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Subject: HeroQuest - A Detailed Review rss

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Image Courtesy of WaterZero

This review is one in a series of reviews that focus on games from my pre-teen and teen years (the 80's). Many of them will be out of print and I aim to not only review the game but comment on my thoughts of them then and now - many years on.

This review is also meant to serve as part review, part resource so please feel free to skip to the parts of most relevance for you.

If you liked the review please thumb the top of the article so others have a better chance of seeing it and I know you stopped by. Thanks for reading.

Summary

Game Type - Board Game
Play Time : 60-90 minutes
Number of Players: 2-5
Mechanics - Roll & Move, Exploration, Miniatures Combat
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play
Components - Excellent ++
Maturity Level - 19 Years (Released 1989

Designer - Stephen Baker - (Axis & Allies: Pacific, Battle Masters, Battleball, all manner of Heroscape, RISK: The Lord of the Rings, Space Crusade)

HeroQuest was something of a revelation to me as a 14 year old. My experience (and I suspect that of many others) with board games to that point was very much the mass market fare, although they (Milton Bradley, Crown & Andrews) made some great games in the 80's like Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, Horror House and Survive!. HeroQuest however took me to a new place altogether. It fuelled my love of all things fantasy and it very much allowed me to play out what I had imagined when reading Fighting Fantasy Game Books. On top of that, HeroQuest allowed me to play with friends and share those experiences.

What has lead to this review after all these years is that I have just rediscovered HeroQuest by playing it with my 3 boys aged 5-8. It's fair to say that I've fallen in love with the game all over again, although for slightly different reasons second time around.

The Theme & A Little History

HeroQuest used what we now view as a tried and true...perhaps even tired by some...theme of fantasy. A Dwarf, Elf, Wizard and Barbarian were pitted against the evil hordes in Goblins, Orcs, Sorcerers, Undead and many more. Of course back in '89 the fantasy genre was nowhere near as 'overexposed' (I’m looking at you Hollywood and the video games industry) as it is today. Whilst this was essentially Tolkien 'come to life' the general public didn't regard 'fantasy' as a part of mainstream popular culture and only true fans would take to reading the books by the great man himself.

To put things in perspective, these were the days when the TV Show 60 Minutes were doing stories exploring the link between Dungeons & Dragons and teen suicide (there was one very notable case in New Zealand).

The game required one player to take on the role of the evil wizard Morcar (I believe his name differed in other parts of the world), whilst the other players controlled the heroes (4 being the maximum). The modern day equivalent of course is Descent: Journeys in the Dark and it too uses the same model (Overlord versus heroes).

A single player could play any number of heroes so in effect the game catered for 2-5 players. It was also possible to play with less than 4 Heroes and this, in effect, increased the difficulty.

HeroQuest stands out in my mind for two simple reasons. Primarily this was the first game of its type to hit the mass market. HeroQuest was essentially a board game representation of Role Playing Games like Dungeons & Dragons. Games like D&D were often denounced by religious groups in the 80's (and probably still are to some degree today) so HeroQuest was important as its board game nature made it less threatening. The board game format combined with the familiar Milton Bradley brand name saw Department Stores stock a game that really wasn't representative of their normal product lines. Suddenly the fantasy genre was on shelves and getting exposure to millions of children (presumably boys as girls were still into dolls in the late 80's, anyone recall Cabbage Patch Dolls?, but I could be wrong) all around the world.

I recognise that there were other games like DungeonQuest (released in '87 of which I've never played) but these were not as widely available.

The second reason why HeroQuest stood out from other games of that time, was that it allowed for sequential campaign play over 14 quests. This allowed players to develop a character, gather treasure, buy equipment and generally build a story and history for their character, instead of the single play and pack away nature of traditional games.

Ok this wasn't role-playing like depth but it did allow players to get attached to their characters.

HeroQuest was something new...it was exciting...it blew my mind and allowed me to get many non-gamer friends to spend hours exploring dungeon after dungeon!

The Components

But HeroQuest also stood out for a 3rd reason. It was produced with some of the most amazing 3D components to ever grace a game. In fact they would still rival many a game made today and I wouldn't be surprised if quite a few Fantasy Flight Games employees grew up playing HeroQuest and used it as inspiration to make the great components for their games today.

There were also a lot of them (at this point I will stop writing using past tense as it is beginning to annoy me) -

d10-1 The Board - The board depicts a dungeon made up of many rooms separated by white walls. The layout features 21 rooms of varying size and they are located in 4 distinct groups. Creating these groups is a network of 12 corridors or passageways. Central to the dungeon is a large foreboding room.

The board features various colours, patterns and artwork such as bones and blood stains to help evoke the theme. But the true beauty of the board is in its functionality as this simple design allows infinite dungeon layouts to be generated depending on how doors and other features are placed.

At the bottom of one long edge of the board are emblazoned the words "HeroQuest'. This feature was practical as this was the edge in which the Evil Player or 'GameMaster' would sit to ensure that the board and dungeon map were of the same orientation.



Image Courtesy of WaterZero


d10-2 Quest Book - This is the heart of the system. The Quest Book opens with a page of 'Flavour Text' that the GameMaster reads to the players to set the story in motion. Then each double page depicts a dungeon map for the next quest and a page of map notes to inform the GameMaster of all the quirks and key points for the quest. The map uses icons to outline the monsters, doors and furniture present and where they are located. As an added bonus the designers even included a blank map in the center of the book to allow fans to create their own quests...I'm sure I wasn't the only one to create maps for hours on end.

The graphics used for these maps still look mighty good today, although not as flashy as those used for Descent: Journeys in the Dark.



Image Courtesy of shawn_low


d10-3 GameMaster Screen - In a nod to the role playing scene, a GameMaster Screen features all of the furniture used in the game and notes on how to implement various traps.

The screen also includes the iconic representation of each piece of furniture, which effectively makes it a 'key or legend' for the Quest Maps.

The rear side of the Screen features a picture of Morcar that points at the heroes from behind a Spell Book. He is of course flanked by many of his minions. Yet again the theme and story of the game are enhanced.



Image Courtesy of WaterZero


d10-4 Character Templates - One template is provided for each character and outlines each hero's Attack, Defence, Movement stats and their Body (life points) and Mind Points.



Images Courtesy of mr_lunch


d10-5 Character Sheets - A pad of tearable character sheets are provided to record each heroes’ name, type and all vital statistics. A blank shield at the bottom of each sheet can be used to sketch a herald for each character or to record weapons and equipment that is acquired.

Because the character sheets allow progress to be tracked, they also allow the game to be packed away between adventures. In essence, HeroQuest is a simple forerunner to Descent: Road to Legend.

Looking at these sheets now it strikes me how similar they are in design and artwork to the character sheets used by the Fighting Fantasy Books of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. I suspect these books may also have provided inspiration for the designers.



Image Courtesy of WaterZero


d10-6 Cards - In all 64 cards are provided of which there are 5 different types. Monster Cards outline the key stats for each creature used in the game and are a resource to be used primarily by the GameMaster. Players are allowed to look the cards to any monster they encounter. These cards also feature the icon used to represent each monster in the Quest Book. HeroQuest is full of neat touches such as this.

In all 12 Spell cards are provided (no Chaos spells in the Australian Edition) and they represent the 4 different elements (Earth, Water, Fire and Air). More on these later.



Images Courtesy of Shadowen


Quest Cards (5) represent special items that can be found as the players advanced on their quest. These are often interwoven into the ongoing story and as such they are very powerful.



Image Courtesy of Shadowen


Equipment Cards represent the weapons and equipment that the heroes can buy between each adventure. The cost and effect on a player's stats, abilities and game play are printed on the cards.




Image Courtesy of shawn_low

Treasure Cards are shuffled to form their own deck and they represent the gold and items that can be found or the events that can take place when the players spend time searching. Most cards are of a positive nature but there are also trap and monster cards to keep the heroes guessing.



Image Courtesy of Shadowen

d10-7 Dice - HeroQuest comes with 2 red D6 that act as movement dice but it also uses additional combat dice to manage battle. These dice feature skulls (attack strength), lion shields (hero defence) and skull shields (monster defence).



Image Courtesy of Caesar

d10-8 Doors - The doors are 3D in design and comprise of a plastic base, which combine with a cardboard door token insert, to represent closed doors. They are simple but effective and in a touch of added class, additional open door inserts are provided to represent a door that has been opened. By simply exchanging one insert for another the GameMaster is able to quickly change the look of the dungeon as they progressed. This really helps add a sense of realism to the game.

d10-9 Furniture - But it is the 3D furniture that really makes the world of HeroQuest something to behold. Some of the furniture uses full plastic but much of it uses a combination of plastic frameworks and cardboard insert templates. Sometimes folding of the cardboard is required in the initial construction and the lid of the box contains instructions on how to assemble the furniture. The effects are stunning and even after 19 years, much of my furniture is still holding up well.

In all you get - 2 Bookcases, 1 cupboard, 1 Altar, 1 Alchemist Desk, 2 Tables, 1 Torture Rack, 1 Weapons Rack, 3 Treasure Chests, 1 Fireplace, 1 Throne, 1 Sarcophagus. In another classy touch numerous small plastic skulls and rats were included. These were designed to be inserted into the bookcases and cupboard to add more realism to the dungeon. Touches such as these would likely not be allowed by today's bean counters, to ensure costs stay down. I have heard of more than one gamer who bought up multiple copies of HeroQuest just for the furniture so they could use it in role playing sessions and the like.



Images Courtesy of greg

d10-1d10-0 Counters - Small counters represent Secret Doors, Pit Traps and Rubble.

[center]


Image Courtesy of WaterZero

d10-1d10-1 Miniatures - Then there are the miniatures used to represent the heroes and various monsters. In all 35 figures are included and Citadel Miniatures provided the plastic components.

The figures range from 35mm for the Goblins up to 50mm for the Gargoyle. Different coloured plastic is used for Undead (white), Mortal Creatures (green), the really tough monsters (grey) and the heroes (red).

The Gargoyle is large enough that it consists of three pieces that allowed the head and wings to be affixed to the body. This also makes it easier to paint.

In another nod that suggests the designers were proud of their creation, multiple sculpts are used for the Orcs and Goblins, which represented the more common units to confront the Heroes.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

All in all the components used in HeroQuest were the best available for a game of its type. Space Hulk (2nd Ed.) would go close (interestingly it was released in the same year) and Space Crusade (1990 and also by Milton Bradley) closer still. But both of these games lacked the furniture that set HeroQuest apart.

The Set-Up

Each quest begins with the hero players selecting their hero (or heroes if a player wishes to play more than 1) but of course this option may not be required if the players are playing the game as a campaign and are beyond the first quest.

In this situation the Hero players can spend any gold they have to purchase new equipment and weapons. Purchases are likely to increase a character's stats so these need to be changed.

