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Boardgame review – Return of the Heroes

May 9, 2008

First thing you notice when you open the Return of the Heroes box is the nice amount of good quality materials, almost worth in itself the 20 eur for the game. Colored cubes for skills, glass counters for life points, nicely drawn characters and map pieces… and a huge amount of chits. We’ll get to that later.

Return of the Heroes is famous for one thing – it has the most confusing rules ever written. Fortunately there’s an online condensed/improved version that should be downloaded and followed.

Setting up the game is possibly what I like the least in this game. Even though I have organized everything in ziplocks, it is still a chore to get everything up and running – and gets worse during the game. The board game can be set up from the start from a predefined order, randomly or during the gameplay also randomly, which is a nice feature.
So many components, so little time
I won’t go into much detail in the game mechanics, but basically the heroes have to gain experience by doing quests or killing monsters, until they’re powerful enough to face the Nameless One – bad guy of the game, whose identity can also, as a game option, be displayed in the end. These monsters and quests come from the small chits that are on the board since the beginning or added each turn. Now it starts getting confusing because some chits have to go in a bag, others are then mixed into that bag, and then some are removed from the game and others go back into the bag and… arghhhh. Let’s grab that ruleset again. And again. Oh we’re now playing it different from last time. *sigh*

Eventually the Nameless One chit also comes into play and players can assault his castle. Now, it seems to me, from our plays, that invariably the players try to improve their “best” skill, until they have it at maximum and then they try to have a go at the bad guy. There’s no real variation from this type of play. The game doesn’t include rules for treachery or for incentive for the players to diversify their character skillset.
Cleric\'s character sheet
One last thing I personally didn’t enjoy, was the fact that I was looking forward to something closer to HeroQuest, in which the heroes advance in skills/equipment and they get to keep it to the next, usually radically different, adventure. Maybe the disappointment of finding a much more linear and oversimplified game has some influence on my negative critique.
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As a conclusion, the game itself is repetitive and confusing, although fun for a few go’s. Maybe I haven’t yet understood the rules correctly – but I don’t intend to go through them a 6th time. Perhaps someone could use the great material included and make a totally new set of rules?

Final score: 6/10

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