Crusaders Games

Fantasy Adventure (Miniatures)

My favourite style of board games are big box co-operative fantasy adventure or dungeon crawlers, especially those with great miniatures and board tiles. This list is distinguished by exploration around a map or dungeon with  encounters changing each game, and requires the painting of plastic miniatures to make a game look its best. Over the years i have bought and sold many dungeon crawlers, aiming to keep only the best ones, with my current top five ranked really close, as each has their own strengths :​​

 

1Warhammer 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 had little to assemble but required painting to look their best. It is a benchmark game for the dungeon crawl experience, with random dungeons, monster spawns and the opportunity to level up in the town at the end of the adventure to obtain new character skills. It main box featured creatures such bats, spiders and rats alongside goblins, orcs, skaven and minotaurs, and unlike many games of its type, this one does not depend on having a dungeon overlord player to play against the heroes. This old favourite features relatively simple missions, lovely floor tiles and 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 four heroes to be always playing, and in using random event encounters can swing in difficulty, and its greatest strength is not really in any deep strategic challenge, but in the roleplaying adventure story and imagination it creates. This game is still the best for being a pure random dungeon crawl, with many expansions and articles that developed and enhanced the game, with the most significant ones shown here > Warhammer Quest


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 high quality with great models, albeit heroes are a little smaller in scale, and some of the most detailed map tiles around. It also has a campaign book with expandable and linked quests and really nice choice in different skill decks to reflect your character’s style. The core box set is excellent value with huge replayability, and expansions provide endless content, making it a collectable hobby. A later development added an app called ‘Road to Legend’ which enables new campaign 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 a better dungeon crawl. This game features my favourite combat dice for any adventure game, and whilst it can be beaten in certain areas by other more specialised games, i consider it the best all round dungeon game covering all the different types of play you may enjoy, battling with your chosen hero alongside others against a variety of monsters, or maybe controlling a dungeon yourself. Details about the many expansions can be found on my specific game page > Descent 2nd

3. Silver Tower & Shadows Over Hammerhal – Games Workshop (2016-17) 

Silver Tower remakes Warhammer Quest with a new theme and dice mechanics, where up to four heroes are summoned to a chaos tower to recover parts of a lost talisman. Exploring rooms, encountering events, and defeating monsters, each quest uses a series of locations to uncover in a semi random order, and its storyline is enhanced by reading short passages from a book, making an engaging adventure. Your actions are directly influenced by dice rolling, allocating dice into hero action slots to use, and deliberating 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 well for different player numbers, although it is limited in its character development. A new alternative core / expansion game called Shadows over Hammerhal was released a year later with a new campaign, a more traditional underground dungeon tile theme, a city to visit with events, and rules that have a dungeon master help control the game. Either core set can stand alone or be interchanged and the combined variety lifts this game to a higher level. These games offer a modelling hobby, with the best overall miniatures quality and collectable experience. Miniatures do need assembling and painting, it makes a superb set when finished, and with new dungeons being released in White Dwarf, this game is still growing.

4. Gloomhaven – Cephalofair (2017)

A co-operative adventure game with dungeon exploration and 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. Catering well for different player numbers, six starting characters are re-themed variations on more standard fair such as the Inox Brute (tank) and Vermling Mindthief (psychic thief), and whilst heroes level up, they also will eventually be retired to bring in new ones to the game. Game balance is 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 statistics discs. The core of the game focuses 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, and as there are no dice involved decisions feel more tactical. Heroes have decent models and nice art, but the enemies are standees and tiles are low on detail which may reduce the overall immersion value. This game is the best for tactical and strategic play, and for seasoned player groups liking a deeper and longer term co-operative challenge.

 

5. Sword & Sorcery – Ares (2017)

This co-operative fantasy adventure game has a story driven campaign with automated monster intelligence. It features great miniatures, with monsters in groups with different poses and 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, and have become my favourite of this genre. Heroes can be lawful, neutral or chaos in alignment, have choices of powers to select, can equip weapons based on their fighting style, and find new items that can be subsequently upgraded. There are some really great ideas in this game, with cooldown timers for the better skills, and soulpoints which are gained for experience to level up or recover a hero if defeated, and heroes are never fully eliminated during play, but use their weaker soul skill until they can restore themselves, keeping everyone involved. Combat is ten sided dice based, with more options than normally seen as symbol combinations will trigger extra abilities, but overall there are more little rules to remember than other dungeon crawlers around. Adventures are pre-written, with ongoing storyline to read out, and it is interactive and engaging. Overall this dungeon style adventure has extra complexity and rules depth, with a strong feeling of progression and is the best for a story led dungeon crawl.

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 that 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 the best outdoor wilderness adventure, played with one to three players, as game length and downtime expands as more heroes enter. A new and welcome solo and co-operative expansion was released in 2017 called ‘Unbreakable Bonds’.

 

7. Kingdom Death: Monster – Kingdom Death (2015)

A co-operative campaign set in a nightmare world where you take your settlement survivors on a journey through many lantern years, fighting strange creatures to improve your survival chances. Each lantern year is split into three game sections, with the hunt being a story preparation phase before you hit the monster showdown starting with the white lion. The monster artificial intelligence cards really bring thematic variation and interesting mechanics into play, and is far beyond any normal dungeon crawl fighting, although general dice rolling mechanics are quite simplistic. The settlement phase is an addictive array of choices, from learning new innovations, to crafting weapons and armour, or choosing fighting skills, and the ability to build and make complete armour sets is a seductive experience. This game is very expensive but the quality of components is high, the hardback book especially likeable, with great models with loads of detail. This is a hobby game experience, you are given a huge black box of goodies to use, and modelling and painting plays an important part, as you can build unique characters to represent yourself. Unlike most adventure games, your hero survivors will die regularly, so you can’t be too attached to them, but this is the best for monster intelligence battles and settlement progress is unique, and pride of ownership is high.

8. Mage Knight – WizKids (2011)

You explore a revealing hex map with your chosen pre-painted mage character, recruiting an army to help you and becoming more powerful with new skills or spells. Your must defeat a final objective, such as lay siege to a city or liberate mines within a specific day and night timescale, and each turn you will use your drawn hand of cards to maximize its effects in the game, by moving, exploring, fighting or recruiting. The a day and night mechanic changes how easy it is to take some of these actions, and by obtaining coloured crystals you will boost your abilities temporarily. This adventure game has a complex and involved rule set, which always taxes my brain, and I do have to be in the right mood to play. However, the card and crystal power up combination is such an addictive and rewarding experience that eventually i am drawn back for another go. This is an epic game, and the best for deck manipulation, played solo or maybe two players due to its length, but if you have enough time and energy to tackle it, then it is going to provide you with a great adventure.

9. Dungeonquest – Fantasy Flights (2014)

This dungeon adventure game has been around since 1985, originally produced by games workshop it is updated with improved artwork and components 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 there, 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 the best for a quicker family dungeon game. This adventure is fun and dangerous, and chances of survival are very low indeed.


Previously Owned Fantasy Adventure Miniature Games…

Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons FBG, Space Hulk 3rd, Talisman 3rd, Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, Runebound 2nd, Tannhauser, Claustrophobia, Mice & Mystics, Arcadia Quest, Hybrid, Massive Darkness

There are many dungeon crawl 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 regularly trade out games to fund newer ones, producing an ever changing top list.