The Wizard and Elf (if in play) would also need to select the spells they wanted for the next quest. The Wizard would choose 1 set, then the Elf would choose one and the Wizard got the remaining 2 sets.

A quest is then begun by the GameMaster reading out the quest intro to set the scene. A large staircase tile is placed as per the quest map and serves as the entry point for the heroes. The heroes place their figures on any square adjacent to the staircase and any doors leading out of the room are then placed. The game is ready to begin.

The Game Play

One of the great strengths of HeroQuest is the simplicity of its rules. The general flow of a given game turn is easy to understand and this makes the game very accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike.

d10-1 Basic Flow - The Hero Players always act first, starting with the player to the left of the GameMaster. Each player completes a full turn for their hero before the next hero (clockwise order) can have their turn.

Once all heroes have acted the GameMaster takes their turn in which they are able to move and possibly attack with all of the creatures that have been placed on the board. It is not uncommon for no monsters to be present at times and this means the GameMaster has nothing to do, so the play returns to the first hero to begin a new round.

d10-2 Hero Turn - On any given turn a hero is allowed to take a move action and one other action. That other action can be attack, cast a spell or search. If a hero searched they could search for treasure, or secret doors and traps.

d10-3 Movement - This action simply allows a hero or monster to move around the dungeon. Monsters had a set movement value, printed on the monster cards, whilst heroes would roll 2D6 at the start of each turn. When a hero opens a new door or turns a corner of a passage, the GameMaster must consult the Quest Map and lay out any new doors, furniture and creatures.

All movement in HeroQuest is orthogonal - left, right, forward or back - never diagonal. It is also important to note that heroes have the ability to move and then perform a special action like fight or perform the special action first before making a move. What isn't allowed is to make a partial move, fight and then continue moving. Because opening doors is considered part of a standard move, it is possible to move, open a door and continue moving.

Heroes are allowed to pass through fellow heroes but they cannot end their turn on any space occupied by another character or furniture. Likewise monsters can pass through their own kind. Obviously no unit can pass through walls (without the help of a spell) so the corridors and doorways are important features that can control the flow of the player's movements (maze anyone? devil ).

d10-4 Combat - Combat occurs when two figures are orthogonally adjacent to one another (note that some equipment and spells allow for long range attacks and diagonal attacks). The attacking figure rolls a number of dice equal to their attack stat and every skull rolled represents 1 potential hit on the defender. The defending unit then rolls a number of dice equal to their defensive stat and must roll shields. For every skull rolled a shield must also be rolled to counter that potential hit. If there are more skulls than shields, the damage inflicted is equal to the difference of the two.

It is important to note that each combat dice features 3 shields and 3 skulls. However, 2 of the 3 shields are hero shields, whilst only 1 is a monster shield - effectively giving the heroes a better chance of defending than monsters.

It is also important to note that all monsters are killed when a single wound is inflicted. More on that in the analysis section below.

d10-5 Casting Spells - Instead of making a physical attack the Wizard or Elf could cast a spell. The mechanics of each spell are outlined on the spell cards and the only other requirement to casting a spell is to ensure that the caster has Line of Sight to the target of the spell.

d10-6 Line of Sight - Some spells and missile weapons require that line of sight can be traced from the caster to the target. Line of Sight is deemed to be present if a straight line can be traced from the source square to the target square without passing through a square with another figure or obstacle. Note that the rules do not specifically state that this imaginary line must be traced from the center of one square to another, just any part of the squares involved. A diagram example also supports this ruling.

d10-7 Searching - Heroes can choose to search only when a room or passageway is free of monsters (it is quite okay to search an empty room with monsters elsewhere in the dungeon). There are two types of search possible - Searches for Treasure and Searches for Secret Doors and Traps.

Searching for Treasure will result in any keynote treasure or items being found if they are listed for that room in the GameMaster's Quest Book. If none are outlined there, a Treasure Card is drawn from the deck and revealed for all to see. This card may reveal treasure, an item, a trap or possibly a Wandering Monster (See GameMaster Tricks below).

Searching for Secret Doors and Traps results in the GameMaster consulting the Quest Book to see if those features are present in that room or passage. If they are present the GameMaster places the appropriate token. The only time a trap is not revealed after a search is if the trap is on the Quest Map and must be triggered by movement or a particular action.

d10-8 Completing a Quest - Generally speaking a Quest comes to an end with the heroes returning to the staircase in which they entered the dungeon. This can generally be done with or without completing the objectives of the mission, although doing so may mean the quest must be undertaken again if actions must be performed to progress the story. This is however rare and if it were the case, the heroes would need to return to complete the Quest before moving on to the next quest in the campaign.

This essentially sums up the play present in HeroQuest.

GameMaster Tricks

Whilst combat was skewed in the heroes favour, the GameMaster had a few means of landing a surprise. In all 3 types of Trap are present throughout the game. Pit Traps are the most common and unless searched for, they will be revealed when a Hero walks into a square marked with a Pit Trap - they inflict 1 Body Point of damage. These traps remain on the board until disarmed and can be fallen into by heroes and monsters for a further point of damage. Once triggered they could be jumped if need be, but failure to do so (dice roll required) would result in a further 1 point of Body loss.

Spear/Arrow Traps are present both in the dungeon designs and as cards in the Treasure Deck. These traps also inflict 1 Body Point of damage but don't remain in play after triggered.

Falling Rock traps are triggered when a Hero moves past the triggering point, outlined on the Quest Map. These usually serve to cut off a passage, forcing a group to take a certain path through the dungeon.

Wandering Monsters are perhaps the GameMaster's best chance of springing a surprise and getting a kill, however they have no control over their introduction. A Wandering Monster is discovered if a hero searches for treasure and draws a Wandering Monster Card from the top of the treasure deck. The Monster to be used is outlined in the Quest Map notes and to simulate the fact that the heroes were focused on searching for gold, the monster gets a free attack.

If the GameMaster is lucky enough, the player triggering the Wandering Monster may be the last hero player to act for the turn. This means that the monster gets to attack twice in a row, one as the surprise attack and again for the GameMaster's turn. devil

The other nice aspect of Wandering Monsters is that the cards must be reshuffled back into the Treasure Deck. The deck also becomes more menacing the more often the heroes find loot as good cards are not put back in the deck...therefore the ratio of good cards to traps and Wandering Monsters diminishes over time.

So What's to Love?

Well if you don't get it by now you probably never will. But I would summarise it as the following -

d10-1 HeroQuest lets you take on the role of a classic fantasy character and with sword, axe or spell, vanquish the foes of darkness. It's like playing in Tolkien's garden!

d10-2 The game plays over a series of 14 Quests! That makes for a lot of story lines, a lot of plots and the end result is that you are taken on a journey that allows you to bond with your character. You come to care about them. If you're an 8 year old and they die...you might even cry for them. In short HeroQuest has the power to generate memories that you'll remember for a long, long time.

d10-3 The story itself is fairly engrossing and the exploits of the heroes is woven into the story so the players feel like they have helped shape that story (I won't elaborate further as it would spoil the surprise for newbies). The many quests make use of classic story ideas and a few surprises are thrown in along the way to ensure that each adventure doesn't just feel like a carbon copy of the last.

d10-4 Each adventure takes somewhere between 40-80 minutes - it really packs a fair amount of game into a short period of time. As good as Descent: Journeys in the Dark is - it can't match HeroQuest for the time factor.

d10-5 Thanks to a streamlined rule set and character mechanics, HeroQuest works as well with 2 players as it does with 5. That makes the game priceless for players with only 1 friend or sibling!

d10-6 HeroQuest lives and breathes on suspense due to the fact that the GameMaster only reveals the dungeon as it is explored by the heroes. When a hero is down to their last Body Point or two and they have to turn yet another corner or open another door, that...is suspense. That’s the kind of tension that makes a game come alive. It’s the one key element of Descent: Journeys in the Dark that I wish wasn’t missing.

d10-7 The combination of board design and mechanics allows HeroQuest to create dungeons that would normally only be possible with modular design. It may not look as visually appealing as a snaking modular tile design, but using corridors, rubble and clever door placement it is still possible to create a labyrinth that evokes a sense of fear in the hero players.

d10-8 All that 3D furniture and stuff looks freaking awesome. Did I mention that already?

d10-9 HeroQuest also served as a 'toolkit' that allowed young gamers to create their own adventures, making for unlimited re-playability that was only limited by people's imagination.

d10-1d10-0 The final strength of HeroQuest is that the system is engaging enough to continue to attract fans and it is simple enough to allow for house rules and general tinkering. The community of fans that exist to support the game have created numerous sites that offer resources and house rules that serve to fix many of the elements outlined in the next section.

I have provided links to some of these websites at the end of this review.

But it is Far From Perfect (The Weaknesses)

Despite all the positives, HeroQuest is like your family...it has some issues.

d10-1 Balance - The biggest issue with HeroQuest is unfortunately the balance of play and this undermines the strength of the campaign potential of those 14 Quests as a whole. Put simply, by the middle to end game the heroes are able to increase their abilities beyond any real threat that the game can throw at them.

By about Quest 7 the adventuring party will already be quite strong thanks to a raft of new weapons and equipment. By Quest 8-9 they are very strong indeed and beyond that they become something akin to Tanks - super characters that are almost impossible to stop unless the heroes play incredibly stupid (don't stay together, open new doors with monsters on their tail etc etc).

This is most true with 3-4 heroes in play. With 1 or 2 heroes the balance is a little more even.

The end result is that the last 3-4 Quests tend to feel like exercises in futility for the GameMaster. It isn't impossible to kill the heroes, but it is incredibly difficult and this can make playing both sides rather 'not fun' as the tension of the earlier quests is lost.

So what leads to this imbalance?

d10-2 Combat System + Monster Stats - I mentioned earlier that the dice were skewed in favour of the Heroes with 2 shields to the monsters 1. This means that the monsters only have a 1 in 6 chance to defend against each skull rolled by a hero. By the mid stages the heroes have got the gear to be rolling 3 and 4 dice in combat, which means that some monsters will have less defence dice than the number of skulls rolled (certain death)! Combine this with the fact that every single creature has only 1 Body Point and it means the Heroes will churn through monsters like termites through a forest log cabin.

I mean come on, how can a Goblin and a Gargoyle have the same Body Points?! shake

Then there is the...

d10-3 Treasure Deck - Whilst there are some traps and Wandering Monster Cards in there, the majority of cards (17 of 25) are gold or beneficial items. All that gold leads to the purchase of weapons and equipment that leads to the Tanking situation outlined in point two.

Worse still is that 2 of the items in the deck are Healing Potions. This on its own isn't an issue, but if the party has an Elf and a Wizard, they will also have a further two spells that heal. In short 4 possible healing effects per Quest is just too many. I think 2 would have been about right.

d10-4 Early Promise - I'm getting picky now but I've always had an issue with the first Quest - 'The Trial'. The story is fine as it's a training mission of sorts. What I dislike is that 'The Trial' throws everything at you including the kitchen sink and then very almost all subsequent quests feel like a stripped down version of that first challenge.

