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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