A nice hefty box has just landed on my desk – the new Warhammer Quest, Shadows Over Hammerhal!
Fans of the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay may get a twinge of nostalgia at this point, as the title is (I am guessing deliberately) very close to one of the Enemy Within campaign adventures, Shadows Over Bogenhafen.
So, is it any good?
The original Warhammer Quest (pre-Silver Tower) had something of a reputation for bursting at the seams with all the miniatures they stuffed into the box. This time round, it is a healthy amount of miniatures – not as many, but they are all much, much better than the plastics of yesteryear.
Overall, you get:
Black Ark Fleetmaster
Chaos Sorcerer Lord
I have most of these models painted up already (so I’ll be able to dive right into this game – looking on that as a plus!), but it also means my Nurgle, Tzeentch and Bloodbound forces will be getting some reinforcements I might have otherwise skipped, so Hammerhal does a fairly nice job of supporting my Age of Sigmar games too.
They also did this, for the first time I can remember in a GW boxed game – place a card insert between miniatures and books so all the spikey things do not skewer the rest of the components!
It is two-sided, with the box cover art on the other side.
There are three large cardstock punch-out sheets, that provide counters and floor plans. Nicely done, thick card, very durable. These will survive many games, I think.
Then you get a deck of cards, divided into several categories.
The Skills and Treasures cards will be instantly familiar ti anyone who has played Silver Tower. That torch card signifies the Torchbearer, who kind of acts as the leader of the adventurers, similar (but not the same – the Torchbearer controls Companions, such as the Gryph-Hound, for example) to the Fate token in Silver Tower.
Artefact cards are dished out by the Gamesmaster, and can be thought of as Treasures Plus. The Achievements and Red Yugol cards are also in the GM’s control (the latter are used when the players visit Cinderfall between adventures).
You also get dice with the game.
The last components are the Character Cards, covering the four Heroes included in the set, the Gryph-Hound, and the Fate Board.
By the looks of the Lord-Castellant, these are the same guys as appear in Silver Tower which, of course, means all the characters in Silver Tower (and the expansion and apps) are useable in Hammerhal – so, there are a lot of Heroes playable in this game already. Just add miniatures!
Then we get onto the meat of the game – the books!
There is a short Getting Started sheet, along with an Assembly Guide. You’ll use these once and then move on.
You are told to read the Guidebook first, and the first surprise is that the first half-ish of the book is a short story, setting out Hammerhal and the adventures to come.
All nicely illustrated – there is an Old World feel here, but with a dollop of Mortal Realms on top. I think this is going to ring true for a lot of Age of Sigmar fans.
Then we get the game rules…
… and I think I would describe them as Silver Tower with a few bells and whistles.
The Destiny Phase is still in there, though there are no Familiars to slow your adventurers down. However, Unexpected Events can still be triggered to keep the players on their toes, and Destiny Dice still become locked as they are used.
Hero Dice are used in the same way, though players can now choose to delay their actions to then go after other players – something we have needed more than once in Silver Tower. Roll them, then take your actions. Kill an adversary, get Renown, go right round the track and get a Skill.
So far, so Silver Tower. From now on, I am going to zero in on the differences.
The big difference, of course, is the presence of the Gamesmaster. He controls the monsters (they have Behaviour Tables still, but it is optional to roll on them – I won’t be doing that myself – but they do sometimes give monsters special abilities, like summoning, that is not in their standard ability list), and there is always the possibility of ambushes now. Wandering monsters by another name.
Adversaries can now also call for reinforcements, standing by a nearby door and yelling for help. This should keep the game moving along and force the players not to dawdle.
The GM is basically fulfilling the same role as he does in a ‘standard’ RPG, presenting the players with an adventure, reading descriptions to them and creating an atmosphere, and then controlling all the monsters. The advantage, of course, is that now the monsters will be acting a bit more intelligently. A side benefit is that players will now truly work together instead of trying to stuff one another over with the monsters (yeah, that might have just been our group…).
