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Heroscape’s new boxed set costs $250, but it could jumpstart the decades-old wargame

Avalon Hill is betting big on the asymmetrical skirmish game

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Beloved miniatures wargame Heroscape is back with a new high-profile crowdfunding project. Everything hinges on the success of a lavish $249.99 boxed set called Heroscape: Age of Annihilation, which includes loads of customizable scenery and five playable factions. It will only be produced if the campaign receives 8,000 pre-orders, but if it’s successful, Hasbro’s Avalon Hill imprint plans to bring the franchise back to life with additional releases.

Avalon Hill is riding high on the success of its relaunch of HeroQuest, the classic dungeon-crawling board game. That game was rebooted in a similar fashion following a successful crowdfunding campaign, and now includes multiple expansions and additional character classes. Chris Nadeau, senior director of design and development at Avalon Hill, told Polygon that once the new HeroQuest line found its footing, Heroscape naturally became “the next target in the vault.”

First published in 2004, Heroscape is an asymmetrical wargame that pits warlords known as Valkyrie against one another for control of the planet Valhalla. The game is highly asymmetrical, with fictional factions drawn from all across space and time. But the franchise is also known for its terrain — chunky, stackable plastic platforms that allow for dramatic landscapes. Devoted fans hoard the tiles in huge quantities, wheeling them out to create sprawling landscapes for their home games.

Unlike the surprise announcement of HeroQuest, HeroScape has been teased to dedicated fans for a while now — especially through the recently established Avalon Hill Discord server.

The Frostclaw Paladins of the Clockwork Combine are bears in armor.
Xenithrax The Soulweaver is a giant armored dragon standing on two legs, its wings outstretched.

“It wasn’t quite the cold open that HeroQuest had,” Nadeau said. “We know that the community has continued to play the game. There have been conventions and tournaments that have never stopped in that community. They’ve stayed together as a community for years, and what we wanted to make sure that we did in a re-launch of the game is ensuring that their current collections, their current tournament meta, all of that would be completely viable official material going forward.”

This new HeroScape offering is fully backward compatible with all of the sets that have come before. The terrain itself uses the exact same digital files for production, meaning that all of the terrain ever made is viable going forward. Even the rules, hero cards, and other gameplay materials are designed to be compatible.

“It’s tailor-made to let the existing fan community jump right in and feel like they’re picking up right where they left off,” Nadeau said.

This new collector’s edition is more than twice the size of the original 2004 launch. It includes more than seventy heroes — 76, if all of the campaign’s stretch goals are met — plus 74 base pieces of terrain and 68 new, modular wall tiles for making structures on the map. The terrain will also include a remake of the highly sought-after jungle terrain pieces, which at time of publication are going for nearly $250 on eBay.

“As far as the miniatures that are included, what we wanted to do going forward is we wanted the ability to tell richer stories and to build on the IP in a way that we could as Avalon Hill with all the things we do in terms of storytelling. So we’ve introduced five completely new factions to the game [representing] new species, new planets, new factions, new powers that have never existed before in the game. So it’s not a reissue […] Everything in this set is brand new, and that goes back to the idea that we wanted fans to feel like they were expanding their collection.”

Necrotech Wraithriders of the Ironclad collective are amalgamations of other creatures riding a sphere and carrying chains and chainsaw-like weapons.
The Dreadnauts of New Tortuga, of the Dawn Raider Syndicate, are hulking brutes carrying oversized clubs and swords on chains.

New factions include the Dryan Lifeborne Order, a powerful group of magic-users capable of fielding only a limited number of very expensive units. There’s also the Nemesis War Brood, a group of insectile fighters that graft armor and other technologies directly to their exoskeletons. Finally, Avalon Hill is adding the Clockwork Combine, a group of militant woodland creatures. Think squirrels, skunks, and possums inserting via aerial recon vehicles, with even more nimble jump troops that forward-deploy onto the battlefield.

“One of them actually has a bipedal walker,” Nadeau said, “with a Gatling gun mounted on top of it.”

Buried in those new factions are some fan favorites, including the Kyrie — a winged angel-like faction native to the planet Valhalla. The goal, Nadeau said, is to fill out a faction that simply wasn’t given enough time to develop “back in the day.” There will also be additional characters drawn from the lore of the original game, but changed and evolved after years of conflict.

If the campaign is successful, what could be next for Heroscape? Nadeau is extremely optimistic of the game’s potential.

The full collection of the Heroscape: Age of Annihilation boxed set includes gray ruins, green grass, and blue water tiles. Dice and other plastic bits are also shown in this render. Image: Avalon Hill/Hasbro

“What the team was doing in 2004 was they were sort of scraping entertainment trends, different genres that were coming up, and they would build different units based on different genres that were surfacing in pop culture at the time,” Nadeau said. “It created a very interesting brand that is insanely scalable. You can basically introduce any genre, any IP, any licensed partner, anything into the battle on Valhalla and it makes sense in the story. The opportunities going forward are almost endless.”

That sort of openness in the Heroscape universe aligns well with Hasbro’s other gaming properties, like Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. Both of those marquee franchises have put plenty of energy into crossovers over the last few years. Hasbro’s own IP, including Transformers and G.I. Joe, would be easy additions to the Heroscape universe in the short term. Meanwhile, Magic’s Universes Beyond initiative shows the way forward with external brands. Previous partnerships include Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, Godzilla, Street Fighter, and Fortnite, while Magic cards based on the Warhammer 40,000, Dr. Who, and Lord of the Rings universes are also on the horizon.

The project to fund Heroscape: Age of Annihilation runs now through Nov. 16. Delivery is expected in the fall of 2023.

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