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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

macd21

Adventurer
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.

It’s a niche game with a niche audience. People are complaining because Hasbro aren’t giving it a full release, which is just an unrealistic expectation.
 

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ajevans

Explorer
It’s a niche game with a niche audience. People are complaining because Hasbro aren’t giving it a full release, which is just an unrealistic expectation.

If it were that niche, Hasbro wouldn't have a big splash banner for it up on their corporate front page.
 

macd21

Adventurer
If it were that niche, Hasbro wouldn't have a big splash banner for it up on their corporate front page.

If it wasn’t niche, it would have a wider release and Hasbro wouldn’t be Crowdfunding it. Sticking a splash banner on their corporate page is minimum effort stuff.
 

If it wasn’t niche, it would have a wider release and Hasbro wouldn’t be Crowdfunding it. Sticking a splash banner on their corporate page is minimum effort stuff.

Weird that it wasn't a "niche" game in 1990 when it was originally released in an era where games were mostly Monopoly or Cluedo.
 

ajevans

Explorer
If it wasn’t niche, it would have a wider release and Hasbro wouldn’t be Crowdfunding it. Sticking a splash banner on their corporate page is minimum effort stuff.

That's a circular argument. It's too niche, therefore we're only going down the limited route. We're going down the limited route, therefore it must be too niche.

But not niche enough to not warrant a big splash advert on the front page of their corporate sites. You tend to put projects you want to bring to attention on the front page of your site, but niche projects.

I'd say it's a bigger game than say Risk Legacy or Betrayal at House on the Hill, which both got proper releases.
 


macd21

Adventurer
I'd say it's a bigger game than say Risk Legacy or Betrayal at House on the Hill, which both got proper releases.

Based on what? Risk is a huge game, and House on the Hill was a massive hit. Spinoffs are an obvious win for them. HeroQuest hasn’t been out for twenty years. There’s a small online community of fans, and that’s it.
 


macd21

Adventurer
That would be fantastic and I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's probably not going to happen now that GW has released a new version.

I could see them releasing another one, set in the WFB setting. Possibly just a reprint of the original, or a revamped one.
 

ajevans

Explorer
Based on what? Risk is a huge game, and House on the Hill was a massive hit. Spinoffs are an obvious win for them. HeroQuest hasn’t been out for twenty years. There’s a small online community of fans, and that’s it.

Betrayal at House on the Hill wasn't a spinoff, and got to be hit by actually being available. And whilst I haven't got sales figures, I'd wager the original HeroQuest dwarfed Risk Legacy sales, given the former has widespread recognition outside the hobby for people of a certain age. Given the current funding level after 2 days, and that's only in NA, your statement that there's only a small online community of fans is demonstrably false.
 

macd21

Adventurer
Betrayal at House on the Hill wasn't a spinoff, and got to be hit by actually being available. And whilst I haven't got sales figures, I'd wager the original HeroQuest dwarfed Risk Legacy sales, given the former has widespread recognition outside the hobby for people of a certain age. Given the current funding level after 2 days, and that's only in NA, your statement that there's only a small online community of fans is demonstrably false.

That is a small online community. You need a lot more than that to be a Hasbro A-lister (or even B-lister). It’s probably enough that it’ll get a wider release (hopefully), but it’s not in the same league as Betrayal or Risk.
 

ajevans

Explorer
That is a small online community. You need a lot more than that to be a Hasbro A-lister (or even B-lister). It’s probably enough that it’ll get a wider release (hopefully), but it’s not in the same league as Betrayal or Risk.

Those games got to be popular because they had a wide release. What is your source on whether or not HeroQuest is in the same league as Betrayal? What figures are you using?
 

HQ can be again the best-seller/blockbuster of the dungeon-crawler board games. They have got a potential cash-cow or gold mine in their hands, and do they notice?

If you were Hasbro and you could buy Gamezone (the Spanish company who tried to publish the failed anniversary edition) what would you do? I would buy the rights to sell as limited edition an "extreme hero quest", using all its new ideas, for example the double sided board or the new heroes.


Would Hasbro allow a lincenced LEGO version of HQ?

What about the no-Northamerican market who also wants the reedition of the game? My niece has inherited by me. HQ was the last toy Christmas bought by my father for me.

* Will we see an app for HQ? Something like a virtual tabletop, the AI wouldn't control anything only to show stats and when a miniature has just moved that turn.

* Was HQ to slow with the mercenaries? (minions could be hired by the PCs but only one hit point).

* How to do you feel about the idea of fighting female evil humanoids (orcs)?
 
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Koren n'Rhys

Explorer
IMO, this crowdfunding campaign is a way to gauge interest. Sure, it's limited to NA at this point, but if it's sufficiently successful then Hasbro can look at a proper, full release of the game.
I'm one of those who still has my originals of these 3 sets, but I never got my hands on the other US expansions let along the EU only stuff. Hopefully, we'll eventually see reprints of all of those too, and new quests as well.
 

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