White Dwarf is currently adding new expansion material for Shadows Over Hammerhal and rapidly increasing my enjoyment of this series as a result. I have had the pleasure of building, painting and playing campaigns in both the new Warhammer Quest games, and i felt a comparison of the two would be a nice idea. I will start by saying my overall recommendation would be to get both games, as 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 dice mechanic used, then you will likely enjoy playing them both.
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 at first glance, but adventure tile cards reveal which passages to read from 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 much more to my personal preference, and the rulebook comes much thicker with loads of background storyline, plus a nice painting guide is included. The rules also seem better organised too, and each campaign dungeon is set out neatly in the adventure book for gamesmasters. For me Hammerhal is better, the huge Cinderfall city theme with its varied districts opens up a more expansive world, and i will even occasionally pick up the book and flick through it, even when i am not planning to play.
Balancing off against the artwork and books production are the high quality plastic miniatures. It is here that Silver Tower really excels, with 6 excellent hero models and a host of enemies including grotlings, acolytes, tzangors, skaven deathrunner and the amazing ogroid beast. Hammerhal does have 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, arguably being a little too humanoid focused. Once both sets are painted up, i have to feel a greater sense of pride when looking at the Silver Tower set with its more unique model builds. Of course the good news is that models can be used and interchanged between the two games. To wrap up other general components, Silver Tower provided sets of different coloured dice for players to use and identify with, something that Hammerhal has left out to its detriment. A small omission, and fixable by buying your own, but it does seem to be more important during gameplay than you would initially think.
Gameplay, Campaign & Rules
Silver Tower and Hammerhal both 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 initially split opinions, Silver Tower runs a co-operative approach, with cards generating the adventure, and enemies use artificial intelligence, so that every player will play against the summoner. Hammerhal offers up a gamesmaster experience, controlling the enemies, revealing hidden secrets, and providing or embellishing the general storyline. Silver Tower can be scaled for different hero numbers, while Hammerhal largely expects four heroes to participate. I honestly expected to prefer the co-operative approach, but having played a campaign as both gamesmaster and hero at the same time within Hammerhal i found i lost little by using the AI to run the enemies, and still enjoyed keeping a secret until it was needed, it worked out fine for me but i am used to doing this with a group. Hammerhal has an advantage, it has a city to visit between adventures, experiencing encounters, adding to the overall theme, and whilst its one long campaign may seem a limitation, it feels deep and thematic. The Silver Tower scenarios counter by offering a little more quest variety and certainly feels better for one off adventures. Finally there are some small rule tweaks, the removal of respite within Hammerhal, and an ability for players to search being very positive improvements. Campaign players generally felt Shadows over Hammerhal ultimately was more captivating, and its future potential to add in new adventures will likely make this game stand out even more.
I believe both games work together well, and White Dwarf has even made a way to join them up within an over-arching storyline. If i really had to choose one game, and unique, varied models with pride of ownership were more important to me, then i would have to go with Silver Tower. However, if i wanted a campaign that may well grow larger over time and allowed me to design new dungeons, add in new enemies or side scenarios, or i just preferred the dark dungeon theme, then Hammerhal would be the one. Hammerhal is also the closer match for the style of the original 1995 Warhammer Quest edition, which had a more traditional dungeon with creatures, goblins and orcs, and a roleplaying sandbox approach, with a levelling up of characters that has not been beaten. This older classic would probably now cost you the price of both Tower and Hammerhal combined now, but it is an option. The future looks bright for the wonderful Warhammer Quest brand, particularly if Games Workshop keep supporting it with new content. A new series of campaigns with skaven, orcs or undead could even lift this closer to becoming my favourite dungeon crawl.