The HeroQuest test was a journey into the past: nice, but also sobering. In the end, not much was left of the glory of the "best dungeon crawler of all time". The world of board games has also changed: today everything is more sophisticated, more designed, more complex - but often sprawling and sometimes cumbersome. HeroQuest, on the other hand, is designed for fun - a shallow fantasy game with stupid brawls that are decided by the luck of the dice. Is that simple? Yes. Too simple? Possibly. Is that a weakness? Depends on. 

The test of the German version of HeroQuest shows that nostalgia is not enough to still be able to find a work from the late eighties today. And it shows that a good basic structure can make a game idea last for decades. Finding HeroQuest good or just wanting to like it because you know it from your own childhood or youth or from the beginning of your board game career is certainly not a reason to buy the new edition. Hasbro has only reissued the start of sales under the Avalon Hill brand: the board game itself has remained largely untouched. You will probably only spend around 120 euros plus costs for expansions if you are a real fan, don't know the board game yet or are a collector who has to have everything anyway.

HeroQuest in German: Dice through the dungeon

The 2021 edition of HeroQuest, which is now available in German, is primarily aimed at newcomers or returnees. The latter draw part of the fun from the nostalgia factor - but overall it shows that HeroQuest is still surprisingly entertaining despite its comparatively simple mechanism for exploring and fighting dice and seems to fit perfectly into the modern age of board games. With its campaign based on classic fantasy adventures and the lean rule design, HeroQuest is a kind of deceleration.

HeroQuest Board Game Review

Red and white dice: Numbers as well as "Skull" and "Shield" decide everything. Photo: Volkman

The training period is short, even with complete ignorance of the around 30-year-old cult brand. Choose heroes, grab dice and off you go through the dungeon. There is one important difference: instead of having to fill the role of Obermotze with a real player, the group of players can use an app, which then also acts as a narrator.

The better choice, however, is to designate a player who maneuvers the monster hordes across the board in the name of Zargon, because even with functioning AI minions, the challenge can be significantly greater. Nevertheless: HeroQUEst in German, including an app with English soundtrack and localized texts, is an attractive combo that is not only modern, but also a good addition.

Dungeon crawling like back then

HeroQuest and StarQuest gave birth to the dungeon crawler board game genre. Today there are prettier and also significantly more complex representatives in this game category, at least the fantasy grandfather does not have to hide behind the competition, because HeroQUEst is still attractive today. Nevertheless, some weaknesses are obvious: the miniatures are numerous, but in terms of quality they can only partially keep up with similarly priced miniature board games; the furniture for the dungeons - including the torture rack, bookcases, chests or rats - on the other hand, are much better than the hard plastic monsters, which are detailed but also susceptible to damage - the factory inlay also does not help to handle the material with care be able. The miniatures are pressed so firmly into the crackling plastic that it takes barbaric force to release the figurines, some of which have filigree plastic elements.

Board game review HeroQuest

In the beginning there was the plastic: HeroQuest is a battle of materials, but in the production of the models one could have relied on more quality. Photo: Volkman

This usually takes longer than the actual start, because HeroQuest completes it almost without any preparation. This is one of the great strengths of the newly launched nostalgia title: entertainment unfolds almost immediately.

However, you have to have a penchant for extended dice throwing: You have to throw dice for movement range, for using potions or firing magic spells and for fighting anyway. Nothing works without the red and white dice in HeroQuest - if you want, you can buy custom dice to bring the gaming experience into a different balance. Where dice fly, the luck factor is usually noticeable - this is also the case with Hasbro's fantasy dungeon crawler. This is easy to do, but also eliminates part of the game strategy. There are approaches when it comes to magical support, exchanging equipment or the correct positioning of the heroes in order to unleash the maximum number of attacks on the opponent per round. However, because the dice decide again and again, the success of some measures cannot be predicted.

line of sight!

Players pay for the simplicity of HeroQuest with less efficiency in tactical decisions. You have to like that. However, the rules, which are broken down to the basics, are not an obstacle to fun and entertainment: the recurring skirmishes unfold their appeal because exploring the dungeon levels, collecting treasures and fulfilling the game goals tell of character progression. You act correspondingly prudently in order not to send your heroes to ruin, so that you can continue to lead them into the field in the following adventures.

HeroQuest board game review

With HeroQuest, the player sees what the heroes can see. Only Zargon knows everything from the start. Photo: Volkman

Working your way from room to room not knowing what will happen next is exciting even with the simple gameplay concept. The highlight of HeroQuest was and is the contrast between the omniscient narrator and main villain and the unsuspecting group of heroes who only recognize danger when they actually get into the characters' line of sight.

The idea of ​​"players see what heroes see" is as simple as it is ingenious - even today. The heroes feel their way forward, if possible as a group; Zargon lurks until his minions are revealed, allowing him to cause direct confrontation. If the boss is lucky, the heroes will fall into traps or summon roaming monsters through their overly greedy treasure hunt. It's all fun and appealing without being overly complex. Playing HeroQuest means consciously reducing your enjoyment of the game to the essentials: Lots of fights, a bit of tactics on the surface, and lots of luck with the dice. 

