Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Game 198: HeroQuest (1991)

Even the title screen can't decide if there's a space between the words. I'm going with the main title.
HeroQuest (with Return of the Witch Lord expansion)
221B Software Development (developer); Gremlin Graphics Software (publisher)
Released 1991 for Commodore 64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum and DOS; 1993 for Acorn; Return of the Witch Lord expansion released later in 1991 for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64; bundled package released 1992 for Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, and ZX Spectrum
Date Started: 9 August 2015
Date Ended:
9 August 2015
Total Hours: 4
Reload Count: 0
Difficulty: Very Easy-Easy (1.5/5)
Final Rating: 19
Ranking at Time of Posting: 42/196 (21%)
To call HeroQuest "bad" would give it a status it doesn't deserve. It is inadequate. Unworthy of notice. MobyGames codes it as both a role-playing game and a strategy game, but it really is neither. There's no character development to qualify it as an RPG, and no actual strategy to qualify it as a strategy game. It is literally nothing more than a computer version of a board game.

The board game in question, bearing the same name, was published by Milton Bradley and Games Workshop in 1989. Thematically, it uses Games Workshop's "Warhammer" wargame setting, first published in 1983. (After HeroQuest II, we'll next see it in a CRPG in 1996's Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat.) I've never played it, and attempts to get a copy for this review revealed that used copies sell for a minimum of $400 and go up to the thousands. I gather from online descriptions that it pit one player (the game master) against one to four other players. The game master won if everyone else lost. I can see the board game being fun--the suspense of the roll of the dice, the social interaction--but it makes a frivolous and boring computer game.

The board game, full of rooms, corridors, enemies, traps, and treasure.

HeroQuest begins with a well-illustrated series of semi-animated screens establishing the game's setting. The characters' teacher, Mentor, tells of his former apprentice, Morcar. Too eager for knowledge, Morcar ignored Mentor's cautions and read Mentor's secret spellbooks at night. Once he had amassed great power, he fled to the Northern Chaos Wastes and conjured ancient powers to overthrow the empire. Defeated once by a party led by Rogar the Barbarian, Morcar retreated, licked his wounds, gathered a new army, and is on the march again.

One of the nice introductory illustrations.

The game is organized into a series of independent missions: 13 in the original game, and 10 in the Return of the Witch Lord expansion. Although they progress in a logical order, you can actually skip about them in any order and even replay the same mission multiple times. Each mission looks more or less the same: a series of rooms and hallways in which you explore, search for treasure, and fight monsters. The winning condition might be to find a particular artifact, kill a particular monster, or find an NPC and lead him to safety. The first character to find the exit having satisfied the winning condition wins the scenario. The scenario ends when all characters are out.

The original game's scenarios.
Each scenario begins with a description of the mission and its winning conditions.

Like the board game, the computer game is set up to allow one-to-four players to control one-to-four characters: a barbarian, a dwarf, an elf, and a wizard. The four characters act completely independently--competitively, even. They can't team up to fight enemies, although I suppose they could coordinate entry into rooms with multiple enemies. They can't trade gold or equipment. And no matter how hard they work, only one of them gets the big prize for the level. For these reasons, I found it easiest in most sessions to just play a single character.

While in a mission, each character's round starts with a random roll (represented by a spinning coin) that determines how many moves the character will get for that round. He can use those points to move around the screen, open doors, and move to other screens. Once per round, he can execute a special action: attack an enemy, search for traps and secret doors, and search for treasure. Viewing and using inventory items and viewing the map are actions that take up no movement points and can be done as often as necessary. When you're done with your movement points and special actions, you hit "End Turn" to move on to the next character.

The typical start to a HeroQuest turn. The icons in the lower left indicate that I can end my turn, unlock a door, search the room for traps and secret doors, search the room for treasure, or access my inventory. A map is available on the right. To expend my 11 movement points, I can click the floor tiles or click the arrows on the right.

Searching for traps, secret doors, and treasure applies to the entire visible room or corridor and not just the active square. I generally found it useful to search every area for both. That meant I had to spend at least two full rounds in each area because you can only search once per round. If the room had an enemy, I had to spend at least three full rounds there.

Treasures to be found in the various rooms may include gold, potions (e.g., healing, strength, speed), holy water, and quest items. Potions don't stay with the character between missions, so it's best to use them in the active mission. Gold stays with you.

The result of a treasure search.

Combat is the least interesting part of the game. You essentially just choose the enemy that you want to attack and watch as the computer rolls the hit dice and shows you the outcome: you miss the enemy, you hit the enemy but don't kill him, or you kill the enemy. (Combat takes place on a separate screen that just shows you and the enemy.) There are no tactics, except maybe to quaff a potion or two before a difficult battle.

I attack a skeleton. This screen is only up for a split second; the enemy just disappears in a puff of smoke if you defeat him.

Oh, I suppose the way you use movement counts as a "tactic." Enemies never leave their rooms, but they will inevitably attack you if you end a round in their room. You want to avoid that. So one tactic is to make sure you have enough movement points to exit the room after making your attack, in case the enemy survives. Overall, though, the combat system barely qualifies the game as an RPG under my rules.

The result of an enemy attacking me.

Elves and wizards get spells, and before each mission they have to choose which "book" to take with them: air, earth, fire, and water. There are three spells per book, including attack, defense, buffing, and navigation. I experimented with them a little, but as we're going to see, I found the game so easy that spells were an unnecessary addition.

Casting a spell on an enemy.

In between missions, characters can spend accumulated gold on a small selection of weapons and armor. The selection is small enough that it's possible to completely outfit a character after only a couple of missions.

A small selection of items in the shop. The bottom-right has a "tool chest" for disarming traps.

The first mission is "The Maze," presented as kind of a final training mission from Mentor. All you have to do to win is find the way out; the first character who does so gets an extra 100 gold pieces. You can linger longer, of course, and try to find additional treasures. There are a few orcs in the maze, but nothing serious.

The victory condition is simply to leave.

