Thursday, April 8, 2021

REVIEW: Warhammer Quest - Cursed City

Though Warhammer Quest may have taken a slight detour into the 41st millennium for awhile, it's now back in the fantasy setting it originated in with Cursed City! It's no secret that I'm a fan of the Death side of AoS, so this boxed set is like an early birthday present to me. Let's find out what's inside!

Cursed City is one hefty box. I'm honestly amazed they were able to pack as much stuff into it for how thin it is. I'm glad the box itself is rather thin though since you'll most likely be using this for storage of the tiles and such and the less space it takes up the better. I'm really a fan of the overall aesthetic of this game, and the cover art sets the mood nicely. It has a real horror vibe to it and echoes a lot of what they've been doing with the Warhammer Horror line at Black Library nicely.

Inside the box you'll find tons of models including two sprues of undead minions, a sprue of the more unique undead models, Radukur himself on his own sprue, and two sprues of heroes. Beneath them you'll find all of the paper/gaming products, which includes cards galore, dice, all of the board tiles and tokens waiting to be punched out, four booklets, and the envelope with the secret card for the end of the game. If you want a more in depth look at everything that comes in the box itself, check out my unboxing video above!

In this written review I want to go over the models, books, and game itself a bit more. I knew I wouldn't have the time to assemble and paint a whole bunch of these, so I started off with three; a skeleton, a zombie, and Gorslav the Gravedigger. The skeleton and zombies were both only two pieces, which is nice when it comes to low level minions like that. Gorslav was a bit more, but he was still super easy to put together. Everything in this box is push fit, which has become that standard for starter sets and boxed games like this. I know a lot of people don't like push fit, but I think they work out great. Sometimes I snip off the post and just glue it together normally, other times I don't even use glue and I just push them together. It really just depends on the model and the piece. Sometimes I even do a combo of the two on the same model. 

The skeleton and zombie also have slot bases. I didn't glue these on while painting them so if I needed to I could remove them from the base to get up into some hard to reach spaces. Spoiler alert, I definitely ended up having to do this. Even though these models are two piece push fit models, they have tons of depth and detail, so some areas were a little hard to paint. I really enjoyed all of the detail on the models though. I think the zombies have a tad much, but considering there are only 10 of them and it looks like the regular zombies coming out for the Gravelords have a bit less extra bits on them to paint I think it's okay. If I had to paint 60 of them up all with the stuff on their back it would take awhile to do, but sprinkled throughout the zombie horde is okay. One thing I noticed clipping these models off is that some of the gates were surprisingly thick. Gates are the areas where the sprue attaches to the model piece. So, with a thick gate you do run the risk of losing a bit of detail when you snip it off. I would just caution you to be a bit more careful and observant when clipping these models off. I'm sure they had to do larger gates to be able to push the plastic through the mold into all of the spindly bits on them.

I painted them up in my Death color scheme and hope to do a bit more in the future for a Gravelords section to my collection. As far as how I painted them, I did all of the same steps as on my Warhammer Community tutorial for the skeleton, with the gold following what I did on my Bonereapers, but painted the bone slightly differently. This is because I started from a Mechanicus Grey primer instead of Corax White. I found that Morghast Bone is pretty similar in tone and hue to the color I got from doing Seraphim Sepia over white. It's slightly darker, but when it's all mixed together on the table I don't think you'd be able to tell. The zombie followed the purple, black, and metal from the skeleton tutorial and for the skin I used the same method I did on my Corpse Cart zombies.

Next I took a look at the books. Me being me I had to start with the lore, so I promptly read that. It does a good job of setting up the history of the city of Ulfenkarn and how Radukar came to power within it. Basically, during the Age of Chaos the city came under siege from a Demon Prince of Khorne, and was rescued from certain doom by Radukar and his Kosargi ogor allies. Once within the city he created an uneasy truce with the former rulers, which lasted more or less until the birth of the Shyish Nadir. At this point Radukar and his allies swept through the city and killed any who opposed him and took complete control. I don't want to give everything away as it's a pretty good read.

We then get a little back story on each of the main villains as well as their lackeys. All of this is centered on Ulfernkarn, so it's not a bit of lore about Deadwalker Zombies in general, it's a bit of lore about Ulfernkarn's Deadwalker Zombies. We then get two pages setting up why the heroes of the game are trying to take down Radukar as well as how they're doing it. I actually really like they way they did this. 

