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Heroscape Master Set: Rise of the Valkyrie» Forums » General

Subject: First Playing rss

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Greg Schloesser
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My copy of this latest Hasbro / Milton Bradley release finally arrived on the day before our game night. The game has been receiving rave reviews from many gamers, so I was anxious to see what the fuss was all about. I quickly read the rules and spent ½ hour assembling the board in preparation for our gaming session.

The theme of the game is closely aligned with that of another fantasy title, Duel of Ages. Warriors throughout the ages – including the future – do battle in an epic struggle to control the land. Or destroy the enemy. Or find comfrey plants. Or retrieve a valuable map. The ultimate objective depends upon the scenario being played, of which there are a half dozen included in the game.

Whereas Duel of Ages is filled with lots of cardboard, the financial muscle of Hasbro allowed HeroScape to be equipped with an abundance of incredible components. The most stunning are the 30 painted, highly detailed miniatures. They are visually stunning, and range from medieval samurai to the incredibly large golden dragon. The miniatures alone are worth the $39.99 retail price.

But wait … there’s more. The board is formed from over 80 interlocking terrain tiles of various sizes. The tiles slide together and can be stacked to form a virtually infinite =-number of multi-level landscapes, which look amazingly cool when constructed. A couple of ruined castles complete the picture, which is visually stunning when complete. This sure beats the heck out of the flimsy, warped cardboard from Duel of Ages. But then again, Hasbro does have a few more dollars in their coffers.

The miniatures correspond to sixteen different armies, each with their own special powers and characteristics. An army can consist of several characters (such as the Tarn Viking Warriors or the Airborne Elite), or one powerful character (Raelin the Kyrie Warrior or Agent Carr, for example). Each “army” is rated in several characteristics, including attack, defense, range and movement. In addition, each army has a point value, which is used when building an overall force as directed by the scenarios.

The scenarios are designed for either 2 players, or two teams of two players each. The scenario will depict the landscape set-up, which is generally quite elaborate and takes 20 minutes or more to construct. Each scenario also specifies the maximum force strength of each player. Players then alternate selecting armies, making sure the cumulative strength of the armies does not exceed the specified amount. These armies are then deployed according to the scenario instructions.

The objective here is usually bashing your opponents into oblivion, or achieving a specified objective, which usually entails bashing your opponents into oblivion in the process. After all, it is a combat game.

Before moving, each player places “order markers” onto their armies. Players each receive four markers: 1, 2, 3, and a “bluff”. These markers specify when that army will move in the turn sequence. Once all markers are placed, players roll for initiative, with the player rolling highest moving first. Movement is then clockwise from that player.

In turn order, each player moves their army bearing the order marker #1, then battles with them if possible. Then, each player will move their “second” army, and so on until all armies have been moved and any battles conducted. This sequence is repeated until one side is completely eliminated, or until all of the turns specified in the scenario are completed.

Each character has a movement allowance as specified on the army card. Even though there are four different types of terrain, only water actually affects movement. Rumor has it that future expansions will incorporate terrain effects on movement and combat. Each space entered costs one movement point, as does each elevation climbed. A character cannot climb higher than his height, which is also listed on his army card.

After moving, if the character is within range and line-of-sight of an enemy character (range is specified on the army card), he may attack. Combat is a fairly simple process. The attacking character rolls a number of red “attack” dice as specified on his army card. The target rolls a number of blue “defense” dice, as specified on his army card. The attacker wants skulls (there are 3 per die), while the target wants shields (there are 2 per die). Any skull that is not cancelled by a shield results in a wound to the target. If the target suffers wounds equal to his life level, he is dispatched. There number of dice rolled may be modified due to height advantages or special powers.

Although the movement and battle procedures are extremely simple, the strategy is manipulating your armies in such as fashion as to take maximum advantage of their special powers and to coordinate those powers. Maneuvering your characters into favorable positions so that they have the potential to inflict damage, while minimizing the opportunities for your opponent’s characters, is part of the challenge. This is the same type of strategy that is inherent in most miniatures games … which is what HeroScape really is.