To prove my point - almost a full half of the board is used in 'The Trial'. Only 2-3 other quests match it for size.

Almost every piece of furniture is used in that first Quest...no other quest matches it.

It features 26 monsters and bar the Sorcerer, it features every class of monster. The nearest any other quest comes to is only 24.

It seems somebody suffered a little 'premature dungeonation'.

d10-5 What's in it for the GameMaster? - Whilst killing the heroes is difficult, the role of GameMaster can still be rewarding despite the lack of any progression (heroes develop, the GameMaster doesn't). But what is really frustrating is the lack of strategic options available to the GameMaster. All they can really do is lay stuff out and charge at the enemy, hoping the dice are kind to his/her forces. Monsters don't even enjoy long range abilities so they must continuously close to hand to hand combat range, which can be difficult with slow creatures.

Combine this reality with Super Powered Heroes in the middle to end game and the GameMaster can feel a little like a hamster on a running wheel.

d10-6 Underused Mechanics - The game includes the Mind stat, which presumably reflects intelligence and mental will. To my knowledge this stat is only used once by the Quests themselves and only referenced by 1 or 2 spells. This seems like a mechanic that was included with no real purpose.

The Final Word

Despite those flaws and my tendency to be a fanboy, it is hard to argue that HeroQuest doesn't deserve to be highly regarded for what it achieved in its time and for what it still represents today.

As a teenage boy this game blew my mind, I lived every character and this game represented the first time that I could share my love of fantasy with my non-gaming friends.

Having played though the base game as an adult with my 3 boys (under 10) in 2008, I can safely say that the boys lived the experience of HeroQuest with every sword slash and spell cast. I watched every moment of that experience with a smile as I saw the fun they were having and the growth they displayed as gamers.

As humans we value experiences and we seek out journeys, that is what makes literature, movies and TV so attractive. The beauty of a game is that it allows us to create our own story. When a game allows us to do this and then lets us share that collective journey and experience with friends and/or family...it is something else. cool

On the other side of the coin, the game's limitations were brought into focus even more thanks to my experience with newer titles, although the game as it was written works well for the 10 and under age group. For teens I definitely recommend using some 'house-rules' to restore some balance.

HeroQuest...I salute thee.

Now for some added extras -

The Bestiary

d10-1 The Goblins

Move - 10
Attack - 2 Dice
Defence - 1 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 1

In all Goblins appear 43 times over the 14 Quests. They only really provide nuisance value on account of their stats but they are often present in numbers and can be good for a hit or two if lucky.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

d10-2 The Orcs

Move - 8
Attack - 3 Dice
Defence - 2 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 2

In all Orcs appear 63 times over the 14 Quests, making them the Morcar pinup boy. With an attack of 3 Dice they can offer a nasty surprise to any Hero should they fail to keep their guard up.



Image Courtesy of sortilege

d10-3 The Firmirs

Move - 6
Attack - 3 Dice
Defence - 3 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 3

In all Firmirs appear only 17 times over the 14 Quests, but they feature as Wandering Monsters in 5 Quests. With 3 attack they are as dangerous as an Orc and their 3 defence means they have a fair chance of surviving 2-3 rounds of combat to inflict additional damage.



Image Courtesy of sortilege

d10-4 The Skeletons

Move - 6
Attack - 2 Dice
Defence - 2 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 0

In all Skeletons appear only 42 times over the 14 Quests and are the grunts of the undead hordes. Unfortunately for the GameMaster, they appear heavily in the later Quests at a time when the Heroes are formidable indeed. Meaning that their attack 2 and defence 2 stats really don't cut it.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

d10-5 The Zombies

Move - 4
Attack - 2 Dice
Defence - 3 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 0

In all Zombies appear only 20 times over the 14 Quests. Their defence of 3 can see them survive an attack or two but they suffer the same problem as Skeletons in that they mainly appear in the late game. At this point their 2 Attack is rather toothless.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

d10-6 The Mummies

Move - 4
Attack - 3 Dice
Defence - 4 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 0

In all Mummies appear only 11 times over the 14 Quests. Whilst used sparingly, the Mummy's attack and defence stats offer the GameMaster a real opportunity to hurt the heroes. What blows is their movement of 4, which makes them prone to Heroes staying out of range and using ranged attacks.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

d10-7 The Chaos Warriors

Move - 6
Attack - 3 Dice
Defence - 4 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 3

In all Chaos Warriors appear only 18 times over the 14 Quests. Whilst they share the good stats of the Mummy, Chaos Warriors are a little more menacing still on account of better movement and the fact that they are often flanked by numerous other creatures, allowing the GameMaster to create multiple headaches for the heroes.



Image Courtesy of JockiB

d10-8 The Gargoyle

Move - 6
Attack - 4 Dice
Defence - 4 Dice
Body - 1
Mind - 4

In all Gargoyles appear only 5 times over the 14 Quests. These big boys are one of the few units that can go toe to toe with heroes and hope to give as good as they get. They really should have been given more than 1 Body Point to underline their status.



Image Courtesy of sortilege

d10-9 The Extras

A further 5 special monsters serve as minor/major villains over the course of the 14 Quests and help develop the story and give the GameMaster a fighting chance to take a hero or two down swinging. These are represented as Orcs, Chaos Warriors, Gargoyles and Sorcerers and they have special stats and sometimes abilities.