The Further Rules section expands your games. You can add Heroes from Silver Tower of course (in fact, just consider them Warhammer Quest characters – the same applies to monsters too, so if they are in one game, they can be used in Hammerhal).
Companions are used to pad a party out so there are always four Heroes, regardless of the number of players, adding more characters who are controlled by the Torchbearer (and Archimaine the Gryph-Hound, naturally).
The campaign rules are, I think, what is going to make Hammerhal fly. You sort of got them with Silver Tower, but it looks like Warhammer Quest is serious about it now.
Characters get their skills and treasures as before, but there are now rules for revisiting dungeons, in creasing difficulty levels (Heroic, Legendary and Hardcore – the latter of which was pretty much how we played Silver Tower!) and, of course you can now visit Cinderfall between adventures, which we will come back to in a minute…
This book ends with a Painting Guide, which takes a fair few pages but, for those of us who claim to be Disciples of the Duncan, it is a heaven sent addition.
So, now we come to the Adventure Book, for the GM only…
Eight dungeons are featured here, but don’t let that fool you – once a GM has played through them, he will be ready to create his own, giving Hammerhal true RPG-style infinite playability.
One cool thing I like is that each dungeon is covered on a two page spread, giving everything you need at a glance, like so:
You have the layout of the dungeon tiles, a specific Ambush table, Unexpected Events, and a Stairwells chart – once reached, these allow players to go back to Cinderfall or descend deeper into the dungeon (going down a level, we used to call it). There is not necessarily a linear progression to this, as the very first dungeon has different stairs that lead to the second and third!
Each location follows the same format, giving a description of the place to read out, any adversaries, and any special rules. The latter could be anything from how a trap is activated to the workings of a Realmgate that has been discovered.
Some locations also have a Secret. This is discovered by a successful Search (a new standard action available to players), and can uncover secret doors, treasures, or clues about what lies ahead.
This is a very, very nice set up for the GM. Everything you need is in one place, it all comes in bite-size chunks so you can start playing immediately without having to ‘prep’ an evening’s game, and it will be incredibly easy to replicate for GM’s wanting to create their own adventures.
Two observations here – first off, I think we will see a lot of fan-created dungeons, as they are very easy to put together (though a PC-based app to handle the floorplans would be nice, GW), and two, GW needs to put a shed load of these dungeons out. In White Dwarf, to download, in an expansion. If GW can give us a ton of variety in this game, it will have great longevity.
I mentioned Cinderfall earlier – this is the district in the city of Hammerhal where the heroes are based and, in-between adventures, you can visit it!
This will, again, seem very familiar to veterans of the original Warhammer Quest. As well as random events, there are places for heroes to visit, such as gambling dens, chapels, a market, a pit fighting cellar, and more.
Of course, an inventive GM is going to create his own locations too…
Finally, the adversaries have all their stats laid out, in the same format as Silver Tower.
However, GW have not just given us the monsters from the box set – they have also slipped in Wrathmongers, Tzaangors, Tzaangor Skyfires, and Plaguebearers.
This is going to be a bit of an odd conclusion.
First off, let me say this: This is not just a good game, this is an awesome game. It has taken the idea of the original Warhammer Quest and married it to what made Silver Tower a hit. If you liked either, go and buy Hammerhal now. You will not be regretting it.
The only real downside, and it is a strange one… I already want more. I want access to more adventures as well as, and this is the big thing, more monsters. The original Warhammer Quest made a good attempt at getting every available Warhammer Fantasy model into the game – and that is what Hammerhal needs. If you could use any Age of Sigmar model in this game, you will have (maybe with the odd dungeon floorplan expansion) a campaign system that could run for a long, long time as you explore different heroes in different dungeons, fighting different adversaries.
So, get onto it GW. I don’t want a few pages in White Dwarf introducing the odd monster here and there, I want them all. Do that, and I think you will have nailed this game.