First Impressions: HEROICA – LEGO does a Dungeon Crawl

from Mark Jackson & Andrea “Liga” Ligabue

Mark Jackson:

While the official release of HEROICA™from LEGO Games happened on June 1st, somehow product began appearing at some Toys’R’Us stores on Memorial Day weekend. So, thanks to the magic of the U.S. monetary system, three of the four sets ended up in the very excited hands of, well, me. (And my boys – that’s right… I bought them for the 6 year old & the 9 year old. Just keep telling yourself that, Mark.)

What follows is not really a review but a series of first impressions & thoughts… so take it with a grain of salt.

Components

  • Having played other LEGO games, I knew what the microfigs looked like, but they still take a bit of adjustment after years of playing with mini-figures. However, the smaller scale allows the folks at LEGO to pack a lot of gaming punch into a pretty small space.
  • The modular design of passageways & rooms is nicely done – my boys & I began creating our own adventures pretty quickly.
  • For those of you who are wondering if you could build custom rooms/dungeons for the game, the answer is a qualified “yes”. In order to do that, you’ll need a lot of what LEGO calls “Plate 2×2 W 1 Knob” (which is currently only available from LEGO in grey.)
  • I have to say that I’m kind of in love with the LEGO dice. The interchangable face element doesn’t come into play here – but the springy-edged over-sized dice are just a lot of fun to play with.

Gameplay

  • The game is a pretty simple roll’n’move/roll’n’fight – this system certainly isn’t advancing the technology of dungeon crawling games forward. If you move next to a monster, you have to fight it. If you move over an object (gold, potion, treasure chest), you can/should pick it up.
  • There are 6 different hero types – each with a special power that is activated by rolling a particular symbol (a shield). The monsters, OTOH, are differientiated only by the amount of damage they can do to the players.
  • The base rules to the game have the players racing to reach a particular space – acquiring potions, gold (to buy weapons) & fighting monsters in order to get there. As usual, the whole “the guy who defeats the last monster just opens the way for the next guy to win” problem rears its ugly head.
  • The battle rules (where one player controls the monsters against the players) has worked MUCH better for us. We’ve played with the heroes working as a team & so far all the games have been close.
  • The epic rules (playing multiple games & keeping gold/weapons/potions from game to game) is a good idea but isn’t very well-developed.

Game System

  • There seem to be two competing design ideas operating here – the first is that each box of HEROICA be a playable game by itself. While I haven’t played the smallest box (Draida Bay), they seemed to have accomplished that with the other three sets (Waldurk, Nathuz & Fortaan).
  • OTOH, the sets are obviously designed to fit together. (For those too dense to figure that out on their, the maps included in the Waldurk & Nathuz sets show you how to build a 4-set monster board.)
  • HEROICA has the same feature/bug (depends on how you look at it) as the rest of the LEGO Games series: by leaving wide creative space for players to customize & change the game, they’ve left pretty big holes in the rules. This is especially true when you start combining the sets.
  • As of June 9th, the HEROICA portion of the LEGO website is online – but it’s still pretty bare bones. (No new maps or rules available.)

Summary

  • Even with all my questions/concerns about the “holes” in the system, I have to say that my boys & I have had a blast playing the game. It’s fast (our 3 set dungeon took about 30 minutes to play out), it’s fun & there’s nothing quite as cool as seeing two geeky things you love (Legos & board games) work together like this.

Andrea “Liga” Ligabue:

Since I have been working as a consultant for LEGO Italia with the LEGO Games series since September 2010, I wanted to add to Mark’s first impressions. Of course, I’ve been aware of HEROICA for a long time and have had the opportunity to play it a great deal.

First of all it has to be clear that the main target for HEROICA are kids age 8 to 12. Most of the “dungeon crawl” games on the market are not really suitable for kids and HEROICA fills that gap, offering a nice game experience with simple & easy rules.

Secondly, what LEGO has done with HEROICA, is actually to create a whole fantasy universe with a main plot, main characters, battles and monsters. These 4 games form a Saga…

Once upon a time there was a great place named Kingdom of Ennon. The king and his knights watch it from Castle Fortaan.         

The Kingdom of Ennon was protected on all fronts by natural barriers with mountains to the north and west, the open ocean to the east, and a mighty river to the south.
On a dark day the monsters arrived and invaded the Kingdom: the Goblin King settled in Castle Fortaan installing his General in the Draida Bay while the Dark Druid took over Waldurk Forest and the Golem Lord the Caverns of Nathuz.

