Sunday, 23 March 2014

Acceptable in the '80s: The Launch of Heroquest

In the summer of 2012 I set about chronicling the history of Warhammer Third Edition through its releases, supplements and published material in White Dwarf. Thanks to the wonders of the labelling system on Blogger, collecting all of the posts in the series is rather easy, just a case of clicking on the 'Acceptable in the '80s' label on the right hand side and you are away.

I was brought to my attention recently that I missed several small bits and pieces of material from WD. Sure, most of us are aware that I am not commenting on the sneak peek that would be later printed in RoC Slaves to Darkness and the Lost and the Damned but I have missed a few nuggets. Due to this, I have decided to go back to issue 115 and relaunch the series and pick up those little nuggets that I have missed and get this series back on track. 

Today's piece concerns the release of Heroquest, dealt with in issue 115. Now, if Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, then this particular game must be the game that launched a thousand (if not many more) wargamers. I am sure that a great number of people who read this blog had the first taste of the fantasy game business playing this immortal game. 

So how were things done back in 1989? Page after page of images of the same few models? A shed load of thinly disguised adverts posing as articles? No, just a White Dwarf cover and a four page launch. 

Have a look!

Heroquest Launch by orlygg

Reading through the article with fresh eyes uncovers some interesting facts. The four player characters are given names and these I had been previously been unaware of. The barbarian, always the favourite of mine, was called Toran. The dwarf was called Gorlin. Eldoral was the name of the elf archer while the strangely clad wizard was known to his friends as Gelmick.

The whole package screams 'production values' to me. The first class art by Gary Chalk, the miniature design (and the great painting by Mike McVey), the components and, of course, the fantastic board. What makes it all much more impressive is how all this was achieved with a smidgen of the technology we have now. There are plenty of box games released in the last couple of years that lack the 'quality' look that Heroquest has.

Still has. As I am sure that the game is still played widely around the world. I bought a battered copy at a carboot sale one year and took it into school. The Year 5 and Year 6 children adored the game and all the parts that came with it and the set was literally played to death.

Looking back over the advert now, so many memories are catapulted into my mind. I can picture my bedroom table, its surface spread with newspaper, a water jar full of brushes and the Citadel Colour paint set open before it. I can remember my first efforts with painting miniatures. Undercoat in white (brushed on) base colours and then wash with black paint. The models looked great to me, until the wash dried and I was left wondering in awe about how the Citadel painters achieved the finishes they did. I can recall inventing my own dungeons on graph paper to test out against my sister, generating my own epic stories. I can recall the hours I spent oggling every detail on the models themselves. Above all, I can remember the advert on TV and how everyone in my class own a copy of the game. Or seemed to, at least!

One day I shall buy another copy myself. When my boy is old enough to play a longer winded board game. I shall paint up all of the models too, based on the McVey originals, and we will share many happy hours together battling in the dungeons of Morcar.

I am sure that there will be similar hours spent in your homes too!

Before you leave, please share with us your Heroquest memories. Do you recall this ad or the TV one? Did you own a copy? Were you first steps into the worlds of fantasy wargaming resplendent with fimir, orcs and mummies?

Please share!



  1. Bought this issue of WD the day I went camping with my mates when I was about 13. Read it over and over all week. Really liked the prototype figures that were pictred. Seem to recall some of them went for rather a lot on ebay a while ago.

  2. I loved HeroQuest and it was the tie-in issue of White Dwarf that led to me discovering all of the other wonderful titles Games Workshop was producing at the time.

    It's a shame that it doesn't still exist as it's a perfect starter set for a whole hobby.

    1. It seems we were just born into a particularly good era for crossover products - my dabbling in RPGs came from mainstream products too, the various D&D beginner boxes and RPGs available in toyshops & regular bookstores. These days it's a far harder proposition to get into that hobby as well, and there hasn't been a good "gateway drug" product for mainstream audiences lin a long time.

  3. Ah...the memories. My introduction to fantasy gaming was through HeroQuest, which I received for Christmas '89. I got most of the add-on packs too, but all of it is sadly gone now.

  4. Awesome post!
    I first got wind of Heroquest as a lad through the tv commercial. It is quite odd looking back, but the game and all expansions were only available at Rural King, which is a small chain rural/farm/hunting store. Not the place you would expect to find a fantasy board game, especially with the 80's 90's stigma of D&D and all that.
    Anyway got my first copy as a Christmas gift, then bought the rest of the expansions with my allowance.
    I now own 3 copies: My original with first 2 expansions, another U.S. copy to fill in for broken pieces, and one Ebay surprise win of a mint U.K. copy.

    I now play Heroquest every chance I get, as most of my forum post are along this line. I also had a custom board made this past year at my local sign shop. It is a huge, 5'x3' with squares at 50mmx50mm. Makes for a lot roomier board. Asol the wife surprised me with my very own Heroquest Hoody and T-shirt for a Christmas gift, hopefully if all works out, many of you will be able to recognize me by it at this summer's Oldhammer weekend.

