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Heroica: Fortaan» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Heroica -- Fun in the Dungeon rss

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K. David Ladage
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Cedar Rapids
Iowa
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Heroica
By: Nicolas Assenbrunner; Cephas Howard; Thomas Robert Van der Heiden
Published: LEGO
Web: http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Draida-Bay-3857;jsessionid=R4MADeOPG6jdKzTrBiu21Q**.lego-ps-4-4?c=LEGO-Games-ByTheme
===

Note: This review is for the Heroica Line of Games, not just the Castle Fortaan portion of the system. Heroica is, in effect, a simple LEGO gaming system; as such it is far more than the sum of its parts.

A Brief History
If you have been reading my reviews, you know that I have a couple of boys (I have a daughter too, but she is in college 1500 miles away, so I do not get to interact with her as much as her little brothers). My boys are 6 and 8 years old. As such, it is not hard to imagine that LEGO is a major part of their lives. These kids love all things LEGO. Which is fine with me; I personally think LEGO is the best toy around -- it is a toy that can become virtually any other toy you can imagine. Great stuff.

So, when I first saw the U-Build line, it was with U-Build Sorry. It is a little disappointing, but has some promise. I started looking for other U-Build games and managed to stumble onto something even cooler -- LEGO was making games themselves!

My first thought was shock, in a way. Steve Jackson (of Steve Jackson Games) created a LEGO Pirate ship game a long time ago and LEGO was not interested in making games from their toy line... or so the story goes. It always seemed to me that LEGO was one of those toys that just screamed "make a game out of me!"

After all, if a deck of cards is the portal to a million card games, then LEGO can be seen as the portal to a million board games. And the board games have begun. My family's first entry into the LEGO Board Game arena was Pirate's Plank -- more on that one in another review. But the second LEGO produced game is HEROICA. And this one has left quite an impression!

If you build it...
In the Heroica line, you have four published regions. Note, I did not say that you have four games -- I said regions. And that is what they are. Each region has its own feel -- color scheme, monsters, overall look and feel. But the rules are constant between the products.

Granted, in the smallest one of the line (Draida Bay) includes only two 'classes' of character (Barbarian and Wizard), and an abbreviated character sheet (a LEGO construct called a 'Hero Pack'); it has one type of potion (a healing potion), two kinds of monsters (Goblins and a Goblin King), and so on. Each of the other regions (Nathuz, Waldurk, and Fortaan) all include more stuff that can be added in -- new classes (Knight, Thief, Druid...), a larger 'Hero Pack' to accommodate the weapons that are added in, new monsters (spiders, werewolves, bats), new potions (speed, strength, luck), gold used to buy weapons... you get the idea. Each region is a stand alone product that functions perfectly well alone. But where they truly shine is when you get all four and put them all together!

Game play is relatively simple. You have a LEGO die in each set. This die has a 'shield' side that acts as a 'special effect' roll. There are two sides with '3', two sides with '2', and a '1' to round it out. On these sides, in addition to the pips, are symbols -- on the '3' sides is a 'sword' that indicates 'victory' in combat (you have defeated the monster you are fighting); on the '2' sides is a LEGO skull that indicates 'defeat' in combat' (you lose one or more health points, of which you start the game with four); on the '1' side is both symbols which indicates a bit of a Pyrrhic victory (you defeat the monster, but lose one or more health points).

On your turn roll the die. You may move the number of spaces equal to the side's pip count. If you move adjacent to a monster at any time, stop and fight him! In combat, roll the die and deal with the symbols described above. Each monster has 'one health' effectively, and will be removed from the game if defeated. The monsters have a strength rating that indicates the amount of damage they deal if you are defeated by them. If you have 0 health, you are temporarily incapacitated and must rest (rolling each turn and recovering health equal to the pip count) until you have all four health back.

With the exception of the 'shield' side of the die, this is about as complex as the game gets. The shield side, when rolled, does different things depending upon the circumstances. For example, if you roll the shield on your movement roll, this means that you can move four spaces OR you may activate any ability the character has that is listed as being 'ranged' in nature. If you roll the shield on a combat roll, this means you have defeated the monster OR you may activate any ability that the character has that is listed as being 'melee' in nature.

Examples of abilities are:

Wizard (Ranged) The wizard may defeat any monster within 4 spaces; even around corners!

Barbarian (Melee) The barbarian may defeat all monsters he is adjacent to at the time and move one space after!

And so on, each character class having its own ability. In the medium-sized and larger sets, weapons are available. If you collect 3 gold, you can buy a weapon. Each weapon provides the character with another ranged or melee ability -- some of which allow the character to mimic the abilities of another class (effectively becoming a multi-classed character).

The game ends when the last 'boss' monster in the game you are playing has been defeated. The winner is the player that defeated the most boss monsters (in case of ties, gold settles the score).

You ain't seen nothin' yet!
The game is very fun. But it was right after the first game that my 6-year old ran into his room and made several more colors of potion stating that we needed more, and some that did new things. Fortunately, the structure of the game is such that it is practically begging you to write house rules! And so, our next two games were in dungeon scenarios that we designed ourselves -- complete with rules for wandering monsters, teleport, and so on. We are having a blast!