Most of them had been captured by the undead and were imprisoned but managed to escape. Their refuge during all of this is the Kharadron airship the Adamant. This is where they hide and rest. It's also what drops them off and picks them up from each of their missions. The Adamant is stuck in Ulfernkarn at the moment due to dwindling fuel reserves. This is then followed by a bit of backstory on each of the heroes and explains who they are and why they're in the city. With that the lore is done and it was time to check out the rules.

The rules are essentially divided between two books, the Rulebook, which contains all of the mechanics you need to know to play any games set within Cursed City, and the Quest Book. The latter has the journeys in it unique to Ulfenkarn in Peril, which is the name of this particular adventure. This is also where all of the lore was. Presumably any expansions for this will have their own Quest Book with their own journeys in it. Journeys are the different style of missions and adventures you can play.

The start of the rulebook shows you what each of the contents in this game are, which is super helpful, because there's a lot! There are 19 different kinds of tokens and counters, four different kinds of dice, and eight different kinds of cards, not even including the character and hostile cards. It then runs you through some basic tutorials to explain moving, attacking, and so on. I didn't actually play through any of these, but even just reading them helped a lot with understanding how the fundamentals of the game works. It then takes you in depth with how everything works. There's too much to explain here, but I'll just briefly talk about a few of my favorite parts. At the start of each turn there is a counter you move to see what time of the day it is. Once it hits nighttime all of the hostiles flip their cards to their empowered sides and they become a lot nastier. This takes 10 moves, but there are a few other ways that counter can move beyond just the turn number. I also really like how the hostiles are controlled by a kind of AI. They move in groups, so three skeletons, or four zombies, etc. You roll on a table for them when it's their turn and it tells you what to do. If you're playing as a group the "leader", a player with the leader token, moves and attacks with the hostile and the "leader" changes each turn, so everyone gets a shot. 

The initiative system is also a lot of fun. There is a combat tracker that tells you what order stuff goes in. Each hostile group and each hero has an initiative card. There can be up to four hostile groups, the map you're playing on will tell you how many there are. You then shuffle the initiative cards and place them along the tracker to determine order. So one turn the order can be hostile group one, hostile group three, hero four, hero one, hostile group two, etc. Then the next turn it will be completely different. There are ways you can manipulate that as well if you want to move ahead or behind on the tracker. The hostile groups have cards that tell you what's in them. Each card will have several different levels on them which relate to the level of the highest hero, and then it will tell you what models and how many of them are in each group. When a group dies you draw a new card the next turn and then flip it up on the following turn. 

I also really like the way the dice work. I think unique dice are a lot of fun, and especially when they are different kinds of dice. Instead of using a normal D6 to attack, defend, or heal, you use one of three bespoke dice. This includes two D6, two D8, and two D10. Your unit/hero's card action will tell you which dice and how many to roll. The D6 have the worst shot of hitting, while the D10 have the best. They each have three outcomes on them, a miss, a hit, and a critical hit. When you're attacking, your attack value will have a regular amount of damage, and a critical amount of damage. There's also a D12, which is the Quest dice. This is used for a lot of the tables you'll need to roll on.

There are also tons of these tables to roll on throughout the game. At the end of each turn you roll on an event table which has different things, like healing a hero, or moving a hostile group. There are also areas where you can search for treasure, which you draw from a deck, as well as Crises, which either come from the same deck, or from the event table. You then go to your journey in the Quest book and roll on the Crisis table to see which page and crisis to go to. There are 160 different crises, some of which are outcomes from other crises. These will have a brief paragraph telling you what's happening, and then you will have to pick from one of several choices on how to deal with it. It will then tell you what the outcomes of those choices are. 

Now let's quickly talk about Journeys. These are essentially the different types of missions you can play. There are four to choose from; Hunts, Scavenges, Deliverances, and Decapitations. Hunts have you trying to kill 10 or more leaders. These are the leaders of hostile groups, or hostile heroes, so like a Skeleton champion, or Gorslav the Gravekeeper. Scavenges are where you're just looking for as much loot as you can. Deliverances sees you running through the streets of Ulfernkarn trying to escape a Suffocating Gravetide and warn off citizens. This has you drawing cards that tell you which rooms to lay down as you open doors as you move through the map. This is the most like Silver Tower if you're familiar with it. 