I tend not to like “miniatures” games much. Even though there is strategy and tactics involved, for the most part, I find them rather tedious, with lots of movement measuring, dice rolling and chart consultation. HeroScape has eliminated most of these features (or, from my perception, drawbacks). Movement is hex to hex, the dice rolling is quick and only once per battle, and there are no charts to consult. This is miniatures stripped of the excess baggage. For me, that is a good thing. For the die-hard miniature gamer, however, it may be a bit too vanilla.

There is little doubt that the game is targeted for the younger audience: pre-teens and teen-agers. The fantasy theme, the special powers, the visual picture – all are made-to-order for this audience. There is a decent amount of strategy and tactics to be employed, but it is still a “bash your opponent” affair. I would have spent countless hours of my life on this game as a teen.

As an adult, I find the game fun, but not something I long to play repeatedly. After a few plays, the glitz will likely wear off and it will become a once-or-twice a year pastime. The planned expansions might rekindle interest as they are released, but I don’t ever see this becoming a personal favorite or obsession. But, again, I’m not the target audience. Those that fall in the pre-teen or teenage years will likely find this to be the “best game ever”, as will fans of the fantasy genre. That is a BIG market, so there is a good chance that with some clever promotion, HeroScape could be a nice cash-cow for Hasbro.
 
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Snoo Py
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Re:First Playing
gschloesser (#55248),
Nice report, but the end let me puzzled:
it seems that your only critcisms to the game is that its cosmetic is targeting teenagers, and that it's a "bash your opponent affair".
I know very few games that could match all the positive characteristics you listed, in short you described an exceptional game, and suddenly at the end you decide it's a teen only game. So what makes that game less suitable for adults (and more "bash your opponent") than say Battle Cry, or Duel of Ages ?
I'm asking this because I'm interested in getting that game (and I'm not a teen).
 
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Greg Schloesser
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Re:First Playing
Joe Cool (#55264),

Hey, Joe! Oh, I think the game accomplishes its objective extremely well. It is a light battle game set in a fantasy realm. Lots of eye-candy (miniatures, 3-D terrain, etc.), special powers, and dice rolling. That is exactly the type of game to which many teenagers are attracted. One of the designers even told me in advance to understand that the game was targeted for teenagers.

As for adults, well, to be honest ... the game is going to feel fairly light. The main goal here is to bash your opponents. To be sure, there is some strategy here in coordinating and optimizing your character's powers, but that's really about it. At its heart, it is a light, dice rolling battle game. Most "gamers" will desire a bit more.

 
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Snoo Py
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Re:First Playing
gschloesser (#55303),
thank you for your answer Greg.
The game is fairly light, but that is what I expected, so I'm fine with it.
And as Wyrdling mentionned it, most considers that games are only for kids anyway, even if they are targetting adults, so playing games targetting teens shouldn't put us in too much troubles.
 
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kevin long
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Re:First Playing
gschloesser (#55248),
i can easily equate HeroScape to memmoir 44 in a lot of ways - i take them both seriously as a gamer - but no one on the geek would call memmoir 44 a teenager game - i enjoyed your article - thanks
 
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Peter Mc
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Re:First Playing
I'm not a huge fan of Memoir '44, but there is more strategy in that game than in Heroscape.

I think there are at least two issues in this discussion:

1) is Heroscape too light (or is it even "light")? Obviously fans of the game disagree...the 8.27 rating says either "light is good" or "it is just right". But I think the main point here is from a Gamer's perspective: if two players played 10 games of the same scenario, would the better player win 7 or more times? Or would dice and the general "light" play tend to even things out at 6-4 or 5-5. In other words, does the game consistently reward superior play, or can you sleaze your way to even-play by simply pushing figures and rolling dice?

I don't know the answer to that...but I'm leaning towards Greg's comments right now.

2) I think the "teen" issue is something of a red herring. Who cares who it is targeted too?...or not...the game is the thing. As a teen, I liked Chess. Not a bad game at all. But, there is a point lurking in Greg's comments about "bashing." Fantasy, RPG and miniatures games have always moved on a sliding scale from textured/detailed to hack-n-slash. Every new RPG or miniatures system that followed the original D&D has been measured by critics as to whether it is "smart" or just another "hack n slash" system.

On this point I'll give Heroscape some props I guess...you can't just roll alot of red dice and win this game. You have to measure the scenario, terrain, glyphs and your own unit capabilities to come up with a winning plan...and the special powers are as nifty as the number of attack dice you roll, or better.

