Monday, October 31, 2022

Expanding HeroQuest

Since I received it for my birthday, HeroQuest has become a family favorite, with my 7yo son eager to play any time we can.

It's only obvious, then, that I'm considering expanding the game, even though we haven't played through the whole quest book yet: it's only a matter of time.

So what is around?

The free official PDF adventures

New Beginnings is a free scenario meant to replace the infamous first quest in the quest book. Did I mention it's free? Go grab!

The Forsaken Tunnels of Xor-Xel is another free pdf with a quest meant to introduce the Kellar's Keep expansion.

The Amall Expansion Packs

Hasbro has released two small expansions ("quest packs", as they are called): Kellar's Keep and Return of the Witch Lord.

The first focuses on orcs and goblins (and abominations), while the second is all about the undead. Both sets offer more units of the same miniatures found in the core game, plus two different special doors (which, unfortunately, are the same in both packs), plus a bunch of new equipment and artifact cards, a set of cardboard tiles, and a new quest book.

While these are fairly cheap, frankly I see no reason to buy them since I already have those minis. Two special doors and a bunch of new cards and quests won't cut it for me.

If you are a completionist, go grab them and enjoy the new quest books and doors!

If you are a completionist, you may also look for the new character boxes, like the Rogue Heir of Elethorn. These are definitely not my cup of tea: 15-20 bucks for 2 figures? Not worth it at all for me. I can homebrew a hundred new characters and find cheaper models anywhere (especially in my garage).

The Big One(s)

Heroquest Frozen Horror is a different story. While being slightly more expansive, it offers much more interesting content: 8 new monsters (including the titular Horror which is a big one!), 10 mercenaries (a new mechanic introducing helpers in the game), a new barbarian figure, a new new set of "frozen" dice, two new doors, and the usual bunch of new equipment and artifact cards, a set of cardboard tiles, and a new quest book.

This is, in my view, a much more interesting addition to the game!

Then there's The Mage of the Mirror due to be released in spring 2023. It promises to be another interesting addition with new monsters (ogres!), new furniture, a new set of spells for the elf, and a new elf figure, besides the usual new cards, tiles, and quests.

An Endless Playground

Truth is HeroQuest is such a simple game, anyone can expand it pretty easily. Communities of homebrewers can be found on Reddit (r/heroquest) and facebook (Ye Olde Inn) and offer an endless smorgasbord of ideas to expand the game, with regards to both rules and figures.

This is, actually, what I prefer to do, so my next HeroQuest post will surely be about homebrew expansions.


Into HeroQuest? Check out my other HeroQuest Posts!

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Halloween Mega Sale at DTRPG: My OSE Recommendations

 The Halloween sale is on at DriveThruRPG. For the next 14 days, more than 14.000 horror-themed rpg titles are available at reduced price!

The list of OSR titles currently discounted counts a big 588 items, which is a lot.

The sheer amount of titles available makes it hard to create a list of OSR recommendations, so this time I'll focus on some of the titles listed for Old-School Essentials and for Labyrinth Lord, as BXDnD is my current go-to ruleset.

Pumpkin man courtesy of Nightcafe AI art generator


Of the Necrotic Gnome's official adventures for OSE, the only one available during this sale is the Ennie award winning Halls of the Blood King by Diogo Nogueira: exploring the interdimensional castle of a vampire lord sounds like a great scenario for a Halloween game indeed.

Ominous Crypt of the Blood Moss - is a very good 10 room dungeon which develops the clich√© theme of "crypt with undead" with interesting twists and consequences, and a horror from beyond space and time. I've reviewed it here.

Falkrest Abbey - Ghost, wights, and ravenous zombies in a ruined abbey. Written by Andrea Mollica and me. More about it here.

The Frost Spire - An excellent creepy-fairy-frosty level 3 dungeon adventure with an interesting moral dilemma. Reviewed it here.

The Demon Tower of Valdig Fel - An intriguing scenario for Labyrinth Lord, with a flying citadel shaped like a demon head, for characters level 5-7. Short and sweet.

Witches of Frostwyck - A long, mystery scenario for characters level 1-4, with witches and a cursed village in frozen forest.

The Haunted Hamlet - A best-selling location based scenario by Lazy Litch.

The Stygian Library - A hugely successful and widely acclaimed infinite dungeon-library with lots of random content.

Sourcebooks, Supplements & Zines

Of my very own Lands of Legends zine series, the Grim volume is now on sale, (and the five zines are also currently bundled up in PDF + Print on Demand.

Realms of Crawling Chaos - A classic Labyrinth Lord supplement to introduce the Cthulhu Mythos in your OSE/LL/BX campaign.

Into the Wyrd and Wild - A supplement to make wilderness adventures more interesting, with a strong accent on the weird and terrifying side of things out there.

Don't forget the Trick or Treat specials!

During the Halloween sale, you should check the DTRPG Home page and click on the big orange banner at the top of the page, because you'll find three titles offered for free, on a rotation with new titles every 24 hours!


Into OSR? Check my other OSR posts and reviews!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

About the New HeroQuest, or The Sublime Horror

 So I three weeks ago I received the new HeroQuest as a birthday present. The joy!

For those who missed it, Hasbro relaunched the much beloved '90s board game (and gateway to fantasy gaming for thousands of kids) in 2021, with a crowdfunding campaign on Pules, Hasbro's own crowdfunding platform. So how is it?

I'll talk about how it is from my point of view: a gamer in my 40s, who had the original game back then, and with a 7yo kid.

The rules: They are the same, including the original quest book. The rules are the same as the US version, not the European one. where all monsters had 1 Body Point (which was a very bad idea as it made the game too easy).

Components: This is where the game has changed the most. 

  • The board is the same, just slightly bigger. It's still that very same board, with the same graphic, the same room arrangement.
  • All the furniture is pretty much identical in design, except all pieces are made of plastic, doors included. In the old version all furniture pieces where a mix of plastic and cardboard.
  • All the minis have been redesigned! They are slightly bigger, more detailed, and made of a soft plastic, which makes snapping almost impossible, but frequently comes with bended pieces (swords, staffs, spears, leg or ankle joints, etc).
  • There are LESS minis! In the old game you got a lot of goblins and skeletons. In this new version you get less of each monster type except for the "Dread Warrior" (the new Chaos Warriors). It turns out I was completely wrong about this: you get the same amount of minis! My memory tricked me, I should have checked before posting!
  • The cards (monsters, spells, equipment, etc) have grown bigger (standard MTG-size), with a mix of old and new designs.
I appreciate the change of plastic type, as I think these soft models will be more durable. On the other hand, all the cardboard pieces (box, board, tiles, and cards) feel very much thinner and less resistant. Must be the global paper crisis, I guess.

Another big change is that all references to the Warhammer world are gone: Chaos Warriors now are "Dread Warriors" (just a name change), and Fimirs have been replaced with "Abominations", i.e. hulking fish-men, which look cool but feel definitely out of place inside a dungeon.

Oh, and the game as changed from "Age 9 - Adult" to "14+", for reasons I can't fathom.

I won't discuss price vs quality, as price varies wildly depending on where you buy it. Amazon has it.

The old box...

...and the new one

My Personal Take: The Sublime Horror
Let's be frank: if you look at the rules and mechanics from the point of view of a frequent, refined gamer, HeroQuest is a horrible game, for a series of reasons. Players have too few occasions to make meaningful choices. Most of the time, they open doors without a clue, and combat is just rolling dice with almost no chance for any kind of strategy. The only big exception is the mage hero who has to manage their nine single-use spell cards through every game.
The quests in the book are balanced against a full party of four heroes, so with less than five players (or four + the official gm-less app), all quests become quite hard.

But at the same time HeroQuest offers, in my opinion, a sublime experience with regards to immersion. The furniture, the cards art, the minis, the board, all enforce immersion in a way more refined games fail to convey. Perhaps it is the very lack of a cumbersome rule system that makes everything else shine, as the rules leave the spotlight to components, and to the story that unfolds through the quests.

So all in all it is a super bad game for experienced gamers, and an excellent game for experienced gamers who want an introductory game for non-gamers and kids. My son is enjoying it A LOT, and I'm enjoying it through his eyes. He can't wait to invite his friends to play. Damn, I can't wait to invite his friends to play!

If you don't plan to play it with kids or non-gamers, the only other reason to get it is to change, expand, substitute the rules with a deeper system (like an rpg's), and just save the components. It's still a decent deal for those alone, probably.


Into HeroQuest? Check out my other HeroQuest Posts!

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