Out of all the games that GW have produced over the years few are revered such as Warhammer Quest, the archetypical dungeon crawler set in the Old Warhammer World. I myself have spent many an hour battling spiders and giant rats in the depths of the dankest dungeon, surviving ambushes and random encounters. When GW re-released Space Hulk, authentic and complete I always wondered why they didn't do the same with WHQ, a template that seemed ripe for an update. But it never happened.
|The original. Love this game...|
Of course GW ended up killing off the Old World and unleashing the Age of Sigmar upon us, which love it or hate it seems to be here to stay. Personally I thought this killed off any chance of us getting the remake that so many wanted. Then all of a sudden the much rumoured Silver Tower game was revealed. And lo and behold, The Warhammer Quest name was attached to it, quite unexpected and ramped my interest in the game right up.
As more and more pictures got released the hype grew. The new miniatures looked amazing and even the AoS setting wasn't really putting me off. Of course the rules were the one thing we weren't hearing about and this would be the real test of whether the game was worthy of the Warhammer Quest name.
Well,, now i have played it and i can safely say.... sort of.
The heroes themselves have AoS rules. The to hit rolls all depend on the weapon (or spell) you are using and there are no stats lines to speak of. However, there are a number of intriguing game mechanics that make for a lot of fun and we'll be covering those in a sec.
One of the first things you do after choosing your scenaario is tailor your deck. Each trial (of which there are 9 in total) refers to a different wind of magic, you then choose these matching cards from the dungeon deck. Some will be removed from the deck even after this dependent on which trial you are doing (we were only doing the first so a couple of the harder rooms were removed) the rest are set up in a series of mini decks stacked and shuffled so that the rooms will end up more or less where they need to be, but are a little randomized so you do not know exactly what is coming, There were only seven cards in this first dungeon.
There were only two of us playing, Kieron, manager of GW Southend took the Fireslayer whilst i opted for the Mistweaver, eager to see how magic worked in this version of quest. Silver Tower is a fully co-operative game, there is no need for a dungeon master. This is the first large departure from the Warhammer quest of old but is not entirely unwelcome, it just means that the AI has to be up to scratch.
So the way the game works is there is an initiative token that passes round the players and the player with the token goes first that turn. Kieron took the first turn to illustrate how the game worked. We started on an 'ingress point' (replacing he stairwell from the classic) and the game began.
The first thing that you do is roll your 'destiny dice' these are five dice that represent a pool of dice that the warriors can use to supplement their own action dice. Only unique dice rolls are used (so doubles triples etc are removed and cant be used) and Kieron showed me that in later games the dice rolls could trigger familiars who would have additional effects on the trial in question.
We only got one double so that was removed and the remaining dice put on the card piece with our renown counters. The results of the dice are very important and must be preserved for reasons we'll get to in a sec. The renown counters are on a wheel and once they have completed a circuit we would level and collect a skill.
With the destiny dice sorted, Kieron as the Rune Marked (holder of the initiative token) rolled his action dice. Four dice per character, you roll them and the results will dictate what actions you can take. For example, moving uses a dice roll of one but some powerful attacks can need a dice of five or six so you can be very limited in what you can do, especially if your rolls are as bad as mine!
|Not the ideal start....|
So the first action that Kieron chose was explore (1+) and he turned over the first card revealing the Whirligig Passage. After placing the card and reading the appropriate passage in the book for any special rules or anything we rolled for the monsters. A couple of Cultists and Horrors filled the passageway, ready to be cut down like chaff, after all that's how it always worked in the old version....
The Fireslayer used another low value dice to move up to the cultist, another dice was used for the first attack doing D3 damage but not quite felling his opponent. He then used a Destiny Dice to follow up with another normal attack. hewing the cultist where it stood. One thing to note is that when you use one of the Destiny Dice you lock the next highest number, this stops one player from using all the dice before the other players as the Destiny Dice have to last the whole round. The dice unlock on the next players turn,
Using it's last dice which missed, the Fyreslayers turn ended. Most of his powers were short ranged so he had had to close with the enemy, I intended to engage from further away, like you would expect a mage to do. Sadly my dice rolls were all rather low so I had to close in to hit with my knife. Of course even at point blank range I couldn't hit to save my life despite needing only a 4+. I regained a bit of pride using the remaining Destiny Dice to blast my foe with magic missiles (Illusory Assault - 3+ to hit, D3 damage but needing a minimum action dice of 3+ too) clearing a few of the foe but merely splitting the Blue Horrors into a pair of Brimstone Horrors! Hang on that's new!
