Wednesday, November 15, 2023

LEGO Heroica - Board Game

There are some things in life that everyone knows about - things like Michael Jackson, Dragon Ball and Coca Cola. And everyone knows about LEGO. They are apparently the largest toy company in the world now. I am not surprised. They have, more or less successfully, tried their hand at pretty much everything there is now abouts and have partnered with pretty much every other IP out there (where is the Dragon Ball LEGO though?!). I am sure they are immensely annoyed over at LEGO that they missed out on being the ones who invented Minecraft, but other than that I think it is safe to conclude that up to now, LEGO is a success-story.

I wasn't surprised then to find that LEGO has also dabbled in trying to make board games. I was a bit surprised however, when doing some research for this post, at the amount of board games they have already released. I really thought it was maybe a one-off try to get into the board game market, but apparently LEGO has been releasing a variety of board games ever since 2009, almost 40 different ones by now!

It's kind of amazing then that most of them have completely passed me by. I did find one at a sale at a local toy store however - LEGO Heroica.

Heroica is maybe as close as to Dungeons & Dragons as LEGO has ever dared to wander. In it you play as a set of typical heroes (i.e. rogue, druid, archer) and fight typical dungeon-style monsters (i.e. golems, werewolves, spiders). You find treasure chests, potions, gold and can buy weapons. The rule set is extremely rudimentary, and honestly even a bit on the mean side. Getting through a stage of Heroica feels like a feat of luck, rather than tactics or well thought out planning. You roll one of LEGO's, probably trademarked, special die to decide your moves and attacks. If you're lucky you roll a special attack which allows you to do whatever your chosen hero can do, an archer can kill an enemy at range for instance. Weapons that you can "equip" also have special attacks allowing you to improve your character slightly throughout a game.

More often than not you'll die though, because Heroica is stingy with health and it's so easy to take damage from enemies. So I say put the original rules away and go bananas with what you've got at hand instead. The real strength of Heroica is exactly the same as the beauty of LEGO in general, you can transform your pieces into whatever you prefer. 

Playing it with my 10 yo, he usually loves to really stack the odds against me as the dungeon master, whereas my 5 yo is a bit nicer and often puts out loads of health for me to pick up. As such I think Heroica can be a good way to introduce the concept of Dungeon Master and role-playing to younger children. The visual aid that the actual LEGO pieces lend to the role-playing is also great. It is fun to piece together your own little dungeon filled with creatures, chambers and treasure to explore. It's easy to change and/or implement rules to fit your own preferred playstyle and as mentioned I recommend it to the rather frustrating original rule set.

There are six sets of Heroica to collect and I have managed to find three of them - Waldurk, Nathuz and Fortaan. There is also Draida, Ilrion and the mini-expansion Ganrash. They are quite expensive on places like Amazon, but if you're lucky you can maybe find second hand sets on auction sites.

There is of course also nothing to prevent you from just borrowing the whole idea, taking whatever existing LEGO you might have and craft your own little dungeons for some to explore either. It might be a genre of playing that doesn't immediately come to mind when you think of LEGO, but it works surprisingly well.

The base game might be shallow to most experienced players, but the potential is huge. Overall Heroica is a functional role-playing board game with easy to learn rules that lend themselves to exploring the concept of being a dungeon master, building worlds, crafting rules and learning how to make a fair and fun adventure for your players. Like we say in Swedish, you've just got to let your imagination flow.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The AMAZEing Labyrinth - Board Game

I absolutely love board games. All of them (except Monopoly, f*ck that game). I own too many and I can't stop buying them. My biggest problem, besides apparently being a shop-o-holic, is that I don't really have anyone to play with. 

My friends who love board games live too far away. My family are sick and tired of me begging asking. I can nag them into playing something with me every now and then, but then it has to be something kid-friendly. Nothing wrong with kid-friendly games though, there are some great ones out there.

So let me introduce you to one of them - The Amazeing Labyrinth (pun intended). 

If you enjoy board games you might have heard of this one, it has been around since the mid 80's and spawned numerous spin-offs. I've only played the original version because honestly I don't see why you would need to change anything, it is perfected the way it is already.

The concept is simple, you and your frenemies are stuck in a labyrinth and need to find treasure (I guess a mouse is a treasure when you're lost and starving in a labyrinth). To get to the treasure you have the possibility to change the layout of the labyrinth, optimally to create a path for you and ruin the plans of your co-players. Each turn a player moves a piece of the labyrinth to create new accessways, or just be a meanie and block a part off for another player. It has a nice balance between luck and tactic, because you can definitely draw some unlucky or lucky treasure cards.

And that is it. There is a kids version that just makes the board smaller, but honestly I already think the concept is simple enough to grasp for even young children, though younger than 10 probably need some help planning their routes and some helpful (rather than spiteful) route shifting from co-players. I've played this with my kids from when they were around 2, in which the idea of finding the corresponding treasure on the map from your card is the main draw. Usually the battle stands between me and my partner and often enough we end up fighting each other hard enough that one of the kids come out winning.

This also means that it is a great game to throw on to the table when you've got friends over who don't often play board games and don't want to spend 30 minutes understanding the rules. Just like with all the best board games, the real challenge of The Amazeing Labyrinth are the co-players, not grasping the rule set.

I remembered playing this as a kid and was lucky to find it cheap on online auction, simply because I wanted the same old version I had as a kid. This board game is popular here in Sweden, readily sold in toy stores and easy to get hold of. I can definitely recommend it if you're looking for an "easy to get into, fun for all ages"- kind of board game.