HeroQuest (1989)

HeroQuest (1989) blew my mind back in the day. It was a joint venture between Milton Bradley and Games Workshop and provides a tactical dungeon crawl experience that serves as a basic introduction to tabletop FRPGs. One player is the evil wizard, the others pick one of four archetypes – barbarian, wizard, elf and dwarf – and use a little character sheets to track their progress. They then venture into the dungeon to hack apart monsters and find loot. The base game had 14 or so scenarios with different objectives and hints of narrative to play through. Combat is simple – roll hits and compare that to the shields plus the defense stat to see if you did damage.

As a board game, it is pretty simplistic. The balance leaves a lot to be desired – everything is skewed to favor the heroes and their improvement between games through equipment upgrades exacerbates that problem. Monsters are slow and have no ranged attacks, so smart players learn early that they can stack up at doorways to turn the bottleneck into a meat grinder and there isn’t a whole lot the GM can do to make things more dangerous. For the time, though, there is a ton of groundbreaking stuff here. (I expect someone has hacked the rules to fix the balance, and if you know who, put me in touch)

What HeroQuest lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in bits. Wonderful, wonderful bits. The miniatures are a big part of it. There are a ton of them and they were my first (and sorta last) exposure to the Games Workshop design aesthetic, which felt super fresh at the time. I am sure I am not the only one with a more than passing obsession with the chaos priest and the gargoyle.

But the thing that really brought the game to life for me was…the furniture? Tombs, bookcases, even doors, everything had a little 3D component of cardboard and plastic to place in the appropriate spot in the dungeon. There are even little plastic rats and skulls you can use to decorate. AHHH! So GOOD.

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