In 1989, designer Steven Baker, in collaboration with Milton Bradley and Games Workshop, created the fantasy board game HeroQuest. The concept for HeroQuest was to make a more accessible version of D&D by bringing it into the tabletop space. This resulted in the creation of the dungeon crawler genre, and inspired new contemporary titles such as Gloomhaven.
HeroQuest came pre-packaged with everything you would need to run it. The standard rulebook, a board to play on, a wide selection of monster and player figures to use, and finally, environmental models to place on top of your board. This made HeroQuest quickly stand out from its competitors, as no other game came packed with this much content.
Upon its release, it received both commercial and critical praise. A number of expansions followed shortly after the release, and built upon the foundations made in the base game. The popularity of HeroQuest subsided in 1993, and all development of the product ceased in the following year.
However, seemingly out of nowhere, Hasbro setup a crowdfunding campaign in 2020 for a new edition of the game. Unsure if there was still a market for this, they started with a goal of $1 million. Shockingly, the campaign reached its target within the first 24 hours, and ended with a whopping $3.7 million in funding.
HeroQuest 2021 plays the same as the original, with only minor tweaks made to meet modern standards. These include things like updated artwork, male and female characters models, a world map to explore, and brand-new monster types. After playing this recently, I was very happy to discover that the game holds up phenomenally well.
One player takes on the role of the gamemaster, simply referred to as Zargon in the manual. Zargon manages the games rules and reveal the maps layout as the Heroes progress further into the dungeon. The quest book provides Zargon with an overview of the dungeon ahead of time. This keeps the Heroes on their toes as they never know what is around the corner.
Each quest also comes with a small introductory blurb. This informs the Heroes of what they are trying to accomplish in their missions. The objectives range from killing a deadly gargoyle, to rescuing an injured ally. Completing quests reward Heroes with gold, which they can use to buy better equipment. It is also possible for them to receive powerful artifacts, which will bolster their power in some way.
The great thing about this system is the flexibility it provides to create homebrew scenarios. I was able to develop an entirely new campaign for my party after we had finished with the main game. The simplicity made it a lot easier to setup and manage in comparison to something like a D&D campaign.
The other players control 1 of 4 available Heroes. These consist of the Barbarian, Elf, Dwarf, and Wizard. They each have their own unique playstyles, and come with different benefits and drawbacks. Hasbro have also released additional Heroes including the Bard, Druid, Warlock and Knight, but unfortunately, these do not come with the base game.
A Heroes turn consists of movement and an action. To move, the Hero must roll two standard 6-sided dice. They can then move the number of spaces up to the total amount rolled. Non-combat actions include searching for treasure, traps or secret doors, and, if you have the tool to do so, attempting to disarm a trap. It is up to the Heroes choice whether they want to move or use an action first.
Both the Heroes and Monsters attack and defend in the same way. This involves rolling a special 6-sided dice called the ‘combat dice.’ In place of numbers are various symbols, all of which indicate something different. 3 of the sides are skulls, 2 are white shields, and the final side is a black shield. The skulls measure a successful hit while attacking. The white and black shields measure defence, with white being for the Heroes and black being for Zargon.
The Hero cards indicate their starting attack and defence power. For example, the Barbarian has a standard attack roll of 3 and a defence roll of 2. This means they roll 3 combat dice when attacking, and 2 when defending.
Quick scenario: Let’s say the Barbarian is aiming to attack a Skeleton. The Barbarian manages to roll 2 skulls with their combat dice, and the unfortunate monster only manages to roll 1 black shield with theirs. This means that the monster takes 1 total point of damage, as basic math indicates 2 – 1 = 1. The simplistic nature of this keeps combat moving incredibly quickly, and ensures there is little downtime for each Hero between their turns.
The Elf and Wizard are the only two which can cast spells, at least in the base game. In line with regular attacking, casting a spell is pretty straight forward. The Hero states to Zargon which spell they want to cast. At this point, if the target is within the Heroes line of sight, the spells ability will transpire.
As each spell can only be cast once per quest, it creates an additional level of strategy for Heroes. I often found my party discussing when to use this limited resource, and in turn, led us to becoming more immersed in the game. As a note, spells can cover both damage and utility purposes.
HeroQuest may seem costly with a retail price of £100, but the value for money you get in the box is unbelievable. It comes packed with 65 highly detailed and sturdy models, reference cards which track everything the players need, and a quest book which perfectly captures the fantasy aesthetic. On top of this, they all feature absolutely gorgeous artwork which is worth the cost of admission alone.
HeroQuest lends itself to all age groups. Regardless if you are new to this genre, you’ll be able to pick up the rules rapidly and start playing in no time. The game system also provides room for creation and innovation. The community over on YeOldeInn.com does just that, so be sure to check that them out if you are looking for some Homebrew content.
Linked below is the best sales pitch that you may ever receive. It is a video by longtime board game legend BardicBroadcasts who emphatically tells us “Why HeroQuest is so great.” Although he is using the original version of HeroQuest to illustrate his points, all of the same principles still apply to HeroQuest 2021.
In my opinion, HeroQuest is the quintessential game for those that are new to the dungeon crawler experience. Veteran gamemasters can also use HeroQuest as a gateway to get their friends into other tabletop roleplaying games. Fans of titles like Decent: Journey in the Dark and Gloomhaven should check this out and pay homage to the grandfather of the genre. Although it is currently unavailable to purchase on the Hasbro website, you can still find copies within your local game store.