Crusaders Games

Fantasy Adventure Board Games

My favourite style of board games are co-operative fantasy adventure, especially those with miniatures and a dungeon questing theme, and this all began with the original Warhammer Quest released in 1995 by Games Workshop. I enjoy customising heroes and working with other players to defeat a dungeon or adventure, and often i paint up the miniatures to make the game look its best. Over the years i have bought and sold many fantasy adventure games, aiming to keep the best ones, so here are my current favourite recommended games in this genre.

 

1. Sword & Sorcery – Ares (2017)

This co-operative fantasy adventure game is story driven, with a campaign that is currently planned over two acts plus extra side quests. It features excellent miniatures, and hero detail quality exceeds other pre-built fantasy game models. Enemies will come in groups with different poses and plastic colours, which enables the game design to change their difficulty and response intelligence. The game tiles are excellent, split into larger areas than the usual small square grids, they have an easy to use line of sight system and lovely artwork, they are probably my favourite tiles of this genre. Heroes can be lawful, neutral or chaos in alignment, have a choice of powers to select, can equip weapons based on their own fighting style, and find new items that can even be subsequently upgraded. There really are some great ideas in this game, with cooldown timers for the better skills, and soulpoints which are gained for experience and can be traded to level up or recover a hero if defeated. Heroes are never fully eliminated from the game, but must use their weaker soul skill until they can restore themselves. Combat is dice based, but with a lot more options than normally seen, as special combinations will trigger extra abilities. The adventures are pre-written, similar to Descent 2nd and Silver Tower and you have ongoing storyline to read out, and it is all very interactive and engaging, and enemies have a really good action card system. Overall this is a dungeon style adventure with extra complexity and rules depth, and a lot of choice for skills, weapons, items and a very strong feeling of progression. The game is great fun, and as an alternative to Gloomhaven is dice rather than card orientated, is less strategic or tactical in play, but it does have much better components. For pride of ownership this game currently steals the crown in a really competitive field, but whether for ongoing play it can keep its place, well this remains to be seen.

2. Descent 2nd Edition – Fantasy Flights (2012)

A miniatures fantasy campaign dungeon game initially designed as pitting heroes against a dungeon overlord. The contents of this game are amazing quality with great models, albeit smaller scale than its newer competitors, some of the most detailed map tiles around, and a campaign book with expandable and linked quests. This has been our favourite family dungeon game for a few years, and gradual improvements now enable it to cover every type of play style from solo, co-operative, directly competitive or an automated dungeon crawl. The core box set is excellent value and has huge replayability on its own, however the many expansions make it more like a collectable hobby , and the models are good enough to paint up if you want to. If you like a strategic game battling with your chosen hero alongside others against a variety of monsters, or maybe want to feel like you are controlling a dungeon yourself, then this game has endless content available. A later development added an app called ‘Road to Legend’ which enables new custom adventures to be undertaken co-operatively, where the dungeon monsters are controlled for you rather than having an overlord player. These new quests feature a story narrative and breathe new life into this immense game making it into a full dungeon crawl. This game can be bettered in certain areas by other more specialised games in my list, but it is still the best all round dungeon game balancing an ease of accessibility, expandability and covering all the different types of play you may enjoy, and it will definately suit many gamers better than a more strategic Gloomhaven or modelling heavy Silver Tower. Details about the many expansions can be found on my specific game page > Descent 2nd

3. Too Many Bones – Chip Theory (2017)

A dice based co-operative or solo outdoor adventure where you are tasked to find and defeat one of 6 tyrants. The core box is big and beautifully designed, and opening will be joyful experience as huge numbers of amazingly coloured and detailed dice await, with coloured playmats for the characters having neat spaces to slot in your dice as you roll them. You also have round chips, with the tyrants, monsters and character ones being weighty, with excellent printwork and a nice shine to them, they are simply lovely to use. There are 4 gearloc characters in the main box (and 3 more expansions), and when you start to dig into their variety, there is an amazing amount of gameplay, as each gearloc has its own dice sets, with unique abilities to unlock. When upgrading your gearloc, decide each time whether you need, health, attack, defence, more dice to roll or work through its skill trees, and as you won’t get close to using them all in one game the replay options are huge, just for one character. Battles are at the heart of the game, with a good selection of different monster types, and they are tough to win, but immensely fun, and the small battle mat is great, making movement, targets and positioning important and visual, but not becoming overly complex in its execution. The game is very tactile, rolling the dice and moving chips around. This is an adventure game with each encounter coming with text storyline, it is also a tactical battle game, and also feels like role playing, where you are gradually developing your character, and it works amazingly as solo experience, playing as either one or using two gearlocs. There is an initial learning curve to the skills, but beautiful reference sheets are extremely useful, so take time to get to know your gearloc and you will have great battles ahead.