The Spell Book

In all there are 12 Spells to choose and they are formed in 4 sets of 3. Each set of spells represents one of the 4 elements. The Wizard takes 3 sets for each quest whilst the Elf only receives 1 set.

Please note that many of the spells refer to the possibility to cast them on monsters or heroes. In my descriptions below I have omitted the reference to heroes, assuming that few players would attack their fellow companions (although I suspect many of you would)!

They are -

d10-1 Earth Element - This set features the spells Rock Skin, Heal Body and Pass through Rock and effectively represents a defensive set of spells.

Rock Skin - The hero bestowed with this spell gains 2 additional defence dice in combat and maintains that benefit until they suffer a wound. This is one of the most useful spells in the game and is very handy for the Wizard who cannot wear many forms of armour for defence.

Heal Body - As one of the 2 healing spells available this is extremely useful, healing up to 4 Body Points.

Pass through Rock - The dodgy spell of the set, this spell allows a hero to move through walls and otherwise impassable areas. The trick is that if a player ends their move in a part of the map that isn't used in the quest, they will die. Whilst it sounds good for dire situations I have never seen it used all that often.

d10-2 Fire Element - This set features the spells Ball of Flame, Courage and Fire of Wrath and is the most offensive set of spells available.

Ball of Flame - The target of this spell would suffer 2 points of damage but could roll 2 defence dice to stop the blow. Of course for monsters this means they need a double skull shield roll, a 1 in 36 probability, to survive. In other words any monster is toast.

Courage - Similar to Rock Skin, this spell allowed the target to roll 2 additional attack dice in combat. The spell is broken when the hero can no longer see any monsters in their line of sight. Run monsters run!

Fire of Wrath - Less powerful than the Ball of Flame, this spell causes 1 point of damage and a dice can be rolled to prevent it. The Fire of Wraith could however be sent to target any monster in the whole dungeon, effectively making it a heat seeking missile of sorts.

d10-3 Water Element - Water is fairly passive and so are these spells in Veil of Mist, Sleep and Water of Healing.

Veil of Mist - Allows a player to pass through monsters and as such is crucial if a hero is weakened and needs to get to the exit quickly.

Sleep - Used to put a monster to sleep but the creature could try to defend itself by rolling one dice for each Mind Point it had (yay they are used) and needing a skull shield to avoid the drowzees. Once asleep they cannot defend when attacked and will only wake up if they roll a 6 at the start of their turn. Of course they rarely get a chance to do so.

Water of Healing - The 2nd of the healing spells and always welcomed by the heroes as it restored up to 4 Body Points.

d10-4 Air Element - The Air spells are part offense and part defense and consisted of Tempest, Genie and Swift Wind.

Tempest - A small storm gathers around a monster to make them miss their next turn.

Genie - Perhaps the most lethal spell of the lot, a Genie with 5 attack dice could be summoned to attack any monster in any part of the dungeon once. Alternately he could be used to open any door and reveal what lay inside. Like anybody ever used him for that!

Swift Wind - Allows any hero to roll twice as many movement dice as is normally allowed. This is handy if a player needs to avoid death and escape quickly. It is also useful if a player was wearing plate armour, which only allowed 1D6 for movement and they were falling behind.

Resource Links

As mentioned earlier, there are some great Fan Sites out there to enhance your HeroQuest experience. I have listed a few below but if you know of more please let me know and I will add them.

d10-1 Ye Olde Inn

d10-2 First Official HeroQuest Fansite

d10-3 HeroQuest by Phoenix

d10-4 DoYouHQ?

d10-5 The Ferret's Game Page

d10-6 HeroQuest Revised

Many thanks to 'skaykana' for help on these.

Review Links

For a full list of my 300+ reviews in a search-able Geeklist -

My Review Geeklist for Easy Reference

Here are some direct links to several other fantasy adventure games that you may find interesting -

Claustrophobia - A Detailed Review

Descent: Journeys in the Dark - A Detailed Review

Runebound 2nd Ed. - A Detailed Review

World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game - A Detailed Review
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Wow! Perhaps one of the best reviews of a game that I've read recently on the Geek! Great review!

This deserves at least a small tip in addition to what you normally get!
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GreyLord wrote:
Wow! Perhaps one of the best reviews of a game that I've read recently on the Geek! Great review!

This deserves at least a small tip in addition to what you normally get!


Absolutely. What he said!
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Fantastic review Neil! Makes me want to break out HeroQuest for my next game session.
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Wow. This review is so good I had to speak with GG. I was going to prepare a review myself, but I don't think I need bother.

The only thing lacking from an otherwise immensely comprehensive review is coverage of the international differences. Although I've never played it, the USA edition was different in many ways from the UK/Aussie edition. From what I can gather, it provides a tougher challenge for the heroes, with tougher monster stats (multiple Body Points) and a deck of Chaos Spells for the various boss monsters to use. Many of the quests were different, and perhaps harder.

A word on expansions: while 14 quests is plenty, there were several expansions published, each of which featured further quests, along with additional monster figures and tiles. Two of these, Kellar's Keep and Return of the Witch Lord were widely available. The Barbarian and Elf quest packs were only released in the USA, and the Ogre Horde and Wizards of Morcar packs were only available for the UK edition (I'm not sure about Australia or other international editions).

