Friday, December 11, 2009

Heroscape meets D&D

The next base set for Heroscape is going to have a Dungeons & Dragons theme, which is an interesting juxtaposition of two major Hasbro brands. D&D is, of course, the venerable RPG originally marketed by TSR in the 70s and 80s and Hasbro already has a line of Dungeons & Dragons miniatures and, until recently, a D&D skirmish rules set to use them with.

So one might legitimately wonder if there's some redundancy here, but Heroscape, despite its RPG-like back story and aura, is essentially a simple skirmish-level wargame with little pretension for any kind of story continuity or even theme. Sure, there's a meta-narrative of the lord Jandar leading his colleagues against the lord Utgar's attempts to seize control of Valhalla, but it appears to be a very loose alliance and there's plenty of times when minions summoned by Utgar and Janadar will be on the same side fighting against other minions summoned by the same lords for the purposes of a scenario.

D&D is much more about internally consistent narratives, and while there have been D&D campaigns set in a vast variety of settings and "worlds," 30+ years of D&D have slowly built up a core D&D mythos that is recognizably different from Tolkien or other fantasy stories. So creatures from the D&D Mythos have assumed enough of a "reality" to be just as valid a summoning source as Earth, Alpha Prime or Grut.

Over at they've started reviewing the new base set, which will be more like the Marvel set than similar to the original set or the Marro-themed set. There will be just 10 figures (4 heroes and 6 bad guys) and a limited number of terrain pieces. To attract veteran players there will be some new terrain types and rules introduced, but the set is also geared toward new players by being completely self-contained.

It's hard to predict where this may take the Heroscape brand. There seem to be no plans for any new waves or follow-on sets in the existing Heroscape universe. The Marvel Heroscape never caught on -- I still see them sitting on store shelves -- so there's reason to wonder if this D&D-theming will work out. Presumably real D&D fans already are pretty invested in their existing miniature lines. Or is the hope that Heroscapers will be lured into trying more D&D products after being exposed to it through Heroscape?

I've though for quite some time that the last decade or so was an unusual state of affairs, where a combination of economic conditions allowed game manufacturers to import large numbers of good-quality miniatures from China at a low cost. We had an explosion of "bling" in games, where it wasn't uncommon to see games with dozens of painted plastic minis or hundreds of unpainted minis.

Heroscape was just one of the manifestations of that trend. The first base set had an amazing amount of stuff for the price. So much stuff that it was hard to get it back in the box. Of course getting stuff back in the box became moot as all the expansions came out. My complete set of Heroscape stuff takes up the better part of two plastic storage bins now.

So I wonder of the kind of product offering Heroscape fans got used to, such as multiples "waves" of expansions with a couple of dozen figures each, is a at hing of the past.

And maybe the new D&D Heroscape is an attempt to merge the Heroscapers into the existing D&D hobby. Time will tell.

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