One thing to note is that there are no rolls to wound. You roll to hit, you roll for damage (if required) that's it, This is AoS after all. Some might not like this, but personally it sped things up a little and I don't mind it too much. Might be a bit weird when you are hitting mighty foes on the same number, that's what I never liked about Age of Sigmar. Another thing is that monster models have no save at all, they generally have multiple wounds to compensate for this though.
So it was the adversary turn and we rolled for the monster actions. A predetermined table dictates the way the monsters respond as you work though all the monsters on the tile. Groups of the same monster type act as one. By the end of the adversary turn we had each taken a wound or two. Wounds are interesting. As they are placed on the spaces where your action dice are normally placed each wound effectively denies you an action. you can heal but each time you do so throughout the game the dice value that is required to be used rises by one. Of course then there was a random event (I cant remember how it was triggered) and a pink horror appeared which in combination with the self immolating suicidal Brimstones caused a further three wounds on my mistweaver. NO action points for her next turn and one more hoot and she was down. Kieron was doing a bit better and cut down a few more foes. With no action dice i had to use a destiny dice to heal and then another to blast the Pink Horror which promptly split into two Blues. I had a special rule where if I rolled a six to hit with my Illusory Blast then I picked up renown on top of that for killing my foe and my counter was rapidly advancing round the wheel.
|With only a 6+ armour save my character was taking a battering....|
We each took a couple more hits before we cleared the tile and rather than using the respite to heal my extra wounds I took I searched for treasure, picking up a card that would allow me to examine the adventure deck later to see what perils awaited us. I'm sure this would come in handy.
The next room was much easier, only a couple of cultists and blue horrors stood in our way and I was getting to grips with the rules. (Ie I hid behind the dwarf) I did however manage to throw a couple of quadruples with the destiny dice leaving us with only one so it was fortunate there were not more enemy models to fight.
As this was a T junction i used my treasure card to look at one of the split decks to see in which direction our goal lay as my time sadly was not unlimited. After checking the deck we chose to go the other way. Of course we could have gone that way anyway to pick up extra treasure and renown. The next room was a feature room and an especially hard Pink Horror challenged us. It took a while but we took him down and the two Blue Horrors he turned into and then the Brimstone too. We were in pretty good shape and I leveled up at this point picking up a handy skill card that was especially useful to my character. If I got a six to hit then i would ad an action dice to my card, For any other adventure it would be a value of one but as a mage I could roll it and take the result. Nice.
|Hiding behind the Dwarf again like any self respecting Elf....|
We then progressed into the last room where our destiny awaited....
The room contained two statutes and two rotating light beams. we could rotate the beams 90 degrees using an action dice of 4+ and it was plain that the aim was to shine the light on the statues. The room was full of the enemy and the light rays were deadly so we used our action points to rotate the light beams and thin the herd. The Mistweaver went second so ended up reaping most of the kills and my renown counter was well over half the way round the wheel again and nearly lapped the Fyreslayers. If i'm honest this little bit was too easy and I would have preferred more of a fight but as I say I didn't have all day.
|Our foe were many...|
|But the light beams soon sorted them out!|
We finished off the last few enemies and rotated the lights to the statues. Where upon a shade of the Gaunt Summoner appeared. After taunting us he tried to kill us, stealing all our destiny dice at one point and with a rather nasty rule where if you wounded him with an action dice you lost the next highest dice, but in all honesty we polished him off without too many problems. The Fyreslayer got the killing blow as i was still proving useless with my knife. As I was Rune Marked at the time I took the section of amulet and our first trial was complete.
Now, the skills and treasure we had collected, would we get to keep them? After all character progression was key to the original Warhammer quest. Well the treasure was a simple matter or a dice roll for each piece and mine was lost. The way the skills work is interesting. Basically you only get to hang on to an amount of skills related to the amount of amulet fragments you have. One fragment is one skill. Two or three is two skills four plus is three skills and all eight fragments means you can have four. An intriguing system that prevents you from grinding and gaining super powered heroes and making the game too easy.