The main criticism of what was otherwise my favourite game for many years is the character development. It's neither nowt nor summat, as they say in Yorkshire; on the one hand the treasure you find allows you to purchase equipment to make your hero tougher, but only up to a point. Once you've bought a suit of armor, a shield and a weapon, there's nothing left to buy, and all that treasure is useless (and if you're the wizard, you can't even buy any gear at all anyway). Expansions did introduce additional purchases such as potions or hired retainers which required repeated payments to help fix this problem.

The flip side of this is that the quests don't advance in difficulty as fast as the characters do, leading to the 'tanking' problem described by Neil. Monsters are only so tough, and until the Ogre Horde expansion never get tougher, so the quests stay at a difficulty that is just too low for a long time, yet it gets frustrating that your hero can't develop further after about 6 or 7 quests. A peculiar system indeed.

But that's a minor quibble, and only really matters if you are (like me) an obsessive fanboy who played every quest and ate up every expansion. If you can find a copy of HQ (and they do trade fairly freely on Ebay), it's wonderful for 8-14 year old boys in particular. Adults may find it lacks the depth and challenge of a game like Descent to present a lasting appeal, although it's almost worth picking up just for the components - the minis and furniture are outstanding even by today's standards.
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Also, it's curious to note that the Australian edition apparently got the USA first quest, 'The Trial'. In the UK edition, the first quest was called 'The Maze' and was easy and quick - I believe there were just half a dozen orcs and that was it; the aim was to find your way from a corner (each hero started separately) and race for the exit in the centre. It sounds as if it may have been a better introduction from a learning the rules and appropriate challenge perspective, although probably not as exciting.
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Brilliant review, incredibly detailed, great game for its time and for what it achieved.

Interesting thing about The Trial quest - you mention how it blows its load so early, showing off all the pieces and furniture, which is true. But this quest didn't come with the UK version that I bought. We got an introductory quest called The Maze, which was a really basic quest with about 6 goblins/orcs and a couple of secret doors that really served just to introduce the different mechanics. Very dull by comparison.

When my friend bought HeroQuest months later he got The Trial instead and we were both confused, but also glad that we had a new quest to play. Maybe they introduced it later on to show off the pieces a bit more, or in response to how dull the first quest was!

And Huge is right about the US version's various differences, the monsters were hardier and Morcar inexplicably became Zargon!

Once again, top review, you might have to do the expansions individually now . . .

ninja
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When I read this review I can only say that you really love this game. Esspecially the final words went straight into my heart.
This is a really beatiful review, thank you:-)
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Neil Thomson wrote:
For teens I definitely recommend using some 'house-rules' to restore some balance.


Yet again, you prove that you are the best game reviewer around!!

There is only one area where I was left wanting more. You hinted a few times that the game could be improved with some simple house rules, yet you didn't provide any suggestions. Are there at least a few basic ones that you would recommend starting with?
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What incredible timing - just 5 minutes ago Canada Post dropped off my copy of this game that I had obtained in a trade from another user!!
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Hi Neil,
Another Gem, or was it Gold, Nice Job.

Please do share your house rules as I am quite interested.

As soon as I realized my Son and his friends were getting one up on me with Armour and weapons we did some simple rule changes.

Monster block hit with the regular shields just like Heroes, however, Black shields became pushes and knock downs. Roll one black shield in denfense you were pushed back, if there was no place to move to you rolled another defend die and took a wound unless it was a white shield. Roll two black shields in defense and you were knock down in the space you were in. You roll one less defense while down and it took half your movement to get up, (rounded down).

I will have to pull out my stuff to see exactly what the other change we made was.

Again, a great read, Thanks, Tony
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Fantastic review. Double thumbs up from me. (I would tip you, but I'm saving for an avatar. I'll make it up after my saving is done.)

I've really enjoyed your Heroquest session reports with your boys over the past year. This game was huge for me when I was growing up. I was lucky enough to find a replacement after mine was lost/thrown away. I even found one expansion at a yard sale for next to nothing.

My wife, my son, and I have played this a few times. Unfortunately, it isn't the wife's favorite, and playing all 4 characters can be tough for my 8 year old. I'll have to make her look at your review and some of the session reports to persuade her to play more often.

Thanks again for the great read.
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squash wrote:
What incredible timing - just 5 minutes ago Canada Post dropped off my copy of this game that I had obtained in a trade from another user!!



dede dede dede dede dede dede ...
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Nice review. Nicely illustrated.

Ah, HeroQuest: my gateway to games beyond the obvious, and quickly followed by purchases of Space Crusade and Battle Masters. This was a nice little game, and a real shocker in component terms at the time (especially in Ireland, where boxed games of Bingo with cardboard tiles for marking the numbers were still considered a great present). Broke it out not so long ago just to take a look at the bits, which are still lovely, though the cardstock is a little thin by today's standards. I've got a couple of the expansions too.

Thanks for adding the review. Fond memories.
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Brilliant! Thank you. We have this game plus an expansion-Return of the Witch Lord. My kids love the game and the exploring while evil Dad-me-tries to stop them! devil cool
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Hey folks thanks for the great feedback - blown me away this morning.

I'm on holidays and shouldn't be on BGG (see Microbadges - but the wife is down the street...ssshh ninja ).

To quickly respond to the queries on house rules -to be honest I'm an anal bugger and like to play games as written - so I haven't used any really. I think the game as written works well for my boys (aged 5-10) but anyone older should be customising their play to improve the game.

Things like adding additional Body Points to creatures like Chaos Warriors, Firmirs and Gargoyles comes to mind. Making Mind Points mean something (modify spell casting perhaps) is another.

