Some of the best things in life are the result of combining two things that were, in of themselves, already pretty good.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly
- Mint and Chocolate
- Bacon and eggs
- Bonnie and Clyde
I guess I must be hungry. Anyway, that is what Warhammer Quest: Adventure Card Game was supposed to be. A mashup of Space Hulk Death Angel: The Card Game and Fantasy Flight’s long running and much loved Lord Of the Rings Living Card Game with the dark fantasy theme of the Warhammer universe slapped on top. Does this combination make your taste buds flutter or is it a sour grape to be hawked on the BGG marketplace? Lets dive in!
Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game(WQACG) is a 1-4 player adventure card game whether each player takes the role of a hero from the Warhammer universe and cooperatively attempts to complete quests, obtain equipment, and upgrade your character along the way. This is a tried and true fantasy adventure game formula.
The name sake of the game comes from a popular board game of a past generation by Games Workshop that has been reproduced on IOS and inspired countless other fantasy board games. Die hard fans are still waiting patiently for a second edition. Who knows how long they will have to wait.
The first positive thing that I will say about WQACG is that it appears, at last, that publishers and designers are hearing the cries and noticing the waves the solitaire board game community is making. The 1 player guild is 3500 strong at this point.
I like to think that Fantasy Flight noticed that a big portion of the people who are purchasing the two games that inspired WQACG are solo players or people who play both solo and with a group. This paid off for WQACG because the game is fully compatible, marketed, and explained for 1 player. There is this nice little section in the rules that explains how to play with less than a full group and what to do if you want to play solo.
THANK YOU FFG!
Now, don’t let me fool you, it isn’t all roses and cherries. The solo player still has to run two or more characters and some players don’t like that. I however, don’t mind it at all, so it is fine in my book. On to to the gameplay!
The basic engine of the game is the four actions that each hero has. These are cards that are laid out on the table and turned sideways or “exhausted” when used. There is no deck building or even a deck at all for the heroes. Just their four actions and any gear or items they collect along the way.
One of the actions never is exhausted and refreshes the other three. For the Ironbreaker this is Aid and it is different for each.
The four actions are:
Borrowing from its LOTR cousin, most scenarios will have one or more locations that have a value. This value is how many successes that the party has to roll during their explore actions to fully explore that location.
The rest of the actions are pretty straightforward. Attack lets you, you know, attack. Rest lets you recover wounds. And aid lets you give tokens to friends, boosting their actions in the future.
When to use your aid action, on who, and which actions to boost are a big part of the cooperative nature of the game, with most of the rest being general tactics and planning how to tackle the quest at a strategic level.
Each action has the player roll a number of dice trying to get successes along with rolling a number of black enemy dice for each enemy that is engaging them and still active. These results determine how much you do of whatever action you were rolling for. The enemy dice can trigger attacks from engaged enemies or the nemesis power of the big bad guy in the scenario.
Attentive gamers will notice that this whole action mechanic sounds a lot like the other game I mentioned above, the Space Hulk Card Game. The difference is that the system in this game is a bit more flexible and interesting. There is little reason to rest for the first few rounds and some characters are going to use different actions more then others.
In Space Hulk you kept cycling through every card all the time and there felt like less choice in the grand scheme of things. Space Hulk just felt like you were praying and hoping for your attack actions to come back around and sometimes you tried to space it out so you didn’t have a turn with no attacks at all.
Here there is more decision making about killing monsters now versus exhausting them and exploring but having to deal with them later, etc. Having played both systems, this iteration feels more flexible but at the same time more rewarding–a sign of a great design.
Monsters spawn through various game effects but are mostly spawned by location cards when you travel to a new location. Some monsters will get up in your face or skulk in the shadows. One of the strong points of the game is the simple AI system that runs the monsters and enemies.
Each enemy card will have 1-3 actions on it, listed from left to right. When that enemy activates it goes through each from left to right. This allowed the designer to give each enemy a personality based on when they do their actions and who they affect.
For example, a Skaven skirmisher will always try to retreat if it engaged or engage if in the shadows, but before doing so it will poison or disease a hero. This shifty, hard to catch activity is very fitting of what you would expect for this type enemy.
