The Best Thing About HeroQuest, or: Why I’m Not Backing HeroQuest

In 1990, I was a thirteen-year-old kid, just getting into fantasy games. I had picked up the Dungeons & Dragons Basic red box from Waldenbooks a few years earlier and had tried to get a group together to play, but we mainly just made characters and drew pictures of them. The rules were a little complex for a group who had never played anything like it before. Still, a boy could dream.

Some of my old characters. Because I keep EVERYTHING.

Those dreams were fulfilled with Milton Bradley’s HeroQuest. Finally, my friends and I could delve into the darkest dungeons and battle hordes of goblins, orcs, and undead terrors on our quests for fortune and glory. It was a formative experience that still colors my taste in games today.

Yesterday, Hasbro’s new HeroQuest crowdfunding campaign dropped. Surprisingly, it looks like they’ve stuck to the core of the original game, updating the aesthetics just enough to appeal to modern sensibilities while still keeping everything recognizable. Watching the campaign felt like catching up with a childhood friend.

Hello, old friend.

It might surprise you, then, to know that I am not backing it. It’s actually a little painful to say that, because, really, I WANT ALL THE THINGS. But when I think about it, this campaign is not for me, for a number of reasons

1. The Price Point

The Base game is $99.99, not including shipping. The game with expansions, which let’s face it, if you’re buying the base game, you want the expansions, is $149.99. Again, not including shipping. The reason so many people my age (*coughOLDPEOPLEcough*) remember HeroQuest was that it was AFFORDABLE.

Well, relatively affordable. I believe it was around $30 when it came out, which is $60 in 2020 money. (Huh, “2020 money.” That’s fun to say.) Like, I wasn’t running out to Kay-Bee to spend my allowance on it, but it was definitely an “Ask for it for Christmas” type of buy. Because of this price, and because you didn’t have to go to a specialty shop to get it, a lot of people had it.

2. It’s an Entry-level game

This goes back to the first point, really. HeroQuest was the entry point for so many gamers, which s a huge part of why it is regarded so highly. The thing is, in the last 30 years (OH MY GOD, 30 YEARS?!?), many other entry-level games have come out that are far less pricey…there’s The Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Series, the various Barnes & Noble-exclusive Games Workshop games, heck, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is available at Target stores, and for half the price of HeroQuest vanilla edition.

All three of these together are cheaper than the Deluxe HeroQuest. Just sayin’.

HeroQuest was a fun game, but it lacked depth that modern games, even entry-level ones, can provide. That said, maybe the new HeroQuest will be a much heavier game…but for the price of the deluxe edition, I could go to my local game store and get a copy of big-box Gloomhaven.

3. The Crowdfunding Campaign

OK, I might just be an old grump here, but Hasbro running a crowdfunding campaign feels…wrong. Immoral. Evil.

Hasbro is, according to Wikipedia, worth over $5 billion. The point of Kickstarter and other crowdfunding services is to raise the capital to produce your product. Hasbro has the capital. Throwing themselves into the Crowdfunding arena seems unfair.

Even if Hasbro felt that they needed to crowdfund HeroQuest, they could have at least used an established crowdfunding site. Instead, they’ve opted to build their own, meaning that they aren’t even contributing to the growth of the crowdfunding industry. The rise of Kickstarter, Indigogo, and the like has helped independent creators see their dreams realized. Hasbro Pulse does nothing to add to or nurture that industry. It utilizes their methods, enters their virtual spaces, but only serves itself (unless they start allowing indie creators to publish through them).

And because they are crowdfunding, they bypassing retail spaces. Brick-and-mortar stores are already struggling, and Hasbro only offering one of their biggest niche games through direct online sales only hurts those spaces. I hope that they do put this game in stores when it’s released, but a lot of the damage will already be done.

So on this point, I position myself as a conscientious objector.

4. HeroQuest…isn’t as good as you remember.

This is the elephant in the room. When was the last time you actually played HeroQuest? It’s been over a decade for me, and there’s a reason for that: compared to today’s games, it’s not that good.

I am not saying it’s a bad game. It’s really not. BUT…the roll-and-move mechanic is sloppy and can lead to turns of each character tiptoeing through long corridors with nothing happening. The fact that it requires a Game Master means that one player is stuck playing as the bad guy, and they’re probably going to continue playing as Game Master through the whole campaign. And yes, it’s a campaign game, but there’s not much advancement between missions.

Don’t open that door! I’ll be there in…4 or 5 turns!

This is all assuming you could consistently get 4 friends together. At lower player counts, it loses its shine. If you have one player playing as the Barbarian…sure, you get the brute strength, the hit points, the MUSCULARITY!!!, but no magic. If you play with just the Wizard, you get all the magic, but you’re going to die. The game really needs five players to shine, which is a big ask when there are games like Castle Ravenloft where you can play true solo, and the characters are far more balanced.

In Conclusion…

I’m positive that this will be a successful campaign. As of this writing, it’s already made over $1 Million, and that’s just on day one. But this is no one’s entry game. It caters to those of us nostalgic for the past, but those of us who would pay $150 for a board game have much better games to chose from.

I totally understand wanting this game to relive those adventures of yesterday: there’s a reason I’ve held on to all my old D&D stuff. I’m just afraid that really, the best thing about HeroQuest is our memory of HeroQuest, and we can’t recreate that.

In hindsight, I can’t relive these D&D memories either. Nor would I want to. THAC0, anyone?

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