Doug's Dungeon - Warhammer Quest
There was once a mighty alliance between two great empires. And NO, I’m not talking about the one between elves and men. That was a friendly truce at best, but was reported falsely by the ‘Elven Eleven O’clock’ news team. Real orcs like me know it was FAKE NEWS. See, nobody reported on the strong bond between the orcs, goblins, and nightmarish ghostly overlords. Funny that. But I digress.
The two empires I speak of are Fantasy Flight Games and Games Workshop. Each are creators of vast quantities (and qualities) of tabletop gaming. FFG excels at deep and complex games with more cards than any casino can hold, while GW stands unbeaten as one of the largest pushers of model-based tabletop warfare, specifically from their Warhammer lines. Since 2008, the two companies had a healthy relationship, pooling their resources to make quality games. These games combined FF’s ability to implement interesting mechanics with GW’s incredible and lavish worldbuilding. But as of the 28th of this month, that relationship is coming to an end with the conclusion of Fantasy Flight’s licensing term. As such, they will no longer be building or expanding upon games made in the Warhammer universes.
And as these two giants begin to step in different directions, all that remains are artifacts of a world that once was. One such relic is this game here:
Ahh yes. Warhammer Quest: The adventure card game(: the card game: the game: in the box: further subtitle). This game has up to four players (but as few as 1) pick a character, go into a dungeon and beat the living hell out of any monster dumb enough to be turned face-up. It’s a meaty game with a campaign that plays over a few sessions with a ‘one-off’ mode mixed in. And what I mean by that is that this game plays like a miniature Dungeons and Dragons, with a heavy focus on the smashing of ugly monster faces.
The core of the game is rather simple: there are monsters, and the more there are in front of you, the harder it will be to do what you want to do. So you must kill them. You are trying to explore your current location to proceed to the next, which will undoubtedly just vomit more monsters at you. You achieve your goals using the four action cards in front of you. And this is where WHQ:tACG really shines. See, unlike other mechanically minded role-playing games that have a very simple move-n-mash system, Warhammer Quest exchanges that for a series of cards that, once used, cannot be activated again until your cards get reset. Each turn is made different by the puzzle of “Oh, should I AID Jerry for his next EXPLORE, or just REST this turn? I can’t do anything about the goblins right now because my ATTACK is exhausted”
But the puzzle doesn’t stop there. As you exhaust and ready these action cards, you’ll will need to plan out future turns, and create contingencies based on monster actions, as well as effects from the various locations. Monsters come out and are all scratch, bleed, sicken and all that jazz. Who needs that amirite? The worst of these aren’t the orcs, or the ratmen, or the slightly larger orcs and ratmen. It’s the nemeses! A nemesis has an effect on players when they roll the monster dice onto the nemesis dice on their turn, even when they are tucked away snugly in their lair (where they can’t be attacked). The worst part about a nemesis is that failing to defeat them at the end of an ‘episode’ of a campaign means they will hang around to bother you more. Like Snak Kraggle, the orc who is near-fascinating levels of good at running away.
The campaign itself is what ties the whole experience together. There are a series of large quest cards that have a round timer, and some nasty things that happen when when the marker hits specific rounds. Generally, the nasty things get worse the longer your party dawdles. Each quest has its own unique twist for players to navigate as they delve deeper into the story. In order to play the game as designed, you’ll be playing all of the quests in order. There will be a goal and a failure state for each quest. If you succeed, your party will be able to add cards to the ‘loot deck’ to increase your luck at finding legendary gear during the campaign. Failure results, generally, in the nemesis of that chapter hanging around (unless you killed them) and the adventurers going back to camp to lick their wounds. No player elimination here folks!
Now depending on whether you succeed or not, you get to read a little blurb at the start and end of each quest. The narrative and indeed narrative style of these paragraphs is what breathes life into Warhammer Quest, by paying diligent homage to the Warhammer Fantasy universe. To quote but one sentence:
“At first, it was believed to be a plague brought on by the debauchery of a travelling carnival, but the execution and burning of the entire troupe did nothing to quell the problem”
It’s little things like this that I love about this title. The narrative pays attention to the grim-dark ‘EVERYTHING IS WAR AND HATE” theme of the Warhammer timeline, but the writer clearly doesn’t try to take it seriously. Indeed, the idea of a universe where people only ever smile when torturing heretics is laughably absurd. I really appreciate how this game is able to be edgy and yet jovial at the same time, in a very ‘please take me ultra-seriously’ lore.
As for the characters you will be playing, you have the Elven Ranger, the Warrior Priest, the Bright Wizard, and the Dwarf. I’m not sure what profession the Dwarf is exactly, as his player card doesn’t say. Perhaps he’s actually in his early 20’s in Dwarf years, and he hasn’t figured out what he wants to do in life. And like, he’s just come out dungeoneering as a hobby. I’d be a little insulted if he was by my side in that case. Here I am, performing my designated role as a healer/damage dealer/tank, and here comes this shortstack screaming
“LOL” with every buckshot. Regardless, each character has their unique twist on the action cards, having strengths and weaknesses throughout their set. These twists get expanded upon as the campaign progresses, as players can swap out their basic cards for advanced ones for more value.
Speaking of value, dungeoneering offers up some sweet gear to help your adventurers on their way. You’ll want to share the explore duties around so that everyone gets a chance to find armor and weapons they can hold onto for the rest of the campaign and replace when necessary. They can even help you succeed with the dice you’ll roll with every action. You’ll roll white dice based on how strong in a given action you are, and black dice for each monster chewing on your shoes at the current minute. The more swamped you are, the more hurt you’re likely to get. As far as the success dice go, you can either fail completely to harm,help,heal or… hexplore, or you can roll a critical success that not only gives you a point into your action, but lets you roll the die again. As you might have guessed, you can do this an infinite number of times. The question then becomes how to capitalize on such a stroke of luck.
As far as dice go, I like to think they have been implemented well into this game. A co-operative experience needs some element of uncertainty in any course of action, and the aid action allows players to hedge their bets and make long term plans for success. Overall, I enjoy playing Warhammer Quest: the adventure card game. It is by no accounts a simple game, as Fantasy Flight does that thing where they need one book to teach, and another for rules listings. If you’ve been looking for a fantasy title that’s heavier than your average game but not quiiiiiite dungeons and dragons, I recommend Warhammer Quest: the adventure card game. Unfortunately due to the split between the two companies that created it, we may never see more expansions than it’s two extra characters (being able to play as a witch hunter and troll slayer). But I still hold onto hope.
Please make games together again you guys. You were such a cute couple and I want more quests.
I'm an avid lover of all things table top. I also have a growing collection of board games which inspire me to create my own. I put my loud and expressive personality to good use as a dungeon master for my friends, having run many campaigns through 4th and 5th edition D&D.
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