01 January 2021
Can a card game really recreate the thrills and spills of Games Workshop's Classic Dungeon Crawler?
Warhammer Quest? Does that name sound familiar? For many, this 1995 fantasy dungeon adventure with a smattering of role-play from Games Workshop is the pinnacle of miniature gaming. They’ll mention its name in hushed tones, while staring into the distance as their eyes happily glaze over. Despite this love, Games Workshop has seemingly abandoned the series, leaving behind some fond memories. So, when Fantasy Flight Games announced it was making a new Warhammer Quest there was a yelp of excitement from fans… then a sigh of disappointment as they realised it was going to be a card game, rather than a fully fledged miniatures game. However, even though FFG hasn’t gone the miniatures route, it’s still managed to create a fantastic experience that encapsulates the dungeon crawling themes of Warhammer Quest perfectly.
Just like its inspiration, Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game sees each player choosing from four characters: Bright Wizard, Ironbreaker, Warrior Priest or Waywatcher (aka wizard, dwarf, barbarian and ranger) before exploring a series of different locations while slaying beasties and uncovering treasures along the way… and all this is done with cards (and a few dice).
Each character has four basic actions and they can perform one each turn: attack, rest, aid and explore, however there are modifications depending upon the class of the character, e.g. the Waywatcher’s attack card is a ranged strike while the Ironbreaker (who likes to get into the thick of it) can attack several enemies at once. Meanwhile Rest lets you recover some health and Aid buffs one of your allies. One of the more important actions is Explore, which you have to do in order to fully explore a location so you can move to a new environment. You see, each time you successfully execute an Explore action, you add tokens to the location card. Once the number of tokens matches the number in the bottom right of the card, it’s time to move on and gradually get closer to completing your quest.
The problem is, of course, that this isn’t a trip down to your local Aldi to pick up some cheap own brand biscuits and pesky bloody monsters are going to get in your way. Creatures range from fairly weak Night Goblins right up to a mighty Black Orc but all will hamper your exploration. Enemies are usually spawned whenever you reach a new location and the card will indicate how many ‘engaged’ monsters you face and how many are in the Shadows. Those who are engaged are placed in front of a player and can normally be attacked by the player that’s engaged with them. Meanwhile, those critters in the Shadows, which is indicated by placing them in the centre of the playing area, are meant to represent that ever-present threat of danger lurking behind every dimly lit corner and, although they may be able to attack the party, they can only be attacked by ranged spells or attacks.
However, the genius move when it comes to monsters is the way they act thanks to some clever mechanics. On an enemy card, you’ll see a row of actions with names like Ensnare, Prey, Advance, Retreat, etc. and these actions dictate how the creature will behave in the Enemy Turn. Say, for example, you’ve got a Night Goblin Archer in your engaged area. Weedy goblins aren’t exactly known for their bravery, so instead of facing you head on, the goblin will Retreat to the Shadows before firing off a volley of arrows with its Inflict ability, meanwhile an Orc will Advance towards the active player ready to attack and a Giant Wolf will actively seek out the party member with the most wounds, thanks to its Prey action. It’s theoretically such a simple mechanic but it’s executed flawlessly here and really adds to that feeling you’re exploring a living, breathing dungeon that’s packed with peril.
Monsters also try to scupper your plans when you’re attempting to complete your actions. This is because each time you want to perform an action you need to roll a dice to see if you’re successful. However, at the same time as rolling your own dice, you also need to roll black dice to represent a counter attack and this could lead to you taking wounds. Obviously, the more enemies that are engaged, the riskier it becomes when executing an action.
This means you can’t simply ignore the enemies because, given half a chance, they will most certainly kill your characters. So, you’ve got to work together, identifying which party member should engage which monster, so another player is safe to Explore and hopefully move to a new destination. You’ve also got the added threat of the ‘Peril Track’ that keeps track of turns and once the track reaches certain points a scripted event will take place, e.g. a boss monster will spawn. Although the game doesn’t end once the Peril Track reaches the last space, it does mean that the difficulty will be increased significantly; ensuring there’s a definite sense of urgency to try and complete your mission before things get too tricky.
Finally, it’s worth noting that, like the original game, there are simple loot and levelling up mechanics present in this edition. When Exploring you have to pull cards from the Dungeon Deck, which can sometimes be a trap that negatively affects play or you might pick up a piece of useful equipment. Then in between scenarios you have the opportunity to ‘level up’ your character with stronger abilities or better weapons. It’s a nice touch that encourages repeat plays.
Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Game isn’t a substitute for the original but it is an exceptionally tense and thrilling co-operative experience with a strong theme and some great mechanics that captures the essence of a dungeon crawler superbly.
If you’re familiar with the co-operative dungeon delving mechanics in LoTR, then you’ll be right at home with Warhammer Quest.
- Rules reference
- Learn to Play booklet
- Six Quest sheets
- Six dice
- Party Leader Token
- Peril Token
- 20 Success Tokens
- Nine Progress Tokens
- 45 Wound Tokens
- 12 Hero Cards
- 32 Action cards
- 50 Enemy Cards
- 26 Location Cards
- 12 Legendary Gear Cards
- 33 Gear Cards
- 12 Condition Cards
- 38 Dungeon Cards
This feature originally appeared in Issue 4 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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