Thursday, October 1, 2020

REVIEW: Crypt Hunters

Crypt Hunters has been on my radar since it was first announced. I really like how GW is making these board game type games to be sold in places like Barnes and Nobel and Target. It makes the larger Warhammer universe even more accessible to new players, and also gives existing players new ways to play with their models. Crypt Hunters checks two major boxes for me. Nighthaunt and dungeon crawler.

Let's start with what this game comes with, where you can get it, and how much it is. At the moment, in the US, you can only buy this at Barnes and Noble for $39.99, which is a pretty good price when you consider the models and also the quality of the game as you'll see!

In the box you get 10 Chainrasps, the Easy to Build Castigators, as well as all of the accessories needed to play the game. When you look at it from a models only perspective it's a great deal. Chainrasps on their own are $40 from GW. If you're a Nighthaunt player in the US who is looking to pick up more Chainrasps there's no reason not to buy this. It's essentially the same price (a penny cheaper actually) plus you get the whole game, and the $15 ETB Castigators.

Beyond the models you also get the dungeon tiles, which are made of a sturdy cardboard which will hold up to repeated use, three unique dice, the rules, and all of the tokens you'll need to play the game. Speaking of the tokens, one thing we noticed is you get way more wound tokens then you'll ever use. At most you'll only ever have four wound tokens in play at any given moment, but you get closer to 10 in this set. There's no down side to this, just odd.

There's also a deck of cards for both players, as well as model cards with all the stats on it.

Another handy thing for a board game is that it all packs away nicely. There are spots for all of the cards and tokens to go, which are then held in place by the hex tiles going on top of them. There are even spots to slot your minis in, and they hold them pretty securely too. The only thing with this is that it only really works with unpainted models, otherwise you're likely to scrape the paint off their bases by doing this.

Now, let's move onto the most important part of this review, the game itself. Like I said, I've been looking forward to this game for awhile. I really loved the random dungeon generation in Silver Tower and this looked like it was going to have a similar concept. Plus, you know, Nighthaunt. Well, I can confidently say that this game is a lot of fun!

A brief overview of the game has one player take control of the four Stormcast models (well, one of them is a Gryph-hound, but it has the Stormcast keyword) and the other takes control of the Nighthaunt and the dungeon itself. The Stormcast have ventured beneath the city of Glymmsforge to find the Hyshian Illuminator to banish the Nighthaunts from the 10,000 crypts, but they don't know where it is and the Chainrasp hordes aren't going to give them an easy time. Each player has some stat cards. The Chainrasp player only has two, one for a regular Chainrasp, which really has nothing on it, and one for the Dreadwarden, which has a special rule giving you an extra activation. The Stormcast cards are much more relevant though. Each one has their name, the number of wounds they have, how many attacks they can do, and how many hexes they can move. For example, Valiant, the gryph-hound and goodest boy, has 1 wound, 1 attack, and can move 2 hexes at a time, making him the fastest of the bunch. Eryk Hauntscorn on the other hand has 3 wounds, 2 attacks, and can only move 1 hex at a time. He's your tank in the group. Astrid has 2 wounds but 3 attacks, while Orris, the leader, falls right in the middle, with 2 wounds and 2 attacks. He does have a special rule though giving one of your Stormcast an extra activation each round.

So how does the game work? First off, each player draws three cards from their deck, I'll go over those more in a moment. Then all of the dungeon tiles minus the Illuminator and the starting hex are shuffled together and then placed in a stack with the Illuminator placed at the bottom. These are all face down so you can't see what they are. In normal games the Illuminator is always at the bottom of the deck meaning it'll always be the last hex placed. The four Stormcast all start out on the starting hex, which has halls branching off in every direction. The Chainrasp player then draws a tile from the top of the stack and places it at one of the entrance ways. If it's a straight hallway you keep placing tiles until you get one that branches or bends. Basically, since the Stormcast can't see around the bend in the hall, they can't see what's there. You do this for each entrance on the starting hex, so you'll have halls branching off in every direction. Most of them will be a bend or a branch, meaning it will only go one hex before stopping. There are more of those in the deck than straight halls.

After those are placed it's the Stormcast player's activation phase. Each Stormcast gets two activations, which they can either move with or attack with, in any order and combo. So you can move twice, or attack twice, or move then attack, etc. All of the Stormcast can attack any Chainrasps within their line of sight regardless of how far away they are. They're using crossbows after all. Valiant can only attack what's next to him. If you score a hit against a Chainrasp it is just removed. As the Stormcast player you want to expand the dungeon, so you'll want to move to the end of one of the existing halls so that more tiles get placed. 

