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Subject: HeroQuest - My Highly Opinionated, Seriously Subjective Review (JOGO #1) rss

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Ian
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This is my first review on BGG, so I thought I would start with my very first board game. I might express opinions or thoughts on things that you might disagree with, but keep in mind that this is just one ginger's opinion.

Completely Unnecessary Introduction
HeroQuest was my very first board game. Sure, we had Life, Monopoly, and Risk! but this was the very first game that I could actually call mine. Unfortunately, I was not old enough to appreciate the game itself - in fact, I am not sure if I ever really played the game how it was supposed to be played (I think I spent more time making quests than actually playing the official book). As such, the game didn't survive and made its way into the 'donate to Goodwill' pile - which is a real shame, because I am pretty sure I had at least 2 or 3 expansions for the thing. Since I have been a fairly active thrifter in the last year or so, I made it a goal to find or trade for a new copy of the game. This way, I could play it as a seasoned gamer and appreciate it once again (or for the first time as the full game experience).

Game Summary & Theme
HeroQuest is a fantasy dungeon-exploration game in which a party of 4 heroes (the typical barbarian, elf, dwarf, and wizard) complete a series of somewhat interrelated quests. This is a fairly basic (partly because it was one of the first mass-produced games of its type) fantasy-themed game when compared to modern games like Descent, etc. That being said, HeroQuest provides a decent narrative for quests and the artwork carries the theme quite well.

Component Quality & Value
HeroQuest was the result of a partnership between Milton Bradley and Games Workshop. As such, the mass-production capability of the board game giant with a miniature-focused company led to a game that was both reasonably priced (for GW minis and bits) and unique (there were not many mass-produced dungeon crawlers made to that point).

There is a lot to like about the production quality of HeroQuest. Games Workshop did a fantastic job with the miniature designs (dated by today's technology and production standards, but exceptional for the time) - especially given the fairly steep prices for GW miniatures today. You also get a lot of them (see the inventory on the front page) and you never have to use tokens to represent figures in the official quests (unlike Descent 2E and other FFG games). Probably one of the most iconic features, though, would be the variety of 3D cardboard furniture that are placed into rooms as the heroes explore. Few games, before and since, have included such gimmicks - but it adds so much to the flavor and the sense of exploration. There are also a decent amount of cards (hero spells, warlock spells, monster cards) and combat dice - all of which are made well. The only concern with the production is the type of plastic used for the monsters. This was fairly common material for the time, but it is very rigid - which will break a lot easier than modern semi-rigid materials (War of the Ring and Descent). As such, it is not uncommon for orcs and goblins to lose their weapons - my copy has an orc who lost his entire left arm fighting for the cause.

What is a major drawback, however, is the fact that it has been our of print for a long time - and the fact that there really has not been anything else out there quite like it since (I mean, there are great games that are similar, but there has only been one HeroQuest - for better or for worse). There is also a fairly decent demand for this game. As a result, prices for a complete, used copy (without a lot of wear and tear) can range from $75~125. Gamers on a budget can still have the off chance of finding one in a thrift store - but even these stores are starting to either price high or sell copies via online auction sites instead of carrying donated copies in stores (a lot of Goodwill stores have started auto-sending any donated copies to their online auction site). Unfortunately, that means that this game rates pretty poorly for value - it is a lot of money to ask for a board game.

Game Play & Mechanics
This game is a one-versus many in that the heroes are working to complete quests while the bad guy (Gamemaster) is trying to kill them. There are not really any timed objectives in this game, so either the heroes complete their objectives and escape or they are killed (or their objective is killed/destroyed/escaped).

A big asset to the game is the fact that Heroes can carry over from one quest to the next (the quest book can be played as a linear campaign), with a limited selection of items that can be purchased/upgraded from treasures found/rewarded from the quest. In this way, HQ served as a lightweight version of D&D - one that could be played in a relatively short time frame (quests can take 30-60 minutes, as long as you do not play with someone with AP). The downfall is that the monsters do not really scale to the heroes as the quests progress - heroes can become fairly overpowered by the end of campaign. Unfortunately for the bad guy, this means that a skilled set of heroes are going to likely win the game. When compared to more modern games like Descent 2E (with Act I and Act II sets of monsters that attempt to scale to the heroes), HeroQuest may fall a little flat.

Actual game play actions are pretty par for the course. Heroes can move, attack things, search for things, and disarm things (there are a few more actions - that is just the basics of it). There are some asymmetrical abilities that match up with the characters - the Wizard and Elf can use spells, etc. Similarly, heroes have different health, attack, defense, and weapon options (sorry Wizard, you don't get much). Monsters have stats based on monster type which dictate health, attack, defense, and movement. The bad guy gets a set of spells which can be used depending on the quest being played.

What I like particularly about this game is that quest book is only visible to the bad guy (Gamemaster). There is a lot of hidden information in this game - heroes methodically or recklessly move through the map, with rooms (monsters, furniture, etc) only being revealed as they enter line of sight. This also adds the element of surprise - like traps. It is always a good idea to search for traps, because they can come back to bite you hard. That being said, there have been countless times when the heroes in my game forget and walk straight into being dead. Which brings me to another point - heroes can die during a quest (not permadeath - but unable to revive to finish the quest). In fact, the bad guy wants to make this happen - since that's how he/she wins. This is in contrast to some modern games (Descent 2E) that are objective based to the point where heroes can get right back up (with limited health) and keep fighting. As such, heroes can work at their own pace to systematically (or recklessly) complete a dungeon without timed limits, but under the caution that the longer they remain, the greater likelihood of traps and monsters appearing to do them in. This changes some of the strategy, but gives the game a feel of exploration and adventure of the unknown.

