Author: Lutz Stepponat

Publisher: Pegasus 2003

Awards: none



Rückkehr der Helden (= Return of the Heroes) is the name of the new fantasy boardgame by the german publisher PEGASUS. With this game, PEGASUS once again hopes to be successful with a fantasy boardgame - years after the release of Kings & Things*.

The game is designed for 2 to 4 players, but it also contains additional rules for solo-play, making the game playable for just one player as well as with a group. In the game, the players take up the role of one of 5 different Heroes, and it will be their aim to get into the Tower of the Nameless Tyrant and to defeat him in battle.

Already the choice of the Heroes reveals one of the very nice ideas which have found their way into the game: the players can chose between the Heroes of the Warrior, the Elf, the Dwarf, the Priest and the Wizard Characters. However, to add flavour to the game all Heroes are available in male as well as in female characters, thus giving the players a broader choice for the character they want to play. Furthermore, the game is availabe as a luxury edition with Ral Partha Miniatures for all Heroes, and since the graphics on the Hero-cards have been painted after the miniatures, cards and figures fit perfectly together.

Each character has three basic attributes: Magic, Close Combat and Ranged Combat. All these attributes has starting values between 2 and 7, but the values may be raised up to a value of 11 during the course of the game. Whenever a character has to fight using one of these attributes or when he has to test against that attribute, he will have to roll 2 dice. If the total sum of both dice is equal or less then the corresponding attribute-value, then the test will be passed. However, a Hero may not only increase the value of his attributes. He may also gather experience in any of these three attributes, and the more experience he gets, the more dice he may roll while testing against this attribute. He may then chose the two dice showing the lowest total, thus giving him a better chance to pass the test. Finally, to sum up a character's composition, each character also possesses Life points, Gold and a minor special attribute.


After all players have chosen their characters, the gameboard will be set up. It is composed of a total of 16 different square-shaped landscape tiles, with each of the tiles depicting a different type of landscape (Castle, Temple, Marshlands etc). These landscape tiles are shuffled and randomly distributed into a 4*4 tiles gameboard. When the board is set up, the next step will be the distribution of Adventure Markers. These markers show different kinds of events and quests which a player may undertake, and two of these markers will be randomly assigned face down to each of the landscape tiles. Finally, each player now choses one corner of the gameboard where he places his playing piece to start the game, and then the game may begin.

In turn, the players now move their Heroes on the gameboard, and each Hero may be moved for a number of spaces corresponding to his Movement allowance. Whenever a player comes to one of the Adventure Markers, he is allowed to turn it over and he then has to act on the kind of event as shown on the Marker. In most cases these markers show either Monsters or Quests. If a Monster is revealed, the Hero will have to fight it by testing against on of his attributes (which one is shown on the Monster Marker). If the test is not successful, the player loses a Life and the Monster will stay on the board, but if the test was successful the player will get some experience for one of his attributes and possibly some Gold as well.

Quite essential also are the Adventure Markers which show Quests. A Quest may be taken up by the player, and he will usually be required to visit some space on the gameboard and deliver the Quest there. Fo doing so, a player will receive additional Gold or Experience.

Also quite important, whenever a Monster is defeated the player also will draw a new Adventure Maker from a stack of replacement markers, and these markers will bring some new different elements onto the gameboard. For example, it may now be possible that a Market will open up, allowing players to buy items to increase their attributes or a Tournament between all players may be called.

However, so far nothing has been said about the Nameless Tyrant which the players must face in order to win the game. The marker for the Nameless Tyrant is not on the gameboard at the beginning of the game, and it only will be mixed into the deck of replacement Adventure Markers once a player has completed the first part of a Major Quest. These special quests may only be acquired at the King'S Castle, and they usually take a somewhat advanced Hero to be completed because usually battling some kind of Monster will be involved.

As said, the marker of the Nameless Tyrant only will come into the game once a player has completed the first part of his Major Quest, and afterwards the marker will sooner or later be drawn and come onto the gameboard. The awakening of the Tyrant will signalize the start of the second phase of the game. Now a number of random Guards of the Nameless Tyrant also will be placed on many different positions on the gameboard, making the progress of the Heroes more difficult because they will have to fight more often.

Once a player has fully completed his Major Quest, he will be awarded a Gem which he may use to enter the Tyrant's Tower. In this Tower the Hero will first have to face one more of the Tyrant's Guards, before he may move up and face the Nameless Tyrant himself. However, the Tyrant now will not be "nameless" anymore, since one of 6 different Tyrant cards which was randomly drawn at the beginning of the game and placed away face down will now be revealed. This card shows the identity of the Tyrant, together with his strong and weak attributes, making it either easier or harder for the Hero to defeat that particular Tyrant. It the player wins the final battle, he has won the game!

Of course, this short review only could give a somewhat condensed version of the rules and playing mechanisms. There are many more details in the game which cannot be listed here but which greatly serve to increase playability of the game even further.

To come to an evaluation of the game, it might be advisible to call back fond memories of some fantasy game classics: The Mystic Wood, Magic Realm and Talisman. The game actually succeeded in uniting elements from all three of these games, and especially players knowing one or the other of these classic games will be able to discover that Rückkehr der Helden actually succeeded in taking these known elements to their best use. Heroes, Quests, Items, Attributes, Experience, Random elements, Strategy and average Playing Time all have been considered in this game and they have been united in a skillful way to create a rather enchanting new playing concept. The game is rather fun to play and - what I consider very important - a full game can be played within the comparatively short time span of about 3 hours.

The only thing which I slightly missed in the game is a somewhat higher interaction between the players. Since no direct combat between the players is possible, player interaction usually is restricted to keeping watch on the other players in order to assume when they might decide to enter the Tyrant's Tower. Finally, another thing which should be mentioned is that the german rules of the game were not too easy to grasp. This is due to the fact that the game includes a rulebook, a start-setup-sheet, a rules summary and a maker-overview, and the full playing mechanism can only be understood by reading all these and puzzling a few facts from these different rules presentations together.

However, these two minor flaws cannot outweigh my rather well impression of the game. It has been a long time since a good fantasy game has been released which actually could get close to the more classic titles, but Rückkehr der Helden is more than a simple clone to these older titles: to my mind, the game has the same potential to become a real classic!

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Copyright © 2006 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany