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Heroscape is an expandable turn-based miniature wargaming system originally manufactured by Milton Bradley Company, then shifted to Wizards of the Coast, both subsidiaries of Hasbro, Inc., and discontinued by Hasbro in November 2010. The game is played using pre-painted miniature figures on a board made from interlocking hexagonal tiles that allow for construction of a large variety of 3D playing boards. The game is often noted and lauded by fans for the relatively high production quality of the game materials, in particular the pre-painted miniature figures as well as its interchangeable and infinitely variable landscape system.
About the game
Heroscape was released in 2004. The game designers are Craig Van Ness, Rob Daviau, and Stephen Baker at Hasbro Games. Hasbro’s subsidiary, Milton Bradley, also developed HeroQuest and Battle Masters. Heroscape is designed for 2 or more players ages 8 and older, although it can easily be adapted to more players, particularly if more than one master set and expansion sets are used. There are additional expansion sets that can be purchased (see: Master Sets and Expansion Sets, below).
The game comes with two sets of rules. The basic rules allow for simpler games accessible to younger players. The advanced rules are designed for more experienced gamers but are simpler than most wargames. Each figure or group of figures has a card, called an army card, with basic game statistics printed on one side and advanced game information on the other. Advanced game information includes species, class, personality, size, special powers, and the point value of the card.
The master set that is required for play contains enough tiles to build a nearly limitless number of scenarios, but experienced players often combine sets to create larger and more elaborate playing surfaces. The master set includes grass, rock, sand, water and ruins to make the playing surface; various expansions add lava, road, trees, snow, ice, glaciers, swamp, jungle, a castle, a bridge and more.
After its move to Wizards of the Coast, it went through a short time of Dungeons and Dragons where reissued DnD figures served as new Heroscape figures. The choice was made in order to increase the profit margin, but it quickly polarized the Heroscape community. Some welcomed the “DnD Scape” as being better than no Heroscape, but others believed this heralded the imminent demise of the game. On November 3, 2010, Wizards of the Coast decided to drop the game in favor of focusing on their core games: Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. This caused an instant backlash in the Heroscape community, instigating petitions to Hasbro for them to take up the game again and causing others to vow to never buy from Wizards of the Coast again. Aside from the prominent disappointment, the Heroscape community remains resolute to keep the game alive through continued tournaments and user created content.
At its essence, Heroscape is an epic battle between and among characters from multiple cultures, periods, and genres, taking place on a three-dimensional gaming surface of various elevations and terrain types. Although the game manual contains ideas for scenarios, many players combine multiple sets of terrain tiles to create large playing surfaces, and develop their own house rules and custom scenarios. The heroes are inspired heavily by popular science fiction and fantasy, as well as the Old West, the Roman Empire, ancient Greece, feudal Japan, the Scottish highlands, the Nordic sagas, American history, medieval Europe, and classic mythology, among others. A single team may consist of heroes from many genres, with dragons, elves, robots, kyries, dinosaurs and wizards fighting alongside (and against) soldiers, vikings, knights, samurai, cowboys, agents, Marvel characters, Romans and more, including various forms of animal life, such as wolves, spiders, and serpent-like vipers.
Building the scenario
Heroscape requires players to construct the three-dimensional playing surface for the game. Scenarios that come in the game, in master set and some large expansions, include detailed instructions for board setups, but many players enjoy designing their own. Two new master sets were released in 2007. One called The Swarm of the Marro was released on August 2007, and the Marvel Comics Master Set called The Conflict Begins which was released on July 2007 and contains five heroes and five villains from the Marvel Comics universe. The Marvel edition is fully compatible with the regular Heroscape figures. Another master set was released in 2010 titled “Battle for the Underdark” which was based on the Dungeons And Dragons franchise.
There are also separate smaller expansions that contain a new set of themed terrain and a new unit(s) that takes advantage of said terrain. Volcarren Wasteland contains lava and lava rock surface tiles along with obsidian guards, Thaelenk Tundra contains ice, snow and glacier surface tiles plus the dzu-teh (yeti-like creatures armed with stone clubs) miniature, and Road to the Forgotten Forest contains roads, bridge and tree surface tiles and a dumutef guard. Ticalla Jungle based on jungle and tree surface tiles with fylorg spiders was supposed to be available in early 2008, but was delayed during the transition of making Heroscape a Wizards of the Coast product instead of a Hasbro product. It was instead released on June 13, 2008.
Each player selects one or more “units,” where a unit may be a unique and distinct hero, or an entire squad of generic figures. “Army cards” that explain the various attributes and special abilities are packaged with each unit. There are five types of units in the game: Unique Hero, Common Hero, Uncommon Hero, Unique Squad and Common Squad. Hero cards are associated with a single figure and squad cards are associated with a set of two or more figures. A given player may only have one of a unique unit, be it hero or squad, in his army, but there is no limit on how many copies of a common unit may be selected.
