September 19, 2011 by deadorcs
This story starts with a fortuitous visit to the Purina booth at the Central Veterinary Conference. After participating at one of their little “touchscreen interactive centers” or what have you, I received a $5 gift card for Target. While I know this doesn’t seem especially important when speaking of RPG related things, it will later, so hang on a bit.
Before CVC (and before GenCon), I noticed a new game popping up at Target and other department stores. The game was called HEROICA and there were at least four different titles. Like other LEGO games, it was the type that you assemble and then play. I’d seen (and played) other LEGO games, but the pictures on these boxes were intriguing. This looked like a fantasy based game. A fantasy based game with characters, resources, and a changing map. I thought to myself, “This looks like an RPG!!”
While the box gave few clues as to the true nature of the game (as is typical with LEGO packaging), it did say the game was able to be played alone or with any of the other three sets available. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. I’ve loved LEGO for years, and have always thought that if they could only build pieces that match the scale of many RPGs (25mm or 1 inch), my dreams of eternally, easily assembled, and relatively inexpensive terrain would come true.
Unfortunately at the time, I was saving my money for GenCon. I had plans to visit LEGO’s booth at GenCon, but only gave it a cursory glance, as I was so busy with other things. However, I vowed that when the funds became available, I would purchase the game.
Let’s get back to the Target gift card. While it was only $5, it was enough that I felt I could spend some of my allotted “allowance” (you folks on a budget will know all about that) on one of the HEROICA sets. I settled on the Forest set , which runs about $14.99 US. Box in hand, I sat down to finally solve the mystery of what this game was all about.
Here’s the box. I apologize in advance if the pictures aren’t that great. I shot them hastily with a cell phone camera. Nevertheless, the cover of the box gives some clues as to what awaits inside.
Here are the various components. Several bags of parts (typical of LEGO), a “dice form”, which is basically a six-sided dice that you apply flat LEGO tiles too, and several booklets. One booklet is assembly instructions, one booklet is a comic explaining the game world, and one booklet is the game manual. Quite a bit for only $14.99 (U.S.).
After assembling all the pieces, you get components that look like this. There are several monsters, 3 character types & their accompanying “hero packs”, a “store”, the game die, and also the pieces that make up the board.
Here’s what the first game scenario (it comes with 2) looked like once it was set up. You should be able to see better detail by clicking on the image. You’ll notice it looks a little like the “over-world” view common to many of the Super Mario Bros. games. Remember that fact, as it’s important to my analysis later.
Another shot of the first scenario set up.
Here’s a shot of the second scenario. I understood later, that this scenario was supposed to be used as a co-op mode, but we played it, “every man for himself”. Still worked out just fine.
Game played as intended –
Right out of the box, the game is pretty fun. While geared for a younger set (a 2nd grader would probably grok the rules pretty quickly), it was still pretty fun for myself and my two teenage boys. Game play was pretty quick for us, as we finished both scenarios in under an hour. That time even includes resetting the board for the second scenario. Of course, LEGO fans of all ages will enjoy assembling the components of the game, because that’s what LEGO fans enjoy doing. One drawback however, is that there are a LOT of tiny parts. If you have little ones that still eat “experimentally”, you might want to put them to bed before setting this up.
Despite it’s appearance, HEROICA isn’t really an RPG. It has many of the trappings of an RPG, (monsters, heroes, resources, hit points, gold, maps, etc.), but it plays more like a 3D version of games like Talisman, than it does an RPG. This is based on my own definition of what a role-playing game is, though. Broader definitions of the term might include this game within it.
A quick search of the internet will reveal that there are scores of house-rules already being written to “enhance” the game experience. Like most such things, there are good ones and bad ones. Pick and choose as you will, or simply write up your own. The game is wonderfully flexible in this regard.
Game played as an RPG –
Despite what I just mentioned above, there is enough material here to actually play this game as an RPG. It would be a simple one, of course, but there’s no reason a game master couldn’t step in and be the one to create the map for the players, run the monsters, and do all those things a normal GM would do when playing an RPG. Players could easily assume the role of the characters provided. LEGO even has backgrounds for each of the heroes and a world map that is actually pretty detailed (see RESOURCES below). Utilizing heroes and monsters from other LEGO games (even the non-HEROICA ones), you could develop a pretty detailed campaign. That said, playing this as an RPG might be best suited for GMs that stay in one location. The many small pieces could be problematic to travel with if the set is quite large.
Game used as terrain –
I saved my favorite bit for last. While playing the game as is was pretty entertaining, I’m most intrigued by using the sets as terrain. While not really suited for scale miniature terrain, the pieces do fit the purpose of overland travel extremely well. Remember what I said about Super Mario Bros. earlier? Look at the layout images above and think of each of the little “islands” as an encounter or adventure area. You can then use a hero piece to represent the entire party. Monster pieces can in turn represent major encounters or perhaps a specific settlement. As your normal game progresses, the players (or the GM) adds to the ongoing LEGO map. The customizable format even allows you to identify the encounter area by terrain type. You could use tans for desert, greens for forest, lighter greens for grassland, gray for wastelands, the possibilities are pretty much endless. Even if you don’t have the pieces for specific type of terrain on hand (although the four games represent diverse terrain types), you can go online and acquire all the pieces you need. The constructs are simple, and if you have a stash of LEGOs already, you’re bound to find most of what you need.
This is what I plan to do with the HEROICA sets I acquire. Take major encounter areas, build a little representative “island” for each one, and then “connect the dots” as the players seek out their adventures.
Well, that’s my un-boxing and review of HEROICA. I encourage you to pick up the game and give it a go. You’ll find the game is fun in all sorts of ways!
Until next time…
Game excellently with one another.