• Warhammer Quest PC Review by Rick Moscatello

    Flawed But Playable

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    “Dungeon Crawler” is strange genre of board game which got its start with TSR’s Dungeon! way back in 1978. The general theme is players take the role of adventurers that enter a mostly random dungeon. Once inside, they go into a murder-hobo frenzy, killing the residents and taking their stuff. The winner of such games is usually whoever grabs the most loot, although killing lots of things usually counts for something as well.

    There have been many attempts to make the “perfect” dungeon crawler, and perhaps the best was Warhammer Quest, by Game’s Workshop. The basic game was pretty brutal, your typical starting party had a less than even chance of even making it out alive. The advanced game was pure chaos—there were rules for leveling your characters much like a “real” role playing game, buying tattoos and equipment, even going to taverns and visiting special areas only available to certain classes. It really was sheer random madness, traveling to a town could be determined by dozens of dice rolls, leading to arbitrary encounters that players were lucky to escape…sometimes the dice didn’t even allow you to visit a town to resupply, instead going directly from one dungeon to the next.

    For all the randomness, it was a fun game, and Games Workshop, true to form, produced expansion sets (with character class power creep) to capitalize on their profits and success. The board game has been out of print for years (I still have my copy) , but you can still get a copy off E-bay for $300 or so.

    At long last, Warhammer Quest has been ported to the PC. It’s not a perfectly faithful build (I’ll never understand why), but it does manage to capture most of the fun of the original game.

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    200 hit points, magic resistant, and regenerates. Sigh, going to be a long battle.

    The basic idea is you have 4 characters go into the dungeon; each has special powers and abilities, but the big gimmick of Warhammer Quest is the wizard Power phase. Spells cost power points (the good spells cost perhaps 6 points, but it varies a lot), and at the beginning of each round, a die is rolled, to determine how much “free” power the wizard has. On a roll of 2 through 6, it’s all fine and he’ll probably be able to cast a spell.

    Stuff gets bad when a 1 is rolled. On a 1, the wizard gets no power, AND random wandering monsters spring up, often right next to the characters (this is a good thing) or as far away as visible from the characters (a bad thing, because it can take several turns to track them down…turns where more monsters might appear). So, you get monsters to deal with just when you’re least able to deal with them. Rolling a few 1’s in a roll can spell doom for a party.

    So, your heroes move through a randomly generated dungeon, and hope that they don’t meet too many random monsters. At the end of each dungeon is a random Big Bad Monster to kill (and it can be brutal if you get random monsters while dealing with the Big Bad!). Afterwards, they get random treasure.

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    The Empire...a pure random system would have been better.

    This part is true to the board game, more or less, although for some inexplicable reason the game doesn’t show you die rolls (it’s a boardgamer thing to want to see them, I guess). When you leave the dungeon, you appear in The Empire, a country from Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. There, you can move around to more random dungeons, and go into cities to buy and sell items. It’s ok, but nowhere near as random as in the original game, and something is definitely lost by the predictability. There are a few random events, mind you, but nothing like the board game.

    The PC game shares the flaws of the boardgame, plus a few of its own. The boardgame’s major flaw was pretty forgiveable—everything breaks down after a few levels, and by the time characters reach level 8 or so, it’s almost impossible to keep track of all the special abilities and powers activating on every monster and character, every round. Granted, every role playing game gets kind of lame after a certain point, but the PC game starts to get untenable around level 5. At this point, monsters start getting 60 to 100 hit points, while your characters hit for 10 or so. It can take half a dozen turns to kill off a batch…a real problem when you expect a new batch of monsters to pop up every six turns or so.

    You can spend extra (real) money to buy super-powerful weapons that will let you kill monsters more quickly, but “pay to win” is a bad philosophy for game design. Even worse, you can’t hardly get enough gold to pay for your characters’ training to level 6…unless you’re willing to go on many “extra” dungeon crawls for no experience. Again, you can pay money for extra gold. Yuck.

    Still, I find myself feeling a bit like a jerk in a restaurant who cleaned his plate but still wants a refund because “the food sucks.” Warhammer Quest is not very good at all…but I sure played the heck out of it until level 5, when it just isn’t playable any more (although I’m about 1/3 of the way through the campaign, and many more towns to explore). If you can pick it up for $10 or less (especially if you can get the super-weapons and a few of the “extra” character classes), it’s worth the price of admission, and is a fun look at one of the best board games from the end of the previous century.

    But if you’re not a connoisseur of games, this one is easily skipped.

    3.5 stars out of 5.