid breakage, but do not seem brittle.  The furniture and models seem to have a good "bulk" or heftiness too them to help stay in place.  The models are a little bit harder to pull out of the trays than I would like.  After painting, I will need some alternative packaging.  Too bad as I like the cool Heroquest sleeves for the model trays.     

So, with the contents being "unboxed" let's go to the rulebook!

Things I Liked

The rulebook is a small glossy book that is 22 pages long!  Nice, simple and quick.  Perfect for newbies to wargames, dungeon delving, or RPGs.   

Characters can either perform an action (fight, cast a spell, search, etc.) and move.  They can do this in any order they wish.  Opening doors or looking down corridors is not an action.  There are handy little cards that describe the sequence of events to play.  

The game uses opposed rolls.  Defenders can use successes to neutralize the Attackers successes.  The number of dice rolled by heroes is based on their equipment.  Some weapons also have simple special abilities making the load-out relevant in the game.  

When you search a room, you draw a card from the Treasure pile.  However, half of the cards are traps or wandering monsters!  These bad things can immediately attack or impact the searcher.  Therefore, if you are injured you may not wish to search and instead focus on escape.  

Things I Do Not Like

I had forgotten that this game used randomized movement!  I would just give each character a standard move rate.  This is an easy way to differentiate the heroes further than their basic stats.  

This game also makes use of Proprietary Dice with symbols.  I am not a fan of that.  

The game really should have a very simple and rudimentary experience system for hero models to "level-up".  That way if a hero dies there are a bit more stakes to their loss.  Losing their equipment can be tough if a monster gets it first, but there is a good chance that a Hero will recover it instead.  

You run out of reasons to use gold pretty fast.  Once you have the best gear, there is not much else to spend gold on. 

Meh and Other Uncertainties

The game has secret doors and a variety of trap types.  Their are different ways to the type of traps impact the game.  Pits can cause injury and modifiers, block traps can block access, and spears cause injury. 

Each hero has a bit of a niche in the party.  The Barbarian deals the most damage and can take the most.  The Dwarf is a strong fighter but is best at disarming traps.  The elf can cast 1 deck of spells.  The Wizard is the weakest but has the most magic.  

There are 14 quests in the quest book and they are linked in a series.  The higher the quest, the more difficult it is.  Artifacts from one quest maybe necessary for the next quest to be completed successfully.  In addition, the game encourages you to create your own quests as well.  

Final Thoughts

I think Heroquest has two great strengths.  The first is its relative simplicity.  It is easy to get people playing quickly and introduce some basic concepts of wargaming and RPG.  This simplicity leads into its second strength, it is incredibly versatile and expandable!  It gives the player a good, basic framework to add all sorts of details to the game.  You can stack or create all sorts of chrome to tack onto this basic framework.  

I could see myself creating some "Custom" Quests using existing models in my collection, or generic ones that are easily sourced like Lizard Men, Gnolls, and the like.  I could even see myself creating some "Quest Packs" and putting them out into the world for others.  I could see a fun Frankenstein's Castle themed game as an example.  Hasbro/Avalon Hill has all ready done this themselves as there are a number of expansions all ready available for the game on their website.  Looks like there are 7 Quest Packs and at least 1 Hero expansion all ready!  

With all of that said, this is best purchased for either a Nostalgia buy OR as a Gateway drug.  The mechanics will not hold up to more advanced Dungeon-Crawler games. It can't compete in tactical challenge like  true wargame.  It can't deliver the experience of a true RPG.  However, as a good introduction game, with a family, or a small-group of non-gamer friends; you can have a blast!  With new scenarios and adding homebrew concepts in you can keep this game fresh for a long time. 

Now, time for me to get painting! 

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  1. This is something that I absolutely hate to say, but HeroQuest is a great base to introduce someone with a simple game structure that they'll tweak and develop into their own set of rules. It's aggravatingly close enough to being a great game on its own, and sometimes that aggravation works well. A bit like One Hour Wargames! But with better components.

    And a lot pricier.

    The thing is, about those two games it feels almost like a compliment, rather than me moaning about game design.

  2. Es un buen juego, y muy personalizable, yo entré en los wargames y juegos de rol por el Heroquest y el Battlemasters.

    También por Cruzada Estelar y Space Hulk aunque la ciencia ficción nunca me atrajo tanto.

    Aún hoy en España (a pesar del problema con Heroquest que hubo aquí por la estafa a gran escala que hicieron) hay una empresa de impresión 3d con muchas cosas para aumentar tu Heroquest, además de la versión Tseuquest...


    1. Yes, I did hear something a bit about the scam in Spain.


    2. BattleMasters was my gateway too!