We played HeroQuest at the round table in my grandparents’ shiny-tiled living room. The game board summoned images of ruined castles inhabited by mysterious, mystical things. Our heroes were the He-Man-like warrior, the axe-wielding dwarf, the lithe elf and the classically-garbed wizard. I have a vague recollection that as the youngest player my character choices were dictated by whichever hero remained after my cousins had chosen, which may be where my affinity for dwarfs in later games began. Those evenings pitted us against an impressive array of monsters; all heavily armed, suitably deformed and clearly in need of vanquishing.
My memories of our daring quests consist of rolling dice to explore rooms and halls furnished with eerie miniature props (“A rack in a room this size? That’s a stretch…”), working as a team to eliminate monstrous minions and disarm their cunningly concealed traps, and eventually battling a mighty gargoyle that resided in the sinister, central room. I have a sneaking suspicion that my aunty simplified the rules as we went, allowing us to experience the thrill of overcoming the dangers lurking within those dungeons without needing to refer to the instruction manual every second turn. Having recently cast myself as the evil dungeon master, this was one of those times when ‘house rules’ were well and truly justified.
It would be another 20 years or so before I would read Tolkien, but the distilled fantasy world of imagination, excitement and joyous triumph created by a few rounds of HeroQuest clearly left its impression. Luckily it turns out my cousins and I aren’t the only people out there who appreciate a bit of high fantasy…