Play Time: 30-60 mins.
Warhammer Quest Adventure Card game is a medium-weight cooperative game featuring heroes delving into dungeons and hostile locations to battle the forces of evil in the Old World.
A Brief History of Warhammer Quest Board Game
The concept of a fully cooperative, or solitaire board game experience that encapsulates the RPG experience is a popular one. There are quite a few dungeon-delving games out there that translate role-playing games to a board game by the use of an Overlord to create the necessary tension that creates a compelling experience. More recently, however, the trend has leaned towards the side of AI that drives the bad guys. This allows everyone to play the heroes and not forcing one of your friends to be the lone opposition (although this can be fun too!).
That desire for fully cooperative dungeon crawling is displayed in the sheer effort that RedJak put into his Automated Monster Variant for Descent 2.0. For a more tactical experience, we recommend checking it out – it does a great job of leveraging Descent’s incredible depth of content and creating an engaging solitaire or cooperative experience!
The concept of a fully cooperative dungeon crawler as a boardgame has roots that go far back beyond the more modern examples, such as Descent, or the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure games. Two decades ago, in fact, Games Workshop released the iconic Warhammer Quest.
The original was one of those Warhammer Games that would still likely be very popular if it was released today. (Games Workshop even recently rebooted the original Warhammer Quest Game, check it out here!) It had dungeon crawling. It had tons of monsters, and lots of heroes. It had equipment to find and improve your character with. All of the basic mechanics that still show up today were there.
Those factors all combined for a seemingly perfect time for Fantasy Flight Games to bring the IP back in the form of Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game (Henceforth known as Warhammer Quest ACG). Instead of going the very easy route of a facelift or new edition, they went in a different direction. The dungeon crawling here happens using cards, dice and tokens, replacing the earlier version’s tiles and miniatures.
Did FFG’s gamble of a major change in underlying mechanics pay off in creating an experience that keeps the spirit of the game intact? Let’s take a closer look at Warhammer Quest ACG and find out!
Intermediate Game - A tiny, but fierce, learning curveWarhammer Quest ACG really only gives each character a choice of 4 actions on any given turn, at most. There is also a good bit of manipulation of enemies that has to happen on each turn, but the bulk of the actual gameplay is not very difficult.
Digestion of the rules, and particularly set-up and follow-up tasks for each quest are where things get a bit more complicated and can cause some hiccups. If playing with someone who has a few games under their belt, however, the game flows very well and will seem much less complex.
Fantasy Flight Games is never a slouch in the components department, and Warhammer Quest ACG is another example of their tremendous consistency.
Every card in this game is very well done. The artwork stands out as pulling the player right into the theme that pours from the box the moment it is opened. Each of the player characters has a lot to like about them just from an aesthetic perspective, and it makes it that much easier to get into
The necessary information is always conveyed in a very readable manner and doesn’t require rulebook referencing in most cases. Also, the iconography is fairly limited so there isn’t a steep curve in learning the consistent symbols that show up on certain cards.
The other minor components all have their place, and thankfully don’t get too fiddly. The Quest deck has events, good and bad, that will pop up as you venture forth. The Equipment deck will also have some weapons, armor, and other goodies that your hero character will be able to keep with them from one Quest to the next.
The support tokens are another piece that will be passed around a lot, and they aren’t too much to deal with. The health markers, on the other hand, can get to be a real pain in the ass. Especially in the two or three player game, where each hero has 20+ health, having to throw many 3-health wounds onto each and then track them as the game goes on is pretty annoying.
This is an area where Warhammer Quest ACG would have been far better off giving each of the characters an adjustable counter to track their HP with. It would have likely been a bit more expensive, but the final product would be far better with their inclusion.
Instructions and Rules
Fantasy Flight Games elected to go with the two-rulebook format that they have recently used in many of their other releases. One rulebook is designed to get the player up and running with a tutorial game and step-by-step instructions for getting through the game’s phases. The second rulebook is simply an index of the rules for subsequent referencing.
I’m a fan of this two-rulebook format when the division of rules is well thought out, and you don’t end up needing two rulebooks at all times in the future to come back to. In the case of Warhammer Quest ACG, the rulebooks are fairly well separated!
The walkthrough book does an excellent job of breaking down the game into easily understood chunks, and the tutorial scenario helps put most of those pieces in perspective. There is a good bit of going back and forth to refresh some of these rules as you go along, but the layout and pacing all work really well if learning everything in one session.
The rules index also covers most of the rules of the game in a pretty clear manner. Between both of these books, the actual rules for one single quest are all very easy to understand.
It’s in the rules for the campaign where things get a little bit ugly. Since the walkthrough book is so focused on setting up for a tutorial and then slapping the campaign rules in at the end, there is a bit of muddling around and flipping back and forth to see just how to set up a campaign and what steps have to happen between one quest and another.
