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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

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Interesting that Against the Ogre Horde and Wizards of Morcar were never released in the US originally. (You can tell from the name - it's Wizards of Morcar, not Wizards of Zargon.) Equally Mage of the Mirror and The Frozen Horror were never released outside of the US. Those two are incredibly rare and expensive to get. (They are the only expansions I don't have)
I have The Frozen Horror, but I never managed to nab Mage of the Mirror back in the day. I have PDFs of the quest books from all of them, and made do with other miniatures, but I really hope they reissue/update all of them here. It would be nice to have them all "officially."
 

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ajevans

Explorer
There’s been some speculation that there might be IP issues with selling it outside the US, but I also imagine they may be holding off on an international option because of the added distribution headaches it would require.

There's been some speculation, but zero pointing to actual sources so I don't think that's the real reason.

Unlike the original game that was mass-marketed to the public and price accordingly this is purely aimed at the nostalgia market and priced highly accordingly (the price is not out of whack with other specialist games, but Hasbro could do it a lot cheaper with their economies of scale. As it is it costs nearly double the price of the original in real terms i.e. after inflation).

Distribution headaches aren't really a thing for multinational corporations like Hasbro, they have the channels. This is just to create some buzz and cream off some initial funds to massively shorten the payback period on their outlays. Once it goes out to backers, further copies will no doubt hit retail and be sent out on container ships to Europe and AUS/NZ.
 


Superchunk77

Explorer
I have The Frozen Horror, but I never managed to nab Mage of the Mirror back in the day. I have PDFs of the quest books from all of them, and made do with other miniatures, but I really hope they reissue/update all of them here. It would be nice to have them all "officially."
I'm in Canada and I've got all the expansions that I could find. The first two general expansions, plus the Frozen Horror and the elf one.
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
My son is a little young for this... but in three years I might be picking up a copy for him. The perfect gateway to daddy's games! :)
No idea how old your kid is . . . but I started mine at four and it worked fine. Hero Quest, then No Thank You, Evil!, then Basic Fantasy RPG, then Rules Cyclopedia D&D.

You could easily swap in 5e Basic or even Dungeonesque for the RC D&D route I took and be just fine.
 

happylarry

Villager
Interesting thread. never knew there was so much love for Heroquest. never played it, but did have Advanced Heroquest, which had a much more obvious Games Workshop / Warhammer Old World vibe - 20 plastic skaven for example - and a nice system for laying out random dungeons. as long as you had a big floor space.
 

macd21

Adventurer
Distribution headaches aren't really a thing for multinational corporations like Hasbro, they have the channels. This is just to create some buzz and cream off some initial funds to massively shorten the payback period on their outlays. Once it goes out to backers, further copies will no doubt hit retail and be sent out on container ships to Europe and AUS/NZ.

Hasbrolab products are always NA only. They’re not hooked into Hasbro’s regular distribution channels. Getting access to that would be a big step.

Hasbro could make it much cheaper if they were mass marketing it, but they’re not. And of course it costs twice as much as the original in real terms, the quality of the contents is much higher. By Hasbro standards this is small potatoes. It’ll be a rounding error in their annual accounts. And because of that the creators are limited in their options.
 

Retreater

Legend
Interesting thread. never knew there was so much love for Heroquest. never played it, but did have Advanced Heroquest, which had a much more obvious Games Workshop / Warhammer Old World vibe - 20 plastic skaven for example - and a nice system for laying out random dungeons. as long as you had a big floor space.
Yeah. Without HeroQuest, it's questionable if I would have ever played D&D. It was the first time getting a party together, running an adventure, designing my own quests, making house rules, rolling dice, improving a character, etc. It was vitally important to my history as a gamer and DM.
HeroQuest was my Red Box.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Seems a bit unfair considering the UK/Europe/AU/NZ version came first....

I'm assuming it will hit other markets eventually, even if they are persisting with the whole "Zargon" thing. That's the dude from Lost City. The villain of Hero Quest is Morcar, no matter what those yanks say!

Who the hell is Morcar?! :p

The box is much bigger than the original, which makes sense since there are no cardstock miniatures; everything is plastic/resin including the doors,tables, etc.