    I really can't get over the game and I am constantly tinkering and tweaking the rules to fit my vision of the game.
    I am currently playing a mashed up version of Toco's Allied Heroquest- Anyway there are plenty of sites out there that offer near to original rules, and some that stray way off. So you should be able to play the original game, or find a home brew that fits with what your thinking.

  5. Fantastic article ;)

    I still use the Les Edwards art from the box cover as a wallpaper on my PC from time to time, it just screams everything I loved about fantasy when growing up.

    I put my hand up, I believe Heroquest was probably the hook that caught me in '89 and turned me onto a lifelong hobby of both wargaming and roleplaying (I think the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series and Ulysses 31 had a hand in it too around then).

    I didn't get a copy as it was released, but several of my friends, classmates and even my school had copies. I got to play it quite a fair bit. But I remember I finally got my own copy after trading it from a friend for my Batman: The Movie Boardgame based on the Tim Burton movie that I had from around the same sort of time (wish I still had that too).

    As with a lot of childhood things my copy pretty much vanished piece by piece over the years until it was practically no more.

    But I came into some luck quite recently. A friend found and sold me a copy of Heroquest: Advanced Quest (not to be confused with Advanced Heroquest) which has the base game and several expansions included. It's complete and the miniatures that have seen a bit of paint look like they'll easily strip.
    I'm really looking forward to having a nicely painted set of my own. And maybe I'll be able to get my children to enjoy a dungeon delve or two.

    And just to finish, yes I remember the TV ad for Hero quest. With the amzing table set-up, truly awesome costumes and the young lad that had a pretty unique pronunciation for the word broadsword, which I don't believe I could even attempt to write down phonetically :D


      I was at a party with a friend who is a giant buff long-haired professional wrestler - you'd think he'd eat nerds like me for dinner. But when I mentioned Heroquest to him, he had a total madeleine moment remembering playing the game as a young lad.... and that odd yet endearing advert. :-)

  6. My first GW related purchase was Space Crusade, but Heroquest was not long after. I remember the TV adverts - but they got me into the game, and then got me into my local GW in Glasgow. I still remember my first visit when I bought Eldar Attack; the next time round I bought my first issue of White Dwarf, #145: revealing I would have been a snot-nosed kid as far as some of you lot are concerned. :-)

    I think the absence of this kind of maintstream breakthrough product is a big loss. Nowadays we rely on computer games - I know 40Kers who got in through Dawn of War, just as I know D&Ders who got in through Baldurs Gate or Neverwinter Nights. But Heroquest and Space Crusade got me and some of my chums and quite a young age and supplementary material in White Dwarf allowed us to dabble in picking up Citadel Miniatures - rules to use Skaven and Beastmen in Heroquest, or Terminators and Genestealer Hybrids in Space Crusade, were a major gateway drug.

  7. I've bought a copy for my daughter and I to play from ebay not long ago. It was the first game I ever played and like many of the guys reading you blog, I have very fond memories of it.

  8. Great article. I'm 32 and it was only in Dec' 2013 I played my first HQ. It was ok, we had four players who played, but two weren't interested in it than me and another friend.

    I always had fond memories of seeing this on adverts but never actually played it. It is a great way to get kids into boardgaming rather playing consoles all the time.

  9. I didn't own it, but remember vividly Steven Betts bringing his copy round when I was, oh, 9 or 10. I was hooked. That Christmas (or the one after - childhood memories being what they are), I got Talisman and my fate was sealed!

  10. I remember the adverts on TV (They don't make em' like they used to). I started playing Heroquest because a couple of mates owned it. This must have been 92/93. I remember getting my own copy for a tenner from either Argos, Index or Woolworths (my memories are getting fuzzy). They must have been selling the last copies off cheap.

    Like many young gamers, I played it to death. Painted the miniatures badly. And finally lost half of the contents. Although the box still sits on top of my bookcase with whatever bits are left along with all of the memories. I am looking forward to Gamezone's 25th anniversary tribute to Heroquest. To be honest it looks so good I wouldn't mind what it was called. I intend to play it to death but not paint it badly or lose half the contents.

  11. There is a very nice digital version of this game on the apple storefront for ipad/iphone called "Warhammer Quest".

    Same rules as the boardgame.

  12. Heroquest (and Space Crusade) were games I bought because they were a very cheap way to get citadel miniatures. I'd been reading old White Dwarfs and despairing of the prices for citadel in NZ ($20 for 2 or 3 lead minis in 1989? Jesus, nowadays this stuff is *cheap*) and when Heroquest appeared I was all over it. I got the little supplements and bought WD again for the board game articles. I made the fatal mistake of storing the old box in a shed and it got damp and mildewy. I had to throw the box and either the board or screen away. These things are insanely expensive now. Even considering that there are probably thousands in cupboards and attics throughout NZ and Australia. I didn't see the HQ ad, but I did see the Space Crusade one. I bought a 2nd copy of Crusade for the miniatures.

