Well what with our recent Retro Toy Giveaway, we thought we’d look this week at some retro re-release board games, in the form of two stone-cold solid-gold ’80s classics: HeroQuest and Block Mania.
Plus, we take a look at the original Core Space box set, and some new Pirate goodies (well, baddies) from Goblin King Games for Moonstone.
We also have the announcement of the winner of said Retro Toy Giveaway, and a great big Harry Potter themed giveaway too to tempt you this month! Spoilt rotten, so you are.
Lay on, MacNerd!
(RRP £99.99, AVAILABLE HERE with 10% off – double reward points if you use the code SAM4132)
Now this takes me right back. The start of many a boardgamer’s journey was Heroquest, the classic D&D style dungeon hack and slash: Kill orcs, dodge traps, get gold. What’s not to love? With one player as GM and up to four others as the party, it made for a great intro… but how does it hold up against today’s offerings? We’re big fans of co-op dungeon-delve (or adjacent) games like of Shadows of Brimstone, Hellboy, Imperial Assault and of course Core Space: can a game I played as a kid in the dim and distant 80s compete?
First of all, it’s a big old box of stuff. It’s well organised, with its miniatures in one internal box and terrain in the other. They’re very much in the line of the classic pieces, but updated in terms of sculpt and quality. They’re crisp enough to be perfectly serviceable unpainted but equally will take a paintjob well if you’re so minded. They’re comparable to, say, Mantic’s terrain crate plastics and whilst (obviously) not quite as varied they also help populate any generic dungeon serviceably.
The good and the ill of HQ is that it is really straightforward. Players roll 2d6 a turn for movement, explore rooms, search for traps, treasure and secret doors, and kill pretty much anything they come across. Movement is orthogonal, which could’ve felt dated but actually does add to some surprising tactical decision-making for positioning characters. I thought that the randomised movement would feel obstructive (or indeed, just too arbitrary) but instead it actually adds some genuine tension to the game, especially as monster movement isn’t random.
Having one player as GM, rather than moving to the now-default App-driven gaming experience, might’ve felt cumbersome but is instead charming, as well as making for really wonderful fun as a family. Whilst I do have the odd niggle – there could be more variety in what you can find by searching different scenic elements for example, and there could be a few more critters in the basic box set – these are mostly addressed by the game’s two original expansions.
Another positive/negative, depending on your perspective, is that the game is incredibly quick to play: we have found we can rattle through a quest in under an hour easily. When game time as a family is often limited by real-life intrusions, having a big-box game with a tight turnaround is a big plus; but with 14 quests in the core box, some may feel that’s not a massive amount of gameplay. Again, though, expansions add not only more quest content but creation rules also.
It’s interesting to compare this to something as massive as, say, Descent, which for all its marvelous bits and bobs, whizzy app, shiny figs and modular cardstock terrain can feel a bit overwhelming. TBH, Heroquest for us is the better game. Overall, then, this is more than just a retro indulgence, it’s a worthy addition to the family stack of board games!
(RRP £30; Mega-Mania £25 or £50 bundled, AVAILABLE HERE)
Another ’80s classic, BLOCK MANIA (and its 3/4 player expansion MEGA MANIA) recently got a retro reissue from Rebellion. I was really excited at the prospect of reenacting classic Block War from the Progs of my youth, sending Fatties, Juves and Citi-Def to battle it out like the filthy spuggers they are. I’ll be honest, whilst I vaguely remember all the tokens, I hadn’t remember it being quite so fetishistically Eurogame tokentastic.
The game does take a bit to get your head round as there are a LOT of special rules – specifically every Blockers (citizen), every equipment (whether Hardware, such as spray cans, or Armoury, as in weapons), and most individual locations within the Block. This can be frustrating and time-consuming, involving a lot of flicking through the two rulebooks (though once you’ve got the hang of the actual gameplay, you tend to just need the Blocker’s guide) – which does hamper what should be a very, very rapid game.
