Heroscape’s future looks pretty grim. The once lauded miniature skirmisher with stackable hex terrain is attempting to mount a comeback via a crowdfunding campaign courtesy of studio Avalon Hill and parent company Hasbro.
Its Hasbro Pulse campaign captured a burst of backers thanks to an extant and dedicated community that has sustained itself over Heroscape’s nearly twelve-year hiatus, but the momentum died almost immediately. Only 3,400 backers have thrown their fiscal weight behind Age of Annihilation’s $250 box - the project needs to surpass 8,000 purchases, or $2 million in promised funding, by November 15th to convince Hasbro it deserves to exist.
Fans in Avalon Hill’s Discord server vacillate between resolute hopefulness and regretful acceptance. The team puts up a strong public face when commenting, but a recent Wargamer interview with Chris Nadeau, head of design at Avalon Hill, paints a more dire portrait.
Nadeau said the campaign’s failure to cross that $2 million funding mark would mean the death of this version of Heroscape, with its pricey Vanguard Edition promising a full out-of-the-box experience for at least two players. “That brings up a lot of questions internally of, like, what do we wanna do with Heroscape at that point?” he told Wargamer. “It would not obviously be released in this format.”
Many people, myself included, criticised how Heroscape: Age of Annihilation had decided to market its rebooted tabletop skirmisher. Sure, the Vanguard Edition box contains a truckload of miniatures, terrain and other features, but the price point would scare away any interested new blood and likely plenty of old fans burned out by the shipping cost of massive crowdfunding boxes.
Nadeau continues by saying a cancelled crowdfunding initiative would force Avalon Hill to reconsider where Heroscape fits within the company’s current portfolio. Similar blast from the past HeroQuest amassed $3.7 million during a similar run on the Hasbro Pulse platform. The studio also handles the Risk board game franchise and Betrayal at House on the Hill, which just released a revised third edition of its cooperative spooky investigation.
Nadeau questioned whether Avalon Hill overestimated the size of the Heroscape community or if the Vanguard edition’s sticker shock dissuaded too many prospective players. He told Wargamer the team wanted to entice the existing Heroscape die-hards and designed new terrain, faction and other elements that would appeal to their desires. If successful, Avalon Hill would spool out a-la-carte miniatures and a more reasonable starter set in the future.
You might be wondering why Hasbro, the toy and entertainment giant behind Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, would force Avalon Hill to rattle a tin cup in order to relaunch Heroscape. One reason might be the company’s new tactic of focusing on its core franchises and either selling or licensing off as much extra weight as possible. A key pillar of its reported five-year plan is milking as much from the established D&D and MTG crowds as possible via feature films, other cross-media opportunities and a continued focus on things like Universes Beyond, MTG’s series of crossover expansions with the likes of Warhammer 40,000, Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings.
Is there room in that profit-maximising plan for a passion project heavy on product and catering to a small, if vibrant, community of fans? Nadeau seemed hesitant when discussing a potential future for Heroscape in the wake of crowdfunding defeat, going so far as to say the studio might put it back on ice. Whatever emerges from the ashes of this would-be resurgence might look entirely different, but for now Nadeau, his team and the fans clutch staunchly to the last fleeting embers of hope.