One of my favorite “board games” of all time is HeroQuest. I put those stupid quotes in the previous sentence to emphasis the fact that the game isn’t as much of a board game as it is a halfway point to the wondrous world of tabletop RPGs and board games. I never really had enough friends to play a game like D&D (blame it on being shy and in a small community that had a drought of nerds), so HeroQuest was perfect. You could get away playing it with only one other person, because they could control all of the hero characters! Ahh so very, very sad.
I’ve had two major phases playing with the game. The first is my initial obsession with it in the early 90s and the second was a resurgence in the early ’00s that had me buying extra shit for it and even painting, to various degrees of success, many of the figures. HeroQuest then laid dormant again until the present, when I met others who wanted to play RPGs like the old West End Games Star Wars and D&D.
I was lucky enough to get four other people willing to play the game with me recently. To have the maximum five is a rare occurrence in my world. I was lucky enough to get one other person to play with me when I was a kid and two others when I became obsessed with it about ten years ago. It’s almost a bizarre delusion of a socially inept nerd to have each character being controlled by a real human.
Since it is my game, I was Zargon, the most evil and crappily named Wizards in history. Zargon controls all the monsters and puts up all the pretend doors, book cases, and such. It might not be as fun as exploring unknown tombs and dungeons, but it is pretty fun being a sort of god to the heroes.
Three cats from my regular Star Wars RPG group were in attendance to play the part of three of the heroes. One of them is the Game Master from my Star Wars gaming group who is experienced in RPGs, another is a guy who just got into RPGs this year, and the third is a female type that has been suckered into playing these games with us. Our fourth is another female type who who was once forced to play HeroQuest back in the 90s with her brothers. Apparently, her brothers would make her be the wizard or the elf and basically tell her exactly what to do, so when she got to be the barbarian she went on balls out attack mode. It seemed liberating, if a bit dangerous for the adventurers.
I’d like to make a side note here that it was basically amazing that I could get two girls to play this game at one time. I bet that is a record for HeroQuest.
The game is still fun and even the first adventure was full of suspense. The players were threatened with death throughout most of the second half of the adventure and there would have probably been at least one dead hero if they hadn’t rallied together and actually started working as a team semi-early in the game. While most of the monsters in the game don’t have much in the way of attack dice and very little defense, the heroes aren’t running around with a lot of hit points and there’s not a lot of options for healing. Hell, even searching for treasure that might get them a heal potion is weighted fairly heavily towards springing a trap or having a monster popping out and immediately attacking.
The biggest drawback to HeroQuest (after you’ve played “real” RPGs) is that your heroes don’t get to advance. They don’t get better at doing anything, they just can buy new stuff that will help a little. If my group wants to keep playing, I plan on either introducing some house rules to change it up a bit or somehow incorporating the rare Adanced HeroQuest rules into the game.* I guess that’s another negative to having played “real” RPGs. You expect your characters to get better, but in basic HeroQuest you can only get new weapons and armor.
Another drawback is what to do with dead heroes. If the rest of the players make it through the game but one or two of the characters dies, you just rename the unused ones and start over. That character might lose any stuff he had, but he’s essentially the same character. It sucks to lose your character, but the danger of losing a highly customized hero that you might have gotten attached to isn’t there.
HeroQuest still provides plenty of fun. Sure it’s fairly easy to kill lots of monsters, but that’s the point. You don’t have to worry about lots of extraneous stuff like in games like D&D. You just kill, kill, kill and move on. The only thing the heroes have to worry about is either rolling bad or the monsters rolling really well, which can happen.
*By the way, if anyone wants to sell a copy of Advanced HeroQuest to me for less than 200 bucks, please let me know.