I played this level with all four characters and learned its quirks. Although the characters start with no weapons or armor, I didn't find the enemies remotely dangerous. I did determine that it was annoying to constantly switch among multiple characters, so once everyone was out, I kept playing the barbarian for the rest of the scenarios.

I moved on to the second scenario, "The Rescue of Sir Ragnar," which requires you to find Ragnar the Barbarian within the dungeon and lead him to safety. Ragnar becomes a playable character once you find him, but of limited utility since he can't do anything but move. The quest ends when you bring Ragnar to the exit. It took me maybe 20 minutes.


At this point, I had enough gold to buy all the weapons and armor that I wanted, so I started to wonder what all the other missions were about. In some of them, you can apparently find special artifact items that stay with the character and boost his abilities, but the game had been so easy so far that I decided to jump ahead.

Quest 11, "Bastion of Chaos," asked me to go into a dungeon and kill as many enemies as possible. I received a bounty of 10-30 gold pieces for each foe I killed. I stayed there for a little while, but I didn't really need the gold.

The goal of Quest 13, "Quest for the Spirit Blade," was to find...wait for it...the Spirit Blade, an artifact weapon capable of defeating the Witch Lord. (He's not mentioned in the background, but he's the big bad of the game and I guess an ally of Morcar.) It was just a matter of fighting past some undead, finding the right room, and searching for the blade.
The final quest of the original game, "Return to Barak Tor," has you confronting the Witch Lord with the Spirit Blade. I found him in a room full of skeletons. I buffed myself with a strength potion and then used holy water to kill his skeleton allies. The Witch Lord himself then died in a single combat round.

Oh, hey, guys!

Better get ready.
Say goodbye to the minions.
Attacking the witch lord. For whatever reason, you choose the enemy you want to attack from the map.
One-on-one combat.
Nothing special happened at this point, so when I returned to the menu, I looked at the expansion quests and skipped right to the last one: "The Court of the Witch Lord." Here's the setup:
The mission starts literally in the Witch Lord's throne room, with the character standing one space away.
I immediately entered combat and killed him in one blow.
Well, that was somewhat anticlimactic.
When I made my way to the exit, I got an "epilogue" screen indicating that the Witch Lord had been defeated. Further text indicated that someone named "Skulmar" escaped and remains a threat and Ragnar turned out to be a traitor and was executed--I assume these plot twists were elaborated in the missions that I skipped.
Can we call that a "win?" I mean, I skipped 17 of the 23 missions, but I did defeat the big bad, and I got the endgame screen.
It is pretty pathetic that you can jump right to the endgame like that, but that's what happens when characters don't get any experience or other character development between levels. The initial character is just as capable of defeating the Witch Lord as a character who's gone through 20 scenarios. If the developers had wanted to require the full set of quests building up to the endgame, they should have made the enemies a lot tougher and offered more items for sale in the shop. When you can buy everything after 3 missions, and there's no other character development, what are you playing an extra 20 scenarios for?
"For fun!" would be the obvious answer, if the scenarios were any fun. But with the same things to do in every dungeon and every room, no combat tactics, no plot to uncover or puzzles to solve, the scenarios are just tedious. In the board game, at least you have the anticipation of rolling the dice yourself. Here, the game does it and the combat is over before you can even register the results.
Under my rules, a role-playing game has to have at least three core elements. The first is combat in which accuracy and damage are at least partially based on character attributes, and not just player reflexes or the type of weapon wielded. This game just barely qualifies by offering characters of varying strength and the ability to influence underlying attributes with potions. The second is an inventory of items that the players can equip, unequip, and drop; again, with its paltry selection, this game just squeaks by. The third element is character development, and in that area HeroQuest fails. But on Page 4 of the manual, the game itself claims that "Hero Quest is a fantasy role playing game," so I'll rate it as such:

  • 2 points for the game world, with a back story full of common tropes. It doesn't even really have an effect on the game. The back story really should have been about the Witch Lord.
  • 1 point for character creation and development. That one point is for the ability to name the characters and to choose which of the four you want to play in each scenario.
On this screen, you determine what characters are going to participate in the next mission.
  • 1 point for NPC interaction, since you have to rescue an NPC in some scenarios.
  • 1 point for encounters and foes. The enemies in the game are boring and derivative and don't even escalate in difficulty.
Entering a corridor full of orcs.
  • 2 points for magic and combat, earned solely for having the systems in place. The spells are somewhat creative, and I like that they include navigation spells (e.g., "Pass through Rock") as well as combat spells.
  • 2 points for a very small selection of equipment, both found and purchased.
Checking my inventory during a scenario.
  • 2 points for an economy that soon loses its purpose.
  • 3 points for a variety of quests as well as an endgame quest, but there are no options or alternate endings.
  • 2 points for graphics, sound, and interface, all going to graphics. I had an emulator issue that produced a constant drone, but I watched some online videos of the game and confirmed there are no sound effects, at least in the DOS version. I disliked the all-mouse interface. (There's an illusory option to choose "keyboard" during setup, but this just means that you have to use the keys to move the cursor like a mouse. The commands and movement aren't actually mapped to any keys.)

The graphics are good enough to fool you into thinking it's a better game. Doesn't this room look cool? Trust me, nothing happens here.

  • 3 points for gameplay. It gets 2 for being non-linear in the approach to its missions and 1 point for some slight replayability with different classes. But it's far, far too easy, and even in the short amount of time I played it, it seemed too long.

I had to deliberately screw around for over 10 minutes to make this happen.

The final score is 19. Throughout the past year, we've learned that gamebooks don't work well when translated literally to the computer. Now we learn that the same is true of board games.

Of course, I did miss out on one element: playing the game with other people. Maybe some of you played HeroQuest in groups and can testify as to how well it worked as a social game. Personally, I can't see the fun in four people huddling around the beige monitor and keyboard of some 486 PC, but maybe I'm just too introverted.

I can't find any evidence that Computer Gaming World reviewed it, but MobyGames's review round-up shows a wide range of scores in contemporary reviews, from 93/100 in Commodore Format to 52/100 in Power Play. The median is in the 60s, consistent with a relatively poor rating. A modern reviewer, Boston Low, titled his assessment "Great board game, inadequate RPG."