    If I recall, didn't later printings of HQ have slottabases? It was the one thing that stopped me from buying a second copy.

    1. I mean, the lack of slotta bases put me off buying a second copy...

    2. Advanced HeroQuest and Warhammer Quest used slottabased miniatures but I've never seen a version of the original with them; things may have been different at the other end of the world though, and the prototype miniatures shown in White Dwarf -- and the preview above -- were slottabased so they existed somewhere.

    3. I had a quick look around. Looks like there were at least a few of the Heroquest base/expansion figures released in metal for slotta, some unreleased:

      When looking at some of the old ads, I'm sure there were some variant figures shown in different poses and on round bases. Maybe these were only used in studio and never went into the final production of the game?

      I know several of the wizard figures saw use in Warhammer Fantasy Battle (much like some of the metal Talisman figures did).

  13. HQ was the reason I got into GW. My cousin had a copy for Christmas one year, I don't think he got anywhere near it because I wouldn't leave it alone! Mum and Dad got me a set after Christmas along with the Witch Lord expansion and it was my favourite thing for a good decade. I picked up a second copy from a car boot sale a few years later but sadly, in a generous moment of 'growing up' gave all my HQ stuff along with Talisman, Man O' War, Space Crusade, Advanced HQ and my Warhammer bits to the son of some friends.

    A few years back I had the terrible pangs for playing some HQ and spent a small fortune acquiring the base game (which, unlisted, came with Kellar's Keep), Wizards of Morcar (£15 from Gumtree!), Return of the Witch Lord and Aganst the Ogre Horde. Amazing stuff all of it!

    I never realised Advanced HQ was released at the same time as HQ though, always assumed it came out a few years later.

  14. I love HQ. I've owned a second copy for the past three years. Far and way THE best ever Christmas present i ever received. I drowned the pieces in Humbrols. It took me till AHQ to try proper citadel acrylics.

    I spent hours down at my mate's house playing it. Even kids I never thought would play. We all got hooked.

    I played most of the way through the quests recently with my wife, stepson and nephew. It rolled back the years. I've never been a prolific gamer, more of a sometime painter and reader. The reading stopped (fantasy anyway - I read a lot otherwise), but the painting remains (just), and I have HQ to thank for it. And D&D of course. And a couple of mates. And Bloodbowl 2nd ed. Whatever :-).

  15. Loved Heroquest - it was that and Fighting Fantasy that got me into wargaming. I still have my original (very battered) copy and even all the old character sheets me, my Brother and mates filled in for each game - some very silly mottos, names and heraldry I can assure you! Glad I've still got the quest books for the Witch King and Kellar's Keep as well as the extra minis. Would love to track down a reasonably priced(?!) copy of the Ogre Horde.

    Seem to remember we took great delight in lampooning the TV advert every time anyone used the broadsword or cast Fire of Wrath.

    I also have ambitions of finally finishing painting all the minis, renovating the furniture and playing the game with my kids when they're a bit older...

  16. I started playing HeroQuest not long after I started playing D&D around the age of 10. My best friend introduced me to HeroQuest one day after school. His older brother ran the first game I played in--something about the Orcs and Goblins being in a civil war and we had to recover some artifact.

    D&D took prep time to run, but with HeroQuest you just sat down and played and had a great time. So we played it over and over again, finishing the original 14 quests, before moving on to Kellar's Keep and the Witch King. My best friend then starting making his own adventures and even his own monsters for the game. We even tied in wargames from Battlemasters.

    We later "graduated" to Warhammer Quest when we weren't playing D&D.

    My god those were the days!

  17. Like so many other people my age, HeroQuest was the gateway drug that got me into the whole Warhammer thing.
    I had seen the adverts on TV, and then my friend mentioned that he had a copy of the game. He brought it into school and then we basically would spend every lunch time in the school library playing. I then mentioned to my Dad that I had been playing it and how cool it was. He laughed and showed me his collection of White Dwarfs, and his copy of Advanced HeroQuest (that he said we'd play a game of as soon as he'd finished painting the figures... Still waiting...)

  18. like veryone else, Hero Quest was my gateway drug into the heady world of Fantasy Wargaming, our boarding school brought the boxed game in 1989 and then the first two expansions Keller's Keep and Return of the Witch Lord, they were fun days, when that boarding school was closed down (as many special educational needs ones were in the 90's), my second boarding school introduced me to Advanced Hero Quest, though strangely the teacher used the Hero Quest board.

    Both schools of course had Space Crusade, though only the first one had the Mission Dreadnaught set while someone in the second had the Eldar Attack expension.

    Sadly I have never had the honour of handling the Ogre and Wizards expensions, Though I did have the comic and sticker album and the novels, god only knows what happened to those.

    These days I am proud to own the 1989 release and the 1990 release, with their slight differences, mostly in the books, my pride and joy though, is an unused Adventure Design Kit :D