Return of the Heroes Review

I finally played Return of the Heroes again, so I felt it was time to review it (disclaimer: I couldn't find the English version on Amazon).

In Return of the Heroes, each player takes on the role of a fledgling hero that is eager to perform tasks and slay monsters in order to gain experience and eventually defeat the ultimate evil bad-guy slobbering super villain. Each turn, the player is allowed to move a number of spaces equal to their movement value (which is different based on which hero/race you play as). Any undiscovered encounters that cross their path cause them to temporarily stop their movement and flip the tile; if it is a monster, they must fight it, but if it is an encounter or a task they have the option of performing the associated action or continuing their movement. Ultimately, the heroes are all attempting to complete their "heroic quest" which allows them to gain a "precious stone". This stone is the key that allows them to enter the lair of the ultimate evil bad-guy slobbering super villain. Once they feel their brave hero is strong enough, they can go challenge the ultimate evil (and then he destroys them... oh wait, I mean, they fight gloriously or something... but chances are he defeats them).

The first pro for Return of the Heroes is the leveling system. Each character has three primary statistics: melee, ranged, and magic. They have a starting number in each statistic, which represents the number that they have to roll less than or equal to (on two dice) in order to pass a check in that stat. There are two different ways that a hero can improve one of their stats; either they can increase the number on their stat (by using a trainer) - thus increasing the odds of the die rolls being successful, or they can increase the number of dice they can use (and pick the best two results) by gaining experience - thus allowing for more chances of getting the lower numbers. It is really a neat system, and is the biggest draw that I have to this game. I wish that more games implemented stat checks and experience like this; it seems to dampen the annoying aspects of everything being completely based on how well you can make a single roll.

The next positive aspect of the game is that the task system actually works. I have played other games in which players are supposed to perform tasks, but they are incredibly long and arduous, and each player can only have a single task at a time, and so it feels like a monotonous grind to complete them. In Return of the Heroes, each hero can have up to four open tasks at a time (and also their heroic quest), and the tasks are normally pretty simple and gain the player experience. It is a nice system that is a change of pace from many other role playing games.

The final pro of the game is that Return of the Heroes feels like a more quick-paced role playing game (seems like an hour time frame). However, with that said, I mentioned that the ultimate evil monster at the end of the game destroys you. It seemed quick until we realized exactly how difficult that challenge was. Which leads me to my first con.

I thought that the final monsters did not scale well with the rest of the game, and I felt like the game would be a monotonous grind in order to actually get your heroes strong enough to defeat him. Perhaps this was just the monster that we were playing against (he healed every time he wounded you), but the difficulty from defeating the "Nameless One's Guard" (the second most challenging enemy in the game) to defeating the "Nameless One" was astronomical. We each breezed through all of the monsters until we got to the final enemy - and we were all killed. (The official rules state that if you are killed, you get to keep an artifact and lose all experience and other items. We just said you were killed and moved on.) I really think for the game to not get boring at the end, you may need to play with house rules to make the final enemy challenging but not quite as hard as the game has them.  One reason that the game would get so boring at the end is that the players would have plenty of extra dice; the experience that they would need would be increasing the number on their statistic (the number that has to be rolled less than or equal to).  To do this, you must hire a trainer, and to do that, you must have money.  At the end of the game, there is really only about one way to get money - kill the thief.  So everyone would have to chase the thief, kill him, and then go hire the trainers and hope that the thief comes back out near them.

The next problem with the game is that the rules were horrible. First, they are written as if the heroes are explaining them to you, so it is all written in dialog. This makes them unnecessarily lengthy and also makes it more difficult to find anything. After reading through the rules, we were often unsure of how certain things worked, and spent quite a bit of time blindly wading through rules with no success.  Part of our lack of success was because many things (I think) were simply not covered by the rules.  A good example of this is that, even though there is a "quick start" setup guide, it doesn't actually tell you where everything goes to start the game. We just assumed that everything went how the picture depicted them and hoped that they were showing the "official" setup and not and example setup.

The final problem that I had with the game is that it needed more diversity of monsters. There were a handful of monsters that started the game as random encounters, and there were the Nameless One's minions (that came out when his chit was pulled from the bag). However, the Nameless One's minions are removed from the game after they are defeated and are all essentially the same monster, anyway. I thought that there should be more diversity in starting monsters - especially since they go back into the bag to get redrawn. Essentially, there are about 5 monsters that you will see repeatedly throughout the game.

Overall, I give Return of the Heroes a 6.0/10. This was one of the most difficult games I have ever assigned a number to. I pondered whether the difficulty of the end boss made the game "broken" and should get a sub-5 rating. I also love the leveling system, so I was tempted to give it around a 7.5. However, I wound up splitting the difference. As opposed to most games with scores this low, however, Return of the Heroes will stay in my collection for the time being.  As awesome as the leveling system is, I'd have to recommend that you try either Runebound or Talisman instead.

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