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A six-person game of Heroscape using multiple Master Sets and Expansion Sets.
|Players||2 or more|
|Setup time||20+ minutes|
|Playing time||20 Minutes - 1+ hours|
|Skill(s) required||Dice rolling, Strategy|
Heroscape (stylized as "heroScape" or "HeroScape") is an expandable turn-based miniature wargaming system originally manufactured by Milton Bradley Company, and later by 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 variable landscape system.
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 taking over Heroscape, Wizards of the Coast issued new products with a Dungeons and Dragons theme (another of their product lines). This change was reported to be intended to reduce production costs, but existing players saw it as an attempt to convert players away from Heroscape to D&D. On November 3, 2010, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would be discontinuing production of Heroscape products, supposedly in favor of focusing on their core games: Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. This caused an instant backlash in the Heroscape community, including petitions and threats of boycotts. Despite the lack of official production for several years, the game remains popular, with a strong and dedicated community, regular tournaments, and user-created content.
In 2015 Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro published Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers, with the rules and terrain based on Heroscape, but with the addition of spell cards and summoning, and features planeswalkers as well as select creatures and spells from the Magic: The Gathering universe. They later released two expansions, Battle for Zendikar, featuring a multi-color planeswalker and colorless creatures that can be used by any color of planeswalker, and Shadows Over Innistrad which adds a battlefield obstacle called the cryptolith. Arena of the Planeswalkers is considered by many Heroscape fans to be the spiritual successor to Heroscape, and fans have devised a multitude of ways to combine the two games.
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. Playable characters include a wide variety of choices, drawing from fantasy, science fiction, history, nature, myths, and legends. A single team may consist of heroes from many genres, including valkyries, dragons, elves, orcs, robots, Vikings, knights, samurai, cowboys, ninjas, Roman soldiers, minutemen, werewolves, zombies, trolls, ogres, American soldiers, yetis, gladiators, wolves, spiders, and even superheroes and villains from Marvel Comics. Heroscape incorporates these to develop a world around the gameplay, even developing some of its own unique species such as the skeletal aliens known as the Marro and the living robots known as the Soulborgs.
Building the Scenario
Heroscape requires players to construct the three-dimensional playing surface for the game. Scenarios that come in the game, in the 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 in 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 four types of units in the game: Unique Hero, Common 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.
D&D Heroscape introduced a fifth type, Uncommon Heroes, which play like unique heroes but a player can have more than one in his army. The idea proves unpopular, as most players simply played with them as if they were exactly like Unique Heroes, only having one in their army build.
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 number 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.
Playable characters in Heroscape are divided between seven Valkyrie Generals, fighting on the world of Valhalla. The five generals of the original game were Jandar, Ullar, Vydar, Einar, and Utgar. As expansions were released, the only female general, Aquilla, was added, forging an alliance between herself. In the game backstory, Utgar is seen as the villain of the story, with Jandar as his main rival. Depending on the storyline, the other four teams switch loyalty, with Ullar and Aquilla supporting Jandar, Einar supporting Utgar, and Vydar most often remaining neutral. Most of the time, Utgar finds himself facing all five of the other generals. D&D Heroscape (considered a separate sub-game and storyline) introduced a seventh general, Valkrill, which forces Utgar to join Jandar's alliance to stop this new threat. All of the Valkyrie Generals drink from the Wellsprings, which gives them the ability to manipulate time and space to gather massive armies— past, present, future, and from numerous planets and alternate dimensions.
Despite all of this backstory, an army does not have to consist of all one general's army or alliance. The generals just add backstory and variety to the game.
- Jandar fights to stop Utgar from misusing the wellsprings and their incredible power and to prevent his forces from conquering all of Valhalla, the universe, and possibly time itself. He is considered to be an archetypical "heroic general". His army includes the Sentinel faction of Kyrie, the Airborne Elite and their leader Sgt. Drake Alexander from an alternate version of World War II, numerous Vikings, knights, the robot Omnicron Snipers and their leader Zetacron, the cowboy Johnny "Shotgun" Sullivan, Scottish warriors, the white dragon Nilfheim, and the yeti-like Dzu-Teh.
- Ullar has been allied with Jandar from the beginning. His army consists of species often referenced in the fantasy genre, with an overall good nature theme. His army consists of elves, the armed reptilian assassins called Vipers, Shaolin monks, a giant named Jotun, a Gryphillin named Theracus, the Protector faction of Kyrie, a green dragon named Charos, and the cowboy sniper "Deadeye" Dan.
- Of the three "neutral" Generals, Vydar was the only "true-neutral" one among them, picking neither Jandar's nor Utgar's side, but aiding either side as it suited his own mysterious agenda. He has a very technology-based army. His army consists of mainly technologically-advanced humans and robots, while also incorporating gun-wielding gorillas (Primadons), a dog-like alien creature called Dünd, an undead queen named Sudema, and Braxas the black dragon.
