Sunday, August 26th, 2012 at 6:52pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
[Source: Takuma Nuva]
I believe we have a first today in terms of BZPower reviews. Takuma Nuva has put together the first review of a LEGO Board game, namely 3874 Ilrion from the Heroica lineup. Is it all fun and games or are you better off using your imagination to play with your other sets? Read on to find out!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
HEROICA! THE BOARD GAME THAT PLAYS LIKE A VIDEO GAME! Or so LEGO would have us believe.
"NYAARGH!" That's what the Prince seems to be saying as the giant vampire bat flies out of his reach. Clearly the creature is trying to avoid being hit by the LEGO die being tossed by the Sage. (Or is that Santa after putting too much bleach in the wash?) Either way, the front of this box showcases the newest heroes in the Heroica universe. They'd better watch out though, the Vampire is lurking in the shadows, just waiting to steal their shnazy new LEGO board game! Honestly though, why two such noble individuals would choose to play a board game in monster-infested sewers is beyond me.
Waitaminute, what's this? We've not seen this before. Towards the bottom edge we see what appears to be an hourglass. That's right, LEGO board games have an estimate for how long a single game takes to play right on the front of the box. How's that for convenient?
Interestingly enough, this game is rated 8+. It may play like a video game, but I guess the ESRB probably wouldn't assign a rating to a LEGO set even if we asked nicely.
Now we come to the back of the box. Dominating the majority of the real estate is a picture of the game, fully assembled and prepped for a new game. The small image toward the lower-right would suggest that the game actually fits back in the box while assembled. After all, why would we want to have to build with LEGO every time we wanted the play the game? As if people enjoy that sort of thing.
The lower part of the box is far less interesting, unless you want to brush up on your foreign languages. There is a short narrative describing the scenario you will play in this game as well as the contents within, all in three different languages. There's also the generic web URLs, age recommendation, etc. Also a barcode if you're into that sort of thing.
But wait, we're not done yet! There's more to this box than meets the eye. No need to grab the knife or punch holes in your beautiful box because this thing is shrink-wrapped (just like a video game)! Like your more common, less awesome board games, this box is actually two pieces. Both the lid and bottom have some pretty pictures on their sides. Of particular note however are what's on the bottom half. These are only visible once you've removed the plastic wrapping and taken the lid off. It's like an extra surprise!
On one side, we see all the game's special items such as weapons, potions, etc. On another edge we have a roster showing the forces of good and evil that will be partaking in the epic adventure that is soon to commence. On yet another edge, we see a picture depicting what the board looks like once you have combined Ilrion with it's older counterparts: Draida Bay, Waldurk Forest, and Castle Fortaan. What, no love for the Caverns of Nathuz?
But hold on to your horses, guys! We have something truly exciting here! We have a LEGO set with an image... wait for it... on the INSIDE of the box! Astounding!
Okay, maybe the image itself isn't anything grand, but it does show us how the different parts of the board can be placed in the box in individual sections for easy storage. I must say though, this is probably the first time where a board game has had "some assembly required" and made me all the more excited for it.
The pictures on the box are all pretty and sharp. Good thing too since there's a distinct lack of graphics options like vsync, AA, and screen resolution.
Half the fun is had building the set. How fun is it to build and how easy or challenging is it?
Well here's something different. We have a LEGO game here today which will make for an interesting review. Unlike your standard Hero Factory, Ninjago, or other sets, LEGO games actually have their focus shifted to some extent less toward the building part of the set and more towards actually playing with it.
Provided in the box are three bags with all your LEGO elements, the LEGO die, and instruction booklet as expected. However, there is also a rule book and a fold-out containing a quick comic as well as two possible board arrangements.
The build for Ilrion is incredibly easy. The most complicated part is most likely the Vampire's throne room with the Giant Vampire Bat.
