Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Lego dungeon crawl!

My 10-year-old son Lucas is a certified Lego-maniac (wonder where he gets it from?) and was very excited to see the latest additions to Lego's line of games based on their building toys.

The four games, along with a special Lego case to hold the components.
Among the recent offerings is a set of four games (available individually) under the Heroica name. They are: Draida Bay, Waldurk Forest, Caverns of Nathuz and Castle Fortaan. They can be played as stand-alone games, but the nice thing is that they can also be combined into one large game.

My son has combined all four sets into a giant custom dungeon!
The games come with different heroes that you can play (there are a total of six different ones) in their quest to free the land of Heroica from the evil monsters. The theme is pretty standard fantasy role-playing fare, and anyone familiar with Dungeons & Dragons will recognize the different classes of heroes (wizard, barbarian, druid, ranger, knight and rogue).

The heroes prepare to enter the dungeon.
The throne room of the evil Goblin King awaits them at the end!
The game components themselves are Lego pieces that can be assembled into several configurations to form the game board. The characters are represented by "microfigs," that are smaller than the usual Lego minifigs. In my opinion, that was a mistake, as the figures can really only be used as game pieces. They lack the size and articulation that make Lego minifigs so awesome.

All the figures from the four games.
As far as game play itself, well, that is where my son and I have differing opinions. I felt it was entirely too dependent on luck, with the roll of the dice determining everything from movement to combat. And the combat itself is very simplified. My son liked it, though he too admits there is a "tiny bit" too much luck.

There is a small amount of strategy involved, as characters have the opportunity to take different paths to the goal, or to gain weapons and equipment along the way, but a bad (or good) run of dice rolls can determine the outcome of the whole game.

I think the idea of a Lego dungeon crawl is terrific, and the ability to combine the games into one larger adventure is sweet. I think that using these components, it would not be terribly difficult to cobble together some nice rules to make the game more strategic and less random. I am certain there are already Lego fans doing that very thing. And, these games with their simpler rules can serve as an introduction to gaming for younger players.

My son says it is an excellent game, despite the luck factor. And after first buying the Caverns of Nathuz he has put his money where his mouth is and gotten the rest as well, either with his own money or as presents (the last one came as a Christmas gift). I think it says something when a kid wants to spend his allowance on a game. So, from that standpoint, the game is a success for Lego.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate Heroica a 4 on gameplay, but a 7 on components. My son gives it an 8. After playing it a couple of times, I was honestly pretty bored. But the game has a ton of great Lego dungeon components, and I can see us coming up with our own homebrew dungeon rules to make it much more playable.

Now, what I'd really LOVE to see is for Lego to release the characters and monsters from Heroica as full minifigures - that would be enough to get me to spend my allowance too!

Imagine these guys as full-blown minifigs!
'Til next time!
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