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     " ...Definitely worthwhile... "

      Title: Heroscape Collection 8: Ticalla Jungle and Aquilla's Alliance large expansion packs by Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast

      Format: Tabletop Strategy Game Expansion

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: Each Heroscape collection has come with a set of large expansions to supplement the smaller, standard unit packs. Collection 8 brings us two of these larger sets...but do they actually enhance your gaming experience or just deprive you of your hard-earned cash? Read on, fellow Monkeys, and find out.

      What This Monkey Thought...

          Collection 8's two larger expansions come in the form of the Aquilla's Alliance monster pack and the Ticalla Jungle terrain set. The former is a collection of 5 giant-sized heroes, the latter 9 pieces of scenery and a squad of spiders.
          Starting with the hero set, Aquilla's Alliance brings 5 monsters split among 4 armies. Utgar gets a giant scaled worm, Aquilla has a kind of scorpion/fly hybrid, Jandar gets a large mech, while the Einar make out the best with both a club-wielding Cyclops and a very cool red dragon.
          The models themselves are excellent overall, and in the majority have both sculpting and painting that's high enough quality that they could be fielded in pretty much any miniatures application you could like, plus are detailed enough that they could be repainted if you're a hobbyist interested in such things. The exception to this is the Jandar robot Zetacron, who like all the bots in Heroscape is soft-lined and undercarved. Fortunately, his low points value and double-your-hits special make him useful enough to keep on the field.
           Speaking of usefulness, I have to admit I was surprised at how universally useful all five figures are. Hasbro continues to impress me with the balance they're managing to strike, especially with these larger units. They are typically brutally powerful, with special attacks that let them terrorize the battlefield, but have such a nice combination of high point-valued costs and damagability (through both high battlefield profiles and low life points) that they often don't hang around long enough to really ruin the game. Now, that said, I have heard gripes that the pendulum tends to swing too far in the vulnerability direction, making these larger units not worth taking...but you only have to use Zelrig the red dragon's area-effect fire special once to wipe out a horde of enemies and you'll understand why he can be worth the points. So too with the worm and scorpion/fly, who can both potentially wipe out any unit on the field in a single attack.
          But can that same level of utility and compatibility transfer to Collection 8's other large set, the mostly terrain including Ticalla Jungle? The answer is, it depends.
          Non-veterans of other strategy games might not appreciate why you should open your wallet for what is, essentially, a set of plastic trees and bushes...and if you don't understand that it would be pretty hard for me to explain it to you. There are a couple of reasons why you might: it enhances the aesthetics of the battlefield, it gives your characters more cover and, what's more, obstacles that can break up the flow of a game that is frequently dominated by movement into hand-to-hand combat. But, the reality is, if none of that's important to you, there's not much reason to by the set.
          If it is important, you'll be pleased to find that the quality of the terrain is decent, good enough, in fact, that I've added them to the terrain I use for other games, though the plastic foliage has very serious "fish tank scenery" feel that may put off more hardcore gamers. What is very nice about them is that they are all mounted on connectible hex bases, so you can arrange them either on top of an existing board or snap them in flush with the terrain around them.
          The other nice thing about this expansion is the inclusion of cover rules, simple though they may be (adjacent figures pick up an extra defense die). That bonus is somewhat mitigated by the occasional confusion the sometimes sparse plastic bushes can wreak on line-of-sight, but if you're anything like me you'll solve it with a quick set of house rules and call it a day.

      The Verdict:

       So what's my ruling at the end of the day? All in all, I'd say Collection 8's large expansions are a qualified hit. The Alliance monster pack is a must have, and should probably be held up to other game designers as an example of how to bring big fun to a game without destroying the playability for every other player involved. The Jungle is a bit less so, but is still definitely worthwhile for gamers looking for more than a mindless open-field play experience.

      What it's Worth: Market

Buy Aquilla's Alliance direct from

Buy Ticalla Jungle direct from

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