So, I picked up one of the sets for Lego’s new “board” game Heroica the other day. I spent a few minutes last night assembling the playing field for the Nathuz set, and then my oldest son and I gave it a shot today. (The game says 8+ as the age recommendation, but my son is 4. He didn’t have a significant problem playing the game though.)
The game is basically a simplified dungeon crawling game, in the same manner as HeroQuest, Warhammer Quest, or Descent. Each player has a character–in this set, you can be a barbarian, a rogue, or a wizard–and you go into the dungeon trying to find and defeat a bad guy. (I should note here that these games, like the other Lego board games, use their special playing pieces, and not actual mini-figs. If this used mini-figs, the game would be even more awesome.) Each turn, you roll a die for movement, and if you roll a shield, you can use your dude’s Ranged attack (if he has one, or a weapon that gives him one). When you move next to a monster, you roll the die to see who gets damaged/defeated. When you get next to a rock pile, you roll the die to see if you get past. When you find a treasure chest, you roll the die to see what’s inside. You get the picture.
Each player has a little Lego slab that has four red cones on it for health. Each time you roll poorly against a monster, you lose some of your health cones. When you run out of health cones, you have to roll the die each turn to see how many health cones you regain, and when you are fully healed, you can move and fight again. When you get treasure (gold cones or potions), you can stick them on your little Lego slab, too. I really liked this mechanic, as it keeps all your important stuff in one place, and attached.
I won our game. (Yay me for beating a 4-year old, eh?) But it came down to who could roll the better number at the end, as we both were getting our shots at the final monster. We had a lot of fun, and the game only took about 30 minutes for us to play. (I’m sure it would be considerably quicker with a child with more of an attention-span.)
So, what do I like about the game? I really like the fact that it’s made of Legos. They were always a favorite childhood toy, and I still love putting them together. I like the fantasy theme, and the brick choices and the playing pieces do a solid job of evoking a cartoony kind of dungeon. I also like how quickly the game plays. The game is also modular, and there are a few other sets already available.
What did I not like? Well, the game is pretty simple, so there’s not much strategy involved. The special powers are also not very effective. Even though each piece gets a special power for when they roll a Shield on the six-sided die, our special powers never came into play. You’re likely to only get into 3-4 fights during a game, so the chances of rolling a Shield (1 in 6) on one of your melee attacks is rather slim. (The barbarian character, for example, has a special power that lets him defeat all adjacent monsters when he rolls a Shield, but in our scenario, there was only one place on the board where he could actually be adjacent to two monsters at one time.) Also, the rules instruct you to place defeated monsters on your Lego slab, but I never could figure out why you need to do so in a one-shot game. (In the “campaign” rules, you get points for monsters, and after so many runs, the person with the most points wins.) Also, some of the special powers of the weapons aren’t that good. (And the dagger duplicates the rogue’s special ability–poor rogue.) And finally, it seems like you wind up getting enough coins to actually buy weapons far too late in the game. In our two player game, we didn’t get enough coins until we only had two monsters left on the board.
However, this seems like a game designed for house rules. I imagine that someone with a big collection of Legos could make one hell of a mega-dungeon for these little dudes. Here are some house rules I came up with that haven’t been playtested, but seem like they could be fun:
* You can trade the monsters you kill in for gold coins at the shop. Maybe 1 coins per point of damage they cause.
* You can spend a monster you’ve killed to re-roll the die.
* You can spend (eat?) a monster you’ve killed to heal one wound.
* More potion types. Maybe a teleportation potion? Or an invisibility potion that lets you move past one monster?
I’m curious about what the characters from the other sets can do. This was a great game to play with my son, and I hope to do so again soon. Would the rest of my gaming group (the Rotgut Manglers) like it? Probably not. But the next time we’re in the mood for a dungeon crawl, and I don’t want to lug out Descent’s bazillion pieces, we might just give it a try.
Here’s another review on a different expansion by Castles and Cooks:
And another from Opinionated Gamers: