LEGO has crossed a line. After a childhood of building with bricks and playing games, I’ve been amused by the LEGO Games line. Creationary was a great take on Pictionary while the Spinjitzu was a bit odd. But then LEGO revealed their next offering: a module, tabletop RPG. I don’t think they could have been a more perfect kryptonite for me.
Stop the dark druid from rising to power! Hidden in the ruins of Waldurk Forest, the Dark Druid is restoring his strength. You must use all your skill and power to find your way past his lurking monsters, but can you escape with the Chalice of Life?
Suggested ages: 8 and up
Number of players: 2 or 3
Playing time: 10 to 15 minutes
Contents: 225 LEGO bricks, 7 LEGO Microfigures, 1 buildable LEGO die, building instructions, rules booklet (in English, French and Spanish) and a mission map
Retail price: $19.99 available at Amazon.com or LEGO Shop
Unlike most LEGO sets, the building of Waldurk Forest is rather odd. Instead of assembling a single map to play on, various parts and pieces are assembled to make a variety of different tiles and bridges which can be combined in a multitude of ways to create a map of your liking. To get you started though, two different maps are included.
At its core, Heroica is a basic take on the tabletop RPG. A band of players somewhat work together while racing to get to a certain tile marked on the mission map. It might be killing a monster or grabbing some treasure, but the end of the game is clearly defined. The single die does double-duty for both player movement and combat. The die has four possible outcomes. When moving, there is one 1, two 2s, two 3s and a shield which allows the player to move up to 4 spaces or use their special power like healing or ranged attacks depending on the class. Players automatically enter combat if they are on a tile adjacent to a monster, and if a player would occupy a space already taken by another player, they simply move forward to the first free space. Any items you pass along the way become yours as well.
Combat is simplified in an interesting way. Combat is automatically entered whenever a player is adjacent to a monster. In combat, the sides of the die are: one hit each other, two monster hits you, two you hit the monster and a shield which is either an auto-kill or use your special power. In an interesting twist, all monster attacks have knock-back so if a player is hit; they also move back a space – thus ending combat for the turn. In the event of fighting multiple monsters at once, you pick which one to fight first.
What needs to be remembered with this game is that at its core it is the most basic RPG possible. There is no leveling up, all the monsters have a single hit point and each player has four hit points. Besides the color of the figures and their special attacks, everyone is the same. Buying weapons and carrying potions can help set people apart but not by much.
For figures, 7 Microfigures are included which are smaller, non-articulated figures about two bricks tall. The yellow barbarian is capable of performing a spinning melee attack that defeats all adjacent monsters then allows the player to move one space. The blue ranger is able to move a single space and then fire an arrow to defeat a single monster, provided they are 5 spaces or less away and there is a straight shot as a special. The tan druid takes the role of a cleric or priest and his special restores full health.
To keep track of health, a Hero Kit is given to each player a small brick with four red bricks to represent the health meter. So when a monster hits, you lose health equal to their strength. If a monster kills you, you roll the die on your turn and recover health equal to the roll (a shield is a full restore) until you are back at full health. It’s a decent way to make death slightly meaningful.
Two potions are included in this set as well, which are little more than translucent bricks. The red potion is Life, which restores 2 health while the yellow is Strength which allows you to automatically defeat an adjacent monster. Other items on the map include treasure chests which can either give you gold, take a bite from you or do both. It’s a nice way to use the die to show different outcomes.
The gold in game can either be found on the map or in chests and allows the players to purchase goods in from the armory. For three gold, a player may buy one of six different weapons that basically provide the player with an alternate special ability. The axe automatically defeats all adjacent monsters, while the wand defeats a monster up to three spaces away – including around corners! This can allow players to essentially dual-class.
For opposing forces, the dark druid leads a band of werewolves and a clutter of spiders. Since all monsters have the same health, a single hit point, combat can feel rather one-sided at times. The spiders have a strength of 1, so they don’t do much. The werewolves hit for 2, making them slightly more formidable. The boss of this encounter though is the dark druid and he smacks players around for 3! So one hit from him often means lights out for a player.
In this forest themed encounter, Magic Doors and Magic Spaces are also included giving the map a slight puzzle feel. If you end your turn on a Magic Space, you can move one of the Magic Doors (which look like battle axes made of ice) to any other empty, dark gray space. This can allow for some mean PVP actions, or better team work getting to the end of the quest. The Magic Doors cannot be walked through, unless the player manages to roll a Shield when adjacent to it.
And that’s the basic game play. A band of warriors wander through a forest until they eventually break through some magic ruins and slay a dark druid. It’s decent, but anyone who has played Dungeons & Dragons will quickly become bored. When Tom and I played, we began noticing small things that were annoying – like the complete inability to ever get gold! So we quickly began thinking of ways to change the game, and that’s exactly what LEGO wants.
If there is one thing LEGO knows how to do well, it is allowing for customization. The rules offer some minor variations like Epic Heroica which is when multiple campaigns are played one after another and the players get to keep all their loot between missions. Or there is the addition of relics, like the Chalice of Life which could help heal the player. But the best variant is Battle Heroica – where one player takes the role of a DM and sends monsters after other players. They’re all good ideas, but we wanted more.
Soon we were thinking of other possibilities for the game. What if monsters had hit points too? It felt odd that the dark druid was as easy to kill as a spider, so we gave HIM the Chalice of Life and said you’ve got to defeat him twice – in the same combat! Tom was unable to shake his DM habits and thought how awesome it would be if the player’s didn’t get the full map laid out for them up front and had to explore to find the end point. It would require more work, but would result in better co-op play.
As a game, Heroica is a great way to introduce younger players to the basics of RPG mechanics. But for older players, the depth isn’t quite there unless you want to add it yourself. Personally, as a LEGO fan I’m very excited to see what I can rummage up from my own bins of older sets and come up with new rules as we go. What I really love though is the overall aesthetic of the game. The simplicity of the design is something I find stunning. The use of colors and as few bricks as possible to make trees and enchanted ruins in the forest works so well.
My biggest issue with Heroica though is the cost. At $20, this game feels a bit too pricey. A simple inclusion of a regular sized LEGO figure like the Ranger and Dark Druid would have been an amazing way to up the value of this (or maybe I just want more fantasy figures). But using LEGO bricks to make a module map is a great use. If you’re looking for an easy way to teach a younger audience the basics of RPGs, this is a solid way to do it. If you’re older, there isn’t as much here out of the box but some tweaking and planning could make for a fun D&D game – or just a cute little alternative to minis.
Great introduction to RPG mechanics for younger players
Completely module map system
Parts compatible to make larger campaigns
Fantastic potential for depth
A touch on the pricey side
Depth for older players isn’t in the box
Really just a board game with light RPG mechanics