All basic game scenarios and some advanced game scenarios specify the units for each player. Most advanced game scenarios allow players to choose units based on the points values printed on the army card. Usually scenarios have a different amount of points that you can use to buy characters. Depending on the scenario, players may be required to place their team in a specific location, or they may randomly select where each player begins.
Structure of a round
The flow of play in Heroscape is broken up into rounds and turns. The terms are often used interchangeably in other board games, but there is a key distinction in Heroscape with each round including 3 turns for each player.
At the beginning of the round, each player must place order markers on his/her armies. Order markers determine which armies will be used during that round and what order they will be utilized. These markers indicate the turn in which each unit will be activated, but the numbers are hidden from the table. A fourth “dummy” marker may also be placed to add some ambiguity as to which units one will be activating. The same unit may be activated multiple times in a single round by placing multiple order markers on it.
After order markers have been placed, each player rolls a twenty-sided initiative die. The highest roller takes the first turn and play passes to the left.
The player with the highest initiative roll begins his first turn by revealing which unit contains his first order marker. A turn usually consists of moving and then attacking. For squads, each figure in the squad is moved before any may attack. The number of hexes that each figure may move is listed on its card. Typical movement amounts range from 4 to 8 and normally moving one hex costs one point movement. Certain types of terrain are dangerous (e.g. lava), impassable (e.g. glaciers), slow you down (e.g. snow) or speed you up (e.g. roads). Moving up, but not down, in elevation also costs additional movement points. Some figures’ special abilities, such as flying, may also affect movement.
After movement has been completed, each surviving figure in the unit may attack any figure within its range and line of sight. Melee units are those with a range of one, and ranged units typically have a range of four or more.
The number of dice rolled for offense is listed on the army card, but may be improved by various bonuses, including terrain bonuses, elevation bonuses, or special abilities. The attack dice contain skulls on three surfaces (in 1st edition) giving a 50% chance at scoring a hit for each die. The defender likewise calculates how many defense dice he may roll, based on his unit’s natural defense value and any other bonuses (terrain, elevation, special abilities, etc.). The defense dice contain only two shields, giving a statistical advantage to the attacker. In the second edition the defense and attack dice are combined into one, with three chances for attack, two chances for defense, and one chance for a blank roll.
If the defender rolls a number of shields equal to or higher than the number of skulls rolled by the attacker, nothing happens. If the number is lower, the defender receives a number of wound markers equal to the difference. Once a unit receives a number of wound markers equal to its total life points, it is destroyed and removed from the playing surface immediately. Heroes usually have multiple life points; squads always have one life point per figure in the squad. In the basic rules version of the game the wound marker system is not used, and each unit simply has one life point; hero units usually have exaggerated defense to compensate.
Various abilities by specific units may modify these rules to some degree (e.g., the samurai may counterattack and inflict damage while defending), but this move/attack/defense flow is typical of a turn.
Once the player has finished all of his attacks, play passes to the left, and that player then reveals his first order marker and takes his turn. Play continues in this manner until the final player has completed his first turn, and then play resumes with the first player, who reveals his second order marker and takes a turn with that unit. This process is repeated for the third order marker, and then the round is completed. Sometimes a player will lose a turn if the unit he had placed an order marker on was destroyed on a previous player’s turn.
The conditions for victory vary with some scenarios involving quest-like goals and others simply being the last player with any surviving units. Time limits, round limits, and points for first to or holding certain locations are all common. In tournament settings, there is often a “Fractional Scoring” system used when time expires. The player with the most points at the end of the time limits wins.
There are seven Valkyrie Generals on the world of Valhalla, the planet upon which Heroscape is set:
- Jandar’s army fights to stop Utgar from misusing the wellsprings and their incredible power and to prevent him from conquering all of Valhalla, the universe, and possibly time itself. Jandar is allied with Ullar, Einar, Vydar, and Aquilla, and leads the alliance of good generals. Jandar’s army is made up of the Sentinel faction of Kyrie and humans, along with a scattering of Omnicrons, Dzu-Teh, an Air Elemental and a white dragon named Nilfheim, along with its smaller counterpart, a white wyrmling. Jandar is basically the good force.
- Utgar’s army is fighting to take control of the mysterious wellsprings and use their incredible power to conquer all of Valhalla. Utgar’s army consists of Marro and Orcs along with soulborgs, undead, the dragon Mimring, and a scattering of other creatures and beings. His forces are basically evil. He is the first evil general.