Similarly, orcs are lumbering and straightforward, but tough to kill and pack a punch if they get an attack off. The enemy diversity isn’t super high, but the uniqueness of each enemy with minimal rules overheard is truly well down.
The first couple quests I played I started to get a sinking feeling that, like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, most of the quests would be the same. Explore until you fight bad guy, kill bad guy, win. Yawn.
To my surprise though, only the first two or so were like that. While not radically different, future quests changed up the formula enough to make it more interesting. For example, the third campaign quest in this base box has you chasing a big bag guy through a variety of locations.
The trick, though, is that every two turns you have to fully explore the location otherwise the big bad escapes. Combine this with the fact that for every enemy active on the field, the big bad takes 1 less damage and you have yourselves one dynamic quest. One of my favorites of the set and damn hard to beat.
I would encourage the designers to continue to takes risks and innovate with the basic quest system as they did with around half of the quests in this set. Future expansions will not need to introduce new players and therefore can be more unusual or add new rules.
Negatives & Quibbles with Warhammer Quest: Adventure Card Game
The number one complaint I have heard about WQACG is lack of content in this main box and I have to say, I cannot disagree. One campaign of 5 quests and 1 independent “delve” quest is just a tad shy of the mark, I would say. I know there will be expansions and I know it keeps the price point reasonable, but the fact that this is the number one complaint means that, really, the game is good and we just want more! There are legions of gamers around the world screaming more, more, more!(maybe an exaggeration)
Other negatives include the tutorial. It is fine, but I recommend just playing one or two rounds at most just to learn the basic action and combat systems then moving right along. The full game is hardly more complicated but vastly more interesting.
The amount of gear in the game is fine and although each character only has 3 legendary weapons they can obtain, that is adequate.
It is not realistic to have a dwarf carrying around 2 legendary hammers, 3 legendary helmets, 1 legendary pole-arm, an axe, and a pair of boots is it? The game limits your equipment to keep things simple and make you choose carefully what equipment you will keep.
What is there to like?
My single favorite thing about WQACG is my biggest complaint about the Pathfinder ACG, the fact that you can be on captivating journey through a ice cave fighting off ogres and dodging falling stalagmites, and a zombie or goblin shows up and ruins the immersion.
WHY IS THERE A GOBLIN IN AN OGRE CAVE AT THE TOP OF A ICE MOUNTAIN?
Remember when we killed all the goblins in that other quest? I do and I thought they would stay dead. WQACG seeds most of the enemies of each quest specifically and only a small portion of them are random. Even the random ones largely make sense as the card pool you draw from is not that big yet. Sure, a Skaven might sneak into a largely Orc quest but it is certainly not as egregious as it could have been. Whew!
The other thing I love about the game is what I call the “Mage Knight Feeling“. Everyone has a nervous tick that they do while deep in thought or pondering something.
Maybe it is biting your lip or clicking a pen. When a game engrosses me enough in the story, the decisions, and the overall flow that I lose myself enough to start doing my nervous tick, I know I am on to something.
That quest I mentioned above is a perfect example. Before I started I examined the peril track, which is sort of the games’ timer but also triggers prescribed events, and planned out how I would use my actions to slowly chip away at enemies and the big bad boss, all while trying to keep up my frantic pace of exploring that the quest requires of you.
I then realized that after the third location I could transition from exploring hard core and go full auto on the enemies and the boss because the last location did not have to be explored to win. The quest came down to the last roll and I took a good few minutes to think steps ahead and deciding who to attack and what order to use everything in to give myself the best chance to win.
Ultimately, I just barely did enough damage on the last action to defeat the boss and my arms shot up in pure joy. A great puzzled solved–a great adventure was had.
The Long and The Short
To put it simply, Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game takes two solid mechanisms from two solid games and combines them to make a sum greater then the parts.
The Warhammer license is respected and executed well, as it usually is outside of terrible mobile tower defense games(you know who you are!).
WQACG is my favorite solo game of 2015 and I look forward to many expansions to come and hope that this review in a small way gets the word out that this game is deserving of every expansion it receives.
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