I have had the pleasure of building, painting and playing campaigns in all three modern Warhammer Quest games, and i felt a comparison would be a nice idea. The advantage of the two fantasy sets are that they have a huge amount of compatibility, being able to transfer heroes and enemies between the two campaigns to add variety. If you like the action dice slot mechanic used, then you will likely enjoy playing all of these games.
Theme, Artwork & Books
Silver Tower is a little different to other Warhammer Quest titles, it is set in a tzeentch tower rather than a dark dungeon, with bold colourful tiles which often have some unique hero interactions built into them. You receive a relatively short rulebook and a separate quest guide from which you read passages as the story unfolds. The lay out of both tower books can occasionally seem a little muddled, but adventure tile cards reveal which passages to read as you progress. Hammerhal is much more a traditional underground dungeon, a dark and grim theme, you will predominantly encounter khorne and nurgle creatures. The box and book artwork here is closer to my personal preference, and the rulebook comes much thicker with loads of background storyline, plus a nice painting guide is included. The rules seem better organised, and each campaign dungeon is set out neatly in the adventure book for gamesmasters. Blackstone splits it’s books even further into background, rules, combat and campaign, and are nicely presented and laid out. The space station campaign theme and docked ships is really strong in this set, and slotting in new encounter cards is well designed. For me Hammerhal edges it, the huge Cinderfall city theme with its varied districts opens up an expansive world, and i will even occasionally pick up the main book and flick through it when i am not playing.
Balancing off against the artwork and books production are the high quality plastic miniatures. It is here that Silver Tower excels, with 6 excellent hero models and a host of varied enemies including grotlings, acolytes, tzangors, skaven deathrunner and the amazing ogroid beast. Hammerhal has 4 great heroes of its own and a gryph hound, with enemies comprising khorne bloodreavers, acolytes and my favourites, the putrid blightkings, but overall it cannot compete with what Silver Tower offers, being a little humanoid focused, although the acolytes provided in this game are improved on Silver Tower. Once both sets are painted up, i feel a greater sense of pride when looking at the Silver Tower set with its more unique model builds, but the good news is that models can be used and interchanged between the two games. Blackstone stands alone for model use, but comes with 8 individual heroes and real variety of enemy groups including guardsmen, chaos enemies, mechanical drones and ur-ghul creatures and is a comprehensive package of great models. Overall Silver Tower and then Blackstone are better complete sets for miniatures variety and hero choice, and were also more enjoyable to paint.
Tiles, Cards & Components
Tiles are very individual to each game and all are really nice in theme and style. Silver Tower are bright and colourful with interactive items located on the tiles, while Hammerhal is darker and more dungeon like in appearance with chaos symbols, skulls and fiery locations. Blackstone is metallic spaceship related with hex based spaces, and generally dark rooms are interspersed with neat lighting effects. In terms of other components, Silver Tower provided sets of different coloured action dice for players to use and identify with, something that Hammerhal and Blackstone left out to their detriment, but Blackstone counters well with different dice types for combat strength which enhances the play variation, and has additional card decks for encounters and discoveries, and seal-able baggies for saving games. Overall Blackstone Fortress goes that little bit further as a whole package, and Hammerhal apart from it’s really excellent background book, feels slightly less in component content compared to the others, but a favourite may simply come down to the location theme you prefer.
Gameplay, Campaign & Rules
All three games use the same dice slot allocation mechanic for actions, feature extra destiny dice and renown and are built with the same core gameplay feel. However, there are some key differences which may split opinions. Silver Tower and Blackstone run a fully co-operative approach, with cards and dice generating the adventure, and enemies using artificial intelligence, while Hammerhal offers up a gamesmaster experience, controlling the enemies, revealing hidden secrets, and providing or embellishing the general storyline. I prefer the co-operative approach, but having played a Hammerhal campaign as both gamesmaster and hero at the same time i found it lost little by using the AI to run the enemies, and still enjoyed keeping a secret until it was needed. Silver Tower is unique in that each adventure can be scaled for different hero numbers, while Hammerhal and Blackstone largely expect four heroes to participate each game. In campaign terms, Hammerhal has a city to visit between adventures, experiencing encounters, adding to the overall theme, and Blackstone has a space station with docked ships. Hammerhal features a long pre-written multi level dungeon campaign which is well designed but is the same each time, while the others randomise room order and encounters to vary repeated adventures. Silver Tower scenarios offer a little more quest variety and certainly feels better for one off adventures. Each new game released has slightly improved the rule set, Hammerhal benefited with the removal of respite, and added an ability for players to search rooms for hidden items, and Blackstone has the best turn order mechanic, better combat dice and is a slicker design with more challenge. I have to give the edge to Blackstone Fortress with Silver Tower close behind for it’s player count design.
All three games are great, being relatively simple designs to play, capturing a dungeon feel with a story and light campaign, albeit not as strategically deep as some other crawlers, they are quick to teach and great fun to play. They are for me the most enjoyable modelling games around, but expansion content is always key to games like this. White Dwarf made a way to join up Silver Tower with Hammerhal which was a nice touch, and Silver Tower and Hammerhal added card packs so you can expand heroes and monsters yourself, however sadly a new campaign storyline such as an undead dungeon was never added, and Hammerhal in particular needed one to keep it fresh. Blackstone Fortress feels like it is receiving more design support, the addition of the Dreaded Ambull monster hunt is excellent, plus they are adding traitor guard leaders. The way they could slot in new quest ideas to the latest game makes it likely to become the best for the long term if you like the theme. Silver Tower is also a great individual product, and the ability to play with less heroes desirable for many groups, and Hammerhal could have been amazing, but it was dropped too early really to enable the release of Blackstone Fortress.
All three are great games, providing a modelling hobby experience with a fairly simple dungeon style adventure. Overall Silver Tower and Blackstone Fortress are the better value one off sets for their model and component content, but Hammerhal fights it case with a great theme and more of a controlled dungeon master experience which could allow you to create your own adventures in the future. Blackstone Fortress has become the best for additional content, with new expansions, storylines and magazine content.
The original 1995 Warhammer Quest is still the most traditional dungeon crawl featuring creatures such as bats and spiders, enemies such as goblins and orcs, and a roleplaying sandbox approach, with levelling up of characters that has not been beaten since. This older classic has really expensive out of print prices, but it is a good option to consider and whilst the gameplay is simplistic compared to more modern games, it remains for many the definitive random dungeon experience. Games Workshop should really just re-print this game as it would still be a best seller.