Crusaders Games

Fantasy Adventure Board Games

My favourite style of board games are co-operative fantasy adventure or dungeon crawlers, especially those with great miniatures, and this all began with the original Warhammer Quest released in 1995 by Games Workshop. I really enjoy working with other players to defeat a dungeon or adventure, and often 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 only the best ones, and so here are my current favourite recommended games in this genre.​​

 

1. Sword & Sorcery – Ares (2017)

This co-operative fantasy adventure game is a story driven campaign that has automated monsters. It features excellent miniatures, especially the heroes and purple enemies, with standard monsters 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, and they have become 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 are some really 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 ten sided dice based, but with a lot more options than normally seen, as special symbol 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, with enemies using a great action card system. Overall this is a dungeon style adventure with some extra complexity and rules depth, and a lot of choice for skills, weapons, items and a very strong feeling of progression, and it now has a quest editor which may extend its life further.


2. 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 six 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 initial 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, gradually developing your character, and it works amazingly as solo experience, playing as either one or using two gearlocs.

3. 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 heroes are a little smaller in scale, some of the most detailed map tiles around, and a campaign book with expandable and linked quests. This was our favourite family dungeon game for a few years, with gradual improvements enabling 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 expansions also make it a collectable hobby. 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 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 into a better dungeon crawl. This game can be beaten in certain areas by other more specialised games in my list, but can still be considered the best all round dungeon game covering all the different types of play you may enjoy, and I have really enjoyed collecting and painting this game. Details about the many expansions can be found on my specific game page > Descent 2nd

 

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. Six starting characters are re-themed variations on more standard fair such as the Inox Brute (tank), Orchid Spellweaver (magic) 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, there are no dice involved, and decisions feel more tactical. Heroes have decent models and nice art, but the large number of enemies are all standees and tiles are fairly bland looking which somewhat reduces the ownership and immersion value. Group gameplay is great fun, and is ideal for seasoned player groups liking a deeper, strategic and longer term co-operative challenge.

 

5. 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 dungeon crawl fighting, even though dice rolling remains an important factor. 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 top of the range, the hardback book especially likeable, with the models being good quality with loads of detail. This is definately a hobby game experience, you are given a huge black box of goodies to use as you wish, 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 the gaming experience with its monster intelligence and settlement progress is excellent. You can easily fill up your gaming time with this one set, and pride of ownership is high.

6. 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 were easy 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. Unlike many 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 fabulously pure dungeon crawler with its 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 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, however I would still consider obtaining this over the newer Silver Tower. Some of the expansions and articles that developed and enhanced the game experience are shown here > Warhammer Quest

 

7. 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 was released in 2017 which lifts this game to another level.

 

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

Silver Tower remakes Warhammer Quest with a new theme and dice mechanics, where up to 4 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 random order, and a storyline is enhanced via reading short passages from a book, making it an 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 limited in character development, the dice mechanic 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, and rules that have a dungeon master controlling the game. Either core set can stand alone or be interchanged and the combined variety lifts this game to a higher level. It is important to note both these are modelling hobby games that need detailed assembling and painting, but once done the overall model quality will seem amazingly high, and with decent painting skills it makes for superb sets when finished.

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 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.


10. Massive Darkness – Cmon (2017)

Massive Darkness is a co-operative or solo dungeon crawl game which follows the pre-set scenario approach, with monsters randomly generated and heroes collecting treasure and obtaining new skills as you adventure. The miniatures are the main feature and this game has loads of them, and they are really good ones too for pre-made plastic. The tiles artwork is decent rather than exceptional, and it has some neat plastic player boards to hold your active cards and track health and experience. Component wise you will likely be happy to have this game. In gameplay terms this is a relatively light dungeon crawler, less rules heavy than Descent 2nd edition and Sword & Sorcery, and the scenario is set out before your start, with no real story telling on the way. It does scale for different hero numbers which is great for different sized groups, but sadly the game has some questionable balancing. Skills are numerous and level up quickly, and treasure is so abundant that it is overload territory I had to scale down. The overall campaign story mode is tacked on and doesn’t work well. Massive Darkness is a great looking game that is all about fun and enjoyment, where you won’t have to think too hard about strategy. Gameplay really should have been better, and its longevity here is questionable, although I found it a good enough replacement for the Dungeons & Dragons series it knocked off this list.

Other Fantasy Adventure Games I No Longer Own…

Heroquest, Dungeons & Dragons FBG, Space Hulk 3rd, Talisman 3rd, Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizzt, Runebound 2nd, Tannhauser, Legends of Andor, Claustrophobia, Mice & Mystics, Robinson Crusoe, Arcadia Quest, Mage Knight, Hybrid, Eldritch Horror

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, and through kickstarter we are currently seeing an increase in the number and quality of these games available. Here is one more alternative fantasy game …

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.