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Author: gmj Three stars, 500 posts Old School Fool CAPS All Star Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 2767  
Subject: Review (sort of) - Heroscape Date: 11/28/2005 4:39 PM
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Recommendations: 10
Huh? Wait a minute. Is Glenn about to post his thinkerings about a game one can buy at Target? Good lord, is he insane? Doesn't he realize that this board is primarily concerned with oddball games that your average WalMartian and Targeteer has never even heard of before? What in the world could he be thinking?

Well, it's like this, see. We picked up this game for my son's birthday, even though the price was a bit of a shocker ($40US). It got pretty consistent reviews on the 'Geek, and from the back of the box the production value of the bits looked pretty good. Life's short, so what the hey, we bought it.

The Short Take: We like it. It is a simple game with a huge luck factor that satisfies. And it may be one of the most visually appealing games we have ever played. It has some issues, but the rules are so basically simple (even the "advanced" rules) that it's easy and worthwhile to add your own house rules as you go. Duel of Ages Lite. Very Lite - as in No Calorie.

The Slightly Longer But By No Means Long Take: Okay, I'd passed it by a number of times while browsing the lame game selection at Target. It just looked too goofy and kid-oriented. And I had been burned before by such craptacular titles as Bionicle (which may, incidentally, be the Worst Game Ever Made) and various Star Wars ripoffs (the exception being the fine Star Wars: Duels which is recommended). The box of the Master Set shows a robot firing some sort of cannon at a dragon. Yawn. It's always risky to mix genres.

But I did some Boardgamegeek research (which has some very good actual, you know, reviews of the game) and came away thinking that it might be worth a shot. What else was I going to do with that $45? Buy a videogame? Hah!

The box is kind of biggish, but I can assure you there is no wasted space within. Getting the pieces out without breakage was a worthy puzzle in and of itself. But those pieces are beautiful. Truly. The level of detail on the plastic figures is almost worth the purchase price alone. The figures are sturdy, not flimsy, and have hard plastic bases. They are well-balanced. They look good.

But the real prize is the playing "board". It is a series of various-sized interlocking hexagonal (did I get that right?) tiles that interlock in a hexagonal fashion. They also stack. And, frankly, there is a helluva lot of them. Usually in games of this sort the manufacturer hoses you with just a few such pieces to whet your appetite, then soaks you on "expansions" (there should be a crime for such cruel abuse of metaphors). Not so here. The number of tiles and their shape makes for limitless (although not mathematically so) possibilities of playing surfaces. Just building your own scenario boards is fun in a "let's see what else we can make with these Legos" sort of way. And even better, if you're into the whole miniatures-gaming thang, they can serve double-duty for that as well. We've even modified the Star Wars: Duels rules to use hexes rather than squares to take advantage of the tiles. Very cool.

The rules are, quite simply, quite simple. Move. Attack. Rinse. Repeat. You "draft" your army based on a point system (which seems a little unbalanced, to be fair (or "not" fair (or what they hell does that all mean?))) per the scenario instructions, set up your army, and begin. You can only move three of your "units" during a turn, said units being either individual unique heroes or squads of two or more figures. You can move a unit more than once during a turn. You move a unit, other side moves, you, them, you, them, end of turn.

Each unit has four qualities: movement, range, attack, and defense. Does it get any more old-school than that? Oh, yeah, also health. Which makes five. And if I wasn't so lazy, I'd go back and edit the earlier sentence to say that. And it would have been quicker than this explicating, too. Each unit has special magical or technological powers as well, either movement, rangeish, attacking, or defense orientated. The powers for the units make sense considering the unit's appearance.

The units range from kilted Scottish warriors (doont tell me how ta play tha game, laddie!) to futuristic cyborgs to dragons to ninjas to army men to Matrix-agents. Again, they all look great. They are different sizes, which comes into play for boards with multiple levels.

The line-of sight rules for the ranged units is kind of goofy. You've basically got to eyeball the unit to see if it can eyeball another unit. Which makes playing on the floor somewhat tricky (trust me).

You roll attack dice to attack, and defense dice to defend. Up to 10 (ten!) dice. The dice are six-sided. Attack dice have three skulls, and defense dice have two shields. The other sides are blank. Your attack number must exceed the defense number to score wounds. In other words, the very same breathtakingly simple game system mechanic that you thought you invented yourself when you were 10.

As a result, the luck factor is High. Do not buy or play this game if you don't like rolling dice. You will roll dice during this game. Lots of them. Repeatedly. From the very beginning until the very end. Of course, a sophisticated and witty gamer such as myself knows this going into the game, and tries to deploy his (or her - while there are no girls on the intarweb, some girls do play boardgames (although seldom ones like this)) units in such a fashion and pick such fights as will be advantageous.

The game plays quickly. More quickly, in fact, than setting up the playing area. For us it does not get boring, mostly because the individual unit's individual abilities always makes something interesting happen or possibly happen.

That said, here are my complaints:
1. The luck factor is high. Did I mention this?
2. The points on the cards do not seem particularly balanced. Some 110 point units are inferior to others, although this does not become apparent until you begin playing and begin to realize that the units you drafted sort of kind of suck.
3. Nowhere to store the game, as the box is rendered useless upon opening. Some of the larger tiles are awkwardly shaped for storage purposes (not much of a complaint, but hey, I'm all about warning about the warts, even petty ones!).
4. You can feel a little stupid playing it when company comes over.
5. No real "theme", just a mishmash of genres. There is a "story" included in the rules somewhere, but it is worthless.

I'm a little reluctant to flat-out recommend this game, so I won't. It's not that I haven't enjoyed playing it, I have. But it is not a Serious Game. It is a fun game, and one that seems very good to introduce kids (well, boys anyway) to gaming. I've mentioned Star Wars: Duels a couple of times because that game reminds me of this one. Except the Heroscape bits are superior in every way imagineable. You can buy expansion kits for the game, but they are not collectible (YAY!) and are not necessary other than to provide some variety. The expansions are packaged clearly, so you can see for yourself the level of detail on them. As an aside, one of the expansions has units called "Gorillanators". If "Gorillanators" aren't cool, then I just don't know what cool is.

As usual, peruse the 'Geek for a more comprehensive review, but with the Holiday Season coming up, I thought this was worth a mention.

As usual, your mileage may vary.

gmj
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