Whether or not you enjoy HeroQuest depends in part on expectations, far more so than modern board games, which most of the time - except based on a few opinions - you have little expectation. You can tell that the dungeon crawler is around 30 years old: the game isn't the finely polished chunk of rules, but rather a gritty guarantee of fun. At the end of the eighties games were much simpler, because Hasbro decided to remake HeroQuest and not to remake it, the fantasy board game has to carry exactly this burden.

Target group balancing act

You will look in vain for sophistication or elegant mixed mechanisms, and this is exactly what changes the target group in direct comparison to 1989. At that time, HeroQuest obviously appealed to board game enthusiasts with its idea and lavish equipment - that's different today: Primarily fans with a penchant for nostalgia become aware, otherwise HeroQuest is aimed at beginners who are making their first experiences with a dungeon crawler or perhaps with the miniatures -Want to start painting. However, HeroQuest does that surprisingly well: the 14 scenarios are about clichéd fantasy short stories, whoever buys the extensions can add another 20 missions. 

Test HeroQuest

The fun of the game can be extended with extensions - or your own creativity, because you can also invent your own adventures. Photo: Volkman

Today, HeroQuest shows experienced board gamers one thing in particular: How damn simple board games that were supposedly complex back then are against the background of modern rule constructions - and that in a genre that is not known for particularly cleverly designed mechanics anyway. 

HeroQuest is old, nostalgic, certainly not the best dungeon crawler of all time, but at least the most accessible today. That and the desire to be able to experience games like they were back then are two good reasons to bring the German version, including app enhancements, to the table despite its weaknesses. It's going to be entertaining. 

info box

Number of players: Solo / up to 5
Age: from 14 years
Playing time: 60 to 120 minutes 
Difficulty: medium
Long-term motivation: medium
Genre: RPG board game
Subgenre: Dungeon Crawler
Core mechanisms: positioning, rolling the dice, game tasks, cooperation

Authors: Stephen Baker (1989)
Illustrations: Gary Chalk, Max Dunbar, Les Edwards (1989)
Publisher: Hasbro/Avalon Hill
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2021/2022
Language: German
Cost: 120 Euro 


From today's perspective, HeroQuest in the German version is definitely not a playful revelation, it wants to be understood instead as an ode to the board games of yesteryear. One shouldn't hide the fact that with the publication of the title at the end of the eighties a genre was born that is still occupied today by partly outstanding games. It is not without reason that ideas with at least rudimentary dungeon crawler elements end up in the bestseller or hit lists. The urge to explore, to be surprised, coupled with blunt combat resonates. That was the case then and is still the case today - reason enough to find HeroQuest easy to find in its simplicity. 

Yes, the nostalgia bonus resonates and Hasbro uses it for its marketing. This isn't a bad thing, as emotions are mixed into the otherwise uninspiring gameplay, albeit on a different level. HeroQuest is mainstream today, back then it was for real nerds. The latter draw on the experiences of that time - the fact that HeroQuest was able to be a success around 30 years later is thanks to the good memories of the board game. Because players who had previously tried the dungeon crawler (or StarQuest, for example) have probably developed further in terms of play, the view of the quality of the game changes - it is still there, and distinct, but not more than enough the wow experiences of 32 years.

You can still have fun with Hasbro's newly launched fantasy plastic battle: precisely because it's so damn simple in times of increasingly complex board games. Unpack, briefly fly over the rules, distribute roles, get started. If you can fall back on an experienced Zargon, the standard course of study is almost completely eliminated. Players must always react to the surprises that the dungeon master - or alternatively the app - throws literally at their feet. These can be traps or monsters, here and there there is something to discover or treasures to salvage. In the end, the only thing that matters to the cooperative group of players is achieving the game goal that was set in advance, and there is usually only vague information about that. If HeroQuest encourages something in a playful way, it's RPG elements and the urge to discover. 

HeroQuest draws its great strengths from its simplification. You want to do something as a player? Take the dice!

In the end, the simplicity is a kind of misunderstood weakness, because on closer inspection, HeroQuest - supposedly revolutionary at the time - turns out to be a pretty clever concept: Monsters can appear suddenly, you only ever see part of the dungeon, you always have to during the mission making decisions again: Do you search for treasure and possibly summon roaming monsters, even though the power of the player group is exhausted and the goal has not yet been reached? As a mage or elf, do you let go of a spell that you only ever have one charge of? Do you already shop between two missions or do you save your gold for more powerful items? Should you split up to scatter opponents or go as a group and possibly get into a blocking position?

All the little mechanics are great for a fantasy game, they're great for a dungeon crawler, they're just "typical HeroQuest". You learn your lesson in the game in some missions, sometimes you lose. In direct comparison, HeroQuest is completely different from modern genre representatives on several levels. Most current dungeon crawlers rely on well-told, sprawling stories. Hero classes are worked out down to the last detail, with special skills and many equipment slots, opponents don't just hit it, they also have strengths and weaknesses, sometimes different attacks. Modern scenarios focus on themselves and not the players. The gameplay is different, so is the focus. The preparation can sometimes take 15, 20 or even 30 minutes - this is only a limited strength, because preparation time is not playing time. You also have to like that first in order to be able to get into such a game in the first place.

HeroQuest is the dumb warrior among fantasy games: lay down the game board and go. It ranks on the level of a family game - by the way, that was the case before, you just didn't want to admit it. 

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