Welcome to Retro-Hammer, the series here at Master of Magic that has a look at the long and varied history of Games Workshops product line to find some hidden gems. Since the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 have been around for quite a while (and Games Workshop itself has been producing games even before these were a thing) it is unsurprising that there are a decent number of weird and wonderful things that have been produced by our favourite miniatures company.
With the release of Warhammer Quest: Cursed City this month, Games Workshop has brought the dungeon crawling IP back to the fantasy setting of the Mortal Realm, while adding a decent helping of gothic horror into the mix. Despite the rigmarole regarding the release and then apparent cancelation of the game, many players have been able to delve into the dark depths of Ulfenkarn in their quest to slay its evil master. I myself have been hard at work painting the set (deciding to try and replicate the box art aesthetic) and getting stuck into what is quite frankly an amazing game.
This got me all nostalgic for the old days of 1995 and the release of the original version of Warhammer Quest, a game that was one of the best Dungeon Crawler every made*. A game that, despite me not playing in over 20 years, still give me the warm fuzzies when I recall the few times I was able to play using my mates copy**. So today I thought it would be fun to look back at that original version and relive the simple enjoyment of kicking in a door and slaying a horde of goblins with your mates. So, grab your trusty sword and shield as we plunge dungeons of the Old World.
Designed by Andy Jones and released in the mid-nineties as a spiritual successor to the incredibly popular Hero Quest, and set in its fictional Warhammer Fantasy world, Warhammer Quest focused on a group of warriors who join together to earn their fame and fortune in the darkest depths of the Old World. The original box set allowed players to take the role of either a Barbarian, Wizard, Dwarf, and Elf as the battled against the myriad hoards of Orcs, Goblins, Skavens and other Warhammer creatures as they tried to acquire treasure and level up their characters.
The game utilized simple gameplay mechanics that allowed players to get stuck right in with the action right away as they explored and fought through the dungeons of the Old World. As with most dungeon crawlers, the game put a strong emphasis on co-operative play in order to survive against the myriad monsters the players would face on their adventures.
After an adventure, you would be able to visit settlements and tool up your characters. Additionally, you would encounter events every day you stayed in the settlement, and the longer you stayed the weirder your encounters could become. This could be as simple as an Uneventful Day, to visiting the Steam Baths or been accused of murder. Stay long than a fortnight and you might even have to fight off an Orc warband or be forced out of the settlement by a flash flood. Once you are ready, you can jump back into your next adventure.
What really made the game unique however was the fact it could be played as a Roleplay Game complete with a Dungeon Master. This allowed the players to expand on the base game with character encounters, as well as adding addition actions such as picking locks, starting fires and searching for traps. It also allowed you to create your own adventures, letting you live out your wildest Warhammer fantasies, whether that be battling deep down in the dwarven kingdoms or wilds of the empire.
The game would receive two major expansions in the form of Lair of the Orc Lord and the Catacombs of Terror, each needing you to have a hero of a higher level to even have a hope of surviving, encouraging character progression. Warhammer Quest also had a selection of nine addition hero sets, each with addition rules to include a Pit Fighter, Warrior Priest, Imperial Noble, Elf Ranger, Dwarf Trollslayer, Chaos Warrior, Wardancer, Witch Hunter and Bretonnian Knight in your games.
Additionally, Games Workshop would release a ton of content in both White Dwarf and the Citadel Journal, the latter of which contained rules for an Ogre as a playable adventurer (which was my hero of choice). There was also the Deathblow magazine, that ran for three issues and was dedicated solely to Warhammer Quest content, giving players even more characters and adventures to play with.
Sadly, Games Workshop would cease support for Warhammer Quest in 1998, putting it out to pasture like so many other specialist games before it. It would be eighteen long years before Games Workshop would bring back this beloved title with the release of Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower. This would be followed by Warhammer Quest: Shadows Over Hammerhal, which polished up the rules as well as added more heroes and villains to the game, and then Warhammer Quest:Blackstone Fortress, the first Warhammer Quest game to take place in the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Games Workshop would also licence their IP to Rodeo Games, which lead to creation of an IOS version of the game. This has since been ported to PC, Mac, Linux, and later PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It also received its own sequel, and both games are a decent bit of fun should you want to try them out yourself. This has all lead up to this year and the release of Warhammer Quest: Cursed City, the latest incarnation of this amazing dungeon crawler. The game has changed a lot over the twenty-six years since its original release, but despite all that it is still a huge draw for many Warhammer fans both new and old. I think this is in large part to the accessibility of the dungeon crawler format.
Combining the best elements of board games and RPGs with the amazing worlds that Games Workshop has created, Warhammer Quest allows hobbyists to throw themselves into the shoes of a noble heroes, a wizened spell caster or cutthroat mercenary and battle for fame and fortunate, even if for only and hour or two. It is also one of the few games that Games Workshop has produced that doesn’t pit players against each other, instead putting everyone on the same side against a shared evil. This makes it a great experience to enjoy with multiple friends, sharing the highs and lows of adventuring together during a weekly gaming night.
It’s a bit in the air at the moment what the future will hold for the Warhammer Quest IP. Cursed City is currently unavailable, with no clue as to whether or not it will be back in stock. I certainly hope it does get a restock, so more people can find the joy of this classic dungeon crawler. Either way, I look forward to seeing what the future hold for Warhammer Quest.
We hope you have enjoyed this dive into the retro past of Games Workshop’s product line. What would you like us to talk about next? Let us know in the comments below or find me on twitter @TenguPlaysGames and maybe we will talk about it next time.
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*In my humble opinion.
**Sadly I never managed to pick up an original copy, but my friends invited me to play along to get my fix.