#HeroQuest2019: Game on!

My quest to completely assemble and paint my vintage HeroQuest set has taken over much of my hobby time this year, as some of you may have noticed, but last week, the time had finally come to give the finished game set an actual spin.

Now for those of you who are not that much into HeroQuest – or who don’t even remember the days of yore when the game was first released – this may all seem a bit eggheaded and not all that interesting, for which I apologise. It has to be said, however, in terms of my personal hobby voyage, for lack of a better word, that this has really been a moment thirty years in the making, and that to be able to play a game of HeroQuest (with the full rules, no less) with a fully painted set that I have managed to complete myself does feel like a rather huge achievement.

Anyway, without further preamble, let’s get into the meat of this post: Annie and T. were awesome enough to join me for this special game night (cheers for that, guys!), and we decided to play a one-off game (at least for now), using the first quest from the second edition Quest book called “The Trial”

The quest is actually not entirely unproblematic as a starting point, because it’s much tougher than “The Labyrinth”, the beginners’ quest from the 1st edition of the quest book. While “The Labyrinth” features nothing tougher than a bunch of greenskins, “The Trial” pulls out all the stops and features just about every monster within the HeroQuest box, the dreaded Gargoyle included. However, this also makes it the perfect showcase game for HeroQuest, as it uses all of the monsters (and of the furniture) — what better way to make the most of my completely painted set, eh?

So I made some very small tweaks to the quest (including a house rule for searching rooms and added wandering monsters) and we were off: Annie and T. chose to play two heroes each, with Annie taking control of Tonriel Silkspinner (the Elf) and Braband the Fierce (The Barbarian), whereas T. would play Thorin (the Dwarf, obviously 😉 ) and Garo von Stein (the Wizard).

These four brave adventurers would boldly enter the catacombs of Verag the Gargoyle, slaying vile creatures and discovering priceless treasures along the way…

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, so let’s start at the beginning: Our journey started, as every journey does, with a first step:

The plot quickly thickened, however, as the heroes ventured out from their starting room, encountering the dungeon’s first denizens:

And they kept getting in more trouble by opening additional doors — just as planned 😉

Even at this early point, a streak of bad dice rolls already reared its ugly head, so the fights against the first couple of greenskins turned out to be more troublesome than expected. Little did the heroes know, however, of the monstrous legions arrayed against them:

For now, both the exploration and the fighting continued — and the first treasure chest was uncovered!


Braband the Fierce added another bead to his string of disappointments, however, when he discovered the chest he had fought so hard to reach turned out to be empty.

Thorin, on the other hand, needed some alone time and took a walk around the centre room of the dungeon.

…before coming to Tonriel’s assistance, since the elf had managed to disturb some more denizens of the dungeon.

Exploration moved to the upper left corner of the board — very much the home of a couple of undead horrors and of one of the quest’s “minibosses”, as it were.

Our heroes yet remained oblivious to this fact, but they were at least smart enough to team up before advancing further (and Braband even got in a second, more successful, attempt at emptying a treasure chest of its contents):

There was a collective intake of breath around the table as the fell guardian of Fellmarg’s tomb arose from his long slumber…

…only to be instantly KO’ed by a well-placed Genie spell:

Strangely fitting for a mummy champion to be knocked out by a Genie, come to think of it… Anyway, it may have been a short guest appearance, but the creation of a custom model was still totally worth it 😉

Shortly afterwards, Braband and Tonriel were hard at work running into yet more trouble a couple of rooms further down. And thanks to a spectacularly unfortunate dice results, the lowly Orc pictured below turned out to be much more resilient than he should have been — once again, that is…

Here’s a look at my fortress of evil as seen from the players’ perspective…

And here’s a look at Annie’s side of the table: Her experience with RPG groups and deck-building games is clearly evident in the efficient way she organised her materials… (just compare it to the utter chaos behind my GM viewscreen…):

In any case, the heroes had learned their lesson, electing to form a neat conga line for their further exploration of the environment.

Returning to the centre of the catacombs for what seemed like this quest’s inevitable showdown…

But wait, had our heroes managed to overlook a room towards the bottom of the board? “Come hither, Braband!”, called Tonriel, “’tis probably just more greenskin vermin in this room!”

“Oh sh….!”

The two chaos warriors and Fimir were vanquished, but not without taking a toll on the heroes’ HP: In fact, things were looking pretty dire at this point, with all heroes down to their last couple of HP and all healing spells and potions already used up.

So it was at the worst possible moment that the foul Verag’s lair was revealed:

But our heroes were nothing if not unconventional in their problem solving: Garo von Stein jumped right into the fray, as you would expect from someone with only one defense dice and only three more hitpoints to his name.

His audacity paid off, however, as Verag was instantly slain by a well placed Ball of Flame — while some of the heroes actions were slightly eccentric (bordering on idiotic), I have to admit they really made the best possible use of their offensive spells against dangerous targets!

Unfortunately, his advance had put the Wizard into a bit of a fix:

But he managed to dodge a full round of attacks, right in time for Braband and Tonriel to show up as backup and provide him with a clear route for a strategic escape.

It was a close call, but in the end, our heroes prevailed:

In fact, Thorin the Dwarf even chose to celebrate the occasion by dancing on the table — a bit rich, really, considering his less than stellar combat performance…

But in spite of everything, the heroes were victorious! They did manage to win by the skin of their teeth, though: One more round of combat could have produced the first hero casualties. For this reason, the heroes didn’t perform any further searching in the rooms that were left, but chose to end the quest then and there.

In all fairness, however, they did manage to vanquish quite a few monsters along the way:

So yeah, that was my first HeroQuest game in a long time — and definitely the first game using a fully painted set. So how does it hold up?

We actually had a blast, but then we’ve all grown up with HeroQuest, seeing the game as a bit of a gateway drug into the hobby. So there’s at least some nostalgia involved. There were many legitimately great moments, though: the surgical obliteration of the quest’s two most dangerous creatures by magic, for instance. Or Thorin’s inability to score a single hit on a consecutive five or six rounds: T. just didn’t roll a single skull, to his mounting frustration. On the other hand, the same skill also made him defend lots of damage when it really counted, keeping him alive longer than should have been possible:

“If you are defending, that’s an excellent result. If you are trying to kill something, not so much…”

But the fact remains that the game worked really, really well, in spite of being 30 years old. Granted, it was ever so slightly clunky in places and lacked some of the quality of life features we are all used to from more modern games — both of these problems were ameliorated by the fact that we were still (re)learning the ropes while playing, however, and so we were happy enough to be able to grasp the rules in a speedy fashion: They are really straightforward and robust enough to let you dive right into the game!

Thanks must also go to Annie and T. for indulging me in this venture. We had great fun, and to be able to serve as the evil dungeon master using my own toys again was a lovely, nostalgic moment — one that I hope we’ll be able to repeat sooner rather than later.

But that is a story for another time! For now, everything goes back into the box:

Before we tune out for today, however, let me say that I would love to hear any thoughts, feedback – or, indeed, old HeroQuest war stories – that you may have! Please feel free to leave me a comment below!

And, as always, thanks for looking and stay tuned for more!

12 Responses to “#HeroQuest2019: Game on!”

  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

    whoa.

    You’re not supposed to be able to *play games* with these things that we paint. That’s like seeing a unicorn.

    Seriously, mate – it looks amazing, and must feel just as good to finally have a game of a boardgame with all of the pieces painted, and to such a high level as well. I know others appreciate the aesthetic, but to play it with friends that also paint figures as well – who can truly appreciate the work and effort would kick it up another notch.

    I think congratulations are in order. Now time to kick it up a notch on all of those alternate characters and expansions! 😉 😀

    • Haha, I know, right? The thought of actually playing with these little plastic men almost seems sacrilegious 😉

      What I probably like best about this project, though – apart from it being a realisation of a lifelong hobby dream, that is – is the fact that I can consider it a finished project (in that I have the core set of the game finished), but I can keep adding stuff to it as the fancy takes me.

      Regarding the expansions, though, it’s something I would seriously love to do, but I am not quite prepared to sell a kidney so I can afford the aftermarket prices for some of those expansion models… 😦

  2. Fantastic to see all your hardwork be put to use where it should be- in the game. It must have been magical for you.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

    • Thanks, a lot, Pete! It was indeed magical — and also ever so slightly bittersweet, because the one thing we couldn’t actually get back was the feeling that there was never going to be a cooler game with a bigger scope. We know better nowadays, and a bit of that childhood wonder has been lost for good. But still, it was really awesome!

  3. Awesome mate – the holy grail of hobby!

    • Haha, cheers, Alex! Now onwards to other holy grails, such as owning a Realms of Chaos book or some Warhammer Quest models, or vintage plastic Adeptus Titanicus stuff, or, or…
      — come to think of it, I do still have an unpainted Sergeant Centurius kicking around… 😉

  4. I never managed to play warhammer or warhammer40k, but by looking at the rule books I always found them intimidating, while Hero Quest was – is- easy, straightforward, with no measurements to take, just dice rolling and cooperation, further to the curses because a goblin would often do more damage (much more) than a barbarian with a long sword 🙂

    • Yeah, exactly, raff: That was actually one of our main takeaways from the game: How quick and easy it was to pick up and play. The hilariously weird combat sequences were a slightly different matter, though 😉

  5. Great to see your first game with everything painted! Takes me back indeed! 🙂

  6. It looks grand to see all your hard work being played, hope you had fun playing!

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