The PG series is a collection of articles incorporating the perspective of my eight-year-old daughter, Lila.
“Ooh, what’s that?”
“It’s, uh, Warhammer.”
“Oh dear. Well, you remember that Space Marine game you loved? That’s Warhammer.”
She cocks her head, instantly suspicious. “I didn’t even like that game. And that was in space, this is knights and swords. That doesn’t make sense.”
“Trust me, it does. Warhammer is more an attitude and an aesthetic.”
“Es-what?” She wrinkles her nose.
“You will see.”
And this is how my journey with Warhammer Quest: Lost Relics began. On the surest of footing.
This is the fifth title in the relatively successful Warhammer Quest reimagining. I’ve been enamored with the reboot, falling particularly for Blackstone Fortress. Lost Relics is different, however. It’s a stripped-down design intended as a cooperative gateway to the larger hobby of emptying your savings and playing with little plastic dolls.
I’m a believer, not a hater. It’s why I’m indoctrinating my eight-year-old early. Or at least I’m trying.
While she wasn’t eager to explore this boxed dungeon crawler, she did take to it rather quickly once we began. It’s a very approachable title, embracing its goals of onboarding those who’ve never thrown 20 six-siders in a massive bolter fusillade.
Lila took only a couple of turns to start rolling dice for her heroes and spending them on each character’s action menu. This system is great. It’s been around since James Hewitt’s Silver Tower and it still hums, even if stripped down to only three dice here instead of the usual four.
There is a neat twist in that you can spend any die to perform an action, but if you spend one of sufficient value, it’s considered an inspired action and receives additional benefit. This does feel great in practice. It results in zero turns of ineffectiveness.
There’s also this absolutely stellar new chain mechanism. Lila says this is fire, she is right.
When a character takes an action with a die showing a single pip, another character in the group can take a follow-on action with a two-value die, and a third with a three, and so on. This results in terrific high volume turns where the board reshapes drastically between enemy activations. It’s probably the best single element of Lost Relics. Fire.
The minor sense of progression through treasure is also strongly implemented. Some items offer single use effects, but others provide a new action space. This is often seen with weapons, providing a new attack option. The Stormcast heroes don’t gain new skills, so this slow drip of power appreciation works well not to layer on too much complexity. Which is fine enough given the escalation in scenarios.
There are quite a few scenarios here. A surprising amount really. The 12 missions are intended to be played in order, forming a loose narrative that is mildly interesting.
Although, it’s hard to get an eight-year-old to listen to a story when she’d rather just mess about with the plastic eagle companion, Taros. She adores Taros. She may have refused Warhammer if not for this doofy Sigmar bird.
The miniatures are great, as expected. They’re push-fit chunky Stormcast with great detail. There are even girls in the group.
Tokens for the enemies can be a turn-off, at least in terms of an immediate impression. This hasn’t bothered me much though in titles like Space Marine Adventures: Labyrinth of the Necrons, as it’s a great way to get a large number of foes into the box without increasing the cost. There is actually a considerable degree of enemy variety here. Far more than most dungeon crawlers.
There are grots, orruks, skeletons, cultists, skaven, and the absolute best baddies of them all – squigs. If you had a large Age of Sigmar collection you could swap out the tokens for great effect. Of course, you likely aren’t playing this game if you already own thousands of dollars’ worth of Warhammer figures.
I also appreciate the inclusion of boss characters in each of the enemy types. They boast their own unique behavior and abilities yet handling all of the antagonists is very easy. This is not a game that is overly concerned about strict phases or working through charts. You simply activate a single nearby enemy after you go with each hero. Leaders, ever the thorn, get an additional activation after all Stormcasts have finished their turn. It rarely feels like work, yet the scenario design assures the game is appropriately challenging.
I’m less impressed by the dungeons themselves. The tiles are a mishmash of rooms due to the vagaries of chaos and shifting terrain. I really appreciate the restraint on modularity, as I’ve grown exhausted with digging through boxes to find a specific tile which will have a negligible impact on play. I’ve made it clear the HeroQuest style board is my favorite implementation of crawler environment, but these larger tiles with several rooms on each is a pleasant medium. Unfortunately, they’re akin to Slaanesh’s unholy vomit on the visible spectrum. Let Sigmar’s champions slay this ugly heathen.
“You want to play Warhammer, dad?”
Inside, I wish it was a different Warhammer. You don’t tell your kid ‘no’ when it comes to wargaming.
But why a different Warhammer, you ask.
Vomit flooring aside, Lost Relics commits an unfortunate sin. It makes combat boring. Warhammer is combat. It’s wallpapering dungeons with blood and guts and leaving lifeless sacks of bones for the next grinder to stumble over. Warhammer is not boring.
It fails here by making the attack sequence completely deterministic. There are no dice. No “to hit” values. No rolling of damage. No armor save. It’s austere in the most important area. It lacks any sense of dynamism except for that linked action system. That’s not enough to carry it.
Beyond the absolutely robbery of drama, it promotes overthinking. Everything can be known or puzzled out once the action dice have been rolled. I’m stuck in this uncomfortable state of wanting to help Lila with her turn, pushing her towards a more optimized path that is all too clear to someone who’s wasted their life away with serious games, but also wanting to give her autonomy and agency over the experience.
So, I let her push Taros around, calculating damage and pecking a squiggie’s eye out. She can grasp the math and does well enough puzzling out her turn, which I suppose is the reason they trimmed meat from the conflict resolution.
But we rarely smile, and we never stand up out of our chairs. There’s never a cheer or a melodramatic sigh or a last ditch one-in-a-thousand roll. I feel like we’re not playing Warhammer.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.