Wednesday, May 25, 2016

REVIEW: Silver Tower Game Play

This past weekend I was finally able to get in a few games of Warhammer Quest: Silver Tower, and man is it a fun game. Originally expecting to just get one game in, I was able to play through three different adventures, use two different heroes, and even give the App a spin.

For the first game, my friends and I decided to play through the Hysh adventure since this is the one the book suggests starting with. I brought several models with me to choose from for my hero, and in the end I settled on my Tomb King whom I was using the Wight King rules for since they are pretty similar. These rules aren't in the box, but you can download them on the App for $.99, so that's definitely worth while if you have a model you want to use. One of the main reasons I picked the King was based off of the heroes my friends were taking. My friend Adam was using a Slaughterpriest, and my other friend Matt was using a Bray Shaman, both rather buffy heroes, so I figured I would be the tank.

Our first game involved a lot of learning the rules and getting a good grasp on how to play the game. Luckily the Guide Book basically walks you through your first turn. We got a couple of things wrong at first, but by the time we started our second adventure we had it all down. To start an adventure you need to explore the first room, which requires you to use one of your hero's action points. In front of the portal leading to the next room is the exploration deck which you draw the top card off of. This shows you which room tile to set up next, how to set it up, and what, if any enemies occupy the room. Some of them tell you set up X number of guys, where others tell you to roll on one of four encounter tables. This will randomly generate enemies for you. Sometimes it says D6 of a certain enemy type, while other times it will ask you to set up one enemy for each hero.  Basically you never know what you are going to be facing, even if you have already played through the same adventure before. It also scales the games nicely, since you will generally have less enemies if you have less heroes, and more if you have more, making sure you won't be overpowered right away.

At the start of each turn the rune marked player, the player who is in charge of controlling the enemies and other NPC elements for that turn, rolls the destiny dice. These act as extra dice that you can use if your hero depletes his own and you need to do more actions, but any doubles rolled on this triggers an event, and the double dice get discarded. Any doubles twos, threes, fours, and fives potentially trigger one of the four Tzeentch familiars to show up. These guys generally negatively effect your group, but if you can capture them you can use them for a one time advantage. My favorite though is when you roll any double ones or sixes. This will trigger an unexpected event. When this happens you roll two dice, one after the other, to determine what passage you read from the Adventure Book. These events can range from an extra hero showing up to help you, or a group of Tzaangors ambushing you, or even the Gaunt Summoner himself showing up. This adds a ton of tension and fun into the game. There were times where there were no enemies, or not enough, and I thought it was going to be too easy when suddenly an unexpected event put us all on our toes again.

You may have noticed me mentioning reading passages from the Adventure Book. There are a bunch of times where you will be asked to read a certain passage, which contains a bit of narrative to either move the story along or provide context, then it will tell you what to do. I really loved this element since it really made it feel like I was acting out a story and not just playing a game.

Okay, now back to my first game. At first my friends and I were blazing through the rooms, easily besting any of the enemies we came across. The Bray Shaman has an ability that can potentially stun all of the enemies in a room, and even make them turn on themselves. Stunning is a big deal and can help you out a lot with being able to handle large groups of enemies since it prevents them from attacking or moving for that turn. My King also regenerated a wound each turn and was fairly decent at killing stuff. It all seemed fine until the boss room when suddenly we were facing six Acolytes and four Blue Horrors. It also didn't help that the Acolytes were potentially spawning Pink Horrors each time they wounded us.

When an adversary acts you have to roll on a behavior table which will tell you what to do with them for that turn, we kept rolling the same thing with them generating Pink Horrors. It still seemed manageable until I killed a Pink Horror who is then supposed to split into two Blue Horrors. We already had all of our Blue Horrors on the board though and had no more to use, so when you can't place enemies because you ran out you roll an unexpected event, and suddenly three Tzaangors decided to join the party. Completely overwhelmed Adam and I both died, leaving the Bray Shaman to fend for himself. If you can clear the board of all enemies, any heroes who were dead can come back with all of their wound counters on. Although he held out for a few turns by stunning everyone over and over again, eventually he died too. Each hero has four wound slots, and on the fifth wound he dies. Each wound slot filled also takes away one of your action dice, so you become less effective as you get wounded. It may seem like it's hard for a hero to die at first, but all it takes is for a few wounds to get through and suddenly you're struggling.