This brings me to the biggest problem with the rules for the game: the instructions for setting up the Campaign Pool. They should have just called this the Pool of Probably Giving You An Ulcer instead and given a bit more warning as to what you’re getting into. I went over the rules for setting up and modifying the Campaign Pool multiple times, and even when I thought I had a good handle on it, there was still so much doubt that I was never left feeling like it was done right.
It’s important to note that these questions I had about it were all during release, where there wasn’t a lot of helpful explanations from others online yet. Mostly I wondered whether there was anything in the pool at the start of the quest, or when nemesis enemies in the pool were removed. It’s worth noting that these questions have all been asked and adequately answered on BGG and the FFG forums since then, and it turns out the Campaign Pool isn’t all that bad – just easy to confuse with the given instructions.
Campaign persistence is one of the most attractive qualities of Warhammer Quest ACG, and it’s a shame that the document writers for the rulebook couldn’t have added an example of just how it is created, and then modified along the way.
There are two very obvious predecessors that seemed to spawn this game, and they share many of the same mechanics: The Lord of the Rings LCG, and Space Hulk: Death Angel. Being a fan of both of them, the borrowing of mechanics from each is a very good thing!
The main mechanics of the gameplay are cooperative play, dice rolling, variable player powers, ability management, and positioning.
There are 5 Quests in the included main campaign, and they all have a simple sheet to track the timer, as well as the victory and defeat conditions. These Quest sheets also give each one the potential to be radially different from the Quests you’ve seen before! The variance in objectives and pacing for each of these Quests is one of the really strong points of the game.
The cooperative play in Warhammer Quest ACG is a critical component of the game, and most of the abilities in the game also have some sort of either direct or indirect effect of assisting one of your allies. The Ironbreaker, for example, is the tankiest character of the group. His Attacking ability also can be used to engage enemies, which can be used to pull them from the shadows, OR pull them away from other hero characters.
Every character also has an Aid ability, which allows you to place the support tokens on another character. These can be put on abilities that they have, and provide guaranteed successes when they perform that ability. The Waywatcher can active this to support someone else and do one guaranteed damage in addition!
These dramatic differences are what provide a lot of Variable Player Powers, and make each of the hero characters very unique. It also ends up being a large part of what requires the cooperative aspect in this title. No one of these heroes could possibly complete the game alone, even with a requisite increase in health. Even in the two player game, with extra health, the game is more difficult. Once three or four of them are all working in tandem, however, the party feels powerful and complete.
Dice rolling in the game is the largest tension-adding factor, and creates some very memorable and dramatic moments. Any action requires a dice roll, so success is almost never guaranteed. Those support tokens are really important for guaranteeing an ability a success when you absolutely need it. On the other hand, you’ll occasionally roll two dice and come out with four, or five successes just from that due to the two-success side and the critical success side. Those critical successes act as an exploding die, letting you take one success and roll again for more.
Ability management is one that was borrowed from Space Hulk: Death Angel, and as great as that game is, I can definitively say that it is leveraged much better in this version of Warhammer Quest!
The main difference is that instead of always having to use a different action than the round before, in this game you have four actions and only one of them refreshes the rest. When I first learned this, I immediately thought that it would make the game a bit easier than Space Hulk: Death Angel. The reality of the matter is that the individual refresh card for each character is what presents very challenging choices in this game, just as it was in its predecessor.
There will be times when you desperately want your strongest attacker to take another swing, but with that card exhausted, you’ll end up needing to spend your strongest attacker’s action on an aid ability instead – just to refresh all of their cards! This management of abilities that are active is a huge gameplay element here, and it’s also one of the most satisfying!
Managing positioning of enemies is another very critical part of the game. Moving them from the shadows, to certain heroes will determine the success of your party in many cases. Also, each enemy’s AI is right there on their card, so there will be times when placing them outside of their preferred zone will be one of the keys to victory.
The other very cool gameplay element is the persistence and growth of heroes from one quest to the next. Each of the four abilities comes with an upgraded version that will be more powerful and give a bit more flexibility for interesting use further along. There are also pieces of equipment to use, as well as unique rare equipment that can dramatically improve the power of a hero. The quests will grow more difficult along the way, but it’s extremely satisfying to see your own hero add to their own repertoire as well to face the increasing level of challenge!
There are only two notable negatives in the gameplay, that we noticed. The scaling of heroes from 2-4 in a group, and the swings in difficulty in certain quests of the base adventure.
The hero scaling seems like it should be an awesome feature, and on the surface I thought the designers did an excellent job: In each round your set of heroes always have the same number of actions. So, in games with fewer heroes, some will get to activate more than once in a round. Now, in some cases this means you can use your stronger skills more than one time. You also do have a much higher health value.
Even with those advantages you’re missing out on some important, and in some cases necessary, aspects. At a bare minimum you have access to much less equipment – since each hero can only hold 4 at a maximum, you’ll end up being out 4 or 8 by the last quest. The other problem is that it can be very easy to get stacked up on when a lot of enemies come out, and all of that health you have will get chewed through very quick!
