Friday, January 20, 2012

Last (But Not Too Late) To The "HeroScape" Dance

If I had a dime for every time I was standing in Toys-Is-We holding a clearance-sale copy of HeroScape (2004) in my sweaty little mitts, well, I'd probably have five dimes.

But regardless of how cheap the thing was, I could never pull the trigger on it.  Just look at this box cover :

Okay, so we got a dragon, alright, fine, cool.  But then we've got this guy who looks like Spawn holding a plasma rifle standing next to a suit of mech armor and a blue-skinned centurion astride what appears to be an allosaurus.  

The scene inside the velcro-sealed front flap is even worse.  We've got Morpheus carrying a broadsword, G.I.s toting laser weapons and a samurai who's dressed like Pyro from American Gladiators.  This looks like it was designed by a hypoglycemic six year old with ADD on a Froot Loop bender. 

'Nope, w-a-a-a-a-a-y too childish," I'd say, turning up my game snob nose and placing the box back on the shelf.      

Wow, 'childish' huh?  This coming from the same guy who probably purchased this piece of shit just a week earlier.

So I managed to resist HeroScape's siren call until this (clearly less infantile) release came down the pike:
Yes, to the average eye, this still looks like the sort of thing that should reside only scattered under the bed of a nine-year-old kid, but I just couldn't resist the Marvel theme.  So, when I caught it on sale $10 bucks off the retail price, I decided to take the plunge.

I could also justify this purchase 'cuz I'd managed to avoid the financial sink-hole that was the collectible miniatures HeroClix game.  Plus game-review guru Tom Vassel just loves the shit out of HeroScape:

So, I got the thing home and read the rulebook.  To help simulate this riveting experience, here's the game's overview, courtesy of Board Game Geek:

"Marvel Heroscape (2007) features plastic figures of Marvel Universe heroes and villains - each with a card to control movement and combat strength. 

Players can build many different battlefields by attaching and stacking terrain tiles of different sizes. The battlefield/scenario section includes 8 scenarios and 2 terrain layouts. Games can be opponent elimination, getting to a certain space, protecting a certain figure, or holding out for a certain number of turns.

The rulebook features two games: a basic and a master version. In the basic version, designed for younger players, characters move, attack, defend, and have range -- but there are no special powers and some other rules are minimized or eliminated. The master game includes special powers, wounds, engagement rules, falling rules, and a few other additions.

Each unit has a movement rating in hexes. Combat is fairly straightforward. You roll attack dice as listed on your unit's card, and the opponent rolls defense dice equal to the number on their unit's card. Extra hits count as wounds (figures may have more than one wound)."

So, I set up the first scenario, a pretty straightforward affair with no terrain elevations and only three characters (Spider-Man and Captain America vs. The Hulk).  After a five-round slugfest, the Green Goliath proved triumphant.
Here's my post--play take on the game from back in September 2007 (!):

"Fun, quick and clearly brainless beat-em-up.  If the Hulk lost this particular scrap, I would have been seriously pissed.  

Having said that, the designers did a good job building a simple mechanic to replicate the Hulk's growing rage.  Captain America is well-simmed in the sense that he's a genius at hand-to-hand combat and exploiting a weak defense.  Spidey is appropriately nimble and if his spider-sense had worked better in this match, you may very well have seen a joint Web/Wing Head victory!"   

 In other words, I had fun.

And then, just as I'd hoped, an expansion was announced which would have added ten new characters: Sandman, Human Torch, The Thing, Doc Ock, Punisher, Super Skrull, Invisible Girl, Bullseye, Beast and Black Panther.

So I waited.  And I waited.  A-a-a--a-a-a-d then I waited some more. 

But the reinforcements never arrived. As it turned out, this Marvel-flavored license had laid a giant goose-egg.  The original core set (sub-titled "Rise of the Valkyrie") had been produced under the Milton Bradley banner.  When Milton Bradley was swept up by the toy Goliath Hasborg, er, Hasbro, someone must have seen dollar signs in marrying HeroScape with various licensed products.

Unfortunately, fans who'd been there since the beginning loved the game for what it was: a disparate kooky way to answer that age old question: "Hey, what do you think would happen if a bunch of U.S. Marines fought a mechanical dragon being ridden by a flaming ninja?".  They really didn't want any licensed influences coming in and muddying up those LSD-laced waters.

Translation: they loved HeroScape for the exact same reasons that I initially found it to be terminally stupid-looking.   

In fact, I found more reasons to invest in the game after HeroScape was married to the other great love of my life: Dungeons & Dragons.   I recently got this core set for Jesus Present Day:

Immediately I planned to run this sucka for our group's weekly game turn, so I did a solo run on January 6'th.  What follows is a turn-by-turn transcription of the game.

BTW, if you're already heavily into HeroScape, you may find this interesting.  If you're not that familiar with the game and/or you're a human being with a normal brain and reading this is the equivalent of watching oil-based paint dry, just skip past the following italicized section.

