One Friday evening in 1995, as a youngish working man, i stopped by my local Games Workshop on my way home as I had some free time to kill, and there on the shelf was a large box called Warhammer Quest. I looked through the contents, asked some questions, and learnt it was a type of roleplaying game with models, where you took the role of a hero character and played co-operatively to defeat a dungeon. This really sounded like a game made for me, and i quite liked the Warhammer world, but had never taken to army collecting, and so I bought it home that day. Over the next few months i collected expansions and White Dwarf articles, learnt how to paint, and began my love of dungeon crawling.
The trouble with the original Warhammer Quest was that it was so good, it had varied models, a real feeling of exploration and adventure, great quality tiles, a roleplay book, and you could go into town and level up your hero or add in new monsters. When it ceased production i found i still yearned for new material, and like many others i began to try other dungeon crawl games. This, largely became a fruitless quest, as nothing quite lived up to this original, and while other games excelled in certain areas, they often changed the way i loved to play. I did keep Heroquest over the next decade, which required an overlord player and felt like a different experience, but it was still a really good game.
Following the birth of my son in 2002 i took a decade long break from board gaming, mainly due to work and bringing up a young child, before returning in 2013. Descent 2nd Edition was a real factor in this, a well known brand from Fantasy Flights that even made me start to paint models again. It was a great game, improving itself with the co-operative scenario packs and then the road to legend app, i was back collecting expansions, and this became a new favourite dungeon crawl for a long while. I also tried a few other miniatures games around this time including collecting Hybrid by Rackham, more a competitive skirmish than an exploring crawler, i fully painted it up and it had an excellent backstory and support for a while. I dabbled with the Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon series, a lighter and less satisfying co-operative game compared to Warhammer Quest, and there has been quite a list of miniatures games i have bought and sold over the years.
In 2015, kickstarters begun to change the face of miniature gaming again, with many new more complex titles put into production, mostly arriving in late 2016 or 2017. The most exciting of these i found were Sword & Sorcery which is very much a story led adventure game, but has all the great attributes of heroes with skills and levelling up, nice models, great tiles and an investment in your character. Alongside this was Gloomhaven which offers up the most tactical dungeon crawling i have encountered, with a map to explore and stories to unfold. It is fantastic and if it had all the plastic monster models to go with it, well that would have been so amazing, but even so it set a new benchmark for group adventure gaming, and we played it solidly throughout 2017 on Sunday afternoons. However whilst Gloomhaven has seen huge playtime, it has not been an ongoing collectable hobby experience which i love.
The story is still unfolding even now, and Games Workshop made its recent return with a new brand of Warhammer Quest games called Silver Tower and then Shadows Over Hammerhal. Players i introduce to this new series have really enjoyed the dice allocation mechanic, and by combining the sets it has produced a nice variety of co-operative campaigns in different settings. Once more the models are the best around and painted up become a set you are really proud of. I have begun to enjoy the hobby aspect of Warhammer Quest again, with White Dwarf articles to collect over recent months, and my own new ideas forming for dungeons to explore. I am effectively back in 1995 when i had time and energy to write my own quests. There is i hope even more to come from the Hammerhal series too.
There are even more games of course, Dungeon Saga is another game i would like to try out, with its great box design, but as this is more overlord based in style, i am not sure if it will beat my current favourites. Massive Darkness i owned from kickstarter and recently sold, as it just did not live up to expectations in its gameplay, and Shadows of Brimstone which i have avoided buying due to the western theme, model quality and overly fiddly rules.
My favourite dungeon crawler changes over time, and will likely continue to do so, it ebbs and flows especially while new content is being released and i am painting up a new set. If i really had to pick just one game, it would be the 1995 Warhammer Quest, partly due to its nostalgia. It really is a pure explore and fight adventure within a dungeon, but with a huge array of monsters and levelling up options available. Warhammer Quest is the classic, but any game i have kept and placed in my top list is, i think, a really great dungeon game to try out.