All posts by J. Mackenzie Bodsworth

Fire of Wrath: The HeroQuest boardgame Relaunches!

HeroQuest was the boardgame that started it all for so many of us.

It was published in 1989 by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop, and in all the significant ways it defined the genre of accessible dungeon-crawl adventure games for kids. It remains beloved to this day, despite being out of print for decades and original versions fetching absurd prices on eBay.

Fueled by some combination of nostalgia and market research, game giant Hasbro have launched a crowdfunding campaign for a new release of the board game, but only for US and Canadian backers. It has been launched on Hasbro’s own crowdfunding platform – HasbroPulse – with the arguably modest target of $1 million in pledges.

Stretch goals which include new miniatures, more dice and an entire new QuestBook designed by original designer Stephen Baker, will all be unlocked at $2 million.

Right now, with a month and a half to go, more than $1.1 million has already been committed, so it is safe to say that this game will smash the crowdfunding targets, and likely see mass production worldwide. For those of us outside North America, we can anticipate the game on store shelves in time for Christmas 2021.

The genre has evolved significantly since 1989, and whilst I treasure the memories of late night sessions of HeroQuest with friends (and using the same minatures later for innumerable D&D adventures), I don’t think the original mechanics are going to stand up to the gamer market by modern standards. The 2012 game Mice and Mystics – a dungeon-crawler targeted at 7 year olds and frankly with a more engaging and age-appropriate theme – shares many of the design mechanics, but exceeds them in fun and memorable ways. The spiritual successor to Mice and Mystics – Stuffed Fables – was released by Plaid Hat in 2018, and is a quantum leap in terms of innovation and modern gameplay.

At the other end of the heavy cardboard spectrum, it would be tough to market the rebooted HeroQuest to a gamer audience that has since embraced the complexity and depth of Gloomhaven, the number one ranked boardgame (boardgame franchise?) worldwide with no signs of slippage in popularity.

But of course, this is not the target audience of the HeroQuest reboot. This is a sweet nostalgia hit, and given that it funded in less than 48 hours, it is a hit that will not be denied. HeroQuest was the inspiration and touchstone behind all of the dungeon-crawling games that have succeeded it, for designers and players alike.

And for me as well. I still do room reveals in tabletop roleplaying games exactly how I did 30 years ago playing as Zargon the Evil Sorcerer. The tension and suspense of opening a dungeon door is as thrilling to me now as it was then.

So the decision to remain as close as possible to the original game is a double-edged broadsword. There are welcome changes to the depiction of the genders of heroes and some of the monsters, and some of the Games Workshop lore has been removed for licencing reasons, but on first blush the mechanics and even the card art are deeply faithful to the fan base.

And while this will satisfy us Gen-Xers with fond memories, it is unlikely to hold up on its own merits against its contemporaries in the tabletop genre that have long passed it by on the trial it blazed.

Unique Tabletop RPG Mechanics: The Mystery Story in Tales from the Loop

One of my favourite tabletop roleplaying settings is suburban middle America in the 1980s. Think ET, Goonies, Stand by Me, and most recently of course, Stranger Things. There are two RPGs that capture the unique feel and experience of being part of a gang of misfit kids from the 1980s solving mysteries while fellow teenagers in your small town come of age: Tales from the Loop and Kids on Bikes. Continue reading Unique Tabletop RPG Mechanics: The Mystery Story in Tales from the Loop

Relaunch of Scott Pilgrim Minatures the World Kickstarter Defeats Its Own Ex

I was very impressed with professional way that Renegade Game Studio handled the cancellation and relaunch of the Scott Pilgrim Miniatures The World Kickstarter in response to community feedback this month. I’m quite sure this was no easy decision, but their willingness to listen and pivot their marketing approach is a critical lesson for others looking to kickstart their dream boardgame or tabletop project. Continue reading Relaunch of Scott Pilgrim Minatures the World Kickstarter Defeats Its Own Ex

Kickstarter for Nordic Horror Roleplaying Game Vaesen Fully Funds in 13 Minutes

Incredible results for Sweden’s Free League Publishing – who are most known in this House for Tales From the Loop RPG – who launched a Kickstarter campaign for Vaesen: Nordic Horror Roleplaying and had it fully funded in 13 minutes. Continue reading Kickstarter for Nordic Horror Roleplaying Game Vaesen Fully Funds in 13 Minutes

Unique Tabletop RPG Mechanics: House Creation in Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game

There is a certain ‘feel’ that people will be looking for when they decide to play a tabletop roleplaying game based on the Game of Thrones television series or A Song of Ice and Fire novels. You could easily imagine using a map of Westeros and some lore and plot points from the novels in a generic low-magic fantasy roleplaying game like Dungeons and Dragons. But there is a certain something about that setting that would be missing. Put most simply, players will want to play the ‘game of thrones’. Continue reading Unique Tabletop RPG Mechanics: House Creation in Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game

By any measure, Wingspan is the 2019 Game of the Year

With 120,000 copies sold and back-orders almost since the moment of printing, Wingspan is officially the number one bestselling board game of the 2019.

Designer Elizabeth Hargrave from Stonemaier Games was featured on the the radio program Here & Now (listen below), where she discussed the evolution and development of the concept. Continue reading By any measure, Wingspan is the 2019 Game of the Year

The Witcher Trailer has dropped, along with my jaw

Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt ranks as one of my favourite games of all time – and I’m not alone. The game has is critically and popularly acclaimed, having won over 800 awards – including 250 Game of the Year awards. In June 2019, developer and publisher CD Projekt Red announced that they had sold more than a staggering 20 million copies of the game. Continue reading The Witcher Trailer has dropped, along with my jaw

First Impressions of the Lost Mine of Phandelver

I must admit that I ignored the Lost Mine of Phandelver for the longest time, and it was only out of pure snobbery. “I have played D&D for decades,” I told myself, “Why would I demean myself with the purchase of a Starter Set?” The truth is that the Lost Mine adventure is actually really good, surprisingly so, and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do – introduce new players to the game of D&D through a compelling, diverse experience. Continue reading First Impressions of the Lost Mine of Phandelver