Another modern review on Rock, Paper, Shotgun echoes my negativity. The reviewer, Alec Meer, went into the game with rose-colored memories of the board game and was disappointed with the computer version. "It lacks the sociable enmity of a flesh and blood player assuming the mantle of the murderous dungeon master," he notes. His review is worth reading for other comparisons between the board and computer experience, and I particularly like one of his closing sentences:

I’m unfairly applying modern standards I know, but I don’t think this has aged badly so much as it would always have been too rudimentary and passionless, stopping at an awkward halfway house between directly emulating the boardgame and being a lightweight turn-based RPG for a lone player.
221B developed half a dozen games in 1991 and 1992, all action games except for HeroQuest and its expansion. The U.K.-based Gremlin Graphics Software (Gremlin Interactive from 1994 to 1999) has a much larger portfolio, but HeroQuest and its sequel are also its only forays into RPG territory (that I can find, at least). When a developer and a publisher have no experience with RPGs, that's usually a bit of a bad sign.

I'll check out HeroQuest II: Legacy of Sorasil in 1992, but unless it offers more in the way of character development, I'll probably reject it as an RPG.

So that's the game that snaked the trademark and forced Sierra to re-name Hero's Quest to Quest for Glory. I guess they had to accomplish legally what they couldn't accomplish in gameplay quality.

Back to Antares! Or maybe not! Antares definitely requires a particular mood, and I've been having so much luck with these one-offs that I might move on to Return of the Ring to keep the momentum going.


  1. Unworthy of notice. MobyGames codes it as both a role-playing game and a strategy game

    MobyGames does require you to enter a primary genre in order to complete a game submission, and sometimes it wears them uneasily. Their genre system has had a complete overhaul plotted out, but implementing it is still in the hazy future. Looking forward to the rest of the review, just had to rush in to MG's defence before retiring for the night 8)

    1. I just checked and realized for the first time that MobyGames doesn't have a "board game" or "tabletop game" category. They list Monopoly as a strategy game.

  2. The board game has a bit more strategy behind it. I believe turn order is set, and multiple characters can actually attack the same enemy. Also, multiple enemies get attacks during their rounds, so it's rarely one-on-one. According to the rules, monsters stay in their rooms until doors are opened, but I always enjoyed a rule to alert enemies within earshot (adjacent rooms). Lastly, I'm not sure where you're looking for pricing, but $400 seems to be high end for the base set and both expansions. There's a buy-it-now deal on Ebay for a complete base set for $150 obo... you go me excited that I was sitting on $1000+ dollars. :D

    1. In the computer version, multiple enemies can attack during their rounds, too. Sorry I didn't make that clear. But I still don't see a lot of strategy attached to this.

    2. I was sloppy with my research on the cost. I only looked on Amazon.

    3. The board game works identical to computer game.

      Monsters were as easy on the actual board game as they are in the game, oddly space crusade is a lot harder in actual computer game as it as a board game mainly because SC uses a fixed armour value and not "how many skulls on the dice vs. armour points"- system so any critter is deadly in SC.

    4. I have a copy of a relatively rare expansion called the Barbarian Quest Pack (There's also one for Elves). They seem to sell for $300+. I had no idea. To ebay it is.

    5. I also got excited. I played the board game last Christmas after Loading Ready Run had a lot of fun streaming it. It was not a hit. Combat was OK, but you get barely any gold per mission, no XP or anything, so player motivation was low. Better to just run an old D&D adventure.

  3. You mention early on the game Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat, referring to it as a CRPG. If I recall properly (and I hope others will correct me if I'm wrong), I'm pretty sure that Horned Rat was a turn-based strategy game with a light management campaign to string the scenarios together.

    1. Does it have character leveling and an inventory? If so, it qualifies as a hybrid under my rules. If not, happy to have another one off my list.

    2. Depends on if you consider army units as characters and inventory to be magic items your army picks up along the way. The units gain XP, and have level caps, but that just seems to be applied to attack power and damage they can take.

      Some of the army units are individual "Heroes", but I think you'd be hard pressed to call it an RPG. By

    3. By your definition that is. Or for that matter, pretty much any definition I can think of.

    4. Yeah, it's an adaptation of the Warhammer wargame, not the RPG, and done real-time, not turn-based. You do have a couple of hero characters which I seem to recall might have an inventory, and the units do gain experience and veteran status, but the unit is "1st Mortar Company," not "Narrin, Dwarven Mortarer." Or whatever you call someone who shoots a mortar.

      I do remember it as a pretty fun game, if bastard hard. But definitely an RTS with some very light RPG elements.

    5. A while back, probably in the context of one of the Japanese strategy games or Sword of Aragon, we had a discussion about how I'll probably have to revise my criteria when 4X strategy games become more popular, because they almost all feature persistent heroes, leveling, and some basic inventory.

    6. Actual warhammer tabletop hammer has special hero units (lords, the general, certain monsters etc.) that you can kit out before the battle along with rank and file mooks, so the computer game likely attempts to reflect that.

    7. It's certainly primarily a real-time tactics game. I think it kind of fulfills the Addict's criteria for being considered an RPG, though the "inventory" is not really manageable. Units can pick up hidden items on the battlefield, which they keep for the rest of the campaign. But items can't be exchanged between units, a very annoying flaw. (The sequel, Dark Omen from 1998, does allow exchanging items.)

      So while it's doubtful whether it's an RPG when going by any formal criteria, I have to say that it really gives me the feeling of playing the mercenary leader Commander Bernhardt, who has to make careful decisions when choosing missions in order to keep his meager but expensive regiments manned and his coffers filled. His regiments are not faceless either, each has a leader with a name and a face. There are some individual hero units too. It's important to specifically level up the mage so that he receives more spells.

      We had a discussion about the consequences that arise from the game's harsh economy plus a comparison to roguelikes and other games a couple posts back:


  4. I'm not sure if Hero Quest 2 improves in any of the "RPG elements". It was released for Amiga only and has outdoor areas.

