Nick Van Dam
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Heroscape was a game that I’d heard of through the Dice Tower, I had watched videos about it, but figured because of the expense and unavailability I’d never get to play, and I felt just fine with that, after all there are so many other games, and this one seemed a bit basic by comparison. The first of this year I was on vacation visiting inlaws and decided to go off by myself and check out the thrift stores, something I am apt to do. I was shocked to find a copy of Heroscape Rise of the Valkyrie on top. I figured, it must be empty, or full of who knows what, so I opened and looked inside. I could see most of it was full of tiles, but at one end there were several figures. I figured even if it isn’t playable it is worth the $4 they wanted… then after scouring the rest of the games to make sure I didn’t miss anything I headed to the check out, only to realize I’d left my wallet in the car. I figured I’d probably lose the game if I set it down, but I had to, so I ran out and grabbed my wallet, and a few minutes later I was the proud owner of what I would later discover was a mostly complete Masters set, with the Dawn of Darkness expansion (zombies), shades, and orcs, and the Heroes of Trollsford expansion, while missing Sergeant Drake, and a couple of water tiles a couple of smaller hexes, one die, one turn maker, and the rule book.
Here are my thoughts on the game…


Components
The Master set is a huge collection of plastic bits.
- The board is made up of modular plastic pieces that have a hex pattern. This allows for a wide variety of board set ups. They are thick durable, easy to connect and disconnect. They are colorfully painted to show grass, rock, sand, and water.
- The plastic figures are also painted. They are approximately 28mm scale or a little larger.
- Ruins, the game also includes plastic ruins to add variety and block line of sight, these are designed to fit right into grooves that occur in the terrain after it is set up.
- The rule book, well the one that can be downloaded from BGG for me, is easy to understand and read, provides a variety of board set ups, and does a good job of explaining the basics.
- Other Plastic bits – dice, turn markers, wound markers, and Glyphs are all colorful and made up of the same durable plastic as the terrain pieces.
- The squad/hero cards have a unique shape which makes them problematic to store and protect. They are made of a slightly thicker paper, and show all of the information you need for a unit, their stats and special rules. On the back side there is a description without the special powers.



Game Play
(not meant to be a complete rules explanation)
The object of the game is to win, this can mean different things depending on the scenario being played. It might be a capture the flag, or collect all the parts goal, or something else. The most basic and common scenario is to destroy your enemy either in part or the entire army, this will be an aspect of any game.
Destroying your opponents figures is accomplished by attacking using custom dice (the number depends on the player stats and elevation). A hit is represented by a red skull. Then the defending player rolls dice (also depends on player stats and elevation) and a shield counts as a successful defense. If there are more skulls in the attack than shields in the defense damage is assigned to the unit. When the same amount of damage is assigned as the unit has life it dies and is removed from the board.
If a player has an elevated position over their opponent they gain a bonus attack/defense die.

The game is played in rounds, at the beginning of each round players decide which units they want to activate that round and assign them turn makers to show this, one additional turn marker is included so that there is some uncertainty for your opponents. Then the first player is determined by a die roll and play goes back and forth between players.
This repeats until the objective of the scenario is achieved.

Our Experience
As I said I wasn’t sure I’d like this game as the description always sounded a little dry and basic to me. I set up one of the maps from the rule book, or as close as I could get with the missing pieces and played a round by myself to practice the rules. Then I invited a couple of different people in to play as well. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but there was something magical about this game for me. It gave me the same sense of fun I had playing with toy soldiers as a kid, but also with a fun yet simple set of rules. The game was incredibly swingy at times, and a game outcome could feel a bit random, but it always remained exciting and incredibly fun. The balance found in the unit costs seems to be pretty accurate, unit selection and army configuration can provide advantage, and the tactical play on the board is meaningful as well, but these will not guarantee victory. Some I’ve played it with did not enjoy it very much, they either thought it was too swingy and dice dependent, or were confounded by how to make sense of the more strategic elements like unit selection or board positioning. As for me, every game has been fun, some aggravating, but at the same time so much fun, and creating a story for those involved.

Pros
- Table Presence – this is a beautiful game, that when you see it pulls you in and makes you want to play it.
- Simple rules – While this game can be made more complex with different units, terrain types, etc, at it’s core it is a very accessible miniatures game.
- Variety – Between the modular board, the variety of units to construct armies out of, the different scenarios to choose from, and the variability of the glyphs and dice rolling no two games will ever be the same. This truly is a game system that can be and has been adapted to an almost limitless degree.
- It is a crazy amount of fun, every time.
- Everything is painted, now this might fall under table presence, but it is such a rare thing.
- The inclusion of a variety of themes, where other games might be set in the Ancient world, or have futuristic robots and aliens, or be set in modern war, this game includes all of these things. I believe many that were made refer unofficially to movies that were out at the time. Blade, Men in Black, etc. This opens up room for the imagination to soar.

Cons

- Cost – This was the biggest reason I never even considered getting this game. It is a crazy amount of money, especially if you are wanting some of the expansions.
- Storage – While the base game fits into it’s box, it is a bit of a puzzle, and players that have more than the base box begin to run into the problem of how and where to store this massive game.
- Set up/take down time – Building the board can take more time than playing the game. This problem is increased the more terrain you have and want to include.
- Randomness – The dice rolling can make this game incredibly swingy. In a game with balanced armies, one person might not lose one figure and the other might be completely wiped out, just because of the luck of the dice.
- Back story – The story of the game is that the very best soldiers from history and the universe are being brought together by powerful wizards to fight out their epic battle. While this works, it isn’t a particularly engaging premise for the game.

Responses to the Cons
- Cost – This game can become very expensive, there is no denying that, and I did get rather lucky finding a copy of a base game at a thrift store. That being said, if you look and are patient you can find a base copy for the price of a new board game. $50 to $60 on E-bay. This may be too much for you, but I think this game is at least of comparable value to games that go for near $100 on kickstarter.
- Storage – As I said, the game can fit back into the box it came in, but storage solutions like large plastic boxes and tackle boxes for the figures may be used. Currently I am exploring my solution to this issue, as I find such investments tend to cut down on set up time.
- Set up/tear down time- this is also a real problem with this game. As I said with storage, a good storage solution will help cut down on the set up time. Also I have gotten Magic the Gathering Arena of the Planeswalker, which comes with a cardboard base level, which will also speed up set up and tear down. I am fortunate to have a dedicated game table in the basement, so I will set up a map and play several games on it, which makes the set up time per game more reasonable. Also for some people the building of the map is half the fun, it can provide a lego type experience. Lastly I would say this game can play well on a smaller map, which will take less time to set up, and will provide a game experience that can play quite quickly, it doesn’t always have to be about grand epic maps.
- Randomness – this game does have it, and if you don’t like the randomness inherent in dice rolling then this game is not for you. This randomness is somewhat offset by being able to craft your army, and by how you use the terrain, and how you use your turn markers. It is a mixture of some strategy, tactical play, and randomness. This particular mixture is a great combination for you, but if you are unsure I suggest trying before you buy (if that is an option for you).
- The Back Story – it doesn’t really work for me, however it does mirror some stories that may work better. With the Marvel expansion it is easy to see a playing out of the Planet Hulk setting that we saw in the Marvel movies. I have 3d printed a Stargate and made custom SG1 figures, and it works very well as a Stargate game where you never know what is beyond the gate. It also reminds me of Classic Doctor Who story “The War Games” in which the 2nd Doctor in an area where battles from several eras were taking place. This is not a new idea, and the system is flexible so I find this to be a pro that I can use my imagination, and take inspiration from where I like.


Additional note about customization

Heroscape has been around for quite some time, and as a system that is flexible people have taken it and built upon it. Hasbro added Arena of the Planeswalker which is compatible. Many people on Heroscapers.com have created new heroes and units, maps and scenarios. This large amount of material from the community provides a huge amount of additional material you can add if you want to Heroscape, or you might add to the community’s library of new ideas and characters.


