Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 29 December 2011

One of the awesome gifts my husband gave me for Christmas is Heroica: Fortaan. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, but I wanted to share my thoughts thus far.

What is Heroica?

The easiest way to think about it is as a board game built out of Legos with many of the trappings of a fantasy role-playing game. At least in the Fortaan set, you get to play one of four heroes: Barbarian, Wizard, Druid, and Knight (Rogue and Ranger are available in other sets). Each hero gets a special skill that is triggered during certain die rolls. The goal of the game is to be the first player to move from the start area to the end area, often by defeating monsters, finding keys to locked doors, and searching for treasure. For some videos on how to play, check out the Heroica website. (warning, it has music that automatically comes on)

What I love

One roll represents multiple creatures
In D&D and the D&D-inspired board games, both the heroes and the monsters get a turn. It makes sense, D&D tries to more fully simulate "real" combat, especially the fog of war and the interaction of both sides. In the base play experience of Heroica, only the heroes do things. When I roll my attack die, it determines between 4 outcomes: Shield (1), Sword (2), Skull (2), Sword & Skull (1).

Here's what happens with each:

  • Shield - I defeat the monster or I get to use a special melee power that is attached either to my Hero or to my weapon. So, if I'm a Barbarian, I get to defeat all adjacent monsters and move a space.
  • Sword - I defeat the monster.
  • Skull - I take damage equal to the monster's strength and move away 1 space. Heroes have 4 Health (hit points). Most monsters have strength of 1, underbosses have 2, bosses have 3.
  • Sword and Skull Both things occur. I defeat the enemy but not before it gets a good pop in at me.

What this means is that both my turn and the monster's turn is represented in that one die roll, making the game run a little faster although a bit more abstractly. It also deals with a problem I've commonly had in D&D, where the players all have great initiative bonuses and get to wipe out the enemies before the latter has a chance of doing any damage.

The chart is printed on the die
Since Heroica doesn't try to simulate everything, the die is effectively it's own chart. The skull and sword pictures on the die only take up half of the face. The other half has pips 1-3. That makes the die usable in the attack phase and in determining how many spaces the Hero may move during his move phase, but it's also useful when determining the outcome of a treasure chest. In the game, all treasure chests are trapped. You roll the die to find the outcome. A Shield gives you 2 gold pieces, a Sword gives you 1, a Skull does damage of 1 Health, and a Sword and Skull gives you a gold piece and reduces your Health by one.

You can hack the die
If you have more than one set, it's possible to hack the die. As it is, Heroes have a 2 in 3 chance of defeating the monster, 1 in 2 of taking damage, and 1 in 6 of triggering a special ability. But, if you want to change that up, it's just a matter of changing the faces.

You can hack the adventure
The instruction booklet has you build a number of rooms and hallways that can be connected in different ways. So you build the rooms first and then follow a dungeon map to put them together to form the dungeon. I'm not sure about the other sets, but Fortaan comes with 3 scenarios. The game encourages you to also create your own and to mix and match the various elements to create your own dungeons. I just wish they had named the various sub-sections so it would be easier to share new dungeon creations with others.

You can hack the game
Well, of course you can hack any game that isn't a black box, but the rules even say it.

Try building your own missions, thinking up exciting stories about the adventures of your Heroes, or even changing the rules! The secret to changing a game is to only change one thing at a time.

They go on to give 2 different play experiences, Epic Heroica, where you play in one mission right after another (meat grinder!) and Battle Heroica, where one player controls all the monsters (so close to DMing!). In addition, there's a magic item in this set, the Helmet of Protection, that can be kept by the Hero between missions. Now if it just had a sheet to log your missions on....

So that's what has me excited about Heroica. I think rolling the die to move makes sense in the original intent of the game, where we're competing to be the first to accomplish a particular task, but it would probably be one of the first things I fiddled with in the game.

I'm also tempted to use the Heroica sets as my terrain in D&D. Sometimes minis annoy me because they are too realistic, it's hard to remember that the kobolds carrying spears are really supposed to be skeletons with axes but my DM didn't have enough of the latter.

I also think this game is great at teaching the fundamentals of playing tabletop RPGs. Many of the basics are here: tracking Health or hit points, buying and selling gear, how classes and weapons offer different advantages, magic potions, locked doors, and trapped treasure chests. And most importantly, how to make the game your own. What do you think?


You knew I had to weigh in, right?

It's an amazing way to teach the fundamentals of tabletop RPGs. My nephew got 2 sets for Christmas year, and I - as the resident nerd - was quickly tapped to be the one to play first. I expect I will hear about it the next time I see him. I can assure you that if my daughter shows any interest at all in LEGOs, these sets will be among the purchases once she gets older.

Whoever came up with the idea deserves a raise and possibly a promotion.

My wife and I got it for Christmas as well, have played it and love it. It plays very smoothly. It reminds me of the old HeroQuest board game, where you can "hack" it to play different adventures. We're looking forward to getting other sets and combining them!

My 5-year-old son got one of the smaller sets for Christmas and loves it, and I love playing it with him. That's definitely a tricky combination, as he has many games that he loves, but are a struggle for me to enjoy. We've played about 7 games since Christmas and I can't wait to pick up more sets to expand the game.

Lego figures make GREAT minis; I've used them for some time now (and built a couple of monsters, although they usually need to be at least huge to get enough detail, and gargantuan ones get to be quite time consuming; my bulette looks great though!)

And a Lego "stud" is 8mm square, so three pips are almost exactly one inch, in case you want to integrate them with dungeon tiles, a battlemat, or other terrain pieces.

I got the Fortaan set for my nephew. He opened it on Christmas Eve, and by the time we had it pretty much built, he had to go home :(

It looks really fun tho. I'm glad Lego made an effort. Here is my post about Heroica: http://wp.me/p1WZ0v-54

Hey! I'm new to the D&D society and I managed to bump into your blog fairly quickly. I really like what you have here, showing the equality of gender and how everyone's personality /can/ vary.

I'm an 18 year old Malaysian (most likely you'll have to Google it) and no one in a 50 mile radius will likely know what D&D is let alone play it, so I only get to play-by-post. Sometimes I really envy the interaction that you can only get while playing face-to-face (I listen to podcasts)

Anyway, tata~!

Thanks for the note! I'm sorry to hear that there aren't many near you who play, but if it makes you feel any better, I didn't have to google Malaysia. I went to college with someone from there and, if I remember correctly, he played D&D too.

This game sounds really interesting and it sounds like there will be a lot of people who will enjoy it. Your instructions seem simple enough and I want to thank you for taking the time to share.

Draida includes 1 map, plus the back side of the fold out is a double size combined map of all 4 sets.

Nathuz and Waldurk include 2 maps, plus a map of all 4 sets combined (same size as the maps of the 1 game that are included)

Fortaan has the same combo map, but it is much smaller, and lives in the building instructions.

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