Finally Decapitations are specials journeys where you're trying to kill one of the big bads once and for all. These are essentially boss battles. You'll need to have your heroes at a certain level to be able to play through there. Once one of the villains is killed in a Decapitation journey, then they can't appear again, even if they show up on a hostile card. The lore behind this is that Radukar's champions have special trinkets that essentially resurrect them after they die, but with the Decapitation journeys you've destroyed all those trinkets, so that death is final. Kind of like horcruxes. Each of these types of missions also affects things called Fear and Influence. Generally, if you're decreasing the city's Fear, you're allowing Radakur's Influence to grow, and vice versa. Some of these missions grow Fear, some decrease it, some grow Influence, and some decrease it. If either value ever reaches 10, you lose. This forces you to switch between the different kinds of journeys to try and balance it out. I could go on and on about the game play, but there are plenty of game play videos out there who do a better job at that then I can here.

I did manage to play through one game using the solo rules to test out the game though. I had to use proxy minis since I didn't have enough stuff built or painted, but it worked out fine. I did a Hunt journey, since that's what they recommend starting with. I felt like the game played pretty smoothly. I probably flubbed a rule here or there, but for the most part I think I got it. I had only read the rulebook once and watched one play through video beforehand, but it stuck with me for the most part. I had the books on hand and referenced stuff a bunch and had a lot of fun. It felt a little too easy, but I'm sure part of that is that it was the first mission. They don't want to make it too hard right away. I would have preferred a bit more difficulty though. None of my heroes ever really felt in danger of going out of action. You're able to move around the board a lot easier and faster than you might initially think. I also used one of the smaller maps to make it a bit quicker to play through. I'm sure the difficulty ramps up when the nighttime counter reaches night, but it didn't hit that point until my last turn when I had already killed my 10th leader and completed the mission, so I never experienced how much deadlier the hostiles are at night. 

I feel like you'd probably get a lot more out of it playing as a group. The solo rules work perfectly, but a lot of the experience comes from the interaction and banter. Who gets to use the destiny dice? Will your friend do what's best for the group, or best for their hero? That's where the real meat and potatoes of this game is. Compared to Silver Tower it feels much more cooperative. Silver Tower was a co-op game too, but there was more incentive to stab you friend in the back to gain experience. Here that's not as big of a thing. I also feel like Silver Tower was better suited to one off games, where as Cursed City is all about the larger story and adventure. I'm not saying one is better than the other, it's just two different ways for the game to work. I am glad to see the hostiles go back to a form of AI after the Shadows Over Hammerhal game which required a game master. I feel like nowadays most people want to play as one of the heroes, not just be a game master. I do like how there are multiple styles of journeys in this game and how it basically requires you to switch between them to avoid losing the overall game. I'm sure that helps vary up the gameplay a lot and keeps the game fresh.

Unfortunately I never played Blackstone Fortress, so I can't compare it to that at all. One thing I would definitely recommend though is to have a large table completely cleared off to play this. I just cleared off half a table and it felt very cramped. I had tokens, cards, and dice everywhere and it just felt messy. If I had a larger area I'm sure I could have kept it more clean. Another good idea might be to have a grippy mat underneath your tiles. I found they slid around a bit from moving the models and rolling dice. It wasn't a huge deal, but it could definitely help keep everything in place more. The last thought I had on this is you really need to have all of your heroes and hostiles at least built for this. It's not like Silver Tower where you can really focus on one hero if you want. You will need to switch between all of your heroes to get them properly leveled up since they're all in play. Sorry for all of the Silver Tower comparisons, but that was my last Warhammer Quest experience before this.

I think this is definitely a worthy successor to the Warhammer Quest title. I absolutely love that it's focused on the undead and all of the mechanics work wonderfully. Everything flowed smoothly, and became second nature after a few turns. I had a lot of fun playing the game and never ran into any rules issues. I definitely recommend playing with at least one other person to get the most out of it, but solo play works fine as well. I'm not sure how many more solo games of this I will play, but I look forward to getting some games in with friends in the future. Even just my solo game took about two hours to play through, and that's not even counting the setup time, which was probably about 30 minutes as well. I imagine it would take quite a bit of time to play through the whole adventure, which is perfectly fine. It's like a video game, you expect to get a lot of play time out of it.

The models are amazing, the game is fun, and the setting and atmosphere is the best that Warhammer Quest has ever been. If you're on the fence about getting this game I would recommend taking the plunge. I really love the ticking clock mechanic of the nighttime counter. It adds a good amount of tension into the game as you try and complete your journey before time runs out. I'm definitely looking forward to explore Ulfernkarn more in the future and I can't wait to see what future expansions hold for the game.

Until next time,


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