Final Thoughts


Heroscape is the game that I never new about but always wanted as a kid. In the few months I’ve owned this game, it has become my 5th most played game, and my favorite game overall. Not because of the thinky game design, but because of the sheer joy playing the game brings. It is a game I never would have played if I hadn’t stumbled onto a copy, but I certainly am glad I did. I’ve added things like Magic: Arena of the planeswalkers and Marvel Heroscape that I could afford (reviews will be forthcoming), and my custom Stargate figures.
This is an exciting game with meaningful choices, and dramatic moments. I highly recommend giving this game a try. If you have the opportunity to play it, say yes! If you stumble across a copy in a thrift store buy it! If you don’t like it just send it to me, lol.

I rate Rise of the Valkyrie a perfect 10/10


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There are Some Who Call Me... Tim
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So cool to see a new person fall in love with this game after so many years!
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Brad Miller
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I thrift everything HeroScape I find, regardless.

Need a Sgt Drake? I have a bunch
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Nick Van Dam
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Windopaene wrote:
I thrift everything HeroScape I find, regardless.

Need a Sgt Drake? I have a bunch


Thanks, but no, I managed to find one already.
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David Lefton
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Finrodimus wrote:
So cool to see a new person fall in love with this game after so many years!

Ditto. Welcome to the addiction.
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Joey Larsen
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My question is, is the Planeswalker's stuff compatible with Heroscape? I was under the impression that it was basically a different game.
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Brad Miller
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It is not.
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Nick Van Dam
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joeyman3 wrote:
My question is, is the Planeswalker's stuff comptaible with Heroscape? I was under the impression that it was basically a different game.


It removes the turn markers and adds cards, otherwise they are the same game. They are easily combined.
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GeJayGe
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toothpickman wrote:
joeyman3 wrote:
My question is, is the Planeswalker's stuff comptaible with Heroscape? I was under the impression that it was basically a different game.


It removes the turn markers and adds cards, otherwise they are the same game. They are easily combined.



The game boards from AotP are an awesome base to then throw terrain onto. Love both games.

Welcome to the addiction!
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Joey Larsen
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Curse you! This article got me remembering that I don't have Master Win Chiu Woo or Agent Skahen. E-bay prices are so depressing!
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Jason Petty
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The storage is...unforgiving. After years of collecting I finally managed to get my hands on the last figures I needed to complete my set, at least one copy of everything ever made for Heroscape. The storage of it all takes up most of a closet at this point, and that's without the type of storage I really would want to do with everything sorted and labeled for super fast access. I think I'd need almost a full room for that.

Welcome to the addiction!
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Nick Van Dam
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That is amazing. There are so many different official heroscape things. It is a bit overwhelming. Right now I'm focusing on the historic themed.squads. I do love the variety, thanks!

Adidas02 wrote:
The storage is...unforgiving. After years of collecting I finally managed to get my hands on the last figures I needed to complete my set, at least one copy of everything ever made for Heroscape. The storage of it all takes up most of a closet at this point, and that's without the type of storage I really would want to do with everything sorted and labeled for super fast access. I think I'd need almost a full room for that.

Welcome to the addiction!
 
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I'm reposting this from where I put it originally, a couple of months ago. Craig Van Ness, of course, is the designer of Heroscape:

ds3272 wrote:
Craig Van Ness wrote:
The customs on Heroscapers are awesome. I highly recommend C3V and SoV customs.
Thanks, Craig. We are standing on the shoulders of giants, of course. There really isn't anything like it, as far as I know, with the opportunity and design space to work in. This creation of yours has brought a generation of joy to my son and to me, and to my friends who raised their sons with this wonderful game, and also to my friends and my community who come show up - even to this day - to our local tournaments. We are in your debt.

The C3V and SoV customs are available for your review, dear reader, here. Each one has been carefully tested by some of the best Heroscape players in the world to make sure it's balanced, and each one has been designed to fit neatly into the existing Heroscape canon. The powers on the card have been edited by the fiercest Heroscape rules lawyers in the universe, and the graphic design on each card will make it possible, when you print the card on the correct paper double sided, for you to keep the card neatly and consistently with all of your other cards. Just find the mini and buy it, and there you go. You're welcome.


For those who are looking to expand beyond the original stuff. Whether because the original is too hard to find, or because they already have it.

Enjoy!
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