That being said, it is a lot of fun. The asymmetric board layouts mean you have to think about movement carefully, and the wealth of classic 2000AD art means it’s an absolute visual treat. Once you get your head around the core rules, it speeds up somewhat, so it is worth pushing through that first, rather frustrating game. It’s also a very reasonably priced package so if you’re a Dredd fan or like an asymmetric Euro game this could well be the one for you.
(RRP £79.99, AVAILABLE HERE with 10% off – double reward points if you use the code SAM4132)
Wait a minute, didn’t this get reviewed a while back? Well, yes and no. First Born is the first full standalone base set for Core Space: now, the original is back in print and we were thrilled to get our hands on a copy thanks to the lovely gang at Battle Systems.
First of all, irrespective of the game itself, Core Space is a wonderful thing. The terrain is simply phenomenal, highly evocative cardstock Cyberpunk that can grace any table in any sci-fi setting. It works well for everything from Infinity to Deadzone, with plenty of scatter, signage and other oddments to enhance preexisting plastics if you’re so minded. It’s strength is its flexibility and portability as cardstock and as it is less game-specific it’s more arguably versatile than the alien-world terrain of First Born. Similarly, the miniatures are outstanding for any sci-fi RPG, or model agnostic games such as Stargrave, with a great selection of humans and aliens (plus the fact that you get two full crews in this box) – even the Purge, the killer robots, are sufficiently generic as to work for anything, really. Definitely a massive bonus, making the Core Space main game a worthy investment even if you never plan to play the game itself.
But, then again, why wouldn’t you? Because Core Space is frankly brilliant. With the best elements of dungeon crawl and sci-fi survivor horror merged together in competition with fellow scavengers, you get a truly unique and infinitely expandable game that never ceases to delight. One of my particular favourite things about this edition is that the crews come with their recommended skill tree and gear tokens on the same sheet, meaning there is less faffing and quicker gameplay straight out of the box (but still with the ability to customise if you’re so minded). And with two crews, if you want to play a crew each, it’s perfectly straightfoward – but, equally, you can take on a character apiece and really dive into the RPG side of the game.
MOONSTONE: BLACK POWDER
(RRP £24, AVAILABLE HERE)
Now I’ve gone on and on about my love for Moonstone, the whimsical fantasy skirmish game from Goblin King Games, and I can’t deny that I was thrilled to get my hands on the new Pirates for the Dominion – at last, some nasty Humans! If I’m being completely honest, I actually prefer the other new release ‘The Masquerade’ (think Venetian-style humans) purely as sculpts, but EVERYONE loves Pirates, right? And that’s the thing, as generic, game-agnostic pirates these are simply outstanding. Oh, and bloody brilliant in game, too.
As a set, they flesh out the existing goblin pirates (part of the same faction, Dominion) giving synergistic bonuses to movement (Peggy, the pirate lass) and melee (Powder Monkey, drunken… monkey) as well as real melee heft in the form of Swash (immune to crits, which is basically terrifying) and ranged attacks all round. I love the Goblin Pirates, they’re hugely characterful figs, and ‘Black Powder’ turns them from a fun theme into a troupe with treasure to grab and tactics to explore. A great addition to the Labyrinthine world of Moonstone.
For our next giveaway, sponsored by our old chums Top-Hatted Hamster down in Ayr (we do like to buy local, after all), and we’ve got a grab-bag of Knight Models’ Harry Potter minis for you. Even if you’re not familiar with the miniature game, these movie-accurate sculpts are an absolute joy to behold.
As always, UK entrants only. Sorry!
To enter, just comment below and tell us which of the games reviewed above you fancy, and which Potter figure set you most like the look of, and our winner will find themselves with a selection of the goodies pictured above, all delivered by Owl Post*!
Next time, we’re back looking at Marvel Crisis Protocol and new releases for Marvel Champions LCG, with a truly epic giveaway to excite you!
And the winner of our retro toy giveaway is… Gav (talonswordfoundry) – a regular commenter who’s earned more than a few goodies from us in the past!
So, the moral of the story is, always comment!
(*non-magical postal services may in fact be used)