Combat is pretty straightforward and intuitive. You have health, attack, and defense which come into play. Attack and defense dictate the number of dice you roll - any attacks going through then reduce health. The combat dice have nice graphics depicting hits (skulls), blocks (shields) and misses (blank). Is it a little luck-based, sure. This is not Mage Knight - you do not have a firm calculation of results going into combat (some would argue that this is boring, since the results are already known ... others would argue that this adds a layer of strategy and problem-solving). The roll of the dice can lead to 1-hit KOs or complete whiffs, but this adds to fun and tension of the game. For those who love "Ameri-Trash", this is one of the best.

That being said, I do think some mechanics are outdated but do not hurt the game experience. Most notably, heroes role for movement. This was pretty standard (and still is common today), but it seems like the heroes could easily have had fixed movement stats - the monsters in the game do. This does not hurt the game, it just makes planning actions a little more difficult. In the US version, the first quest feels like a poor fit for the game. It is not a bad quest (far from it), but it uses basically everything the game has - which feels like something that should happen towards the end of the game. I understand that some people will probably only ever play the first quest, but it seems like using all the pieces (ok, not all of the furniture) would take away some of the mystery and newness that should still happen in later quests. This is definitely something that I think more modern game hold an advantage over this game.

Final Thoughts
Has HeroQuest aged well? I would argue that it has for gamers who are not looking for insane brain burners or millions of ability combinations to attach to heroes. In some ways, I like it for this very reason. Some people may call this "elegance" when it comes to other, newer games, but I like to think of it as an "Anti-Analysis-Paralysis" mechanism. This goes a long way when time is at a premium. HeroQuest also has a fairly strong nostalgia factor, which makes up for some of the mechanics that have since been improved upon. Overall, I think this is a fantastic, med-low complexity game that is a must-have for fantasy-adventure gamers.

+ Reasonably fast game time
+ Component quality
+ Nostalgia
+ Hidden information for the bad guy (Gamemaster)
+/- Mechanics
- Cost to own (out of print + reasonably high demand)
- Heroes can become very OP at the end of the game
- Dice for movement

Seriously Subjective Score

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Philip Lodge
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Great review...

You didn't over hype the most important bit. The skulls and shield combat dice, no numbers. This needs to be the basis of all games in this style, no one likes maths, lol!

As for movement via dice. Knowing your stuck to 4 or 6 squares each turn is poop! boring! The chases that can emerge and fail thanks to a bad dice roll, yes, you try to run away but trip, rolling double 1's. Rolling for each monster would have lengthened the game too much and knowing how much you need to roll to escape adds to the excitement. They got this mechanic exactly right.

Thanks to how dice work you're likely to roll an average score, around the 6/7's. Rolling a 12 which is rare represents good footing as you charged through a dark old dungeon, rarely would you be able to move that fast and rarely in game will you use the full roll anyways.

We have many home brew rules for HQ and the inn is very active. The only rule is keeping it true to the original, many people start adding too many advanced RPG style rules, if they want that, just go play the RPG. One can still role play with out all the extra mechanics. New equipment cards unlocking abilities, EWP tokens to spice up the quests, extra unique monsters/special characters and Goblins with Move Attack Move, is all it needs, all achievable with out altering the original mechanics. The rest is down to how creative the EWP was with the Quests he designed.

HQ is the best monster slaying board game ever.
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Ian
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Thanks!

I think I am a little jaded with the roll-for-movement part due to the fact that, as the Barbarian in the first "real" game I ever played, I rolled 11 for what seemed to be like every turn in Quest 1. Nothing like having your bruiser get stuck waddling down the hallway when everyone else is already bashing monsters whistle.
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Ty
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I couldn't agree more with your review. One thing I will add in regards to price, like you mentioned thrift stores can be a gold mine. And in addition to those, I recently found HeroQuest on Craigslist for $50. It included 4 expansions as well. I told the guy this was worth several hundred dollars on e-bay and such, but he didn't care and I got a heck of a bargain. If you live in/near a major metropolitan area, Craigslist is a jewel.
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Joseph Evangelista
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Great review!

I ran my first game for a group of 3 heroes a few weeks ago and we all had a blast.

Ian - the same thing happened with the Barbarian in our group. He rolled so many low numbers that the Elf and Wizard wound up taking on more than they could handle on more than 1 occasion.
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Philip Lodge
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PuntSpeedchunk wrote:
Thanks!

I think I am a little jaded with the roll-for-movement part due to the fact that, as the Barbarian in the first "real" game I ever played, I rolled 11 for what seemed to be like every turn in Quest 1. Nothing like having your bruiser get stuck waddling down the hallway when everyone else is already bashing monsters whistle.
That's quite unlucky. In my mods that would make you dead. To limit Heroes spending ages rerolling dice until scoring high before opening a door etc, A roll of double 1 is a trip (falling rubble/general hazard), Roll a skull on a CD lose 1BP. Brings about a fear factor for attempting to escape the dungeon on 1BP and generally adds a huge time factor. Heroes want to move as quickly with as less rolls as poss.

Here's my mods.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzUqoUE_JiOud21ESFhLaG9hS1U...
 
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