    1. OK thanks, good to know. Is it a better game though? Or just a "bigger area" implementation of the same thing?

    2. I liked it. The levels are more involving and heroes stats improve between missions, so i guess that it had a bit more rpg elements.

      The only problem, was that while levels bigger, it was too zoomed it and it was a bit confusing. Like in this game, the soundtrack was great.

  5. Yeah, I played this one. Both, actually. The boardgame was awesome. After you played the pregen scenarios/campaigns you could create your own ones. There were tons of miniatures and dungeon features. Good ol' Sir Ragnar. All great fun for 12-16 year old boys to DM for their younger brothers.

    The computer game is a straight-up boardgame, which I would have still liked, but the interface made it painful to play. Playing with all four characters - the scenarios with the boardgame assumed this - was no fun. They didn't implement the campaign rules? That seemed a no-brainer for a computer version. The scenarios aren't in any order, you can play them however you like, same as the boardgame. I guess this is a crappy licensing deal that got fobbed off to some crony of a GW exec, and they actually produced a faithful version of the GW property. By the standards of crappy licensed games, this isn't half bad. How many times do people complain licensed games don't even resemble the source material?

    Campaigns were included in HeroQuest v2.08i, an unrelated version that underwent development from 2003-2012. It is a ton more playable, supports mouse, graphics look just like the boardgame and avoid the isometric problem, etc. Characters develop and have inventories, so it might even be an RPG.

    The roll for movement each turn is 2d6. I thought this was a fixed movement, with the elf getting more? Maybe I'm remembering wrong. If the combat screen disappears after a split second, the emulation is probably running way too fast. Can you see the coin spinning before your movement roll? Or is it just a blur?

    Another thing to remember is that Heroquest functioned a lot like people thought D&D played out. There were lots of magazine photos of people playing D&D with beautifully painted miniatures and elaborate dungeon setups that must have taken a ton of time to build. When you bought the Basic Set, none of that came in the box and a lot of us, including me, were rather puzzled. Heroquest in the big box was what I had expected to get, and would have probably enjoyed a lot more.

    1. I could definitely see someone using HeroQuest as an introduction to D&D-style gameplay.

      I always appreciate the recollections of someone who played when the game was new.

    2. I agree with Harland : the boardgame was OK for teens, but it too was very easy ( I cant recall any player dying ever and we have played through all adventures in the basegame and IIRC one expansion)
      I also had the Computerversion and was disappointed that it was a 1:1 translation ( with rhe same scenarios) that just played worse because of the interface then the Boardgame. There was no reason to play the Computerversion.

    3. Now that I have a bit ime, some more notes:
      That you can play any of teh adventure (including the final one) is because the game was translated 1:1 from the Boardgame. Of course in a boardgame it makes sense, apart from that you wouldnt really have any way of restricting the players to play in the right order :) in the manual it said that the last three adventure should be played in order, because they form a story. But the rest can be played in any order, because they do not. The same is with the game, as you noticed.
      HeroQuest was a bit of a cult hit, it was very expensive, but all the plastic figurines and the D&D inspired gameplay made it a thought after collecters item, after it went out of print in the mid-90s, when the high production cost didnt fit the sales (this was MB they we used to bigger fish). Even more thougth after were the expansions, some would fetch comfortable tentimes the original orice with a bit of luck at ebay. A couple of month ago ther was a kickstarter project with the aim of a reprint, but it was cancelled, without notice, presumble because some copyright issues hasnt been sorted out properly.

      The early 90s saw several games with plastic miniatres, but most of them had very poor gameplay. The claymore saga was one notable game, that was somewhat succesful to my knowledge, but most were flops and with the german games (like Settler of Catan) coming to the US most of them were discontinued. Among them the succesor Advanced Heroquest, which was even more expensive and didnt come with a board anymore; while the original HeroQuest used a board and simply blocked of passes and opened rooms with doors where needed, the Advanced version had tiles that allowed for a complete custom setup. It was also described as fiddly. I never owned it, due to the high prize, but IIRC the games major flaw was the lack of adventures. But that might be wrong.
      If you would play a modern Dungeon Crawler boardgame I would choose Descent, 2nd edition, its more complicated the HQ, but much better designer.
      I hope you dont mind this tangent in the boardgame world, but Im a bit of a boardgamegeek and have played HQ a lot so I couldnt help it :-)

    4. I remember there was one scenario in HQ1-Witch Lord Expansion where there's this evil cloud token that is invulnerable to all attacks except from the Spirit Blade.

      It pissed my Elf player to no end as the Barbarian (who was holding the Spirit Blade) was way far behind to save his butt as his life was slowly sucked dry by the cloud.

  6. I was lucky to find this boardgame in Spain in the early 90s, and unlucky to misplace it in a house move about 15 years later. I found it fun to play solo and also with friends. I guess what I enjoyed about the PC game was that there was some character progression with the items acquired in the shop. Other than that, it's really not as interesting as the board version.

  7. Also, and sorry for spamming the blog, but this PC implementation Hero Quest got me indirectly into CRPGs :)

    I saw it on a magazine and started searching for it, and a school buddy of mine said he had it, so I borrowed it from him. But the game he had was in fact Hero'S Quest, which, after about 5 minutes of surprise, got me absolutely hooked ("this is an adventure game without the dumb deaths!").

    The rest, as they say, was history :)

  8. Greetings from Poland, CRPG Addict, this is my first comment on your blog. And a first crpg I ever played. It actually served as my introduction to both computer and pen & paper rpgs. Rather dissapointed with your "unworthy of notice" assessment, but then I realize you're perhaps not the target audience for the game. Or maybe I'm just seeing it through rose-tinted glasses ;)

    I actually don't have time to read your full post right now, will do this later today, so just a few quick comments:

    Hero Quest computer games aren't really a part of Warhammer setting, although it appears that Milton Bradley (who owned rights to HQ) and Games Workshop (who produced figures for the boardgame) had different ideas about the HQ setting (http://forum.yeoldeinn.com/viewtopic.php?f=143&t=797&sid=37527c09f16b2b439a207ae3712d0018&start=32)

    Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat is a real time tactics game, with some very light rpg elements (individual heroes and some character development / levelling iirc).

    Legacy of Sorasil has character development / levelling too, so in that regards it could be said that it improves slightly on rpg elements.

    "2 points for graphics, sound, and interface, all going to graphics" - you should've played the Amiga version, mr. Addict. It was rather well known for it's great, atmospheric music and sound effects. I distinctly remember it was a BIG part of game's appeal for my 13 year old self in 1991. And since it inspired few people to do piano covers of the game's main theme (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDB7f1KQCRg , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roGFcwRw4Ok) I'm sure I wasn't the only fan of Barry Leitch's work.

    1. "My First comment" and "You should've played the Amiga version, mr. Addict." made me chuckle. :)

    2. Oh, he's light years from really zinging me. The worst comment I could imagine would go something like: "Actually, the OP should have played the SNES version. The music is better and the colors have deeper reds and greens. It actually reminds me of another game I like: Shin Megami Tensei."

      Then someone would come along and "brofist" this comment, and it would be the end of my blog.

      Seriously, I don't expect commenters to read my entire blog's history to comment on each post. Each post needs to stand alone.

      If the Amiga version has sound effects, I suppose that would cause it to rate marginally better. I don't care about game soundtracks. It's not even a consideration in my rating.

      As for "Warhammer," okay. I don't know the setting, so I have to take someone's word for it. But Wikipedia and MobyGames both say that the game is set in the "Warhammer" universe.

    3. It's based on warhammer setting in a sense that both games have chaos that threatens the world in the north and that HQ figures look like to be from a 4th or 5th edition of warhammer (they were all one pose figurines back then).

      However in WH orcs & goblins or greenskins are their own faction and rarely if ever directly work with the forces of chaos also other characters share a similarity with WH such as chaos warriors (the chosen of chaos) also undead are their own faction (that being the now factions of tomb kings and vampire lords which back then were a single faction).

      So similarities yes but lorewise not really WH though I haven't studied the history of warhammer lore well enough to say how similar the lore on both games actually was in the 90's.

    4. It's set in the world of Warhammer. The introductory paragraph of the board game manual name-drops several well-known locations.

    5. You might be reading too much between the lines here, Mr. Addict. And taking me for someone I'm not (the "brofist" comment).

      I'm actually a reader of your blog since 2010 (although a rather irregular one in recent years), so while I didn't realize your indifference towards game soundtracks, I was aware I'm not going to become your favourite commenter by mentioning the Amiga version. The sole reason for this mention was to point out the greatness of it's soundtrack and sound effects. Since you've now made it clear that you don't particularly care about either, I guess it's nobody's loss that you haven't played it.

      As for Warhammer and HQ settings - they have some similarities and reuse some location names and ideas, due to Games Workshop connection. However, as far as I know, the documentation for both computer games doesn't mention "Warhammer" even once, the map included in HQ2: Legacy of Sorasil doesn't depict any part of the Old World, and none of characters are part of Warhammer lore (although some of player characters are named after Old World gods and there may be some other minor connections like that).

    6. Who knows what the licensing arrangement was. GW may have decided that the MB game would use all the IP bar the actual word 'Warhammer', and may have gone a step further with the computer adaptation and prevented the use of Warhammer-specific nouns.

      I'm not going to claim that there's a seamless interface between HQ lore and WHFB lore, but HQ was obviously set in a facsimile of the Old World.

    7. No, no, Mac. I'm sorry--that wasn't directed at you specifically. dahauns was making a joke about the fact that I've had significant issues with the Amiga--almost hate it, in fact--and I've reacted negatively in the past to suggestions that I play the Amiga version of anything. It was amusing that someone's first comment would make that recommendation.

      I was expanding on the joke to illustrate what a TRULY awful first comment would be. That didn't have anything to do with your post.

      I appreciate your readership and your recollections. It would be accurate, then, to say that HQ uses Warhammer themes but perhaps not specifically the same setting. It wouldn't be the first time that erroneous information got passed around a few web sites. You are correct that the term "Warhammer" appears nowhere in the HQ game manual.

    8. Yeah...I had a picture in my mind of that trope scene in westerns where suddenly the music stops, everyone is quiet and all eyes are fixated on the new guy at the bar who just made a remark about the weird horse out front.
      I know, i know, I'm easily amused. :)

      Apologies Mac, and welcome. :)

    9. Well, maybe I was reading too much between the lines then, guys. :) To be fair, I only just noticed there's a FAQ for the blog and now I see that I managed to cross a few lines with my first post. Mea culpa, should have worded some of my comments differently.

      Expanding on the HQ / Warhammer connection - after I became familiar with WFRP game in mid 90s I had a theory, that since HQ barbarian bears a name of patron deity & legendary founder of the Empire (Warhammer equivalent of HRE / medieval Germany) and HQ dwarf has the same name as the main Dwarven god in Warhammer universe, maybe Hero Quest takes place in Old World's "heroic age", before Sigmar's ascension & founding of the Empire. But that doesn't make sense either, because HQ quest descriptons frequently mention Empire, Emperor's knights, barons etc. It's true that there are location names like World Edge Mountains, Black Fire Pass, Borderlands. Are those used in context of Old World's geography? There's no evidence to prove or disprove it. You also have Loretome and Barak Tor - nowhere to be found in Warhammer lore. Then there's "distant Athelorn". Warhammer games use Loren or Athel Loren form (and it's not a distant land there, it borders the Empire), Athelorn is only used in Hero Quest... and another Warhammer tie-in, the fantasy football game Blood Bowl, where the elven team is called Athelorn Avengers. HQ2: Legacy of Sorasil seems to drop any Warhammer references.

      But since there IS a lot of similarities between Warhammer and HQ settings and even fans of both games seem to be confused on this matter I'm not surprised at all that wikipedia etc. may pass erroneous information about this.

    10. HeroQuest pretty clearly uses the Warhammer setting, but not the Warhammer brand. Sounds like a silly distinction, but it's quite important to certain folk.

    11. Well, even if it was important to me and I spent time analyzing every description in every HeroQuest (NOT Advanced HeroQuest or Warhammer Quest) resource to prove it's inconsistent with Warhammer lore (which of course isn't 100% consistent between various editions of WFB and WFRP anyway) and only really uses some of the same names and ideas - someone would counter this with "it's clearly and obviously the same setting and you're just nitpicking". And the second part of that statement would certainly be true. ;)

      However, it's also true that there IS an Old World map printed on the back of one of early HQ expansions - or at least it's UK edition.

      For anyone interested, I'll point you once again towards the "Is the World of Heroquest the World of Warhammer?" poll and discussion at Ye Olde Inn forum:


      At the end of the day these are games of imagination and it's all up to players. If they imagine HeroQuest is set in the Warhammer universe - it is.

      Apologies for spamming the comments section with these only slightly relevant to HQ computer game ramblings.

    12. Has anyone ever thought that it may be the same universe but in different timelines?

      HeroQuest could be actually be Warhammer "Negative 40,000"; like how Conan The Barbarian's setting is on Earth but whose time period is so far back in time that it felt like another world.

    13. Yes. As I wrote 3 comments above, I once speculated that HQ may be set in Warhammer's quasi-historic "Heroic Age", before Sigmar's ascension. Lack of historiographic sources could explain why (AFAIK) none of HQ specific locations, characters and events are ever acknowledged in any Warhammer sourcebooks.

      However, Empire already exists in HQ timeline, along with developed feudal system it seems. The world seems to be past it's "dark ages" period.

      If there are spellbooks and people capable of using them, why wouldn't there be no written history?

      The reality is that HQ developers probably hadn't thought about any HQ / Warhammer continuity. They just took some parts of Warhammer lore and reused it for a simple fantasy boardgame aimed at a younger audience.

      In my opinion, the early version of HQ setting could be considered an "alternative history" version of Warhammer's Old World at best. It seems that due to Milton Bradley / Games Workshop politics HQ later departed from any Warhammer ties and the second computer game might as well be set in a completely unrelated universe.

    14. OR there could be something so foul to have happened that was done by the person in power and would require the wiping out of all prior history to justify the new history that this person will be creating.

  9. I remember playing this on the ZX Spectrum...

    A similar game was also released after this one (but before HQ 2), using a variation of this engine: Space Crusade. Never played it, though.

    1. Well, on the Spectrum "Chaos" and "Lords of Chaos" obliterated this one ;)

  10. The Hero Quest boardgame is what brought the 10-year-old me and my friends to RPGs in the first place. We played it for hundreds of hours, designing our own quests, equipment and characters. One of us even built a complete castle made of painted cardboard you could clip onto the base map to expand it. From that we moved on to DnD and computer games like EoB.

    So I can testify to the fact the boardgame had tremendous influence on some of us, but the computer game doesn't seem like a great achievement. I didn't even know there was a computer version until your post...

  11. IIRC the boardgame also leveled you up every time you completed a quest alive. It didn't do much (I think it gave you +2 LP or something) but given that the game was balanced so that you could finish every quest with a brand-new party, it did it noticeably easier to survive.

    I still remember the last quest of each campaign being a double-map. Man, that was a pain in the ass to set up as the DM :)

    I tried playing this version of the game and I agree with the review here. It was super boring compared to the board game.

    There was a marginally related board game called 'battle masters' that was a wargame rather than a dungeon crawl. The mat you played it on was epically scaled for a kid -- I think it was close to 2mx2m, but that could be my childhood memories speaking.

    1. Wow, so tey actually degraded character development for the computer version?

      If they had done that here, and scaled up the difficulty of foes in the late-game scenarios, it would be a much better game, and an actual RPG besides.

    2. There are "advanced heroquest" and "heroquest" which the computer game faithfully copies.
      Advanced HQ however has completely different and infinitely more complex rules and was more of an American thing with the rest of the world having to go by with "heroquest".

    3. I think the only character development in the base game was equipment upgrades.

    4. Equipment is the only upgrade in the European version of HeroQuest at least. No idea about the American version. I believe there are pretty big differences between the two.

      I vaguely remember playing the computer version years ago, and finding it to be basically a 1:1 conversion of the game. Which, as many people here have noted, works much less well as a computer game than as a board game played with friends.

    5. The American version, as far as I can tell, is the same but marketing people demanded they create a new first scenario that used every monster (to show off the minatures). It was brutally hard and turned people off the game.

      The gold given out might have been different as well. After the first scenario we could only buy a couple of items. Would take five or six to max out the party and get the wizard a crossbow.

  12. Heh, I knew it wasn't quite an RPG according to your definition, but I was not expecting this half-assed-ness. Of course, other commenters have fond memories of the game, so a CRPG addict was probably not part of the target audience. It's really not much of a "traditional" RPG experience, and more like Monopoly for the computer or something like that. I seem to remember that either this game or the successor got good reviews back then.

    1. Ha! Monopoly for the computer. That's a good way to put it.

    2. I don't know. I'm seeing a lot of fond memories of the BOARD game, but not the computer game. From those commenting here who played them when they were new, I think my reactions have been largely confirmed.

    3. The board game is pretty cool, I have the amiga version of this too and really I just like that for the music. I think board games on a computer live or die by how players interact with each other. You can't play against people in this and it seems too easy to have a need to collaborate either.
      One computer board game I do like, and I am kind of sad a real board version of it doesn't exist : Dr drago's madcap chase.

    4. Hm...while I do have fond memories of the board game (and it was a gateway drug to P&P RPGs, of course), even back then the mechanics seemed incredibly shallow to me. The fun mainly came from the stories we made, from painting the figures and building extensions from cardboard etc., and of course from a lot of self-made mods to the gameplay.
      Played out of the box, it became boring incredibly fast.

  13. I enjoyed the boardgame, but this was a direct translation to computer and this made it lose a lot of charm.

  14. I remember my friends and I finding the HeroQuest board game in Toys R Us, buying it and having a lot of fun with what was essentially a light version of D&D.

    I also remember trying the computer game version and being bored to tears within about 15 minutes. As I recall, it was a good representation of the board game, but you do miss out on the camaraderie of sitting around the table with others. I can't imagine the effect would be the same with four people huddled around a mouse and screen.

    For those looking for a similar board game experience, I just thought I'd point out the Descent board game by Fantasy Flight Games is similar to HeroQuest.

  15. You lost me here: Once he had amassed great power, he fled to the Northern Chaos Wastes and conjured ancient powers to overthrow the empire. One wizard can flip an empire?!?! I wonder how Gibbon, Bury or Jones would write about that?

    1. That pretty much happens in every CRPG.

    2. The Goldbox games seem to keep this under control better. I recently fired up Death Knights of Krynn. I want to play it parallel to you and compare notes.

    3. "Once he had AMASSED GREAT POWER, he FLED to the Northern Chaos Wastes..."

      See, that sentence already lost me there if I seriously think about it. Anyway, it's a board game. Thinking too much about it would have you wondering why an iron, a dog and a goddamn shoe could get $200 every time they pass GO & trade in real estates.

    4. I know your right. Thinking about it too much destroys any credibility in my mind. Still in Pool of Radiance, Tyranthraxus had not yet launched his final offensive, so you had a chance to stave off disaster. In Secret of the Silver Blades, the big bad has not awakened yet. The world has not yet become a hellhole before heroes enter the picture.

      I get the Top Hat.

  16. Just like Alec Meer, this game had such an influence on my upbringing that i wrote about it in my blog:


    And i agree that's just to barebones to be enjoyable nowadays.

    Just one thing. While the DOS version is VGA, the Amiga's looks way better, and has a much more distinctive look. And an amazing soundtrack that you should check on youtube or something.

    1. I somehow missed your blog post when I did a search for reviews on the game. I would have mentioned it otherwise.

      I'm not sure I agree that the Amiga graphics are better. There's more OF them, sure, but I think the DOS graphics are....I don't know...crisper?

      I continue to be uninterested in game soundtracks, but I appreciate your comment for everyone else's benefit, as I realize I'm in the microscopic minority on that one.

    2. There's "more" graphics in the amiga version in the sense that in the DOS version they're more minimalistic. But the DOS used much more colours, even though the used colour palette is all over the place, while the amiga uses many shades of the same colours, like blue, grey and or purple.

      Concerning soundtracks, it's seems that we're on the opposite sides of musical tastes, as i hate jazz, and love many amiga games soundtracks:)

      You might be asking, "why amiga specifically? These European fanboys sure are a nuisance.." Well, keeping it short, it sound unlike any other machine out there.

  17. Board games can be adapted well to computers if they are multiplayer. They should really have their own genre.

    I've always thought of Civilization as a single player board game that would be far to complex and take way to long to play to implement physically.

    1. Actually, Civilization is a single player wargame that would be far too complex and take way too long to play to implement physically. It's one of the reasons I loved it so much, and got into it so heavily back in the day. Other games of the era like X-Com and Master of Orion were basically the same thing - wargames on steroids, taking full advantage of the new, high-tech computers. They not only made a complicated but accessible game, but to made it look awesome at the same time. They're classics for a reason.

    2. I consider war games board games, because what I really mean is table top game.

    3. You're talking as though Civilization /wasn't/ a board game:


    4. I almost played that Civilization game once. A friend had it and we sort of ran out of time for it. It was however a vastly simplified version of the computer game. Like, go the way of simplification from Civilization to Settlers of Catan, and then the same distance again.

    5. The Civilization board game and computer game have no relationship, despite a few shared concepts. The Advanced Civilization edition was a pretty solid way to spend 10 hours with 3 or 4 mates.

    6. Except that 10 hours would usually get you about half way through... We tried limiting turn length with clocks and everything, but only managed to finish one or two games in total.

    7. It's funny that Civilization (PC Game) could be made without interventions from Civilization (Board Game) but Hero's Quest faces legal allegations from HeroQuest.

    8. As soon as they had the money they purchased the makers to Advanced Civilization.

  18. I'm another one that owns the actual board game - I found it cheap from a garage sale some years back. I never did play it with people though, and of course on my own it was a fairly boring experience, if rather too luck-based for my taste. I'm not at all surprised a faithful computer adaptation would also be boring.

  19. Man, I'm *really* glad to see Death Knights coming up. These last few games reminded me why my CRPG playing dipped around 1991 or so.

  20. James Rolf (most famous for his Angry Video Game Nerd series of reviews and the character of the same name) also has a character and show named "Board James" that looks at old board games. HeroQest was one of the earlier ones he did, and the episode might be of interest for comparison.


  21. In the base game and first two expansions, I believe every monster has 1 HP. It's a bit of a let down. The 'Against the Ogre Horde' expansion offered a far more challenging experience and monsters with up to 5 HP.

    The searching of every room/corridor for traps/secrets and then treasure was typically a feature of the board game as well. The more you searched for treasure though, the more likely you were to hit a wandering monster, so it could get risky.

    Compared to today's fantasy adventure boardgames, HeroQuest is simplistic, random and very short. What strategies there are are immediately obvious to a typical gamer. I think it's still probably good for 7-12 year olds.

    It's sister game Space Crusade (which also has a computer adaptation) is considerably more interesting. Advanced versions of both games were released, but both IPs were retired and GW released more serious adventure board games set in the respective universes - Warhammer Quest and Space Hulk. Again, both of these games have computer adaptations (Space Hulk has two I think). I have Warhammer Quest on iOS and it's actually a pretty solid little RPG.

    1. In the version I have monsters all have varying HP and defence dice.

  22. I had the boardgame as a kid. The novelty was really cool at first, but that wore off awfully quickly; the gameplay, such as it was, was very limited and monotonous. This was especially apparent in the first two questpacks, which didn't add anything particularly new. At that point, your characters were super-powerful, which they tried to make up for by just throwing ridiculous numbers of monsters (the SAME monsters, note) at you, which wasn't hard, just brutally tedious. Later questpacks made an honest effort with new monsters and tiles and magic and stuff, which was not wholly devoid of coolness but basically too little too late.

  23. Looks like a concept that would be a lot of fun if combat were more challenging and tactical. I guess it would then be considered a kind of roguelike albeit with a quest on each level.

  24. I have the board game; I'm not sure if I ever played it. The timing is interesting. We started design on Hero's Quest in Summer 1988, and full development in January 1989, releasing the game in October.

    Apparently the board game came out during Summer 1989, and Milton Bradley immediately insisted that we stop using the name Hero's Quest because they intended to make a video game of Advanced Heroquest. Normally a board game would not be in the same category as a computer game, so it's questionable they could have won a lawsuit. But Sierra didn't want to fight one and backed down.

    1. Ultimately, Quest for Glory isn't a bad name. It arguably better encapsulates the tongue-in-cheek tone of the series than a more generic name like Hero Quest. When all is said and done, do you feel that the name change ended up working out better? Or do you wish Sierra had fought it and kept the original name?

    2. In hindsight, "Hero's" on a title can be a search engine nightmare! "Heros", "Hero's", "Hero*"... ;)

    3. I thought "Hero Quest" was an insistence from Sierra?
      King's Quest
      Space Quest
      Hero Que- wha..? A lawsuit? Screw that.

      Good thing you guys didn't call it "Glory Quest". And please don't search for that on Google. NSFW or with kids!

    4. I personally prefer the name Quest for Glory. There's also Leisure Suit Larry, Manhunter, and Laura Bow so not ALL the series had to be titled _X_ Quest.

      Although: Mystery Quest, Dystopian Future Quest, and Boob Quest would have been fun names.

    5. Wasn't the first Laura Bow game tittled 'The Colonel's Bequest'?

    6. I was hoping that Chet was going to rake MB over the coals for the whole HeroQuest versus Hero's Quest fiasco, given how mediocre of a computer game it seems to be. Fortunately he slipped the comment in at the end, so I wasn't disappointed :)

  25. I played the board game version once, so long ago that I can't really remember when or where. Didn't even remember the name, but after seeing the picture and the description it's familiar enough. I would have said it was before I'd encountered D&D, but I know I was playing that by '86, and the board game didn't come out until '89. Never played the computer version, though. It seems like it might serve okay as a very light introduction to RPGs, and as such might have *some* place in history, although it comes a little late for that.

  26. I remember this boardgame as a kid! Had it. Spent hours and hours painting the minatures that came with it (I loved painting minatures when I was a kid). The game was ok to good. I was about 13 or 14 at the time. I loved D&D but none of my friends played it, so this was my substitute that my friends would play.
    In more modern times, a similarish boardgame would be "Descent". Same principle. A bit more dynamic. Still a boardgame that wouldn't translate well to PC in my personal opinion.
    Didn't know the PC version of Hero Quest came out, but kinda glad I didn't play it now. It would have gotten old fast. Much like the PC version of Talisman. I made the mistake of buying it (It was on special). Played through twice and then went back to the boardgame version.
    I think what breaks these games is the lack of human interaction. Not even multiplayer PC gaming can make up for the sitting around a table with chips and softdrink with friends. (And LAN games don't quite capture it)

    1. Descent was way too time-consuming because of the added mechanics. Sure, it offers more varied gameplay but it sure sacrificed a lot of the fast-paced action which was offered by HQ.

  27. Thanks for this review :) I personally tried to port HQ to iOS/Android 3 years ago and like you mentionned found out quickly that a direct port really doesn't work well. I had to make a lot of changes which finally turned into my own version of the game and HQ becoming a distant cousin / source of inspiration. I published it under Mighty Dungeons. I agreed with you about handling multiple characters being tedious so went with only one - I considered hot-seat multiplayer but didn't have time or $ to do it. Also added more items in the store, character progression/levelling and a bit more strategy in the quests and fights. Even then, the major complaint about my port remains the lack of strategy during fights. Been turning this one in my head for the past few months but cannot find quick-wins that do not totally unbalance the game.

    I know others have done more direct port recently, like Dark Quest which is very similar to the 1991 version.

  28. A few years ago I made a cardboard version of HeroQuest based on an unofficial variation (http://www.freewebs.com/heroquestrevised/) which mixes rules from the US and the British editions (yes they had some key differences). I even made the miniatures myself in cold clay and painted them. We play a lot of boardgames with the kids, but to date those homebrew HQ sessions are the ones they remember most fondly. Exploration, cooperation, variable scenarios-- it's simply an amazing game to play with the right audience.

  29. From some of the comments, I'm going to say what this one is missing most is a scenario editor. It sounds like most people had the most fun with making up their own adventures and playing them with friends. If you could do that with this game it would have a reasonable amount of potential as an engine (at least for its time).

    1. That's the same thing we find with CRPGs vs. tabletop games, really. Loss of flexibility, improvisation, etc. A CRPG has to offer something to compensate for these things, and it can't if the adaptation is too literal.

  30. I played the board game once or twice, but our little group was already playing 2nd ed. AD&D, so it always seemed too simplistic.

    I am a bit surprised that it has any official connection to Warhammer, because it didn't have the depth or extreme difficulty of Games Workshop games. I guess it was an attempt to expand their market.

    About 10 years ago, a friend who knows about such things acquired a copy of Warhammer Quest, which is similar to HeroQuest, but is explicitly in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, has a randomly generated board made out of room tiles, has leveling and some character development, doesn't require a GM, and has the odds greatly stacked against you. We ran one dungeon and just barely squeaked by. It was fun in a harrowing sort of way.

  31. And regarding you winning by playing only a few missions, Chet. Had you not completed the Quest for The Spirit Blade first, you would not have been able to beat the game.

    1. Perhaps. I'm skeptical about that, but not enough to reload the game and try to win without it. Even so, that's exactly one mission you have to complete before the endgame. It hardly damages my overall point.

    2. Yup, I've tried and you can't hurt the witch lord with the spirit blade but you could still complete the game with just 2 scenarios.
      Then again I don't think HQ was even meant to be beaten in a tradition sense.

  32. Five years late, but regarding the board game, I have it on good authority that Heroquest is the best game ever made, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

    "Why Heroquest is so great" on YouTube.


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