"Campaign Master Game - Adventure One - HeroScape D&D Battle for the Underdark

Round One:  I place all of my Order Tokens on the Troll.  Order Token 1 & 2 goes on Tandros, 3 and I place the decoy on Ana.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers   7  Troll  11

The Troll reveals Order 1 and moves up 5 spaces between the two stalagmites.  Tandros reveals Order 1 and also moves up 5 spaces.  The Troll reveals Order 2 and moves up another 5 spaces.  Tandros reveals Order 2 and Engages Mr. Troll.  He rolls 4 attack dice and gets 2 Skulls.  The defending Troll rolls 1 Shield so he only takes 1 point of damage!  The Troll reveals Order 3 and tries to kick Tandros in the cubes, rolling 4 dice now (since he has 1 wound) and gets 2 Skulls.  Tandros rolls 1 Shield and takes 1 point of damage.  The Troll regenerates 1 wound!   Ana reveals Order 3 and moves up 5 spaces.  She attacks with 2 die but misses!

Round Two:  All Order Tokens on the Troll.  Order 1 & 2 on Tandros, 3 and decoy on Ana.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers 20, Troll 20 Re-roll: 20 vs. 9

Tandros reveals Order 1 and swings at the Troll but gets only 1 Skull.  The Troll rolls all blanks for defense so it’s a hit for 1 point of damage.  The Troll reveals Order 1 and lashes out at Tandros.  He rolls  4 die (since he has 1 wound), but only gets 1 Skull.   The defender's roll fails so he takes 1 damage and the Troll regenerates 1 wound!  Tandros reveals Order 2 and stabs the Troll in the groinal area.  He gets 2 Skulls and the Troll fails to defend.  Two hits!  The Troll reveals Order 2 and  attacks Tandros with 5 dice!  (2 bonus for his wounds)  He rolls 2 Skulls, but Tandros rolls 4 Shields in defense so there's no damage!   The Troll regenerates 1 wound!    Ana reveals Order 3, moves up 5 spaces including 1 extra point for going up one terrain level.  She attacks the Troll with a 2-die ranged attack and gets 1 hit which the Troll fails to defend!  The Troll reveals Order 3 and tries to eat Tandros's face.  He rolls 5 dice and gets 3 Skulls!  Defense roll:  only 1 Skull.  Two hits and the Troll regenerates 1 wound!

Round Three:  All Order Token on the Troll (d'uh).  Order 1 & 2 on Tandros, 3 and decoy on Ana.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers 4, Troll 12

The Troll reveals Order 1, tries to maul Tandros.   He rolls 4 die and gets 2 Skulls.  The defense roll is a bust so Tandros takes another hit and the Troll regenerates 1 wound!  Tandros reveals Order 1 and pokes at the Troll only getting 1 Skull which he defends!  The Troll reveals Order 2 and tries to pummel  Tandros with 4 die…but no Skulls!  He regenerates 1 wound as a consolation prize!  Tandros reveals Order 2 and tries to perforate Monsieur Troll.  He gets Skulls, which goes undefended for 2 hits.   The Troll reveals Order 3 and flies into Tandros with 5 dice.  He rolls 4 Skulls!  Defense roll:  only rolls 1 Shield, takes 3 damage and he’s killed!  Troll regenerates 1 wound!  Ana reveals Order 3, moves up 4 spaces and tries to free the caged Erevan.  Rolls 1, fails! 

Round Four:  All Order Tokens on the Troll (whatta shocka).  All Order Tokens on Ana.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers 19, Troll 13. 

Ana reveals Order 1  She rolls an 18 and manages to free Erevan!   Troll reveals Order 1 and moves up 5, ending up partially in the shadows.  Ana reveals Order 2.  She jumps into the water to flee from the Troll, then rolls 2 Skulls on a 2-die ranged attack.  The Troll defends successfully (after rolling 2 dice thanks to the shadow)!  The Troll has taken 7 points of total damage so far this game.  He was fully healed but now has 1 wound!  The Troll reveals Order 2.  He moves adjacent to Ana and attacks her, hitting with two undefended Skulls and then regenerates one point.  Ana reveals Order 3.  She scampers up the bank (taking one Leaving Engagement point of damage in the effort) and retreats back but also fires off a 2-die ranged attack but it’s a miss!  Troll reveals Order 3.  He moves into the water and then attacks Erevan.  He rolls one Skull but Erevan defends with a Shield!          

Round Five:  All Order Tokens on the Troll (Zounds!).  Order 1 & 2 on Erevan, 3 and decoy on Ana.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers 18, Troll 14

Erevan reveals Order 1.  Troll misses him as he breaks Engagement and backs up four spaces.  He tries a four point fire blast and rolls three Skulls!  Defense…no!  Fails!  Troll reveals Order 1, moves up 5 and Engages with Ana (knowwhutImean knowwhutImean, nudge nudge, wink wink).  Attacks with 6 die!  He scores three hits, and Ana's defense…fails!  She's killed!  Troll heals 1 point of damage!  Erevan reveals Order 2.  He moves back five spaces onto another higher outcropping, fires off with another blast.  He rolls 4 hits on 5 dice (+1 due to elevation)!!!   Troll defence…failed!  Takes four points of damage!  Troll reveals Order 2.  He lumbers up 4 spaces and tries to stick his dick in  Erevan's ear.  He rolls 3 hits on 6 dice!  Defense roll:  rolls 3 Shields (+1 die for higher ground!)  Only 1 damage. Troll heals 1 point of damage!  Ana’s Order is wasted.  Troll reveals Order 3 and crawls up 4 spaces to be on par with Erevan.  6 die attack:  three Skulls.  Defense:   failed, Erevan takes 3 points of damage.  Troll heals one! 

Round Six:  All Order Tokens on the Troll.  All Order Tokens on Erevan.   Initiative roll:  Adventurers 20, Troll 3.  

Erevan reveals Order 1.  He tries a 4-die fire blast, rolling 3 Skulls! Defense…rolls 1 Shield and is still alive!  Troll reveals Order 1 and lashes out with 6 die!  He scores two hits, Erevan's defense fails and the mage is eaten like a Boston Pizza chicken wing! 

Post Match Commentary: Wow, pretty crazy stuff.  Obvious tactical error is “splitting the party”, so to speak.  Both starting adventurers probably need to try and rescue Erevan together.  The Troll’s regeneration ability seems pretty insane when he’s solo.  It would be hard to overcome it even with three active characters.  I wonder if I played it right?

Still, with a bit of luck this can go either way.  Erevan rolled dynamite but he just couldn’t defeat the Troll alone.  I’d like to try this again soon.

So, with HeroScape now fresh in my mind, I was ready to host the game last Wednesday.  Since I potentially had four other people showing up (Andrew, Dean, Chad, and our newest pledge Mark), I intended to create one of the mega-maps from the core set.

But then, like a game group version of "Ten Little Indians", the numbers begin to drop off.  Mark was out first due to familial responsibilities (*Ppfffffttt!!!*).  Andrew had contracted the Andromeda Strain and I knew it had to be serious.  Andrew's kinda like the bugs in Starship Troopers; you can blow off one of his limbs and he's still 86 percent gaming effective.  Dean, on the other hand, blearily called me just before kick-off time and said:

"Um, yeah, seeing as it's ten to eight right now and I just woke up..."

But this isn't really a bad thing.  As people started to drop out, I began scaling down to the first scenario, which is perfect for two players.

Chad arrives and quickly assumes the mantle of the Troll, since it's only one character to control.  After a quick Headless Hollow tutorial, we're off to the races.

After reading and adopting the rule that two-space figures can just walk across water, Chad charges the Troll directly at me.  I try and split the offense and hope I don't get beat up too badly.  Tandros crosses one side of the river and is forced to go toe-to-toe with the beastie:

When Chad rolls his first attack he points out a major gaff that I made during the solo run.  The Troll's "Blood Frenzy" ability gives him extra attack dice only if his target is wounded, not if the Troll is hurt.  D'oh!  I though it was a "berserk-with-pain" and not a "piranha feeding frenzy" sorta deal.  Oh, well.    

Ana flanks the creature just long enough to try and get past him.  I try and keep Tandros in motion as well, but both of them take wounds as they try and run past. 

Tandros is killed before he can get back to the cage, but he buys Ana enough time to free Erevan.  The effort has her pretty beat up as well, not to mention caught in  terrible defensive spot.  As such, Chad's Troll then proceeds to gorilla-fuck her to death.

Erevan uses his fey step (which is sorta gay, but not in a bad way) to beam past the Troll, luring him back to the entrance.  I get super-lucky and manage to fry the fucking thing with two four-skull fireballs.

In Game Two Chad wisely keeps Ana and Tandros together as they try and maneuver past mein Troll.  Ana's healing ability actually keeps the beatstick alive.  At first I'm hoping that Chad runs out of time, but he manages to free Erevan just before he drowns.

So, for the first time ever, all three heroes are united against the evil Troll!

But Tandros has been pretty beat up by the effort.  Chad wisely tries to keep Ana close to him for some hot "lay-on-hands" action, but it just doesn't happen frequently enough.  My damage rolls aren't stellar, but without those healing rolls I eventually kill the stubborn little fuck.

Mercifully Ana's 2-die attacks are also like water off a big, scaly, green, regenerating duck's back.  She's also bloodied, so I keep hammering at her with the Troll's blood frenzy, dropping her quicker then a co-ed's tube top on Spring Break.

I start chasing that wily fuck Erevan around the board.  I do a slightly better job keeping the Troll within mangling range but this still doesn't prevent the Eladrin wiener from tea-bagging my Troll with a few  well-placed Fireballs to the mush.

So, two "Hero" wins, but with heavy losses.  All told, a pretty balanced scenario.

Okay, I clearly like the game, so now what?  I guess I'll just go ahead and pick up some of the D&D-flavored expansion packs.

Oh, wait...It's out of print?!?!?

Regardless of its fleeting availability, I've gotta give D&D HeroScape four pips outta six!


  1. Out of print sometimes means deals - I just bought another set of the D&D boosters for just $25 for each set of 4 from Miniature Market.
    (not affliated with MM, just a satisfied customer)

  2. Absolutely! I just scored the "Rise of the Valkyrie" Master set locally for a whopping $20.00!