After this first game Matt had to leave, so Adam and I decided to play a two person game. We picked the Shyish adventure, and I switched my hero out to a Lord-Castellant just to try it. We breezed through this game, but it was still a ton of fun. I don't want to give away too many of the surprise twists and turns that you will encounter, but after a certain point I wasn't allowed to speak anymore unless I spent an action point to say three words. There was also a riddle that we had to solve. I was allowed to look at the answer, but since I couldn't talk or write it down I had to act it out in a game of charades. It was a ton of fun and I'm really looking forward to discovering what other elements like this their are in the other adventures.

Once we had finished that game Shaun, who some may know from Adpeticon, had wandered over so we invited him to join us for our final adventure. We decided to do the Ghyran game, mostly because I wanted to use those cool cave room tiles. I stuck with my Castellant and Shaun took the Knight-Questor. I think in this game we explored almost every room tile available for us. Each adventure tells you which room tile cards to place in your adventure deck. For example, the ones for the Ghyran adventure are all marked with the Ghyran symbol. We ended up with a lot of split rooms, where there were two possible exits, so there was a bit of doubling back.

During an unexpected event we picked up an extra hero to join our party. You were supposed to randomly draw a hero card, but I had only put together the Knight-Questor, so that wasn't really an option for us. Instead we lined up our remaining heroes and rolled randomly to determine which one it was. We ended up with a Skullgrinder, and man is that guy powerful. Since we didn't have a fourth player to control him the rune marked player controlled him each turn. The rune marked player changes each turn, cycling through the group, so everyone got multiple chances to control the enemies, and in this case the Skullgrinder as well. The final boss fight was pretty intense and suitably epic, befitting of the final challenge we faced. In the end we won Ghyran and Shyish, and lost Hysh. The first game took about two hours to play since we were still learning everything, the second about 30 minutes, and the last somewhere between those two. It's hard to say how long the average game will last since there is so much randomness in it.

Myself, and everyone else playing, thoroughly enjoyed the game. It was a ton of fun and I can't wait to get back to questing so I can complete the amulet of the Gaunt Summoner, and once I am done with that I'm going to play it all over again with new heroes. The replay value in this is essentially endless. All of the rules were pretty straight forward, and although there was a bit of confusion at first, after the first game we had it down. I really can't think of a single thing I would have changed in how this game plays.

Gameplay Final Score - 5/5

I figured I would take a moment to talk about the App as well since I used it in all of my games. It worked perfectly and was a great way to keep track of my action dice and wounds on my hero. Both of the heroes I used were not in the box, so I didn't have a hero card for them and had to use the App. There's over 30 heroes you can download for $.99 a piece, or you can buy all of them and some new treasure and skill cards as a bundle and save some money. The App itself is free and comes with all of the rules for the heroes included in the game, plus the ones from the expansion pack that just went up for pre-order for free. Once you have picked your hero you can activate them for an adventure and keep track of any treasure or skills you gain in the App. This is extra helpful, because if you win an adventure you get to keep some of the skills and treasure for the next adventure, and you can save that with your hero in the App, as well as any pieces of the amulet you may have gotten. This was a fantastic addition to the game and a great way to expand how many heroes you can use. Essentially if they have a plastic clam pack model right now, they are probably in the App. I'm interested to see how they keep expanding this. I have no doubt that any new heroes released for AoS going forward will get purchasable rules in this, but I'll be curious to see if any new enemies get rules as well.

App Final Score - 5/5

It may sound like I'm not being critical enough of this game, but it's really just that good, I can't recommend it enough. I also had to skip over some of the rules mechanics in how stuff worked, otherwise I would just be reprinting the rule book here, but trust me, it's streamlined, easy to grasp, and most importantly fun. There are a bunch of out there moments in the game, like when I had to do charades, but it works brilliantly and doesn't feel forced. I could see this as being a great gateway game to get any non-wargamer friends of yours into AoS or wargaming in general.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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