The Barbarian and the Wizard start from the Drandora port to free the Kingdom of Ennon and recover the ancient relics. Their first battle is against the Goblin General in the Draida Bay, the only access to the Kingdom. After that the Barbarian meet the Druid and the Ranger and fight the Dark Druid in the Waldurk Forest. Together with the Wizard and the Rogue, they go deep in the Caverns of Nathuz to beat the Golem Lord and finally the Barbarian, the Druid, the Wizard and the Knight fight the Goblin’s King in Castle Fortaan.

With these 4 boxes LEGO opens the gates for a fantasy universe and starts to write the story of HEROICA. The Kingdom of Ennon is just the last Kingdom to fall and the first to be freed …

Concerning the rules: LEGO really tried to keep them much simple as possible leaving space for lots of customization. Of course, keeping the rules short and compact sometimes leaves room for some misunderstading.

I also agree that the best way to play, at least for people with a gaming background, would be with the Battle Rules where the monsters really play a big part.

What I’m sure of is that HEROICA offers a great degree of customization, starting with ability to design your own scenarios. It’s also very easy to created “advanced” rules. You can combine the boxes in the suggested manner or simply create your own new story.

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About Mark "Fluff Daddy" Jackson

follower of Jesus, husband, father, pastor, boardgamer, writer, Legomaniac, Disneyphile, voted most likely to have the same Christmas wish list at age 44 as he did at age 14
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9 Responses to First Impressions: HEROICA – LEGO does a Dungeon Crawl

  1. Doug says:

    This looks totally cute for my gaming nearly-three-year old (loves playing “Elephants” (Jaeger und Sammler) and “Cubes” (my spare box of wooden bits)). I hadn’t heard of this one, and looked rather sceptically at the other Lego games out here… will keep an eye out.

    Can you recommend any of the other Lego games, Mark? The Moonbase one and the two Knizia ones in particular?

    • Mark Jackson says:

      Monster 4 is decent fun – esp. at the cheap price ($7) I paid for it. In general, the ones I’ve played (Monster 4, Lava Dragon, Atlantis Treasure & Creationary) are all playable games that (a) invite creative tweaking and (b) consequently feel underdeveloped and incomplete. if you can handle (b), they are fun little games made out of Legos.

      I think Heroica (which has some of the same issues) is the first of these games I’ve really taken to…

  2. Colin says:

    Some great info here! Thanks :-) it sounds like there may be further sets or products in the future. I sure hope so. So far I’ve picked up Draida Bay and Caverns of Nathuz and I’m looking forward to building (sorry, lol) on those adventures.

  3. Terry says:

    Thanks for the review of my now favorite LEGO system. As you said, the Heroica series becomes an excellent base from which to start your own module ideas (I have already got 3 in the design phase). You sound like a man after my own heart and I appreciate your take on Heroica. I would like to hear more.

  4. Bob Bone says:

    Hello,
    First off great review. I already had a feeling I was going to like the Heroica system but now I’m more excited about it. I’m part of an RPG group for long time gamers (most of us are late 30’s to early 40’s) where the GM’s sometimes have life issues come up that prevent them from making it to the meetings. Heroica looked like it would be a fun, quick and easy to learn RPG light game that would make a good filler for those times. One thing I am wondering about though is could the rules be used with the standard sized minifigs on to scaled size boards? It seems like it should be able to do that (maybe with a little tweaking) but just wanted to double check. Should Heroica become a popular filler game for RPG night it may get graduated to a regular game with on-going characters.

  5. Mark Jackson says:

    Colin: according to my 10 year old son, who stays up on Lego happenings, it looks like they’ll be introducing new games to the Heroica system (based on his monkeying around on their website). This is NOT official, mind you.

    Terry: this isn’t much more to tell… some folks on the Geek have come up with some really nice alternative combat systems (one yesterday involved using multiple dice that I really want to try). I need to check their website again to see if the appropriate plate bricks are available.

    Bob: I think Heroica’s an excellent choice for RPG filler… though with the new expansions just being released (along with the 2nd edition of the game), I’d highly recommend you check out Catacombs.

  6. I love it when individuals get together and share opinions.
    Great blog, sticfk with it!

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