HEROQUEST: FLASHBACK

[Dungeons & Dragons opened the floodgates of fantasy gaming to the world at large through the medium of roleplaying in the 1970s.  It took over a decade though, for Milton Bradley to hit upon the idea of bringing Swords & Sorcery to the tabletop, coming up with a game filled with heroes, magic, monsters and lots of miniatures: HeroQuest! Although the game was relatively expensive back then for a 1990 release – check out that $22 retail price! – it was a huge hit for Milton Bradley who also ended up publishing several expansions for the base game.  Here is how we saw the game in the Summer 1991 issue of Gamers Alliance Report]Reviewed by Herb Levy

HEROQUEST (Milton Bradley, 2 to 5 players, ages 9 and up, about 90 minutes; $22)

 

Magical quests and fiendish monsters plunge players into a world of excitement in this new offering from Milton Bradley (developed with Games Workshop): HeroQuest.

The game’s premise is simple. Four heroes (a Barbarian, Elf, Wizard and Dwarf) are pitted against the forces of Chaos deep within an underground maze and controlled by the Evil Sorcerer Zargon. Armed with their starting skills (which may be augmented through valuable treasures and experience acquired), these heroes work together to defeat Zargon and his minions of Evil by embarking on a series of quests.

High quality plastic figures give physical representations of the four heroes and over 30 different monsters (orcs, zombies, skeletons, a gargoyle and more). But there’s more inside the large box. HeroQuest also provides three-dimensional pieces representing doors and furniture (tables, a throne, an alchemist’s bench etc,) cards (representing treasure, spells and the characters), an information screen, character sheets, a Quest book (detailing 14 Quests in ascending order of difficulty), an instruction booklet, 6 special combat dice, 2 red “regular” dice and a mounted gameboard showing the dungeon layout. Cardboard tiles to indicate stairs, blocked passages, secret doors and the like also come into play. Depending on the Quest (and the tiles used), the dungeon layout changes. HeroQuest is for 2 to 5 players, highly suitable for family play with playing time varying with each Quest. (More Quests are planned for release.)

The outline of game play should be familiar to anyone who has ever played a fantasy roleplaying game. One player assumes the role of Zargon, the Evil Sorcerer, and becomes the Game Master. He is the only one with access to the Quest Book. As a result, he sets up the board, knows where all of the traps, treasures and monsters lie, knows all the “secrets” of the Quest. Zargon plays behind the Game Master Information Screen. The other players assume the roles of the Heroes. (A player may control more than one Hero if less than five are playing.)    

Each Hero is given his respective Character Card. That card tells the character’s ratings for Attack Dice, Defend Dice and Body/Mind Points (how many hits a character can take from physical/magical attack). A Character Sheet allows each player to keep track of his Character’s progress. The deck of cards is sorted into 8 piles: Treasure, Artifacts, Monsters and Spells (sub-divided into Chaos, Air, Fire, Earth and Water Spells). Artifact cards are kept behind the screen. They are given to the players when the artifact is located on the board. Monster cards are spread out on the board so that all players can see the strengths and weaknesses of monsters they may encounter. Chaos Spells are give to Zargon. The other Spell cards are divided between the Wizard who picks a set first and the Elf who picks a set second. The remaining Spell cards belong to the Wizard. Now, play begins.

On each turn, a Hero may move and perform any of six actions: Attack, Cast a Spell (Wizards or Elf), Search for Treasure, Search for Secret Doors, Search for Traps, Disarm a Trap. (These actions are listed on the back of each Character Card for easy reference.) Movement may be done before OR after an action.

Movement is simply the roll of the two red dice. Players may move up to that number of spaces on the board. While moving, players may “look” down corridors or “open” doors. (Doors are opened by Zargon upon request – no “lock picking” required. Once opened, however, they stay open. Bad luck if an powerful monster is inside!

