When comparing Arimaa vs Heroscape, the Slant community recommends Heroscape for most people. In the question“What are the best board games?” Heroscape is ranked 19th while Arimaa is ranked 27th. The most important reason people chose Heroscape is:
The game includes all kinds of well-designed figures, a various terrain tiles, and a bunch of different terrain accessories that make up the big 3D landscape. The characters are a blend of fantasy, sci-fi, history, mythology and all kinds of other genres. Terrain tiles can range from grass to swamp, to lava, to snow and other types. What’s more, they can be stacked on top of one another to create hills.
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Pro Easy to learn
Arimaa is a game suitable for both young and old, it was made to be intuitively simple but with a lot of depth. Even the setup follows this premise - you set up the figures in two rows like in chess, but you can place them in any way you like.
The rules are simple – in your turn you have four actions. You can either move a figure four times, move four figures one time, or do any combination in between. All figures can move forwards, backwards, and sideways apart from rabbits who can’t go backwards.
You can use two actions on a stronger piece to push or pull your opponents’ weaker figures. These stronger figures also “freeze” adjacent weaker pieces, preventing them from moving unless there’s a friendly piece next to them. If a figure happens to walk into one of the four trap squares or get pushed/pulled into one without a friendly piece next to it, then it is removed from the game. The first player to get a rabbit to reach the opposing side wins. The game can also be won by removing or immobilizing all your opponent’s rabbits.
Pro Active online community
The official site of Arimaa is quite lively and features reviews, downloads, the latest news, an active public forum, and much more. There’s even an online gameroom, so you can play Arimaa against computers or other people in either turn-based or real-time games. There are many people online, so it shouldn’t be a problem to find a game.
Pro Can be played with a chess set
In case you don't want to purchase the gameboard made by Z-Man Games, you can use the components of a regular chess set. It also helps if you have four coins to mark the trap squares. You probably already have the equipment you need.
Pro Fluid gameplay
The 4 moves per turn gives Arimaa's tree of possible moves a very high branching factor. (It was invented for AI programmers as a game more difficult to program for than chess, but easier than Go). You can't think several turns ahead like chess (the space of possibilities is too big), instead you have to think in terms of distances and capabilities, giving Arimaa a very fluid feel.
Pro Good design
The game includes all kinds of well-designed figures, a various terrain tiles, and a bunch of different terrain accessories that make up the big 3D landscape.
The characters are a blend of fantasy, sci-fi, history, mythology and all kinds of other genres. Terrain tiles can range from grass to swamp, to lava, to snow and other types. What’s more, they can be stacked on top of one another to create hills.
Pro Play time decided by the players
The play time highly depends on the scenario chosen and the size of the playing surface, but since the game encourages customization, players are free to choose a scenario that's easy and quick to play through and construct a smaller battlefield to accommodate it, for example, "last team standing " on a small surface.
Pro Can be built to fit any group
Heroscape can make both a decent 1v1 or 2v2 tournament and a massive party attraction. Although the game is best balanced to be a game for 2-4 players, if you have more sets you can create a map that can potentially scale up to any group.
Moreover, all ages are welcome, so it can be a great family game as well.
Pro Simple rules
This is one of the games that fits the description of “Easy to learn, hard to master” quite well.
The basic gist is quite simple - in their turn the player chooses an army card, moves the pictured figures and attacks with the figures. Movement is done based on the “Move number” on the card and attacking is done by rolling the attack dice based on the “Attack number” on the card. Players alternate turns until the game is over. The win condition is chosen by the players
There are a few more detailed mechanics, but they are very easy to understand, because they link to the physical aspect of the game. For example, an enemy is in line of sight if the figure is "able to see it" from its position - if there's a huge dragon figure behind a mountain and its head is poking out, then the soldier further back on the hill has line of sight. Another example - if a figure physically can't fit somewhere, then it can't move to that tile - a dinosaur figurine won't fit under a small bridge over a river, so it can't go there.
The basics of the game are not hard at all, the rules are simple enough even for children, it’s suited for ages 8+.
Pro Great customization possibilities
The game offers a lot of customizability both in terms of playing surface and the game itself.
Since the playing surface is fully customizable, you can either create it from instructions (found in the game guide or online) or arrange the construction pieces however you want. Because of this every game can be different in some way – you can, for example, relocate a hill, place a river and do much more.
Though the game offers a scenario booklet with some basic scenarios, that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and make up your own objectives, manipulate some of the rules or add house rules.
Pro Well-made materials
The game materials have a relatively high production quality.
There’s no need to worry about game components not being able to sustain normal wear and tear or an accidental drop here or there - the hexagonal pieces and the painted character figurines are made out of durable plastic. The character figures are also quite flexible - bending swords, legs and hands of figures doesn't leave a lasting problem.
The paint job of the pieces is also well done and paint won't wear off even when rigorously scraped.
Pro Active community
Despite the printing of the game being discontinued in 2010, there’s still a very active community at https://www.heroscapers.com/ that are keeping the game alive. There are forums for custom units, local gaming events, online Heroscape games and more.
Since sets and accessories tend to cost a lot of money, some dedicated fans even banded together to create https://www.allthingsheroscape.com/, offering a selection of, as the name suggests, all things related to Heroscape – figures, terrain sets, expansions, etc.
Pro Can be visually impressive
Some fans of the game have even gone out of their way to design huge and beautiful battlefields, spanning many tables. A lot of great creations can be found on the internet - some examples.
Pro Fun to set up
The setting up of the game is another game itself and it makes for a good family / friend activity. It could be compared to LEGO construction – you attach the hexagonal pieces together to create whatever playing surface you want or just follow an instruction.
The pieces smoothly link together and don’t accidentally come apart, so there's no need to worry about a small accident ruining your hard work.
Since the playfield is quite big, everyone can join in creating the landscape. Some people could even get more excited to play while seeing the battlefield grow and imagining how fun the nearing game could be.
Con Requires constant engagement
Arimaa can get out of hand quickly because there’s pretty much no way of predicting how future turns will play out. This is because it’s significantly harder to pinpoint four actions that your opponent might do as opposed to one action in similar games to Arimaa. Due to this the game requires the players to continually pay close attention to what they’re doing, which isn’t inherently bad, but can be a bit problematic for people with shorter attention spans or for people who don't want to take the game too seriously and just play it for fun and socialize meanwhile.
Con Quite long to play
A game of Arimaa is very unpredictable and can often lead to a very long session. The time can vary between 15 minutes and 2 hours, so it’s not great if you’re looking for something that you can quickly grab and play through.
Con Takes up a lot of room
The landscapes tend to get quite big and, unfortunately, there is no convenient way to store the tiles and character figures unless you spend some extra cash on boxes or other forms of storage.
Con Long set up and take down times
Depending on the scenario, the setup might take as long as the scenario itself. A basic setup could take anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes. This is because of how big the playing surface can be and how many pieces and accessories it consists of.
The sets, expansions and accessories tend to cost a lot of money mostly due to the game being out of print since 2010.
Con Out of print
The game has been out of print since 2010.
Con Inconsistent theme
The terrain is customizable enough to create a running theme, but units are more difficult. Some people might enjoy the idea of heroes from all kinds of genres clashing in one big game, others might be thrown off by historical characters like samurai and cowboys battling alongside werewolves, robots or vampires.