- Ullar is allied with Jandar, Vydar, Einar, and Aquilla. His army consists of elves, vipers, Shaolin Monks, a giant named Jotun, a Gryphillin named Theracus, a ninja named Moriko, Ullar Kyrie Protectors, and a dragon named Charos. His forces are themed around elves and nature.
- Vydar is currently aligned with Jandar, Ullar, Aquilla, and Einar. His army consists mostly of humans and soulborgs; Dund, a Doggin; Sudema, the undead queen; and Braxas, the dragon. The former Heroscape website showed that he had been allied with Utgar, but new pages of Thormun’s journal showed Sentinels going to ask for Vydar’s alliance. Although Vydar is skeptical and annoyed at Jandar’s alliance attempt, he seems to hate Utgar for Utgar’s pollution. Vydar’s forces are the futuristic and robotic armies.
- Einar is allied with Jandar, Ullar, Vydar, and Aquilla. His army consists almost entirely of Humans with only the exceptions of the Einar Imperium Kyrie, the dragon Zelrig, Empress Kiova (a Kyrie), and an Ogre named Gurei-Oni. Einar makes no mention of having been allied to Utgar, and has the most disciplined army. Thormun’s Journal shows that Einar’s warrior Shiori, who helps other heroes to infiltrate the Marro Hive, was not going on Einar’s orders, but was running away because she didn’t want to follow anyone’s authority. Einar’s forces are generally historical.
- Aquilla, who is a new (as of 2007) and mysterious general. Little is known about her except that she is allied with Jandar, Ullar, Vydar, and Einar, all fighting against Utgar. Aquilla’s army is made up of squads of Fyorlag spiders, the Mohican River Tribe of Native Americans, Axegrinders of the Burning Forge who are a group of dwarf fighters and their leader, Migol Ironwill. There is also Sujoah, a large, flying insect. In the new Dungeons and Dragons Master set and waves, Aquilla’s forces are joined by Darrak Ambershard, and Morgrimm Forgehammer, who both bond with the Axegrinders, a Water Elemental, a Wyvern, A Dragonborn Paladin named Rhogar Dragonspine, and a Blue Wyrmling, which is a miniature dragon with a lightning-like special attack. Many fans were hoping for a larger version, but Heroscape was cancelled before it could have the chance to be released. Her forces are themed around nature.
- Valkrill is the latest evil general (as of 2010). He was turned into an Archkyrie by the drow archnomancer Estivara in Dungeon Adventure 2: River of Blood. He summons many new villains from the Dungeons and Dragons universe such as Death Knights and Demons to fight for him. His symbol is a skull and colour is a dark olive-green. He has been described by playtester Jerry Hawthorne as representing “pure, mindless chaos.” At the moment, there is little description of Valkrill’s stance in the war on Valhalla but his forces are the evil manfestation of chaos.
Heroscape game sets
A Master Set is required to play the game. The first master set is titled Rise of the Valkyrie. This set contains 30 pre-painted miniature figure warriors (all unique but a mixture of hero and squad), cards with the stats of the different warrior figures, a large amount of interlocking hex-based tile terrain, and the rule booklets, which include battlefield plans and scenarios for both basic and master games. The master set comes with enough order markers to play a 2-4 person battle.
There are two versions of the Rise of the Valkyrie set available. The first edition is sought by some collectors mainly because it has sparkly translucent blue water tiles rather than the solid blue ones in later runs of the first edition, and all runs of the second edition. The first edition came with two sets of six-sided dice: a set of 10 red “attack” dice (skulls) and 10 blue “defense” (shields) dice. The second edition edition combines these into a set of 12 unified dice that are rolled for both attack and defense; 3 sides of each die are skulls, 2 are shields, and 1 is blank. The second edition is more common and also has slightly different packaging and a revised rulebook.
Multiple set purchases are common among devoted players, as the Master Set is the only way to obtain significant numbers of terrain tiles, which are generally used to build bigger battlefields.
A themed master set (labeled on the Box as Game Set “The Conflict Begins”), based on the Marvel Comics license Hasbro acquired, was released in 2007. Marvel Legends Heroscape includes 10 unique figures (Captain America, Red Skull, Silver Surfer, Thanos, Hulk, Abomination, Spider-Man, Venom, Iron Man, & Dr. Doom) and urban style terrain, and is currently available in stores. The Marvel characters follow no generals (Jandar, Utgar, Vydar, Einar, Ullar, or Aquilla). The Marvel Heroscape set IS compatible with other sets, but Marvel characters are generally higher in points in comparison to other Heroscape figures.