As Heroes move, Zargon keeps in touch with his Quest Book map. When Heroes “see” things, Zargon places the corresponding tiles, objects etc. where they appear on the map. The board begins to assume a pleasing three-dimensionality.

Combat occurs when monsters are encountered, either by entering a room or being accosted in a corridor. Combat involves the use of the special dice.

The special dice are six-sided cubes decorated with pictures of skulls (3), white shields (2) and a black shield. When Heroes roll for an attack (the number of dice rolled equal to their Attack Dice number), each skull rolled indicates 1 Body Point of damage. If a monster is hit, Zargon immediately throws its indicated number of dice for defense. Each black shield rolled neutralizes a Body Point of damage. Spell cards by the Elf or Wizard may be used instead of a dice roll attack. Once a spell is cast, however, it may NOT be used a second time on this Quest.

Once in a room unoccupied by monsters, Heroes may Search for Treasure. A search is done by simply announcing it. If a special treasure is in the room, Zargon must reveal it. If not, a Treasure Card is picked. Some of these treasures are “artifacts” which may be a goal of the particular Quest or may only be useful to one of the Heroes. Alternatively, the Treasure Card may reveal a “Wandering Monster”that must be battled. But your hopes of finding treasure this way shrink as the game goes on. Good Treasure Cards are removed from the deck; the bad cards are returned to the deck and the deck is reshuffled! So, the more you search for treasure, the more likely you are to encounter monsters! Searching for Secret Doors is roughly the same procedure; announcing the search and having Zargon reveal the Door if it is there. Searching for Traps is a bit different.

Four kinds of traps appear in the game: pits, falling block traps, spear traps and chest/furniture traps. A Hero may only search for traps if no monster is visible. If he declares a search, Zargon tells (but does not show) where the traps are located. (Failure to search for traps will result in traps being sprung if your Hero moves onto a “trapped space”.) Once traps are located, Heroes may jump them or disarm them.

Jumping a trap involves having at least two squares of movement left on your roll so that you may move to a square adjacent to the trap. In addition, you must roll a combat die. A rolled skull means the trap was sprung and body damage (depending on the trap) is suffered. Traps may be disarmed through the use of a Trap Kit (bought at the Armory between Quests with treasure won). This allows a player to move on to a trapped square and roll a combat die. A roll of a black or white shield disarms (and removes) the trap. But if a skull appears, the trap is sprung with the resulting body damage. (The Dwarf never needs a Trap Kit. He is so adept at disarming traps that he can roll the combat die and be successful on any roll except the black shield. Only a black shield springs the trap on him!)

Once all Heroes have performed their movement and actions, Zargon gets his chance. Each monster currently on the board, may move and attack or cast a Chaos Spell.  Monster movement is fixed and is listed on the Monster Chart on Zargon’s Information Screen as well as on the matching Monster Cards placed near the board. Attacks are done in a similar manner as that by Heroes: combat dice are rolled (based on the Monster’s Attack Dice number). A skull indicates 1 Body Point of damage suffered by the Hero. Immediately, the Hero may roll Defense dice where each shield rolled negates one hit. Chaos Spells are given to specific monsters (as mentioned in various Quests). They are powerful weapons against the Heroes. 

Each Quest has a certain goal that must be attained. When at least one Hero has achieved that goal AND has made it back to the stairway from which he began his Quest, that Quest is over. Then players may gear up for the next Quest by using their treasure to buy new and better weapons or Magic Spells (to be available in future Quest Packs) and healing until they are at full strength.

HeroQuest is an exciting game on many levels. It’s three-dimensional aspect is visually exciting as you see the details of the board take shape, almost magically, right before your eyes. The cooperative nature of the game works well as the group of Heroes struggle together to survive and achieve their goal. Add to this brew the reasonable price and high quality components and it seems that HeroQuest is a treasure in itself with all the makings of a big hit.  Highly recommended, – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -Herb Levy

Copyright © 1991, all rights reserved

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