- Einar was the only General to ally with Utgar but later shifted his alliance to join Jandar. His army consists almost entirely of humans from the history of Earth including warriors from Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, the American Revolutionary War, and feudal Japan, with the only exceptions being the Imperium faction of Kyrie, the dragon Zelrig, and a cyclops-like ogre named Gurei-Oni. Einar also has the significance of having the only character that truly existed in real life— Spartacus the rebellious gladiator, whose body was never found.
- Utgar's army is fighting to take control of the mysterious wellsprings and use their incredible power to conquer all of Valhalla. Utgar is the archetypical "conqueror/overlord" and is universally portrayed as a villainous figure. His army consists of dark forces including the Minion faction of Kyrie, the hive-controlled skeletal Marro, dinosaur-riding orcs, robots, the undead (ghosts, zombies, and vampires), wolves, werewolves, ogres, and the dragons Mimring, Othkurik, and Moltenclaw, and a scattering of other creatures and beings. His army is the largest in the game, and yet contains scant few humans, containing only the black knight Sir Hawthorne and the dishonorable ninja Isamu.
- Aquilla, who first appeared in 2007, is still a mysterious figure. Little is known about her except that she is allied with Jandar, Ullar, Vydar, and Einar, all fighting against Utgar. She is the only female general. Aquilla's army is made up of a darker fantasy/nature theme, with squads of Fyorlag spiders and other giant bugs, Native Americans, and a variety of dwarves.
- In the Heroscape mythos, Valkrill was created by Utgar's dark followers to reinforce Utgar's dark army, but he turned and formed his own army. While Utgar is evil, his army also has order, whereas Valkrill is purely chaotic. His army is small, as new Heroscape units were canceled shortly after his introduction, but it does consist of demons, goblins, orcs, and the undead. His is the only army to contain no humans whatsoever. He is portrayed as a chaotic "force of nature" villain whose goal is primarily wanton destruction. Vakrill exists only in D&D Heroscape.
- The ten Marvel superheroes and villains officially released are fully compatible with the other characters but are not allied with any particular team.
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 three 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 master set, and all runs of the second master set. 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. A special promo version was also sold at some Wal-Marts which included a free set of three figures, the black Elite Onyx Vipers. This version was the most sought after. The third edition combines the dice 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 rule book.
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.
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. 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.
The second themed 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 and shadow tiles (in reality the set include no "new" figures or titles but repaints), along with new rules and game play dynamics. Instead of one-off 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 terrain tiles and rock outcroppings.
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.
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 in-game bonuses. 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 ten waves of expansions so far, the most recent being Valkrill's Gambit.
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 canceled, 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. Currently, HeroClix has taken place of these.
A Dungeons and Dragons Heroscape master set was released which included previous DnD figures that were repainted and some DnD-themed terrain. Later three wave expansion were released which also introduced a new faction unique to the Dungeons and Dragons theme: Valkrill. He was turned into an Archkyrie by the drow archnomancer Estivara in Dungeon Adventure 2: River of Blood. He commanded many new villains from the Dungeons and Dragons universe such as Death Knights and Demons. His symbol is a skull and his faction's color was a dark olive-green. He had been described by playtester Jerry Hawthorne as representing "pure, mindless chaos." Valkill theme proved unpopular amongst Heroscape players as there was nothing that really set him apart from Utgar. The last expansions wave was Moltenclaw's Invasion which came out in November 2010.
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. However players have pointed out that this in fact made Heroscape a TRUE collectible game, as not being able to tell what was being bought actually made supposedly collectible games more of a "random" game and the designers were forced to concede the point. A further argument was made, pointing out that 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. The C3V has an agreement with the Soldiers of Valhalla (SoV), which reviews existing customs created by members for inclusion into "Fanscape". Together, The C3V and the SoV are known as Valhalla Customs (VC). Although fan-generated content may be posted at various 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.
- 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)
- Due to there being more than 10 years since Heroscape was created, it is important to note that the above websites are no longer updated and therefore may not work on your current computer or mobile device.
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.
- Heroscape, Bart Carroll (2008). "February and Beyond". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved 2010-08-04.
- "The Death of Heroscape? - Heroscapers". www.heroscapers.com. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
- "LEGENDS OF THE DUNGEONS & DRAGONS UNIVERSE COME TO HEROSCAPE". Wizards of the Coast. 2009-11-10. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- "Magic: The Gathering – Arena of the Planeswalkers". boardgamegeek. 2015. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
- "Arena of the Planeswalkers: MtG - Heroscapers".
-  Wizards of the Coast Official Homepage, Heroscape Brand Page
-  National Heroscape Day forum @ Heroscapers.com