I'm a big fan of the old Games Workshop game Warhammer Quest. It's a big ole dungeon crawl board game, full of miniatures and beautiful artwork, with one of the smartest sets of rules you'll ever encounter. It's expandable as hell, and there is room all around the margins to make the game your own with fluff and narrative and house rules. The game is long out of print, and it costs a fortune to pick up in complete, good condition. So it's great that Warhammer Quest is back in some form, even if it's just as an “adventure card game”.
Oh, you look disappointed. Oh, you look sad. Don't be.
WARHAMMER QUEST: THE ADVENTURE CARD GAME
In Warhammer Quest, the original game, I love the way you move. You know, like OutKast.
I also love the way you fight. I loved it all. And my worry coming into the card game was that it would be too “cardy”. Far too deterministic. But my worries were kicked down a skaven throat almost straight away. This game is easy to learn, like Warhammer Quest, fun as hell, like Warhammer Quest, and adaptable and expandable, like Warhammer Quest.
And it has exploding dice. Exploding dice 4 life. You know what an exploding dice is, right? It's like a critical success. A die roll that counts as a success, but also a re-roll that can pop out another success. Or another critical. Allowing you to stack success on success on success. Oh, I LOVE it.
Okay, so here's how it works. Each player takes one of four characters from your standard Dwarf, Wizard, Barbarian and Ranger classes. Each of these characters has four action cards, used to make four basic actions – explore, attack, rest and aid. Explore lets you move through the dungeon, drawing a dungeon card and placing progress trackers on the scenario's location card. Attack lets you take on monsters you're engaged with, and even ones you're not engaged with. Rest lets you replenish all your shit and get some health back. And aid lets you set up another player for a more successful turn.
Let's dig a bit deeper. At the most basic level, the game is about placing progress trackers on a card. You explore, roll dice to gain successes, and then convert those successes into tokens that are stacked on one of many possible locations. Each location needs a certain amount of tokens stacked upon it before it is considered explored. So that's the basic thing – get through each area by exploring it.
But there are going to be monsters hindering you, jumping at you from the shadows, spawning on you. And every time you make a roll for an action, you're going to roll black dice for any monsters engaged with you, and they can hurt you mid-turn. And then, every turn, after the players have made their moves, these monsters are going to make full attacks. So the monsters need to be controlled. They need to be whittled down while you explore, or they're going to make a mess of your whole quest. That's what attacking is for.
You take your action by exhausting your character's relevant card. And each character's cards are a little bit different. It's a real good mix of strengths and weaknesses. There's a real feel of teamwork as one player rests while another attacks, and yet another lays down some kind of assist to let the resting player leap back into the action with an advantage. In fact, I'd say the game forces players to co-operate fully in order to meet some of the stiffer challenges – and that's a great thing. From turn to turn, players are going to have to rest – resting is key to the flow of the game. And that means your team has to step up and cover you while you do that. Oh, it's good.
And those are the basics.
Beyond that, there's a lot of flavour. Different monsters behave differently. The wolf, for example, will cause a character to bleed, and then will move on to the character who is carrying the most wounds, hunting down the weakest member of the group. Every enemy is like that - they all have some wrinkles that will force the team to juggle their tactics. And then there's equipment too, allowing for a wide number of rule-bending abilities.
As you explore through each location, you'll draw dungeon cards that can spring events, spawn new monsters and let your character find sweet new gear. It's a game full of twists and turns, and the one-action-per-turn pace can become breathless and exciting once everybody has the rules down.
The most impressive thing about this game isn't that it captures a little bit of that room-to-room monster-bashing co-op feel of the game it's named after. The most impressive thing isn't even that you can string short adventures together for a little campaign. The most impressive thing is that there is practically zero book-keeping. Sure, there are wounds to stack on cards, and progress tokens to lay down. But outside of that, the game is so tidy. When you consider other co-op card games, like Sentinels of the Multiverse (an absolute DOG of a game to track properly), this one just feels so damn clean. Everything you really need is on the cards and the dice. You're not going to be cursing yourself for forgetting stuff. It's a really smart and economical design.
Is this game a reasonable substitute for the full-flavour Warhammer Quest? Absolutely not. That old game is something very, very special. But this is an impressive attempt to pull some of that game's magic into a smaller box and support it with modern game mechanics. I was really surprised by how right it all felt.
ALSO – it's worth saying that the game is a very strong solo game. If you're the kind of person who enjoys playing a board or card game on your own, this one will give you plenty to get your teeth into. You control two characters, make them co-operate, take on the challenges alone. It works very well, and provides a nice little chill-out game session.
Definitely go check this one out. Here's a video.