For those of you familiar with my normal tangents on wargaming, you might find yourselves asking: “If this is a wargaming column, then why are you reviewing a board game?” Well, Heroica in a nutshell is a customizable dungeon crawl not too dissimilar to a simplified Dungeons and Dragons game. And we all know that Dungeons and Dragons is the spawn of wargames. Thus placing it within my territory, not to mention three simple words: Because I can.
Heroica is a dumbed down version of a basic RPG dungeon crawl, and I mean that in a good way. The rule set is simple enough that even though the box says ages 7+, you could probably teach it to a kid as young as 5. Unlike traditional board games the board is built from the various Legos included.
Wait, I did mention Heroica is a Lego game, right?
Yes, our good old friend, the Lego Company, have delved into block built board games since 2009 with Robo Champ and others including: Ninjago, Harry Potter Hogwarts, and Mintaurus. And now they have combined two of my favorite hobbies, role-playing games and Legos.
There are currently four different versions of Heroica and what appears to be another five in development according to their world map. The reason I call them versions as opposed to expansions is due to the fact each one is a standalone game that has a simple feature that it can be interconnected with the other versions to make a larger, tougher game. For this review I played Caverns of Nathuz mixed with Castle Fortaan. The Caverns of Nathuz features Golem Guardians, Bats, and the Golem Lord as obstacles to the powerful Scepter of Summoning. The Castle Fortaan brings with it Goblin Warriors, the Goblin King and the ever coveted Helmet of Protection.
A personal favorite feature of the game is the ever awesome rubber edged die with interchangeable panels (if you own more than one expansion) to increase or decrease the games difficulty. Any gamer will agree, this is by far the most active and random die to roll. If not for it’s tendencies to roll/bounce off the table or crash through the game board Raiders of the Lost Ark style, I would venture to say it is the best six-sided die I’ve ever rolled.
Heroica offers different characters to choose from, all of which are tropes of the fantasy genre; the Wizard, the Rogue, the Ranger, the Barbarian, the Druid and the Knight. Each character is equipped with specific abilities that are activated when the Shield is rolled on the die; otherwise they are all equal on any other level. This shouldn’t be an issue, but the gamer in me is still trying to figure out how the puny Rogue and Wizard have the same hit points as the powerful Barbarian and Knight, but I will get to that in just a moment.
The objective of the game as well as the storyline included within is to take back the kingdom from the evil that has violated its grounds. Thus explaining why the games are designed to be interconnected, not because it would make it harder, but because it would fit the story of the traveling band of adventurers seeking out to right the injustices that have befallen this fair land. Apart from the basic rules there are two extra sets of rules for the game: Battle and Epic. Battle has one player moving the monsters instead of an adventurer piece (Essentially becoming the Dungeon Master), thus increasing the difficulty of game play. Epic makes it possible to play the boards one at a time, but allows players to bring all items from the previous board with them to continue the adventure. Now I didn’t try out the Epic rules, mainly due to the fact I played with the boards combined already, so I couldn’t say if it made it any easier or harder for game play.
The biggest weakness of Heroica just so happens to be its strength as well as the rules allow for homebrew games. Now this is fine, it allows a guy like me who wants a huge challenge on the tabletop to add as much evil I can possibly conceive for game play and to a point where I am satisfied. The drawback is that I, me, myself and I have to figure out how to make the game better with tons of testing and probing until it’s balanced. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy breaking and rebuilding my toys, hence my love for Legos. But as a guy who works hard to balance the games I develop I see it as lazy on the part of Lego to expect me to go out of my way to make their game better, when they could have easily spent an extra few hours in development doing the same and included those as rules for increased difficulty.
All in all, this is a great game especially if you’re like me and love to make things better. Some of our homebrew rules include:
- Roll two dice, you choose one for your move then the other is to move a monster of your choice.
- Characters as well as Boss monsters hit equal to their life points.
- Only a Knight or Barbarian can kill a Boss monster with the exception of characters using strength potions.
- Added Secret Passageways that only Rogues and Wizards can find and open.
There are more, but I’d like to hear what custom rules you have added to Heroica, or to similar games you have played.