I plan to research house rules used around the world and include these in an upcoming HeroQuest Geeklist, which will round out my HQ contributions to the Geek. This should be up by the end ofthe month.

Till then I plan to relax...and play some more HeroQuest! I brought Kellar's Keep with me and the boys are nagging me to play as I type this.

Better say goodbye.
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bigfluffylemon wrote:
In the UK edition, the first quest was called 'The Maze' and was easy and quick - I believe there were just half a dozen orcs and that was it; the aim was to find your way from a corner (each hero started separately) and race for the exit in the centre. It sounds as if it may have been a better introduction from a learning the rules and appropriate challenge perspective, although probably not as exciting.


The same thing over here in the Netherlands. My version,( wich I got down from the attic at Christmas, my kids loved it) also starts with 'the maze' i.e. "het doolhof".

I allready had worried a bit about the imbalance. The young ones not yet realising how easy these monsters could be bumped off, still ran for their lives in that first game, but I fear they'll soon catch on.
That indeed is a serious flaw of the game.

This game needs monsters wich will make you rather look for another way to the treasure than confront them. I to am someone who tends to stick to the original rules but if a game will work better with some modifications, why not.


Ofcourse we are free to invent our own rules. All the monsters having just one bodypoint is just silly. So we could increase those.
And maybe we could change the dice, put some stickers on them, so they favour the monsters a bit more.
Or maybe simply make it a rule that a monster allready has a number of defensive shields before throwing defense dies.

for example: Attack an Orc, and you'll have to throw at least two skulls, cause the orc allready has two defensive shields to protect it.
That way an attack would last longer and become more risky cause as an added bonus we could have the monsters regain their live points before the next role of the dice.

The options seem endless:

To have some invisible monsters roaming the rooms may also help tip the balance.
I think it could actually be a fun little hobby to figure out a way to make the game more exiting.


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Interesting.

If I remember correctly, the danish edition rules say that after 3 completed quests, a hero has attained the title of "vogter" (guardian), and has to retire.

This made sense to me, as only the last 3 quests in the danish quest guide are actually narratively connected.

Also, I think a flaw with the game (which is otherwise close to perfect), is that optimal play for the heroes requires them to never search for treasure until the quest is finished. Then, with all monsters gone, begin searching. This way you know when to stop because you only have 1 body point left, or because you have enough gold for a certain piece of equipment.

Obviously that is a very boring way to play the game. Fortunately I didn't think of this strategy when I played back in 1989
Still, I think it would be a slightly better game if the optimal strat was also a more fun one.
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Neil Thomson wrote:
HeroQuest however took me to a new place altogether. It fuelled my love of all things fantasy and it very much allowed me to play out what I had imagined when reading Fighting Fantasy Game Books. On top of that, HeroQuest allowed me to play with friends and share those experiences.

Neil, are you sure we weren't separated at birth?

Excellent review.

Despite its flaws, this game remains one of my highest rated for what it means in my personal gaming history.
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mr_lunch wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
HeroQuest however took me to a new place altogether. It fuelled my love of all things fantasy and it very much allowed me to play out what I had imagined when reading Fighting Fantasy Game Books. On top of that, HeroQuest allowed me to play with friends and share those experiences.

Neil, are you sure we weren't separated at birth?.


Quite possibly man. But then again maybe Geekdom is like the genisis of movies. Perhaps there is only 7 paths to true Geekdom and we share the same one!

mr_lunch wrote:
Excellent review.

Despite its flaws, this game remains one of my highest rated for what it means in my personal gaming history.


How can such a little thing like personal gaming history mean so much? I don't know but it does. For me HeroQuest was definitely important but the gold moments were really the Battletech, Shogun (MB Shogun) and Axis & Allies from age 16-23.

Fighting Fantasy was a love that was always there and still is thanks to my collection.
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Neil Thomson wrote:
mr_lunch wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
HeroQuest however took me to a new place altogether. It fuelled my love of all things fantasy and it very much allowed me to play out what I had imagined when reading Fighting Fantasy Game Books. On top of that, HeroQuest allowed me to play with friends and share those experiences.

Neil, are you sure we weren't separated at birth?.


Quite possibly man. But then again maybe Geekdom is like the genisis of movies. Perhaps there is only 7 paths to true Geekdom and we share the same one!



That sounds like a Geeklist to me!

I too followed the Heroquest path to geekdom, hence my interest in Neil's session reports. Many happy memories are being rekindled there.
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bigfluffylemon wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
mr_lunch wrote:
Neil Thomson wrote:
HeroQuest however took me to a new place altogether. It fuelled my love of all things fantasy and it very much allowed me to play out what I had imagined when reading Fighting Fantasy Game Books. On top of that, HeroQuest allowed me to play with friends and share those experiences.

Neil, are you sure we weren't separated at birth?.


Quite possibly man. But then again maybe Geekdom is like the genisis of movies. Perhaps there is only 7 paths to true Geekdom and we share the same one!



That sounds like a Geeklist to me!

I too followed the Heroquest path to geekdom, hence my interest in Neil's session reports. Many happy memories are being rekindled there.


Ha I had that exact thought when I wrote it actually. I'll see what I can come up with.
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Other great fan sites:

HeroQuest by Phoenix
DoYouHQ?
The Ferret's Game Page
HeroQuest Revised
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shaykana wrote:


Thanks for these - I'll check them out and be sure to reference them.
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Re: HeroQuest - A Retro Review
Neil WOW amazing review! One of the best I've ever read!

I'm off to find a copy of the game to play with my boys.
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