4. Gloomhaven – Cephalofair (2017)

A co-operative adventure game with dungeon exploration and a choose your adventure branching pathway and storyline. This is a legacy style game where you build up your map using stickers to reveal locations as you discover new areas. Six starting characters are re-themed variations on more standard fair with Inox Brute (tank), Orchid Spellweaver (magic), Vermling Mindthief (psychic thief), Scoundrel (human), Tinkerer (gadgets), Cragheart (strength & area attack), and whilst these level up, they also will eventually be retired to bring in new heroes to the game. Game balance is extremely well done, scenarios are largely closely fought but failure means you will return stronger to try again, and monster difficulty is easy to change using their excellent card statistics. The core of the game is focused on entering locations to battle enemies using an amazing card based combat system, choosing two cards to combine and play each round, these cards also represent your stamina so if you discard too many during resting or using your best skills, you will become exhausted from that quest. A small deck of adjustment cards during combat provide a nice edge of randomness and can be customised over time. Heroes have models and nice art, but the large number of enemies are all standees and the tiles are fairly bland looking compared to similar games, which reduces the ownership and immersion value. Gameplay is amazing, very interactive, it has exploration and levelling up choices,  uniquely clever card combat, and for seasoned player groups liking a deeper, strategic and longer term co-operative challenge, this is highest on the list. However story and character progression is slow and you will need a huge amount of group playing time.

 

5. Silver Tower (2016) & Shadows Over Hammerhal (2017) – Games Workshop

Silver Tower remakes Warhammer Quest (1995) with a new theme and dice mechanics. Up to 4 heroes are summoned to a chaos tower to undertake a series of quests to recover parts of a lost talisman, by exploring rooms, encountering events, and defeating monsters with each quest using a series of locations to uncover in a random order, and a storyline is enhanced via reading short passages from a book, making a really engaging adventure. Your actions are directly influenced by dice rolling, allocating 4 dice into hero action slots to use, and you deliberate over who can best use extra destiny dice each round. The game is relatively light on rules and simple to teach and play, and it scales very well for different player numbers, and whilst Silver Tower is somewhat limited in character development, the dice mechanic, quicker play and ability to scale make it enjoyable. Additional hero sets and cards were added before the release of a new alternative core / expansion game called Shadows over Hammerhal with a new story, a more traditional underground dungeon tile theme, a town to visit with events, together with the option to have a dungeon master controlling the game. It is very important to note this is a modelling hobby game, that needs assembling and painting, but eventually the overall content quality will seem amazingly high, and with decent painting skills it makes a superb set when finished. However, if you want a game to just open and play, then you may be better looking at alternatives. Either set can stand alone or be interchanged and the combined variety lifts this game to a higher level, so if you enjoy the hobby side of gaming, then you will find it hard to beat these for dungeon crawling.

6. Runebound 3rd Edition – Fantasy Flights (2015)

This is a wilderness adventure game where heroes travel across the Terrinoth world map to complete quests and develop their characters, getting ready to take on a final challenge. This latest edition is better than previous ones, with varied skills and equipment development, a more interesting combat mechanic through a token throwing system, and time limited scenarios which push you onwards and make your game choices more urgent and important. The production quality of the board and cards is amazing, and the game tells a thematic story, with each scenario having its own unique story cards such as the dragon, undead and spiders quests. Expansions add new scenarios, adventure cards and character packs to make this game even more exciting. Runebound also provides one of the best solo play experiences too, offering an interactive challenge and story all together and with a high replay value. I like the way the characters, artwork and monster types link with Descent 2nd edition, which may enable you to use these models to enhance the whole experience. This game is best played with one to three players, as game length and downtime expands as more heroes enter. This replaced the famous Mage Knight game as my preferred outdoor adventure story game, as rules are more streamlined, it is easier to play and was just more enjoyable. A new and welcome solo and co-operative expansion has been announced for autumn 2017 which may well just lift this game to another level.

7. Warhammer Quest – Games Workshop (1995)

A miniatures co-operative game featuring an automated dungeon questing mechanic, with immense depth to character development. Choose your hero and enter the dungeon with your allies, where monsters, traps and treasure await. This game has impressive content and great models that required painting to look their best, and it is a benchmark game for the dungeon crawl experience with random dungeons, monsters spawns and the opportunity to level up in the town at the end of the adventure and obtain new character skills. Unlike most games of its type, this one does not depend on having a dungeon overlord player to play against the heroes. This is an old favourite and is still a fabulous pure dungeon crawler with its simple missions, lovely floor tiles and many fond memories and laughs. The game came with a comprehensive bestiary and roleplay book, which made it hugely customisable, and in this area it remains unbeaten by any similar game since. The game is designed for 4 heroes to be always playing, and in using random event encounters can swing between easy and hard, and its great strength though is not really in any strategic challenge, but in the roleplaying adventure story and imagination it creates. The game is still fabulous and so customisable, but very hard to find at a reasonable price. Some of the expansions and articles that developed and enhanced the game experience are shown here > Warhammer Quest

