Created by Izik Nevo and published by Unique Board Games / BGD, Heropath was among the most eye-catching games exhibited at last year’s Spiel (Essen).
In many respects, Heropath is a classic dungeon crawler, except that here players’ characters are exploring an outdoor landscape. They will be collecting cards that can be used to better equip and buff up their character’s abilities. As a character’s skills advance, so they can access more powerful weapons and spells. Moving around the board reveals the location of the various special sites (three-dimensional constructs randomly drawn from a bag) where players can typically exchange experience, gold and/or food to upgrade or better equip their character. And you’ll need to increase your character’s capabilities and equipment to the full if you’re going to have any chance of succeeding in the game’s main mission – to travel to the dragon rocks and kill the powerful dragon that has been terrorising the kingdom.
You’ll come across enemies during the course of your travels. Again these are randomly placed out, this time as face-down tokens that are only flipped when you encounter them or when revealed by a magical item. Combat is resolved by comparing the player’s dice rolls, modifiers and total attributes with the monster’s die roll and modifiers. Monsters defeated in battle escalate the game’s level of evil so that subsequent battles increase in difficulty. Losing in battle will cost a player vitality. Nevertheless the game rewards persistence: if you battle and lose a second time, you’ll still suffer a further loss of vitality but you will benefit by learning from the experience (ie: you’ll get an experience point).
It’s perhaps the norm for ‘dungeon crawlers’ to be a co-operative experience for the adventurers. Not so Heropath. In this game, players are each forging their own individual paths through the wilderness. Of course, they are benefitting from the information revealed by other players (once locations are drawn from the bag and added to the map, players all know where they are and how they can be used) and there is the possibility of interaction when characters are both at the same location. These encounters are, in effect, muggings: a player gets to steal gold, food or an item card from another player!
The dragon activates (scorches one of the terrain types as determined by the roll of a custom die) whenever the evil level is raised but the player who defeated a monster and so forced the increase in level gets to choose where to place out new locations and new unrevealed monsters. As you might guess, the latter can easily be used to ambush a rival player.
There are so many cards and other components in the box that no two games of Heropath are ever likely to play out the same way. Nevertheless, two expansions are already available to extend the game. The Allies expansion adds the boards for an additional player but, most important, introduces 'allies' who can accompany a player's character, much like a hireling in Dungeons & Dragons. With the Fire Light expansion, the maximum number of players is brought up to six and an extra dimension is added to the combat.
At Board’s Eye View, we’ve greatly enjoyed our plays of Heropath, with and without the expansions. There's a healthy dose of luck, as you'd expect in any game with card draws and dice rolls, and Heropath triggered warm nostalgic memories of much-loved games of yore like HeroQuest. We liked the competitive nature of the game and appreciated that, even with both expansions and the maximum complement of six players, you can expect to complete a play of Heropath in a little more than an hour. That helps to make this a game you can play with the family. You can even use Heropath as a gateway game to introduce new players to fantasy role-playing, where they will soon come to recognise the memes, monsters and character types deployed in this game.