For most of the quests in Warhammer Quest ACG, this disparity won’t be as noticeable. The third quest in particular, however, will likely be a complete disaster for most groups of less than 4. It’s balanced very poorly, and is extremely difficult even for a full group. For 2, or 3 heroes, things get out of control that much more quickly. There is also one hero who makes this quest more reasonable, and if she didn’t come along with your group, it will be that much more ridiculous.
Warhammer Quest ACG gives you a lot when you open the rather small box. It provides you with an adventure that takes place over 5 quests, and this adventure has a great sense of large scale to it. Each quest can be won or lost, but that doesn’t prevent the party from moving on to the next quest. Only the final quest gives a complete win or loss for the whole adventure.
There is also a more randomized Delve quest that allows the adventurers to take on one quest that will offer some of the progress from the full adventure along the way in more of a one-off fashion.
The other point that really adds to the replay value is the difficulty. This game is very challenging, and achieving multiple quest victories and an overall adventure victory will likely take a few runs. Similar to Pandemic Legacy, your losses will stack up and persisting nemesis enemies showing up in later quests can prove to be an ongoing nightmare! While the basic Adventure and Delve quests do offer quite a few ways to play, I can’t help but feel like the inclusion of just one adventure and only four heroes leaves a lot of room for more. After going through the Adventure three or four times, there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of pull for us to go back and try it again.
With that said, the price point is perfect for the amount of content it offers. Even Lord of the Rings: LCG didn’t offer a ton of replay value in just the base box alone. The tons of expansions that have followed are what really gave that game the tremendous depth that it has today.
This is a game that flat-out BEGS for similarly regular content releases from FFG. A cycle of a new adventure, and maybe new quests to plug into other adventures would do wonders for increasing the replayability for the game. Bigger expansions that added a hero character or two would be that much more welcome.
This is a game that leaves us desperately wanting for more, and I had hoped for a long time that the regular expansion model that FFG usually follows would deliver. As time has gone on since release, it seems more and more like this game has been left behind. FFG did release two additional characters (The Witch Hunter and Berserker), but more than anything this game needed additional adventures. With Games Workshop spinning their board game lines back up, it’s entirely possible that licensing is getting in the way of this game having a bigger future. If that is true, it’s a real shame, because this title really had room to grow into something amazing.
Warhammer Quest ACG feels right, in a lot of ways. It feels like a fun version of Lord of the Rings: LCG, but without the need to optimize the perfect deck to find success. It feels like a fantasy version of Space Hulk: Death Angel, but the individual heroes feel more powerful, compared to the Terminators who could be wiped out in one bad roll.
As someone who loved both of those two prior games for the things they did right, there was also room in both to add some differences that would make it a better fit. Ultimately, changes that would make me pull some other game out instead of them. This game paves enough of its own way to not only earn a place in your library alongside them, but in some cases, even supplant one or both of them.
The progression is one main aspect that really works awesomely well in this, and makes it hard for me to want to go back to the other two. Seeing your hero character get a new, strong ability, and occasionally some very powerful loot is just plain cool. It also drives a sense of wanting to play just one more quest immediately after finishing a quest! This is one of the highest compliments that I think I could give.
Warhammer Quest ACG also offers a pretty staunch level of difficulty as well, and it will punish you and your group for mistakes. While it isn’t quite as brutal as Space Hulk: Death Angel, it isn’t very far behind it. This adds a lot of tension to each of the games, and even though a loss of one quest doesn’t mean losing the adventure – it does mean that you have that much less chance of succeeding in that last epic quest!
Ultimately, to reiterate some of the replay value section, this is a game that leaves you wanting more. This statement doesn’t always tell the whole story: after all, sometimes you want more of something because you didn’t get enough.
This is very much the other kind of wanting more. You will be left wanting more, because it’s so damn good.
Warhammer Quest ACG – The verdict
Warhammer Quest ACG is the sweet lovechild of Lord of the Rings: LCG and Space Hulk: Death Angel, and does enough to move out from Mommy and Daddy’s basement to kick ass on its own.
What we Loved about Warhammer Quest ACG
– Hero progression was engaging, always giving us a goal and something to look forward to.
– Ability management created interesting decisions on every turn
– Cooperative elements were present throughout, giving opportunities to help each other and receive help to become a strong unit.
What we didn’t Love as much about Warhammer Quest ACG
-Doesn’t appear that ongoing support and expansions for the title are in the future – major bummer.
– The Campaign Pool stands out as exceptionally poorly written. It’s quite possible that it will induce vomiting.
– Health tokens for tracking into the teens and twenties for heroes is fiddly and lame. We all should have learned something from Sentinels of the Multiverse (still love you SotM!)
– The 3rd quest is poorly balanced, on the side of too hard, and shines light on hero scaling issues with less than 4 heroes.