Monday, 7 December 2015

An Advanced Heroquest primer - Part 2, Rules

Last time I wrote about my general impressions of Advanced Heroquest (AHQ). This time I’ll get a little into the rules.

I have to open with a caveat. I didn’t grow up with AHQ so I cannot claim to be some kind of rules-guru. Also, AHQ is written in that distinct 1980’s-GW fashion, which is to say rather haphazardly. Rules are scattered all over the place, often ambiguous and occasionally missing entirely. This doesn’t mean that AHQ is a bad game – absolutely not, for the same reason that WFB 3rd Ed. isn’t a bad game, despite having a, shall we say, rather loosely worded ruleset. It just means that you have to take responsibility for your own fun, and figure out what works for you. See here for a more coherent version of what I’m saying.
It does, however, mean that there’s a fair chance that I’ve misunderstood and/or overlooked something, so don’t take my word as gospel. This write-up is probably more useful as a description of the rules I play by at the moment. Please comment if you find anything you don’t agree with – you are probably correct, and I’d be very interested to learn what I’ve missed.

The AHQ rules can be loosely grouped into three categories: campaign rules, rules for generating dungeons and rules for exploring said dungeons. Today I’ll concentrate on the last category and only briefly cover the two others.

Dungeons can be randomly generated or designed beforehand by a GM, and the game is probably at its best when you use a combination of both.

Before starting a campaign, the players select their characters. There are eight pre-generated characters in the rules, but otherwise characters are randomly generated. There are two classes: fighter and wizard, and three races: human, elf and dwarf – all with certain strengths and weaknesses.

Players also get a small amount of money to buy gear. They’ll need the usual armor and weapons, but they’ll also need to buy arrows and spell-components for any archers and wizards in the group. Arrows can sometimes be reused, but a spell-component is always expended when the wizard casts a spell, and restocking can be a major drain on the party’s coffers. Finally, the players can buy various types of adventuring gear, which might come in handy (rope for rappelling down into chasms, for example).

The party then enters the dungeon…
Most dungeons are set up this way. A short corridor branching off into the darkness.
Play is divided into exploration- and combat turns.

During exploration turns, all characters move at the same speed (orthogonal moves only). When they end their turn on a board section with an unexplored exit, or when they open a door into a new room, a new part of the dungeon is randomly generated (or laid out, if using a pre-defined setup). The heroes can also search for hidden treasure in rooms and hidden doors in dead ends and rooms with one door.

All this time, the GM can spring ambushes and traps on the heroes using dungeon counters. These are randomly drawn at certain times (there’s a chance to get one each turn as well as when the heroes search for hidden doors and treasure).

Whenever the heroes run into monsters, the game switches to combat turns. The heroes and GM then roll for initiative, which determines monster set-up as well as who goes first. Most monsters can’t open doors themselves, but every so often the heroes will run into a sentry who can open doors, and who will usually make a break for it to try and gather reinforcement, which can be really bad news for the good guys/nasty burglars (depending on your perspective).
Roll for initiative!
During combat, a characters movement is determined by its speed characteristic. If a model moves into the death zone of an enemy, it cannot move any further until its next turn.
 Unless they are using ranged weapons or long weapons (such as spears), models can only attack enemies in their death zone. Ranged attacks require a clear line of sight, buy you can see through an adjacent friendly model.

When attacking in hand-to-hand combat, you compare the weapon skill (WS) of the attacker and defender on a table to get a to-hit number. Ranged attacks are based on ballistic skill (BS), range to the target and any cover.
If you roll equal to or higher than the target number on a d12, you then roll a number of damage dice, depending on your weapon and strength. Each roll that equals or beats the targets toughness causes a point of damage. Most normal enemies have 3-4 wounds.
Critical rolls to hit (a natural roll of 12, or 11-12 with a two handed weapon) will give you an extra attack (or halve the targets toughness, in the case of ranged attacks), while fumbles (1 or 1-2 for two-handers) gives the enemy a free attack (/hits an ally, on a ranged attack). Natural 12’s on the to-wound-roll can also cause additional damage.

The heroes can try to escape a fight, and can even leave the dungeon at any time (assuming they can make it safely to a set of stairs leading out), but monster lairs will be restocked when they return, if they don’t clear them completely.

Slain monsters leave treasure behind (mostly gold), and all lairs have a treasure chest, which might even contain magic treasure.

Heroes are reasonably tough, but not invulnerable by any standard. They do have one great advantage in that they get fate points (two to begin with), which only the toughest baddies have. A fate point can be spent to negate all damage received that round or to avoid death from a trap or hazard.
I hope you’re not all out of fate…
Fate points refresh every time the heroes leave the dungeon, but rewards are greater for completing dungeons quickly, and, as I said in part one, each time the heroes return to town they have to pay rent!

Not all rooms contain monsters – many are simply empty, and some contain hazards. A hazard might be a chasm the heroes have to leap over if they want to get to the chest on the other side; it might be a statue with eyes of precious stone, that may come alive and attack if tampered with; or it might be something else entirely.
Do you feel lucky?
Eventually the heroes will find a quest room, which contains a large amount of baddies and the stairs down to the next level of the dungeon or the final boss-monster.
The lair of the evil Skaven Sorcerer. And yes, if you are unlucky, this is about what you might encounter in a single Quest Room.
And… that’s basically it. Well, not really, but it’s about what you’d need to follow an adventure report, so I’ll stop now.

In the third, and final, part, I’ll write a bit about campaigns and give a few final thoughts on the game, though it may be a while before I get around to it.



  1. I'm looking at the rules myself to port AHQ in the world of Rogue Trader, the prospect of having space heroes exploring weird tunnels and sewers has a lot of appeal for some reason !

    1. I just caught up on your Rogue Quest project. Very intriguing stuff – I’m really looking forward to seeing how the game will play out.

      Initially I thought you’d need to do some reworking of the rules for ranged combat, but on second thought, I personally think the wording is perfect.
      An example regarding partially obscured targets: “Be guided by the principle that if it is hard to judge whether the attacker has a clear sight of the target, then he probably doesn’t and should have a reduced chance of hitting it […] When there is disagreement over the outcome, be sensible about the outcome. It isn’t worth spoiling the game over a disagreement over who can see what – a single arrow never changed anything…”
      That paragraph is probably the epitome of old-school rules (in the best possible way). It’s both perfectly clear (if in doubt, the target is in cover), and aware that it’s a game so you should do what’s fun.

      I’m looking forward to seeing how you’ll price the different kinds of ammunition. That’s an area I don’t think has been explored in a Sci-Fi board game before. Having to actually pay for outrageously expensive bolter-shells gives the cheaper types of weapon a whole new allure.