There really isn't much to say about the building process. It is beans easy and if you bought this set looking for a challenging build you will be sorely disappointed (and in need of eyeglasses because you can see it is incredibly easy just by looking at the box art). It's about as complicated as plugging your gamepads into your console and then hooking that up to your television, so I guess it at least fits the theme, no?
Most of the building revolves around constructing a few rooms, hallways, and the hero packs. There are also things like potions and coffins which each consist of precisely two small pieces. After that, it is simply a matter of slapping tiles on the LEGO die and connecting all your rooms and hallways into a cohesive board with items and characters on it. You can either follow one of the two provided arrangements or you can go all "level creator mode" on it and just design your own board.
Now that the set is complete, we can critique how it looks from every angle. New or interesting pieces can also be examined here.
I'm not gonna lie to you, it has been a while since I have bought a system set (aside from the other Heroica games), so I can't be sure all the pieces pictured here are new or even recolors. I just picked out the most interesting ones and ran with it.
Do you like 2x2 tiles with a single stud on top? If you do then you're in luck because Heroica sets have a veritable plethora of these morsels. Ilrion alone has them in seven, yes, SEVEN different colors at varying amounts.
Additionally, we have some pieces I have yet to see outside of the LEGO Games theme sets: The microfigure. Ilrion has, again, seven different kinds used to represent the heroes and some monsters. There's the Wizard, Vampire, Prince, King, Sage, and Zombie (can't have a video game without zombies these days). There's also a blank silver one used in construction of the Vampire's throne room.
There's also the LEGO die. Mostly plastic but it also has some rubber bits around the edges, useful if you're worried about getting gouges in your table I suppose? These soft ridges can make it difficult to get special die tiles back out, so that's why every set with a LEGO die comes with a red crowbar for assisting in that endeavor (I like to believe it is also a Gordon Freeman reference).
Weapons! Glorious weapons. We've seen some of these before, but I want to say that the staff and wand are new? Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
There's also those cool minifig handcuffs, a couple gold pieces, a clear one of those rod-things and some black toothy bits.
A cool assortment of pieces, but nothing really useful for MOCing, at least not in the amount provided in any particular pieces in my opinion.
While the set may lack in the area of providing a challenging build, there is a certain charm to its simplicity and design. I'm a particular fan of the Vampire's Throne Room. The build and color scheme just screams "dark and spooky".
Again, this set is incredibly simple to build so there isn't that much to say about its design. Still, even with such small models and little room for details, it isn't hard to see that this is, indeed, a sewer. The Giant Vampire Bat is also really cool and is definitely a highlight of the set. The Hero packs on the other hand could stand to be a little bigger though. They tend to get a bit crowded late-game.
It is neat that the game does fit into the box quite nicely once divided into its constituent parts. Only the throne room needs to be slightly broken down to fit inside with the lid on the box.
The other half of the fun is in playing with the set. How well does the set function and is it enjoyable to play with?
What? We weren't prepared for this kind of boss fight!
Now we come to the meat and potatoes of this review. Much like a video game, it doesn't matter how pretty the world and characters are if the fun-factor isn't up to par!
The basic goal for all Heroica games is quite straight-forward: Get from point A to point B first while fighting monsters along the way. In Ilrion, your objective is to make it past the Vampire in order to rescue the imprisoned king.
For the last time, my name isn't Mario and I'm not going to jump into that sewer pipe!
The hero classes you play as in Ilrion are, again, the Wizard, Prince, and Sage. Like an RPG, every hero has their own special ability. The wizard, able to throw fireballs, we've seen before in other Heroica games, but the Sage and Prince are brand new. The Sage can pick up items without having to walk to them and the prince can charge onward after successfully defeating a monster in a fight.
One thing I've found common across all the Heroica games is that, while the special powers are cool, they rely too heavily on being in "the right place at the right time." You get to use a special ability when you roll the single Heroica Shield tile on the die, but that only does you any good if you're in the right situation. Prince has to be in a fight, Wizard has to be within range of a monster, and Sage has to be within range of an item. All in all, you can play through the game and easily never get to use your unique ability. This is especially true of the Sage. It is almost always more beneficial to take the four movement spaces from the shield and grab the item on your way forward. Rarely are you going to have an item that you want behind you on the path.
