I already planned on posting about HeroQuest this week before Adam (of the most-excellent Dispatches From Kickassistan) made it even more pertinent with his HeroQuest via Roll20 proposal. It’s really quite a fitting first (non-map) post of the holiday shopping season for this new-ish blog of mine. During a late fall journey to Caldor, ostensibly to get some winter clothes, I ventured into the board game aisle and first encountered what would be the premier item on John’s Christmas List, 1990 edition.
It had a cover that looked like one of the Endless Quest books I constantly checked out of the library. It came with a ton of little plastic guys that looked like the monsters in the instruction manuals for The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Warrior. It was, in short, THE COOLEST THING I HAD EVER SEEN.
Since I didn’t have any older siblings, and the only older cousin who might have been into RPGs lived a thousand miles away in Florida, I hadn’t had any encounters with D&D outside of its value as a 1980’s merchandising brand. When Christmas morning finally came and I tore open that box and flipped through the rule books, I was simultaneously enthralled and intimidated. The game was detailed and seemed so complicated; it sounds funny now given what a great intro set it really was, but with no frame of reference I struggled a bit at first.
For example, the first time I played the game was just a few days later with a friend down the block. I hadn’t yet grasped that the game was designed for the whole party of heroes to be used, regardless of the actual number of players. So I had him pick a single hero to run through the first quest, and of all the characters, he picked the wizard. Suffice to say that we were left with the impression that this game was brutally goddamn tough.
Of course, everything gelled after a while, and I also got more friends to play. HeroQuest made it a whole lot easier to understand D&D when I finally came across it, that’s for sure. It filled a niche that the recently re-released Dungeon! did for a lot of gamers in the late 70s and early 80s. The legacy of these games carries on through contemporaries such as Descent and WoTC’s dungeon crawlers.
Interestingly though, from when I started playing D&D in 1993 until about 1997, RPG combat was purely “theater of the mind” style in our groups. When it finally did occur to us to try using miniatures (a style I still prefer), I suddenly realized that I had a ton of monster minis ready to go! I had even already painted a few simply for the practice after my first brushes with Warhammer (a game I never fully embraced). I actually started on Battle Masters models, which was easier as they were even less detailed. By the time I did my first few HeroQuest minis, I had the basics down. I leave you with two early paint jobs that remain close to my heart: