Designer: Nicolas Assenbrunner, Cephas Howard, Thomas Robert Van der Heiden
A few years ago the LEGO craze hit – I don’t know where it came from but suddenly LEGO was c ool again with adults and kids alike. I was one of the first on the band wagon, getting my first ‘adult’ LEGO set, a Sopwith Camel, for Christmas 2012. LEGO quickly became one of my main hobbies and we found Heroica shortly after when LEGO were pumping out interesting games for a year or two – including some by well known designers such as Reiner Knizia. Heroica is arguably one of the games which would most appeal to gamers because of its fantasy dungeon theme.
Heroica is an expandable game and although its expansions are standalone, the idea is that you connect the buildable elements of the board together to create new areas of your dungeon. Fortaan is the castle, Nathuz is the caves, Waldurk the forest, Draida the desert and Ilrion (the first of a second series of expansions that was never continued) which appears to be water filled catacombs. I think this is in fact the only game on the shelf which we have fully expanded.
In Heroica, each player controls a hero whose goal is to be the first to locate the main bad guy eg. Goblin King and slay him. Each hero is different and has a special ranged or melee ability which can be used when you roll the shield side of the dice. Standing in each hero’s way are a multitude of smaller bad guys, who are equally hard to kill but hurt you less if you fail, as well as the other players who may have opportunities to block your path.
A well as bad guys, there are different treasures littered throughout the map. Gold can be collected and used to buy weapons from the weapons store, treasures chests can be looted, but what you find inside is decided by a roll of the dice and you can also find potions which you can drink to give you a momentary boost.
|The Fortaan Map with four heroes.|
Each expansion box has its own unique theme with different bad guys and scenery to go with it. Most also introduce new mechanics such as door which need keys or brute force to break through, crumbled rocks which block your passage or different boosts which can be obtained by killing minor bosses in each zone when you bring all of the maps together. My personal favourite is the magical gates from Waldurk which can be moved around the board by a player standing on a portal. You can move these you block the passage of a player who is doing too well and they have to roll a shield to break through or hope someone else moves it for them. In games with many players, allegiances are quickly made between players who have chosen similar routes around the map.
|The full set of Heroica including Ilrion which we only own for completeness. It seems that Ilrion was put out by LEGO very quickly and the rules of the game are not fully formed.|
I will not claim that Heroica is a great game for gamers. However it’s a lot more than a roll and move game, it has multiple pathways, ways to upgrade your character, a good theme and opportunities for player interaction, but it does come down to a fair bit of luck with rolling the dice. The buildable board is also really cool, it obviously embraces the fact it’s made of LEGO, but it also allows you to use your imagination to create different setups with their own unique quirks in the layout eg. creating a dead end with really attractive loot. The base game plays 4, but when fully expanded we’ve played this with 6 and it just adds to the chaos and interaction. It does add down time, and there’s definitely nothing to plan during other people’s turns but they can affect you and turns are super fast.
Generally I’d recommend Heroica to any big LEGO geeks – there’s definitely enough satisfaction in building something cool and getting to play with it, however its primary audience is definitely children. Once you have the game expanded there are a lot of rules to remember so younger children will definitely need some adult guidance, but I’m sure there’s plenty of adults willing to play.
As I game played by adults, I can only rate Heroica a 5.5/10, but it’s also a LEGO set so it really deserves a bit more credit. For the actual fun it’s given us I’d probably give it an 8/10. The game is now out of print, but can be picked up for not too high a price and if I had to recommend one box it would be Waldurk as I think it promotes the most player interaction.