HeroQuest, the classic boardgame from the 80’s, has finally returned to gaming shelves, and the results appear to be rather delightful. The fantasy boardgame defined fantasy gaming for Gen X kids, but then went swiftly out of print.
A bit of background first; Way back in 1989, boardgames company Milton Bradley teamed up with niche hobby company Games Workshop to cash in on the fantasy gaming trend. Fantasy game books and TTRPGs were trendy and new, but tricky and expensive to get into, especially for kids. The game combined Games Workshop’s fantasy aesthetic with MB’s accessible design and production values. Nothing like it existed on the market; it was cheap, it was easy to play and it introduced people to the basics of fantasy gaming without being too complicated or weird. You could pick up a plastic elf or barbarian and for a 30 minutes or so be a swords and sorcery hero, fighting monsters and grabbing treasure.
It was a huge hit across the world, spawned various add-ons and is arguably a solid reason why fantasy gaming is still so big in the UK today. It would go on to define a whole genre of games; the Dungeon Crawler. In it’s absence, scores of ‘HeroQuest’ like games appeared, mostly aimed at older players who didn’t want the sand-box feel of an TTRPG such as Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, but just wanted to be an angry dwarf with an axe for an hour or so.
Toys titan Hasbro picked up the rights some time ago (MB are long gone), and initially brought the game back as part of their ‘Hasbro Pulse’ campaign. The premise of the game remains unchanged; You take on the role of fantasy hero and can choose from Wizard, Barbarian, Elf and Dwarf. The Barbarian and Dwarf deal with problems by hitting them with big things, the Wizard and the Elf have spells that they can use instead of their (smaller) weapons. One other player takes on the role of Zargon, who controls the monsters and puts doors, furniture and monsters on the board as everyone else explores. They are multiple quests to play, each with their own ‘win’ condition for the heroes.
It’s a game for up to five players, designed for ages 14+ (but this is mostly because it has small parts; younger children who aren’t going to shove the games pieces into their face should be fine.) The original had finally detailed models in the style of Games Workshop’s Citadel range. The new game is not connected to Games Workshop in any way, so the designs are different, but the models are just as nice, just more modern fantasy in approach , looking like they’ve leapt out of World of Warcraft rather than the pages of Lord of the Rings. The over-all feel of the game is more accessible; this is the fantasy genre the younger generation knows and loves.
There’s a lot of plastic in the box; 31 monsters, 4 heroes, plastic doors, furniture pieces and the like. One very minor gripe is that the Hasbro Pulse limited edition had male and female sculpts for all the heroes (8 models in total), the off the shelf box has three male and one female hero. It would be nice to give gamers a choice. The monsters come in various genders, so that’s nice. The old game had fimir, these are replaced by abominations (a different sort of fish-monster), and the word ‘chaos’ has been replaced with ‘dread’ to describe warriors and sorcerers. The box it comes in is huge when compared to other family games, and about the right size.
The models paint fine, but you will need primer. No paint guide comes in the box, which is a bit of a shame. Rules-wise, they’re the refined rules for the US which leans toward co-op play a bit more than the European rules, but beyond that, they’ve not changed anything serious. You still roll dice to move and orcs are still really dangerous in high numbers. It’s still a lot of fun.
Gameplay is rapid and fun. This is a very basic adventure game; adults who are used to Dungeon Saga, Gloomhaven and Descent should brace themselves for simplicity. This is a game designed to be played by the family in less than an hour, and be more fun than Monopoly or Risk. Price wise, it’s a little more expensive than Cluedo, but you get a lot of game. It is, very much designed for younger gamers; stick this in the stocking of any young gamer and they will likely be delighted.