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Hasbro's Heroquest and Chaosium’s Role in the Board Game’s Return

The HeroQuest board game is returning soon from Hasbro. However, there’s a little more depth to this story as Chaosium had a part to play. As I have in the past (here and here), I sat down with Michael O’Brien, Vice President of Chaosium Inc., to discuss their role in this project and its impact on their RPG, HeroQuest.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Hasbro has a big announcement to share, an announcement that could only have happened with Chaosium’s cooperation, would you care to do the honors?
MICHAEL O’BRIEN (MOB)
: We’ll leave the big board game news to Avalon Hill-Hasbro, suffice it to say Moon Design Publications (part of Chaosium) has formally transferred ownership of the HeroQuest trademark to Hasbro. We know that the old Milton Bradley HeroQuest board game has many devoted fans who would love to see it back in print once again. The transfer of the HeroQuest trademark to Hasbro is a significant step towards that becoming a reality.

EGG: So, the return of the HeroQuest board game would not have happened without Chaosium?
MOB
: Yes, Hasbro owns the copyright to the original HeroQuest board game, its rulebook, its miniatures, the board, and so on. But after the game went out of print in the late 1990s the HeroQuest trademark was left to lapse. Chaosium founder Greg Stafford took up the HeroQuest trademark in 2001 for a completely different project. Now, nearly 20 years later, the HeroQuest trademark is back with Hasbro.

EGG: HeroQuest is too good a name to abandon. Can you share some of the history of the term “heroquest”?
MOB
: The term “HeroQuest” has entirely different meanings and connotations for the Milton Bradley board game and for Greg Stafford’s tabletop RPG. For Greg, a “heroquest” describes a transformative journey in which a quester enters the realm of the gods to reenact a myth, returning with gifts or special knowledge. Greg started using that term in the 1970s, and in 1979, at the back of the RuneQuest 2nd Edition rulebook, announced Chaosium was working on a version of RuneQuest called “HeroQuest”, exploring these themes. But Greg’s game was a very long time in development, and before it was published Games Workshop/Milton Bradley trademarked and released their board game HeroQuest, in 1989. Which is so-named because it is about Heroes going into a dungeon on a Quest. Because his preferred title ‘HeroQuest’ was no longer available, Greg eventually published his RPG in 2000 as Hero Wars.

EGG: Hasbro let the trademark lapse, Greg copyrighted it, used it for the HeroQuest RPG, and now it’s completed the cycle and returned Hasbro. How did the return journey to Hasbro come about?
MOB
: Yes, the journey was a bit of a heroquest in itself! Games Workshop/Milton Bradley’s HeroQuest board game was out of print by 1997, with the trademark lapsing in 1999. Greg learned of this in 2001. He applied for and was granted the now-vacant trademark. In 2003, he finally published a new version of his Hero Wars RPG with the name he always wanted – HeroQuest. Moon Design Publications became the licensed publisher of Greg Stafford's HeroQuest RPG in 2006, producing a second edition of the game in 2009. Then, in 2012, Moon Design Publications purchased the HeroQuest trademark and other related IP from Greg Stafford. Moon Design joined Greg Stafford as part of the ownership of Chaosium in 2015. That year HeroQuest Glorantha was published. This edition set the HeroQuest rules in Greg Stafford’s world of Glorantha. In July 2020, Moon Design Publications formally transferred the HeroQuest trademark to Hasbro (who own Milton Bradley, and hence the copyright of the HeroQuest board game).

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EGG: By giving up the HeroQuest name that leaves your HeroQuest RPG in search of a name, what’s its replacement?
MOB
: Now that we have sold the trademark to Hasbro, we are in the process of rebadging our HeroQuest RPG line as “Questworlds”. Only the logo is changing; the game system, originally designed by Robin Laws, remains the same. The process already started earlier this year in April with the release of the QuestWorlds System Reference Document. The QuestWorlds SRD enables independent publishers to use the HeroQuest RPG core rules system for other game worlds and settings. We’re currently selling off existing printed stocks bearing the HeroQuest mark at a substantial discount. If you want a book with the HeroQuest logo on it, you should purchase these print releases while you can! As part of our transfer agreement with Hasbro we can sell them for a limited time. But once these books are taken down from sale they will be out-of-print permanently.

EGG: Questworlds is a strong name with a clear connection to the original. What plans do you have to make sure everyone is aware of the line rebranding?
MOB
: The two logos are very similar, that should help! We’ll also be sharing the news on our social channels and in our newsletter Ab Chaos.

EGG: Beyond the rebranding, what’s next for QuestWorlds?
MOB
: As a rules-light RPG system that facilitates beginning play easily, and resolves conflicts in play quickly, the Questworlds (formerly HeroQuest) engine is suitable for a wide variety of genres and play styles. Chaosium will be publishing genre packs for QuestWorlds under its ‘Worlds of Wonder’ brand as examples of what is possible with the system. For the first of the new Worlds of Wonder genre packs for the QuestWorlds system we are fortunate to have enlisted Diana Jones Award-winning designer and theorist Ron Edwards, creator of the influential and acclaimed Sorcerer RPG. Ron was an early champion of the Hero Wars engine (the precursor to HeroQuest/Questworlds) and is a huge fan of the superhero genre, so we asked him to combine his two passions in a genre pack called Cosmic Zap. Other publishers, creators, and fans may also use the QuestWorlds system to create genre packs of their own, royalty-free, using the QuestWorlds System Reference Document (SRD).

EGG: Are there any aspects of the board game that Chaosium is involved in crafting? Any other collaborations between Chaosium and Hasbro in that you can discuss?
MOB:
The HeroQuest board game has many devoted fans, and like them we’re happy to see it coming back in print again. But other than transferring the trademark, Chaosium isn’t involved in its development in any way.

EGG: Congratulations on helping to restore a fan favorite board game. Where can fans learn more about Chaosium, Questworlds RPG, and Hasbro’s HeroQuest board game?
MOB
: For what’s next with HeroQuest, check out Hasbro’s board game subsidiary Avalon Hill. They have set up a dedicated website for the game. For the Questwords Roleplaying Game and System Reference Document, we have dedicated website. And for Chaosium, and all the other games we publish (Call of Cthulhu, RuneQuest, Pendragon, 7th Sea, and more) there’s our website.
 
Egg Embry

Egg Embry

I see Chaosium has been very kind and generous with the trademark. I wonder this may a sign of that type of matters I like so much to speculate, as Microsft buying Betheseda.
 





Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I backed the Hero Quest redux so fast my keyboard caught fire. New miniatures, and full plastic sculpts for the doors and other bits that used to be cardboard? Yes, please!

I still have my original set from the '90s, but this new take looks even better.
 





Fimirs replaced with the fish-men "abominations", and there are female orcs and goblins.
Well, Fimir were a Games Workshop creation. The original HeroQuest had some involvement from GW in its making. Presumably without GW, they can't use the Fimir.

I'd always figured if they remade HQ but without GW's involvement, the Fimir would be replaced with some kind of generic lizardman or something that was Hasbro IP instead (like a D&D "product identity" creature).
 






Superchunk77

Explorer
Yeah, I still have my original game and while it was great when I was a kid, there are dungeon crawler TT games out there now that are so much better. Descent, Tainted Grail, Gloomhaven, etc. I can't justify dropping $100+ to own the same game twice. It will be interesting to see if the IP goes beyond the board game.
 

Skywalker

Explorer
... there are dungeon crawler TT games out there now that are so much better.

I think Heroquest is a better entry level dungeon crawler than those examples, even if they are better games in general. That's Heroquest's real advantage IMO, which is why its such a shame that the price point completely undercuts that. All it really leaves is the nostalgic old fan market.
 

Paragon Lost

Terminally Lost
Supporter
Between the limited shipping and high price point, I think its a shame that it looks like kids like that are no longer the target market. Those kids who have now grown up and have jobs very much are.
Yup, that passed through my mind as well. My eldest who was pretty crazy about it back then is a lawyer these days, so he can afford it. I'll have to send him the link in case he's interested.
 

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