After the Stormcast player goes you remove any tiles they can no longer see. This works a little differently then you would think. You measure line of sight for this from any tile next to the Stormcast. So, essentially, if they went backward or forward one tile, anything they can see from those tiles stay, anything else is removed and discarded. This way the dungeon falls away behind you. Even if you backtrack, new tiles get placed, so it won't be the same layout as before.

Next the Chainrasp player gets to go. They place a lurking Chainrasp model at the entrance to any hall that doesn't have a Stormcast on it. So, if there's no connecting hall yet (it opens up into nothing) and no Stormcast on it you get to place a model. If it's a branching hall hex with nothing connected to either entrance you get to place two. You can only ever have three Chainrasps on a hex at a time. If you have four or more Chainrasps on the board then one of them gets to be the Dreadwarden. They then get three activations total, regardless of how many Chainrasps are on the board, unless the Dreadwarden is there too, in which case you get an extra activation. As a Chainrasp you can do one of three things, move, drift, or attack. Move is what it sounds like, you can move into any adjacent hex, this includes going through walls if the hexes are touching. They are ghosts after all. Drifting is where you can move a Chainrasp any distance in a straight line, but you can't go through walls on this. So if you have a Chainrasp at the end of a long hall you can move him all the way to the other end. As an added bonus he can pick up other Chainrasps that he passes across and take them with him to end in the same hex, but remember, you can only ever have three in a hex at a time. To attack you have to be adjacent to the Stormcast model, even if it's through a wall, but you get to attack with all of the Chainrasps in a hex. So if you have three in a hex you get three dice. This will make it easier for the Stormcast to kill you though too since they also can attack all the models in a hex with one attack action. Each successful hit from the Chainrasp causes one wound on the Stormcast.

The dice are special dice with lightning bolts, skulls, or blank spaces. Lightning bolts are hits for the Stormcast while skulls are hits for the Chainrasps. It works out to be a 4+ for Stormcast and a 5+ for the Chainrasps. When your Chainrasps die they just get recycled again in your next turn, including the Dreadwarden.

The deck of cards have special rules on them that tell you when they can be used. For example, there is a Chainrasp one that lets you move one Chainrasp and can be played after you have completed an activation with another Chainrasp first. Some Stormcast ones include ignore a wound, everyone makes an extra attack, or bringing Valiant back from the dead. You can only play one card per round. They're pretty straight forward and easy to use.

Once the Chainrasp player has gone you start the next round which starts with placing any new hex tiles that the Stormcast can see and drawing a new card into your hand if you played one the previous round, and then you just repeat all of the steps. The Stormcast player first needs to find a Winch tile, that then gives them a winch they can use to activate the Hyshian Illuminator, which will be the very last tile you find. The Winch tile is just shuffled into the deck randomly, so in some of our games it doesn't appear till the end, and in others it was one of the first tiles placed.

Valiant holding out against a lone Chainrasp to win the game

So, that's how it's played, but is it fun? Very much so! My wife and I played six games of this over two days and she enjoyed it as well. She wasn't a fan of Underworlds as well as not being a huge fan of Stormvault, but this one she liked. I think it has a good balance of game mechanics without seeming intimidating or confusing to people not steeped in how games work. This is just plain fun and rewards playing smart. We played a small handful of rules incorrectly in the first few games, but by game three we had it all down. She definitely got the hang of how to best play the Stormcast after a few games. For example, it's often better just to run away and move around a corner so that all those tiles, including the ghosts on them, disappear in the remove tile phase instead of sticking around to kill them. We played a total of six games with an even split of 3-3 for wins and losses. Out of those games the Stormcast won four of them, but two of those were super close. Like, down to the last dice roll close, which are my favorite types of games. 

I think we'll definitely be playing this again in the future and I highly recommend it to everyone out there. It's tactical, but still random and fun. It has just the right depth of rules to it to be immersive, but not act as a barrier, and it has a ton of replay value. There's even a campaign mode which makes it harder for the Stormcast as you link several games together. It's meant for two players, but as a few other people have said, it would be easy enough to have a different person controlling each Stormcast model making it a five player game. The one critique my wife had which I agree with, is that the hexes can be a little hard to read at a glance. They used a skull design to fill the dead space around the halls, which is somewhat similar in color and texture to the halls themselves, but that's a minor quibble and one you get used to fairly quickly.

I hope they build on this game and release another version next year like they did with the Space Marine adventures game. Now I'm off to explore the 10,000 Crypts some more!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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