So there is more to this game than just attack, dice, slash. But on the downside the scenarios I've played so far don't seem to have deep strategy to them...movement in this game is especially unimportant at times. With so much flat terrain and few hiding places the board seems very pretty but in the end abstract, without much tactical nuance.
 
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Jerry Dziuba
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Re:First Playing
Hi Greg,

Seems as good a place as any for me to drop an opinion off on the game. As someone who doesn't have a lot of patience for dice tossing games (odd statement that, considering the Dice Boot and all, eh?) I still enjoy the occasional game of Battle Cry and such. For me, Heroscape scratches that same itch only a little bit better.

While the game as it comes out of the box is pretty basic (and I'm referring to the master rules) the really nice thing about it is how robust that game is! By that I mean it's an excellent base to build on. With the terrain you can let your imagination fly and design all sorts of wild ass locales. Then there is so much room to begin adding layers of house rules on to deepen the strategy of the game that you can make it pretty much to be whatever kind of game you want it to be.

You can tweak LOS rules, height advantage, place restrictions on certain terrain types, and even victory conditions. Now if your the type that doesn't like to tinker that won't mean cashews to you, but as someone who grew up with Tinker toys, Erector sets (no, not the Playboy magazines my father hid in his dresser drawer), and miles of Hot Wheels track it's like a blank slate to go wild with.

There can be as much or as little game there as you want. I think of it as a game construction set. Shoot, I can use the hexes in game design totally unrelated to Heroscape. Quite honestly, I think this game might be the best thing to come along since sliced bread (which in and of itself is a bit overrated). It will never take the place of a good designer game but if there's any creative spark in someone at all I can't see how this wouldn't interest them. The possiblities are merely limited by the mind.

I'm already forming ideas on doing away with the dice and using a card driven action point method of play. It's hard to explain but the minute I saw this game in action I was soaked in creative juices. Which reminds me.... I need to go shower.

- Nick
 
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Christopher Taylor
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Re:First Playing
Heroscape is a beer and pretzel tactical miniature gaming. It's not deep, but in the right circumstances and with the right people, it's a heck of a lot of fun.

For me, the best thing about the game is it's expandibility and how well it can be customized. The terrain is nifty keen, and can be used with a bunch of other games (I've adapated the Star Wars CMG figures and Mission Command Land Game, and plan on doing some more.)

Hasbro has not just giving us a game, they have giving us a game tool set. Viva la tools!

Oh, and my boys (age 6 and 7) really like the game, too.
 
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Greg Schloesser
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Re:First Playing
Nick Danger (#55387),

You are spot-on, Nick. For those who enjoy tinkering with rules and/or devising variants, HeroScape is just about the perfect kit with which to do so.

I do think it is a decent, light-weight battle game as is, but folks can take it in many different directions. That is, indeed, a good thing.
 
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Ryan Lee
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Re:First Playing
So, MM44 has more strategy than heroscape?
 
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Ubergeek
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Re:First Playing
oboman2002 (#55459),
I wouldn't say it has more or less, just different. The strategy in M44 revolves around card/hand management in order to capitalize on your most efficient strikes. In HS, you determine the movement order in order to do the same.

In M44 the abilities and capabilities are fixed. I know my tank will usually roll 3 dice in an attack. In HS they may change depending on bestowed bonus or glyphs. If I get another figure adjacent with the right ability, I might get an extra die for attack. Terrain in both games can affect strategy. A strategy in M44 may be to take an objective for the VP. Taking an objective in HS may do the same (by winning you the game) or by giving you more special enhancement. It would depend on whether you need the extra boost to win the game (again depending on the scenario objective).

Personally, I wouldn't weigh one over the other as having more strategy.
 
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Patrick Dignam
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Re:First Playing
gschloesser (#55248),
This sounds like a great game to play WITH your teenage or pre-teen son, thanks for the review Greg.
 
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Steve H
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Re: PRE First Playing
Great review Greg! This game made it to the table over the holidays, but unfortunantly went right back into the box as we didn't have time to read and implement the rules. My concern is the game was a gift for my 9 year old nephew, and I know he will not be able to digest the rules without some assistance. I'm trying to find them on-line.
 
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