Hero Quest

In August 1991 Amstrad Action magazine put a demo of this game on their fifth regular covertape. While I didn’t play it much, being just a demo, there was something about the format of that game that grabbed me.

Hero Quest is a computer translation of a board game that only came out only a couple of years prior. At its heart it is a trapped back version of Dungeons and Dragons and similar choose your own adventure fantasy books which become popular during the 80’s. As in those games you choose to play as one of the classic Warrior, Sorcerer, Dwarf, or Elf and must explore a maze being the first player to complete a given objective.

The moment to moment gameplay follows the board game with the player rolling a virtual dice and moving a given number of moves around the maze. In gaming terms the result is a very stripped back and basic turn based RPG. The actual presentation is the familiar isometric 3D style made popular nearly a decade earlier on the ZX Spectrum in games like Knight Lore and Batman. The screen layout and player controls also who a debt to Populous.

Each mission is fairly short and without expansion discs number only around a dozen. However completion of later levels does require completion of earlier levels in order to ‘level up’ your character enough to completer those missions. As you explore mazes you will find equipment and potions, find gold and between missions are able to purchase better equipment to use going forward. A certain amount of replaying earlier levels and saving character profiles to a save disk is required to get to the end.

I’ve never played the board game but, much like later conversions like RISK, this does feel like it is faithful to the original source. This does create some minor problems with pace and randomness is battle results. Finding a way of managing your health is key, trying to to die while searching rooms to gain items that will help you not die. Likewise, constant dice rolling and square by square movement doesn’t exactly work playing single player.

3/5

RISK II

Believe it or not I’d never heard of the board game RISK until I was in my early 20’s. My sister’s boyfriend of the time introduced it to us and I very quickly become addicted to it. In some ways it is a highly simplified version of Warhammer which I was vaguely aware of at the time (and still have never tried playing).

The board game offers up a simplified map of the globe for up to 6 players to battle it out. Each player controls an army and is given a mission card with an objective to complete to win the game. Examples include “Capture Africa and North America” or “Eliminate The Green Player”.

RISK II is Deep Red Games second recreation of this board game for home computers. The first game came out in 1996 with this version arriving four years later in March 2000. Out of the box it offers a very faithful and highly playable recreation of the original board game. The first noticeable bonus of computerisation comes from a worthy roster of A.I. players. Since gathering six humans for a good game has always been a challenge it’s really nice to be able to enjoy a single player match against good computer opponents or mixing some AI unpredictability for a smaller number of human opponents.

But RISK II doesn’t stop there. They actually attempted, and succeeded, to improve upon the original. As well as the classic board game there is now a “Same Time” version of the game that allows players to issue their orders simultaneously (for networked and/or AI players). This is designed to get rid of the slow pace nature of turn base gameplay and reduce the wait between play.

The other addition allows for some optional rule changes including adding some additional countries/connections to reduce the isolation of Australia and South America in particular. There’s also options for auto allocating territories at start and playing capture the capital or domination games instead of using the traditional mission cards. There are also options to alter how the reinforcements are allocated.

All in all Deep Red did a fantastic job of expanding the basic board game and providing a good amount of variety and longevity. And this is all topped by the piece de resistance – Tournament Mode. For single players there’s a 16 level ladder to complete that pits you against ever increasing difficulty in AI opponents. Each level offers a different challenge and regular mix up of the various rules and options available.

5/5

Battle Chess

Thirty years later it’s probably save to admit that when I finally got my hands on an Amiga the first thing I did was hop on a train and visit some old Amiga owning friends with a handful of blank disks and a copy of D-Copy. Battle Chess was one of the big must get, must play titles of the time.

I’ve played chess badly since our class teacher introduced us to the game during the penultimate year of primary school. We also played chess a lot during lunch breaks, in the library, at secondary school. All this youthful practice never made a player of me. Always struggled to see even one move ahead.

Still despite always being on the loosing end, even at the lowest difficulty settings, Battle Chess makes this ancient game thoroughly enjoyable thanks to some canny use of character animations. Every move sees your piece come alive, get up, and walk to the chosen square.

Better still when a piece is taken, time for some one on one combat. A short set piece animation shows the two combatants duelling it out. Each combination (pawn vs pawn, bishop vs knight, queen vs castle, etc) has it’s own unique animation depending on the two combatants and who is set to win. Most with a very good comedic value. Castle vs Knight is a particularly nice one with the poor knight receiving a nasty bang on the head.

4/5