Thursday, 9 June 2011

Memories of: Advanced HeroQuest

This is a new category for games that I think have been overlooked despite there being at least a nugget of true greatness, even if it has bypassed the general community, I'm starting with:

Advanced Heroquest

OK, so quite a few people remember Heroquest, a simple boardgame by Milton Bradley with plastic miniatures and plastic/cardboard furniture. It introduced quite a few to the world of Games Workshop (well it introduced me!). Not many remember its grown up cousin Advanced Heroquest (or AHQ).

AHQ took the simplistic Heroquest concept (dungeon delving) and slapped on a 'Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing(WFRP) light' system onto it. Yes that's right, the somewhat clunky WFRP rules stripped down to bare essentials and slapped onto a boardgame. So you have Weapon Skill, Bow (Ballistic in WFRP) Skill, Strength and Toughness etc. that WFRP had but instead of 1-100 and 1-10 ranges you have 1-12 ranges and a d12 mechanic.

If it's so good why was it missed?
OK so you have a random dungeon delving system, and a few other boardgame conventions, but you do still have a WFRP-light system underpinning it all. As someone who loves the WFRP (at least the 1st ed) background, but who doesn't want all the complication of the WFRP system AHQ is a great substitute.

One of the things I like about some of the changes are a comparative rather than roll under mechanic, so a Weapon Skill 6 versus a Weapon Skill 8 opponent needs a 9+ to hit (basically 7+8-6). In WFRP when opponents frequently have skills in the 30s and 40s you can be swinging for quite a few combat turns before anyone hits anything, and while this may not be totally eliminated in a comparative system it does speed things up.

Another thing I like about a comparative system is that equal opponents are equally like to win, whereas in a roll under system (take high level GURPS for instance) you can literally be having a war of attrition, where unfortunately it is my will that is being reduced and not the combatants. In AHQ have a fight where there is a skill disparity and it is (generally) reflected in the results.

Don't get me wrong, it had its flaws:

Plastic doors on hinges that broke very easily (we used the Heroquest doors instead)
Plain room tiles that only had different tiling patterns on them
Poor-ish selection of minis, one Skaven model times about 40, but the henchmen and heroes were good
Some daft rules about monsters not being able to open doors (how the hell did they go to the toilet? Not that there were toilets anyway, are there ever?)
Flat terrain pieces, when you're used to 3D furniture from Heroquest it's a little let down (but again we just used the Heroquest ones we had)

Chuck in a few other interesting details like being able to hire henchmen to follow you into the depths, a random event chart that can affect you between adventures and the modular dungeon pieces so that no two dungeons are the same (at least design-wise) and you have a very good game that was sadly usurped by a showy relation and then a market that GW abandoned totally. I believe that those of you who want to investigate further that you can find a scan of the original rules on an Italian Heroquest site. For those of us that picked it up when it was around (and its one and only expansion) I think we have been truly fortunate. At some point I will look into it's usurper Warhammer Quest.

Until next time
Steve

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