A second Master set, Swarm of the Marro, was released in Fall of 2007. It was revealed at Toyfair 07. Most of the figures included are from the Marro, which are an alien race designed for the game. Two remakes of figures from the Rise of the Valkyrie master set (Raelin and Sgt. Drake Alexander) and several other heroes are also included. Swarm of the Marro also features a “hive” which can rebirth fallen Marro figures and a new “swamp” terrain tile type.
The third master set, “Dungeons & Dragons: Battle for the Underdark”, released January 4, 2010. Using the setting from the ‘Forgotten Realms’, Battle for the Underdark introduces the new dungeon tiles, along with new rules and game play dynamics. Instead of one-of type games, the new campaigns use a “dungeon crawl” experience (similar to a RPG type video game or the ‘real’ Dungeons and Dragons game). A game played on one map, is connected to another map, in that way the party is ultimately trying to reach the end map and survive the dungeon. 10 new figures are included, along with 50 new terrain tiles and rock outcroppings.
Expansion sets have been released regularly since the game debuted. The most common expansion set releases consist of four different booster packs, each containing 3 – 8 figures. At least one pack in each series contains unique heroes and/or squads, while the other two or three contain two common squads or one common squad and one common hero.
Most sets contain extra terrain hexes, and Wave 1 packs contain special power glyphs that grant bonuses in-game. These booster pack expansions are sometimes referred to as the wave expansions, as opposed to the expansions which come in larger boxes (Large figure sets or large terrain sets). There are 13 waves of expansions so far, the most recent being Moltenclaw’s Invasion(Wave D3) which came out in November 2010.
A Marvel Heroscape master set was released, including other figures, as well as some city-themed terrain. Two five-figure expansion sets for Marvel Heroscape were displayed at the 2007 Comic-Con in San Diego. They included the following figures: Sandman, Human Torch, Beast, Bullseye, Doctor Octopus, Punisher, Black Panther, Super Skrull, Invisible Woman, and the Thing. As the Heroscape line has been cancelled, these expansions will not be released. However, a fan project known as C3G has been making army cards for both Marvel and DC Comics characters, to be used with the Heroclix line.
Due to the way these expansions extend the game experience, some have referred to Heroscape as a collectible miniatures game (CMG) and compared it to games like Mage Knight and Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game. However, the designers of Heroscape have stressed repeatedly that the game is not collectible per se, because purchasers can see exactly what they are getting with every pack they buy. Also, Heroscape expansions were not intended to go permanently out of print, although frequent stock shortages and lapses in the availability of certain sets have made them difficult enough to obtain that sellers can often demand a premium price. This differs from the marketing tactic of CMG’s, which rely on the purchaser not knowing what they have until they’ve already purchased and opened the package, and limited availability to drive their sales.
Fan-generated content and materials
Heroscape players have created much fan-generated content and material, including custom terrain, like jungles made out of aquarium plants, battle boards, ruins, buildings, and sci-fi terrain. Also created are custom figures, which permit fans to include elements from their favorite films or stories. Groups of players have gotten together to create and playtest custom waves of figures based on miniatures from other games, such as the Comics Customs Creators Guild (C3G) which releases super-hero customs using mostly heroclix figures and is playtested against Marvel Heroscape figures, and Classic Customs Creators of Valhalla (C3V) which attempts to keep continuity with the official Heroscape characters, backstories, and themes that are playtested with official figures. Although fan-generated content may be posted at varius online outlets, the most prominent community of custom creators and their creations is found on forums of the official fan-site Heroscapers.com which is also the only place to get the most up-to-date rulebooks, FAQ, and official scenarios that were created by Hasbo and Wizards-Of-the-Coast.
- Mythacle Battleplan for Heroscape is a free third-party, web-based application for viewing unit stats and designing armies.
- LandSCAPE, currently on its third version, is a free third-party software product for designing and printing battlefields and scenarios. It is web-based or downloadable (Mac OS X and Windows). This software appears to no longer be in development. It does not include data for Tundra, Castle, or any expansion newer than Collection 3.
- VirtualScape is a free third-party software product that permits fans to plan, build, and view virtual scenarios in a full three-dimensional environment. Users can use unlimited hexes and print the landscape off so they can build a 3-D battlefield. (Windows)
Tournaments and Events
Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast never held nor supported officially sanctioned events such as they had with Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon, or Axis & Allies, however a fan-run tournaments scene started very soon after the introduction of Heroscape. The biggest tournaments have been at major gaming conventions such as Gen Con or multi-genre conventions such as Comic-Con, but various local and regional tournaments are run regularly. Starting in 2007, a grassroots movement was made to declare the 3rd Saturday of October National Heroscape Day, and various tournaments and events are run annually on that day around the country, with Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast supporting events with prizes. However, other than prizes, there is no official governing board over events, so each one may be run with its own set of rules and scenarios based on the gamemaster’s discretion.
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