Review – Warhammer Quest: Shadows over Hammerhal

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Games Workshop dropped their latest in their line of new Warhammer Quest box sets last week, and we finally got to play it after I spent a week pouring through the books, and here is my review of it.Last night we played our first game of the new Warhammer Quest: Shadows Over Hammerhal, and as a diehard fan of the original Quest, the new additions and tweaks to the system are great to see, and work seamlessly with the core system introduced by Silver Tower last year.

The underlying system is very much Silver Tower – the fortune dice, the action dice, the adversaries with their behaviour chart, the treasure and skill cards – all is as it was, but given that the system was a surprisingly good one, I am pleased to see that it has been merely tweaked for the most part.

But before the tweaks, it is all about the new big addition to the game play – the Games Master. This single new mechanic, and all it does, elevates this edition far above its predecessor, Silver Tower, as it has opened up the dungeon design to be far more involved, and to make the experience all the richer for all the Adventurers now that the do not see everything that’s going on.

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The Dungeon Master is now solely in charge of placing the dungeon, of running the adversary’s (evening being given the option to run them as they wish rather than rolling on the behaviour chart) and has all the information, a lot of which is on kept secret from the Adventurers until discovered through the new Search action.

So where as the Adventurers saw all that was coming in Silver Tower as they worked through the pages of the adventure book, they are now very much in the dark, making traps an actual, and highly effective, addition, especially when the party assume they only trigger once, as some do, but some don’t – but of course, they do not know which are which…

Whilst in theory this means you need an extra player – GM plus four players as the Adventurers, you can run it as GM vs a single player controlling a team of four Adventurers if you wanted and it would work just as well.

And playing as the GM is enjoyable in its own right because you get all the extra info and can see what’s coming and if you have the flair, play it up, add some extra flavour and make use of not just the traps and adversary’s noted, but revel in the delicious new Ambush system that replaces Respites from Silver Tower, and even a new Reinforcement mechanic that adds a touch of realism as monsters in adjacent rooms yet to be discovered can come running into the fray if a fight is ongoing.

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*Leash not included

 

Add in a couple of choices of routes through the campaign that’s included, and an NPC Gryphhound who can appear to fight with you, or lead the Adventurers into trouble if not careful, and there is plenty for both sides to enjoy.

And what a campaign system we now have. There is just the one currently, once again comprising of 8 dungeons, though the order is not simply linear as some can be done before others, with a final one where the big bad guy can be met and hopefully beaten.

The campaign also extends to include a persistence element as the GM can track a party’s progress within each dungeon, noting what rooms have been discovered and which secrets found, so that if they return to the surface, when they come back, the dungeon is as it was lost. But thanks to the ambush system, clearing it out doesn’t mean it remain empty of danger for long…

Returning to the surface is worth the risk, as whilst it does likely involve battling back to a set of stairs that will lead you back to Cinderfall, when you do return, Grievous Wounds are healed, and there is plenty to do, including the obligatory unexpected event as you first reach town. Once that’s been weathered, you can go shopping with whatever gold you have discovered, or try and make more by selling good, getting in to a drinking contest or going pit fighting, though as we found out, woe betide the Adventurer that gets matched up against the Bar Keep himself.

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If you remember this, you’re awesome

The set also brings new skills and treasures, and I see no reason that you can’t mix and match the ones from Silver Tower for more variety. There are also new Relics that are story specific items you can find on the way at set point, and Achievements, which is where I want to focus for a moment.

Silver Tower had a pseudo-level system based on the number of Talisman pieces you had uncovered, but even then, a random roll would determine which skills and treasures you could keep. Hammerfall introduces actual Levels, with all new Adventurers starting at Level 1. Achievements are then earned as you progress through and defeat the dungeons, and each one earned adds a Level. Your Level denotes the maximum number of Skills cards an Adventurer can have at any time, and this time there is no crazy Tzeentch shenanigans to rob them from you – only Death can do that.

The adds a clearer persistence to characters, and also gives us something that was not included in the box set – dungeon design rules. There is still not anything specific for designing your own dungeons, but this new level system together with the pre-generated Ambush Encounter and Unexpected Events tables provided for each dungeon gives us the tools to work back and effectively generate our own Monster Encounter Tables like Quest of yore, also trap listings, that we can pull on to create our own dungeons.

But it gets better – there are Kairic Acolytes in Hammerfal as there were in Silver Tower. That allows us to compare the difficult of the encounters with Kairic’s in Hammerfal to those in Silver Tower, and then reverse engineer the data to create Adventurer Level specific Monster Encounter Tables for the Silver Tower adversaries too, which is what I intend to work for the next few weeks.

This is a huge leap forward for Quest without a doubt , and it has me once again chomping at the bit for more, as that’s the only real drawback per se. Whilst a good Games Master could modify the triggering conditions / area affects / solutions of the traps so that players going back through with a different hero are still kept nice and paranoid, and they have even included a difficulty setting system, which makes enemies harder to take down and increases the likely of ambushes o later play through for extra challenge and replayability, there are still just the 8 dungeons, which is why I am so intent on breaking it down to create a set of dungeon design tools.

Whereas with Silver Tower it felt very much like that the box set was all there would be plot wise, I can easily see Hammerfal getting small campaign sets books with new adversary rules, new traps, and dungeon maps and new dungeon rooms even, and I sincerely hope they do this. They could bring in new towns with new places to visit and new associated mini games too. White Dwarf could further support in that fashion also.

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This is what the original Quest had, and it worked. In deed, its working now – I have already picked up a box of Tzaanagor Skyfires and Plaguebearers as they are listed as new Exotic Adversaries. Blood Warriors and Wrath Mongers are also included, so I will be nabbing a box each of them at some stage too. I would not have bought these kits for any other reason – it only because of Quest that I am.

So I am all in once more for Quest, and am more pumped over this version that Silver Tower for it brings back so many fond ideas and mechanics, and manages to seamlessly introduce them to the newer core game, which is a job bloody well done in my eyes.

So if you are into Age of Sigmar, Warhammer Quest, Hero Quest, Silver Tower or just fund dungeon roaming board games,, and whether you are a long term gamer or new and just dipping your toes into the Hobby water, I can whole heartedly recommend this as its fun for all with no hassle to get into.

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