Now, The killer. There is NO after game phase. You fight, you level and then you choose your next mission. I'm not going to lie, this is a bit of a bummer. I really enjoyed this element of Warhammer Quest. It made everything seem more real and cemented you in the world, it also made the character YOURS. Did you have a gambling problem? what kind of weapon would you buy? The randomness was a massive part of the game and that is sadly gone. In fact it may well be a deal breaker for some people. It makes sense given AoS setting but that makes me bemoan its loss no less.
|you will be missed, oh you will be missed.....|
I'm going to look at the contents quickly with a further comparison to the original so feel free to skip tot the end if you want my final thoughts about the game play....
First up the models. Yes there are far less in this version but it is impossible to argue that they are all of far superior quality. In fact these models are superb. The cultists in particular are something that people have been crying out for and I am happy to say that the OTT AoS aesthetic of which I really am not a fan seems to be at a minimum here. The heroes are all sublime and I really like the look of the Aelf models, the Dark elf assasin is just that but the mist weaver is an intriguing blend of styles and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the range looks like, The Chaos chieftain is also a highlight and each of the models is a delight in their own right, with the Excelsior Priest being another favourite and not just because GW have finally produced an obviously non caucasian model.
The monsters are also very nice with the aforementioned tzeentchian cultists being my favourite, Its all as nice as the stuff in overkill and I cant wait to get my set. So yes you might get less models but when you consider that most of the model count in WHQ was spiders and rats and bats it doesn't seem so bad, certainly 51 models for 95 quid strikes me as reasonable.
You got a lot more tiles in WHQ but Silver Towers are double sided so the actual amount of rooms is similar. It is worth noting however that at least in the game i played there is less of a sprawling dungeon feel with a distinct lack of corridors and corners and the like. Rather it really does feel like sections of a boardgame rather than elements of a dungeon. The art on them is stunning however, very bright and colourful as befitting the Chaos God featured.
There are also substantially fewer cards in the box, with things like alternate weapons cards no longer being required and the spells being on the character cards. Its not a massive thing but I did miss the myriad of decks with the only non room cards being present the small skills and treasure cards on the centre destiny card ready to be claimed.
There are also no doors with all inter tile movement being done by means of magic portals. The rules are more or less non existent. The AoS sensibility reigns supreme here and there are no passages of rules to learn at all. Another departure and one that this crusty old gronkard misses greatly. The book with all the read aloud passages is fine and the monster rules are covered on war scrolls and often summarized on the back of the books. No roleplaying book. It doesn't exist.
So comparatively there is certainly less to this game contents wise. I'm not sure it has the replayability of the original with its singular tight narrative as you test yourself against the summoners trials. It seems like a lean stripped down version of the classic dungeon crawling game although the quality of the components is vastly superior.
So, how did I feel about the way it played? Well I really enjoyed my game as it was. I felt it had some excellent mechanics, I really like the destiny dice idea and the way actions work. It does feel a little simple in places as it uses the AoS rules but there is still some strategy required in order to negotiate the dungeons. At one stage it didn't look like we were going to get out of the first tile!
The game scales with the amount of players you have and although it was a bit of a shame not to have a DM the game works fine without for the most part. It's nice to be able to play the game with a mate and not need a group. It's pretty fast and furious and I liked some of the special rules that cropped up within the different rules. Kieron showed me one from a later mission where you had to do dice challenges against the clock which was pretty cool, though hopefully the dancing round the table nonsense has been left where it belongs.
The lack of inbetween games roleplaying is a crippling blow to those looking to pick this up expecting it to be a faithful remake of WHQ, I can understand how the new setting doesn't lend itself to the idea but it was easily one of the very best bits about the original and gave you a chance to develop and get to know your character. As it is it feels like you are playing with something that is never really your own and its not the same. You can't even die, not properly. With no stats to speak of im not sure how you would feel you are advancing either, though some skills will boost rolls.
So in summary, it is another well put together board game from GW, It's a bit light on depth and gameplay and the loss of the roleplaying aspect is a big blow. But the components are lovely and the game itself is a lot of fun with some intriguing mechanics. The AoS system seems to be a good fit here and certainly it works better than I think it does for a large tabletop game. I'll be picking it up, and I think it is a rather well designed game, But don't expect it to fill that WHQ shaped hole in your heart because it wont.