Heroquest Kickstarter Controversy Highlights Dungeoncrawl Games’ Collector Value

The original, completely legal Heroquest that remains out of print and quite valuable. Most of the art in the real deal was drawn by the legendary Andy Chalk, one of Games Workshop’s top artists.

There’s been a lot of controversy in the hobby gaming and game collecting world recently due to a Spanish publisher, Gamezone, announcing a quite possibly illegal Kickstarter campaign for a 25th-anniversary edition of Heroquest without any arrangements or agreements made with the game’s original publisher or designers.

As soon as the Kickstarter campaign was opened, it started receiving high-dollar pledges from anxious fans eager to see a new version of a cult classic. Gamezone promoted the release with images of new materials, new art and lots of carefully dodging any specifically copyrighted content and evading any serious questions asked about the legality of the reprint.

2013’s most controversial board game news; a “pirate” reprint of the beloved classic Heroquest, shot down by Kickstarter and a US hobby games company with the rights to the Heroquest name.

Gamezone vaguely assured backers that there would be no issue with the rights or licensing, because it had secured the trademark for the Heroquest name in Spain—even though the intent was very clearly to sell the game internationally. Of course, it didn’t take long for the campaign to be shut down by Kickstarter, but not before a U.S. hobby game company issued a cease and desist order because it has the rights to the Heroquest name in the States. It was just a matter of time, I’m sure, before other legal action was filed against Gamezone from other interested parties.

Heroquest is one of the few classic board games that has not been reprinted over the past decade. It’s one that likely has more legal hurdles to clear and licenses to pay than most others due to being a Milton Bradley product that was originally published in 1989 in affiliation with Games Workshop. Despite its hobby game trappings—effectively, it’s a Dungeons and Dragons-style light roleplaying game with a gamemaster, a modular dungeon and lots of miniatures—it was a mass-market product that you could buy in just about any department store. And, as such, it captured the hearts and imaginations of lots of kids when it was readily available. Demand is fairly high for a reprint but neither Milton Bradley (now part of the Hasbro Corp.) nor Games Workshop has announced any plans to ever make anything Heroquest-related again.

Heroquest was extremely popular in its day. The complexity level was low and the fun factor was high, offering a simple dungeoncrawl with plenty of monster bashing, treasure hunting and even the possibility for playing longer campaigns. There were multiple expansions made available for the game and Games Workshop issued a more hobby market-focused version of the game called Advanced Heroquest. In the U.K., there was also a popular PC game based on the tabletop game. It was also made available in multiple languages around the world including Japanese, Greek and Finnish.

The back of the Heroquest box. Part of the appeal of this game was the cool dungeon feature miniatures—staircases, treasure chests and other furniture. Not to mention lots of great Games Workshop miniatures. The retail price for this game today would likely be over $100 and it would not be available at mass market retailers.

With strong nostalgia attached to the game, a high degree of customization possible and lots of Game Workshop figures pulled straight from its hugely popular Warhammer fantasy setting, it’s no wonder that Heroquest can fetch $150 and up in today’s market, where your only option is auction or a lucky thrift store find. I’ve found a couple of copies over the years in antique shops and thrift because it’s just at that right vintage to be getting pulled out of attics and basements and donated. With that said, complete copies in good condition are quite scarce. This was a game largely owned and played with by kids so it’s hard to find sets with all of the furniture pieces and miniatures intact and unbroken. There’re a lot of cards in the mix as well, and Milton Bradley wasn’t exactly printing things on made-to-last linen cardstock.

But it’s also one of those instances where an incomplete set can have a lot of value in breaking it out for parts. Collectors are always looking to replace missing, broken or damaged pieces and there’s a healthy market for Heroquest parts—especially in English. I parceled out one of my thrift store finds—which was only about 80-percent complete—and made quite a profit on my two-dollar investment.

As is usually the case, the expansions are scarcer and therefore more valuable. Typically, expansions are printed in much smaller quantities than base sets. The “Quest Packs” were a series of small-box add-ons that featured additional miniatures, new dungeon tiles and additional adventures to complement your Heroquest game. The expansions were in print as late as 1992, but by that time, Heroquest wasn’t readily available. I recall seeing piles of Heroquest expansions on clearance endcaps and in closeout toy stores in the mid-1990s. If I had known that some of the sealed Quest Packs would be worth $100-$150 today, I would have gladly invested the marked-down $2 per piece for them.

An example of the stupendously hard-to-get Heroquest Quest Packs. I specifically recall seeing piles of this particular expansion on clearance at a Service Merchandise store sometime in the mid-1990s. Would that I had a time machine to go back and snatch them up…

These days, Heroquest remains popular and there are lots of resources and fan-made additions available online, so even a lucky find of an inexpensive base set can yield a lot of fun—or be flipped for a tidy profit. The likelihood of a bona fide reprint instead of something cooked up by lawyer-dodging crooks looking to make a buck is extremely low, given the disinterest of its original publishers in the brand, but with that said I’m not sure the game would be competitive in today’s market.

There are several games very much like and very inspired by Heroquest currently available and in print. But for the true believers, Heroquest is still the one, true dungeoncrawl board game.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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