This year marks the 25th anniversary of my favourite dungeon crawl board game. I’m like a lot of nerds of a similar age; HeroQuest got me into RPGs, wargaming, non-traditional board games… along with Space Crusade, Milton Bradley’s board game of high adventure in a world of magic helped to shape me into the person I am today, for better or worse.
To celebrate this, I’ve dug out my old, battered, picked-up-in-a-boot-sale copy, and dusted it off so it can see the light again. However, as this year marks the quarter-century birthday of this old gem, I’m doing something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. A few years ago, I started to buy new GW models to replace the dated original figures. A bit of creativity was required; Black Orcs replaced Fimir, Grave Guard replaced Mummies, and a Bloodletter champion with a suitable stone paint job made for an imposing Gargoyle. I’d also been lucky to get my hands on the Warhammer Quest plastic heroes, so I had an awesome Barbarian, Dwarf, Elf, and Wizard.
However, buying all those GW models got expensive quickly (duh), and eventually I gave up on the project.
And then Super Dungeon Explore came along.
Super Dungeon Explore is a dungeon crawler from Soda Pop miniatures, and comes with a host of gorgeous chibi-style animesque models. I’ve found the actual game itself sub-par, but to be honest, the box full of awesome models makes up for that. So, here was stage 1 of the plan; SDE models used for HeroQuest! For heroes, there’s a Barbarian, a Dwarf, an Elf, and a Wizard, so no problems there. As for monsters, well, it’s not hard to substitute the various kobolds for orcs, goblins, and fimir. The various baby dragon monsters can stand in for skeletons, zombies, mummies, and Chaos warriors, though the Von Drakk Manor expansion is on my shopping list so I can get some “proper” undead.
So, that’s models sorted. The next problem to present itself is the rules system. Unfortunately, I lost my funky Heroquest skull-and-shield dice a while ago. Now, I could order a new set from eBay, or get some blank dice and mark them up myself. However, I feel that a tweaked rule set is in order for the old girl’s 25th.
For those of you that don’t know, HeroQuest has the most bare-bones rules. On a Hero’s turn, they can move (roll 2d6 and move that many spaces), and perform an Action (fight, cast a spell, or search for traps and treasure). So far, so good. When a Hero fought a monster, the attacker rolled combat dice equal to his Attack stat, and the defender rolled combat dice equal to his Defence stat. Combat dice were D6s marked with 3 skulls, 2 white shields, and 1 black shield. If you were the attacker, you wanted skulls. If you were the defender, you wanted shields (white for Heroes, black for monsters). Each shield rolled by the defender cancelled out a skull rolled by the attacker, and the defender would then take damage and lose Body Points (health) equal to the number of uncancelled skulls. Seeing as all monsters only had one Body Point (at least in the European version of the game), they were ridiculously fragile; with only a 1-in-6 chance of rolling a black shield, even Defence 4 Mummies were a breeze to destroy.
Inspiration came when I was browsing the sadly-left-to-wither-and-die Iron Archives website; specifically, the Games section. I really liked the simple but effective Die-Con system that Sean Patten invented, and wondered how I could transfer a similar system to my HeroQuest project.
So, without further ado, here is the main revision to the old HeroQuest rules; the Contest.
Combat, exploration and hazards are handled by using an opposed dice roll system called Contests. Each participant in the contest (the attacker and defender in a combat, the Hero and the Evil Master in an exploration or hazard) simultaneously rolls a number of Dice equal to the respective characteristic; whoever has the highest result amongst all Dice rolled is the winner of the contest. Do not add the Dice results together! Each participant in the Contest is looking for the highest individual Dice roll only.
When a Hero or Monster makes an attack against another model, that Hero or Monster is the Attacker and their target is the Defender. Combat is resolved as a Contest; the Attacker rolls their Attack vs. the Defender’s Defence. The Attacker wins draws. If the Attacker wins, the Defender loses 1 Body Point. If the Defender wins, it takes no damage and is unharmed.
(Example: The Dwarf makes an attack against a Kobold Knucklehead. The Dwarf is the Attacker, and has Attack 2. The Knucklehead is the Defender, and has Defence 2. Both roll 2 dice, and compare results. The Dwarf rolls a 2 and a 5, while the Knucklehead rolls two 4s. The Dwarf has the highest dice result – 5 – and wins the Contest, inflicting 1 Body Point of damage on the Knucklehead. Remember, do not add the dice results together! Even though the Knucklehead rolled a total of 8 compared to the Dwarf’s total of 7, remember you are looking for the highest individual dice roll only!)
Searching for Treasure
When a Hero chooses to Search for Treasure, it is a Contest; the Hero rolls their Senses vs. the Evil Master’s 2 Dice. The Evil Master wins draws. If the Hero wins, they find their choice of an Alchemist’s Bomb, Lucky Coin, or Potion.
If the Hero loses the Contest and rolls at least one “1”, the Evil Master places the Quest’s Wandering Monster appears in an unoccupied square adjacent to them! If there is no unoccupied adjacent square, the Wandering Monster doesn’t show up.
When a Hero lands on a Trap square and they were not aware of the Trap, they are attacked automatically. If a Hero lands on a Trapped square that they were aware of, they can avoid harm as a Contest; the Hero rolls their Senses vs. the Evil Master’s 2 Dice. The Evil Master wins draws. If the Hero wins, they are unaffected, and the Trap activates harmlessly; remove the Trap counter. If the Hero loses the Contest, they trigger the Trap.
So that’s the Contest rules in basic. But some of you may be wondering “Senses? I don’t remember that from the original!”. Well, I’ll explain about that in my next post, when we’ll be looking at the Heroes, old and new, of the Quest.