We all have one, I’m sure. One of those old games that we played as a kid. We might know it’s not as good as more modern offerings, but the game still holds a special place in our hearts.
Perhaps you grew up playing your family’s battered, old copy of Monopoly or Cluedo. Oh sure, they’re not great as far as gameplay goes, but you have good memories of them and they played a part in the social relationship you have with your friends or your family.
Maybe your game was something gamier. For many people, Heroquest was a game that featured heavily in their childhood gaming. Let’s consider that for a second.
I’m going to say something that certain friends would consider sacrilege: Heroquest, in this day and age, is very overrated. Now, it’s fun. Of course it’s fun, it’s a great dungeon crawl and, as you know, I love Dungeon Crawls. One of my big nostalgic titles is Dragon Quest, another dungeon crawl.
But I think that it’s safe to say that there are better games in the genre now. When it comes to dungeon crawls, Descent just does it better than Heroquest. Gloomhaven, another dungeon crawl, is currently the top games on Board Game Geek’s top 100.
Simply put, the biggest selling point for Heroquest (not that it is currently selling, being out of print) is the nostalgia factor. It’s old fashioned. It’s what we played as kids. It’s somehow… pure.
Heroquest hasn’t seen a re-release, but some older games have. Escape from Colditz is one of the big, recent examples. It got a big anniversary re-release, complete with lovely new components. Ultimately it is the same game, for good and for bad. It has clunky, outdated elements, but it also keeps the spirit of the original game alive, and that is what the nostalgic fan wants.
A new company, Restoration Games, has even been founded with the express purpose of restoring old, beloved games. So far, they have released Downforce, Indulgence and Stop Thief! They also have plans to restore and release Fireball Island. The entire company is built on identifying and monetising the nostalgia of gamers. If that sounds like a criticism, it’s really not. It’s recognition that a market was there and was relatively untapped, aside from the occasional anniversary release.
The event that has triggered these thoughts on nostalgia and gaming is Fantasy Flight’s impending re-release of the original Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. This game was influential not only as an RPG, but also by forming the foundation of what would become the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Timothy Zahn, in writing the Thrawn Trilogy that really kicked off the EU, was sent a stack of sourcebooks as reference materials.
I’ve written before about the various old Star Wars RPGs that have existed, and about those that are available just now. This game was the original one, and it is considered a classic. One of the biggest criticisms that hardcore fans have had of the Wizards of the Coast and Fantasy Flight offerings has been the simple fact that they didn’t fully capture the feel of the original game.
In a way, that’s why I find it a little surprising the Fantasy Flight is releasing this game. Given their big investment in their three RPG lines for Star Wars, I didn’t think they’d want to invite the comparison. Their games are good; I’ve played them a lot and had a great time, but they are a different beast than the original. Is it cynical to release a single product for a line that will sell on the basis of nostalgia whilst continuing to release book after book for their own, similar title? Maybe? I’m not sure.
Cynical or not, I’m considering picking this one up. I’ve read the books, but have never played the original Star Wars RPG. The fact that the books maintain the original style also really appeals to me. I’m looking forward to seeing how this does, and whether the success – or otherwise – of this release will have any influence on FFG in the future.