We don't even have arms enough to put cream cheese on our breakfast bagels and you want us to dance The Thriller?!
Along your journey you will encounter hazards and monsters. Fighting a monster is straight-forward and easy. You roll the LEGO die and the outcome determines whether you defeat the monster or take damage and back off. The hazard in Ilrion is coffins blocking your path. Sometimes they are harmless and there's even a rare chance of finding gold. Other times they'll burst open and you'll find yourself fighting bats. Exciting! Something new that Ilrion brings to the table however is the Giant Vampire Bat. This is the first time we've had a monster with a health bar of its own and it is always a scary and adrenaline-pumped encounter. Every roll of the die can mean gratuitous glory or undignified unconsciousness. In the games I played with my cousin and siblings there were even times where people would hang back in order to let somebody else weaken the beast before they charged in.
Also along the way you'll find aforementioned gold and potions. Gold is used to buy weapons and potions can grant special one-time effects like regaining health or invincibility. Both are highly-sought after valuables that players always race to get. While potions are very useful and a great addition, the weapons suffer much like the hero abilities, perhaps even more-so. Weapons basically grant weaker versions of Hero abilities and, ergo, suffer from the same problem of being too situational to be of much use. They also cost three gold a piece. The odds of getting that many by the end of the game is very slim and, at that point, the weapon is pretty much pointless unless you're playing "Epic Heroica." This game mode simply means that you play multiple games in a row and your gold and weapons carry-over to the next game.
Being a LEGO Vampire is hard vork. There's no blood to suck! Only plastic and ve can't drink that...
While it has its faults, Ilrion is still fun to play. Really though, the true adventure lies in collecting all the Heroica games and putting them together to make one large board. It is far more fun and even helps to alleviate some of the game's shortcomings. Specifically, it is easier to purchase weapons before the end game and you'll actually have more of a chance to use them and your hero's special abilities. If you're going to buy a Heroica set, I highly encourage you to buy more if you want a more "complete" feeling experience.
But let's not forget that this is LEGO! Imagination and creativity are the key to taking this game from just "pretty good" to "absolutely amazing"!
The existing game rules are simple and relatively easy to learn, but if you want to get the most out of your Heroica game you really need to look at them as more of a foundation to build upon. It is easy to rebuild the board to your liking and adding new exciting rules can make your game bigger, add more depth, and patch up those sore spots. Something I intend to try implementing is an energy/mana system to help with the abilities being far too situational. You could change the way weapons work to make them less lame. Heck, make the crowbar a weapon (good for making sure the pants are dead). The really ambitious could make it even more like an RPG by adding side quests, a town with shops, custom potions, etc.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- THE BOARD GAME THAT PLAYS LIKE A VIDEO GAME!
- Cool RPG-like aspects
- Microscale models and figures are charming
- New Giant Vampire Bat is lots of fun to fight
- Rules and board are easy to customize
- Far cheaper than buying a gaming console
- The vampire doesn't sparkle
- No quick-time events
What's not to like?
- Incredibly easy build
- Abilities and weapons are too situational without custom tweaking
- Played alone it feels like only part of a whole
- This is the fourth time we've had the wizard
- No leaderboards
- Needs more hats
- No princess - must be in another castle
All in all, 3874 Ilrion is a nice set and even better if you're adding it to your already existing collection of Heroica games. So gather some fellow heroes, arm yourselves, and embark on an epic journey through the sewers to rescue the king!
Just try to remember how to lose gracefully.
Thank you Takuma for breaking some new ground on our BZPower set reviews! Join me in thanking him or post any other questions and comments you might have in the Talkback. And of course keep checking back on BZPower, where we have more set reviews in the works, as well as the latest LEGO and Hero Factory news!
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