Production is also probably still in China/Asia, so COVID shipping hassles will still apply.


I hope they update/relaunch all the supplements, though the only ones currently listed are the first two from the U.S. It would be nice to get updated sets for Against the Ogre Horde, Wizards of Morcar, Mage of the Mirror, The Frozen Horror, and possibly new expansions focused on the Dwarf and more firmly on the Wizard as well.

All the expansions would be cool, then I could finally get my hands on Against the Ogre Horde and Wizards of Morcar. Mage of the Mirror did have ogre minis though, and my players had gotten so powerful, I was doing ogre hordes anyway. One of my homebrew quests had a dungeon with nothing but ogres.

Looks like they're dropping the Warhammer references. That's kind of amusing, since I was thinking of putting more Warhammer references in my quests anyway. And there was that box of Warhammer Chaos Warriors I bought just so I could keep up with my players.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
HeroQuest was my Red Box.

That's such a great way to put it!

Hero Quest wasn't my first experience with RPGs, but it was my first TTRPG. Friends of mine played a computer game called Phantasie, which is VERY D&D-esque, and that was my real into. Made the transition to both board games like Hero Quest and full theater-of-the-mind games like D&D much easier to grok.

That's a big part of why I introduced my kid the way I did - I've been talking D&D to them literally sine they were born, and framing Hero Quest and then No Thank You Evil! as stepping stones to get there really helped keep the kid engaged and interested.
 



Theyre only shipping to the U.S. and Canada, and not even to Quebec. $30 shipping seems extremely high as I cant imagine it weighing all that much or the box/packaging being overly large. What's the justification for such a high shipping cost?
probably the same sized box as A&A... which is, per a post of BGG, 24.25" x 15.75" X 3". Not small.
 

Who the hell is Morcar?! :p



All the expansions would be cool, then I could finally get my hands on Against the Ogre Horde and Wizards of Morcar. Mage of the Mirror did have ogre minis though, and my players had gotten so powerful, I was doing ogre hordes anyway. One of my homebrew quests had a dungeon with nothing but ogres.

Looks like they're dropping the Warhammer references. That's kind of amusing, since I was thinking of putting more Warhammer references in my quests anyway. And there was that box of Warhammer Chaos Warriors I bought just so I could keep up with my players.


Morcar's the one whose name is on the box. Zargon's the imposter who escaped from the bottom of Cynicidea. :sneaky:
 


macd21

Adventurer
That's a choice they make not a restriction they are forced to work with.

That’s a restriction the current creators have to work with. They can’t tell Hasbro to just give them access to the larger distribution network. Hasbro doesn’t believe that HQ is going to sell enough to be worthwhile producing it on a large scale, hence Hasbrolab.

People complaining about the NA only distribution or the Kickstarter nature of this release have unrealistic expectations. They’re lucky this is getting released at all, and will be lucky if it gets a wider release.
 

ajevans

Explorer
That’s a restriction the current creators have to work with. They can’t tell Hasbro to just give them access to the larger distribution network. Hasbro doesn’t believe that HQ is going to sell enough to be worthwhile producing it on a large scale, hence Hasbrolab.

People complaining about the NA only distribution or the Kickstarter nature of this release have unrealistic expectations. They’re lucky this is getting released at all, and will be lucky if it gets a wider release.

So basically it's a Hasbro decision. People aren't really complaining at the creators, this is a strawman of your creation, they're complaining about the Hasbro decision.
 


ajevans

Explorer
And I’m saying it’s a silly complaint.

Hardly, it's game for which there's a lot of love for, there was a big announcement that it was being released again and a teaser campaign. This built up a lot of excitement. Then it gets announced, and it's not getting a proper release, just a premium priced crowdfunded release for North America. Hasbro has the capability, financially and logistically for a wider release, but has chosen not to. It's not silly to feel a bit annoyed by it all given the build up, especially as it's a British game that isn't being released over here.

Personally I'm dissapointed but also slightly grateful as it means I won't spend money on it, at least at the moment.
 

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