Conclusions
LEGO has a winner here. This is one of those things that they should spend some time expanding. However, a few things seemed off to even my 8-year old.

For example, the strength level of a monster indicates how much damage it deals. But it is no more difficult to defeat. As a result, the boss monsters can seem a bit anti-climactic. Fortunately, this is not difficult to fix.

Some of the areas of the Fortaan scenario were counter-intuitive; the magic gates needed to be 'opened' from spaces that were a bit distant from the gates themselves. So, it was obvious that you did not want to be the guy that opened the gate; you wanted to be the guy standing next to the gate when someone else opened it. Given that the boss is behind these gates... it was puzzling how to get the gate open and get in without someone else stealing your thunder...

But these things aside... and they are very minor things ...the rules are such that one time through them my 6-year old was competent at playing it. The game play was such that both the kids were engaged, I was engaged, and my wife was engaged. We all had a great time playing it... and they have asked when we will play again.

Soon kids, soon. This one is a keeper.
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Markus
Finland
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Thanks for the review! I'm still undecided if Heroica is something I should get into or if it is just too simple for me.
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Matthew Collier
United States
Plattsburgh
New York
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my 4 year old son and I just love Heroica because it does indeed scream custom content/house rules
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K. David Ladage
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Cedar Rapids
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DeePee wrote:
Thanks for the review! I'm still undecided if Heroica is something I should get into or if it is just too simple for me.


If you have kids that are not quite ready for a more complex game, this is one I highly recommend. If you have kids that are ready for a more complex game, but you want one that is a bit of a family game having a lower rules count for occasional games, this is one I highly recommend. If you want a family game where the gamers and non-gamers can all play with some LEGO toys and not feel too guilty, this is one I highly recommend. If you are looking for a simple game where half the fun is assembling it, this is one I highly recommend.

If however, you are looking for a game for established gamers who are old enough to get more complex rules, and you do not want to spend a lot of time setting up the game... then this is one I would tell you to take a pass on.
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K. David Ladage
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MCollier wrote:
my 4 year old son and I just love Heroica because it does indeed scream custom content/house rules


Yes it does.

My six year old made several new potions.

The eight year old wanted to figure out a way to have monsters with more than one health and so he found a few small, relatively distinct LEGO pieces in his collection to put on the board near the monster so that it takes more than one combat round to kill it (each sword result does one damage to the monster, each skull result deals one damage to you and ends your turn as you are forced to move back one). It works well and we can have boss monsters with high health levels!
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Long Island
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This line seems great for the 10 and under crowd.

Once they go beyond that, well, its time to go beyond...
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Kwerve Supper
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New Mexico
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I've been playing Heroica: Waldurk with my four-year-old daughter and we have had a blast. As already mentioned above, we've also immediately started tinkering with the rules: our variants involve more gold (1 per monster killed) and lots of experimentation with the setup rules and board designs.

The ruleset is very basic and I find the weapons only keying off shield rolls a bit limiting (as that doesn't generally come up very often), but Heroica really is a fun little toolkit.
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Luke Walker
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KDLadage wrote:
For example, the strength level of a monster indicates how much damage it deals. But it is no more difficult to defeat. As a result, the boss monsters can seem a bit anti-climactic. Fortunately, this is not difficult to fix.


In Draida, the treasure (Crystal of Deflection) is used to give the boss an extra life. I would do the same in any of the one off sets scenarios.
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Geoff Hardy
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KDLadage wrote:
MCollier wrote:
my 4 year old son and I just love Heroica because it does indeed scream custom content/house rules

The eight year old wanted to figure out a way to have monsters with more than one health and so he found a few small, relatively distinct LEGO pieces in his collection to put on the board near the monster so that it takes more than one combat round to kill it (each sword result does one damage to the monster, each skull result deals one damage to you and ends your turn as you are forced to move back one). It works well and we can have boss monsters with high health levels!

Awesome! Another idea would be to stick extra pips (1x1 flat round studs?) either under the boss monsters, or on their heads to represent the additional hitpoints.

I just discovered this line and picked up the smallest set. I haven't yet played it but I'm already thinking about how to incorporate it with Minotaurus (another LEGO game). Imagine battling a minotaur in his shifting maze! Throw in some wandering monsters and traps and whallah!
 
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SleepleSS Pandemonium
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When I Bought Heroica I also bought Ramses Pyramid, so I could add Mummies to my Heroica games! And the christalls can be used to make even more potions! (Most Heroica sets come with some spare round 1X1 pieces, that can be used as caps!)

If only I could think of a way to convert that nice Pyramid to a Heroica Level... One day I will!
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Eldar Closer
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Using 1x1 round plates (BrickLink code 4073) for helmets could work as one spare hit point: just use the rules for Crystal of Deflection.
Color Pearl Light Grey works best for this purpose.

As for the original Crystal, just replace it with a 'normal' helmet after the first hit, for a 3 hit monster.
 
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