8. Dungeonquest – Fantasy Flights (2014)

This dungeon adventure game has been around since 1985, originally produced by games workshop it is updated with improved artwork by fantasy flights. This is a push your luck style adventure where you gradually lay small tiles on a board as you progress towards the central treasure chamber where a dragon in sleeping. If you manage to get to this central chamber you must try to steal treasure before he awakens. Now this game is largely about unfortunate events and survival, and once you know this, it becomes a fun game, as you laugh at terrible things that happen to your hero and your opponents. The combat mechanic has always been a weak point, and largely remains so, but it is quicker now in the newer version and also isn’t quite such a dominant game feature. There is a new deeper catacombs level idea which works pretty well providing underground short cuts but with greater risk attached, and a new torchlight rule too. With a time track counting down before the dungeon traps you all in, the play time is consistent and not overly long. This game has its critics and is extremely luck based, but it still remains a really enjoyable quicker dungeon game which the family can play together, and all the components are now amazingly good. This adventure is fun and dangerous, and chances of survival and success are very low indeed.

 

9. Battlelore Second Edition – Fantasy Flights (2013)

A fantasy based miniatures strategic battle for two players that has more of a boardgame feel and an accessible play style compared to other rank and file games such as from Warhammer. Featuring the human Daqan Lords army against the more monsterous Uthuk Y’llan, this game comes with a nice hex based landscape board which changes its terrain appearance each game, along with different mission scenarios to fight over. Each player has small squad based units which move and fight to gain territory or eliminate the opponent, with victory points rewarded for holding certain key locations. Units all have differing abilities, and the armies also feel unique with a different style of play, and the models look great on the board too. Command cards give you decisions on which troops you can deploy each round, and magic lore also comes into play to boost your attack or defense capabilities, or play surprise tactics on your opponent. The custom dice of the game work really well, and you have plenty to think about without it all becoming over complicated with too many little modifiers, which often hinder other wargames. Battlelore was expanded with extra units and a third undead army expansion and whilst it is not overly complex and easily learnt, it is still tactical and great fun. It is not a dungeon adventure but does have the fantasy theme and provides a different gaming experience.

10. Dungeons & Dragons – Wizards of the Coast (2010)

This is a light miniatures co-operative dungeon adventure game and you can now pick from 4 different editions which can be mixed together. Castle Ravenloft is the undead set with the best theme and monsters, Wrath of Ashardalon is dragon themed with more monster variety and some better treasures, Legend of Drizzt improved the dungeon tiles and has stronger heroes, and Temple of Elemental Evil has better traps, a town and a campaign to play with extra hero levelling. Compared to most dungeon games listed here this is a tad over simplified, with one 20 sided dice roll deciding most things, and the artwork is relatively plain, however the miniatures are excellent. Each edition has merits but are not overly different games to play so you may not want them all, and I tried 3 versions of the game and chose to keep Castle Ravenloft as it has for me the best combined theme, heroes and monsters of the sets. This series offers good simple dungeon crawling, with less rules to get to grips with, and is also self scaling for different numbers of players, and a real benefit of lighter rules is to make it quick to set up and get going, and this actually helps it get played more often. With younger or less seasoned players, or less available game time it works well, providing a fun thematic quest where players have to work together to succeed.

 
11. Eldritch Horror – Fantasy Flights (2013)

A co-operative board game featuring standees rather than plastic miniatures based in the Cthulhu world, Eldritch Horror streamlines the famous older Arkham Horror game to become more immediately playable in a reasonable but still fairly lengthy time. Players face a race against the clock with their investigators to collect clues while also fighting monsters and closing gates that open into other worlds. Their ultimate aim is to stop the ancient ones invading and destroying their world. This game incorporates a great story telling themes using encounter cards, and has neat monsters coming through the gates, and an easy to remember five plus dice roll as the main test mechanic. The game design starts you off slowly, but gradually draws you into a thrilling finale as time passes all too quickly towards the end. This is a good co-operative game, with each investigator living out their own storyline as you play, collecting weaknesses or ailments which may trigger later on. It also is a game that offers an interesting challenge to solo play, by controlling two or more investigators, although i do prefer the theme and mechanics of Runebound. There are a number of themed expansions available with extra boards such as the frozen antarctic, egyptian desert or dreamlands, and a highly recommended smaller box called Forsaken Lore which expands the original box card stock.

Other Fantasy Adventure Games I No Longer Own…

Heroquest, Space Hulk 3rd, Tomb, Talisman 3rd, Dungeons & Dragons FBG, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, Runebound 2nd, Tannhauser, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Legends of Andor, Claustrophobia, Mice & Mystics, Robinson Crusoe, Arcadia Quest, Mage Knight, Arkham Horror LCG, Hybrid, Xenoshyft Dreadmire

There are many dungeon adventure games, each having their own style or flavour in terms of theme and mechanics, and it is largely a matter of trying them out to see if they suit you. Due to space and funding restrictions i often trade out games to fund newer ones, hence an ever shifting list content. We are currently seeing a huge step change in how good these types of games can be.