Cursed City is the latest in a fine pedigree of Games Workshop games, the Warhammer Quest line. These self-contained dungeon crawling board games are the spiritual successors to 80’s classic HeroQuest. Over the years the models have gotten more intricate and finely detailed and the rules have gone through a number of iterations, varying wildly in complexity. Set in a city infested by vampires, Cursed City sees a band of questionable fantasy heroes sneak in and attempt to destroy the undead curse. As a an idea for a game, it’s everything we’ve come to expect from Warhammer Age of Sigmar.
Up till Cursed City, the zenith of the Warhammer Quest range had been BlackStone Fortress, a Warhammer 40,000 inspired haunted house exploration game that lent itself to multiple modes of play and featured some iconic models. Cursed City is very different to its sci-fi cousin, though the core mechanics are still the same. At it’s heart though, it’s a four-player dungeon crawl game that doesn’t require a games master. Players complete missions, earn points and if they succeed, open a sealed envelope that tells you what happens at the end.
The core hero models are incredibly well done and appropriately Warhammer Age of Sigmar. We have a classic Van Helsing style Witchhunter with silly hat, mean looks and many weapons. We have an exiled elf with a wicked bow, a brave and bold knight, a Castlevania style monster hunter, a steam-punk dwarf, a creepy looking priest and an even creepier looking wizard, and an enormous ogre-like character who can both deal and take a lot of damage, but isn’t that smart. All these pieces require assembly and it’s a fun evening’s activity. They are lovely looking models and are fun, if challenging to paint.
The overall aim of the game is to save the city; in order to do this you need to destabilise the control of Wolf King Radukar, the undead ruler of the city. In order to do this, you can take on one of four types of missions. Hunt missions are straight up monster fights. Alternatively you can scavenge; essentially go out looking for loot. This strengthens your side whilst weakening the enemy. Deliverance missions are straight up rescue attempts, these are required to win the game but are quite tricky. Finally they are Decapitation missions, the party goes out and takes on one of the big bads, mainly the King’s allies. The order that you take the missions on matters; do too much of one thing and you will suffer further down the line, possibly even losing the game.
The bad guy models are equally lovely; these would fit well with most undead armies for fantasy gaming and they’re delightfully creepy. They fit together easily and if you like painting minis these are a pleasure to paint. And they are a lot of them, so much so that once assembled they won't fit in the box. The components are lovely and well designed. The rules are clear and easy to pick up.
The main drawback with Cursed City is that it is simply too easy and if you play it in any sort of sensible way, it gets easier. There is rarely any threat in any of the missions. In addition, the board the game is played on doesn’t add variety to the game. In previous Warhammer Quest games, placement was critical and it was all too easy to get lost in a dungeon and then overwhelmed. This new game has removed that mechanic and thus peril is seldom a problem. It’s lack of challenge makes it a very social game, but if you wanted that sort of action you may as well just play Zombicide.
Overall, Cursed City is a pretty game but one that won’t challenge veteran gamers, and given the cost of the game and the intricacy of the models, it’s hard to argue this is for newcomers. It does have a solid ending, however. Still, this is not as good as we hoped, but worth picking up for the components alone. And as it has forthcoming expansions, we'll be intrigued to see where the storyline is going.
The game has had a bit of a rocky ride - availabilty was cut short due complications beyond Games Workshop's control and we understand that the game is now returning to shelves; intially as a limited run item but eventually as one of Games Workshop's regular big box games. This is heartening to see; the Warhammer Quest brand is a pretty important one as it bridges the gap between the 'Hobby' experience of collecting painting models and the broader 'interactive play' that's steadily becoming more and more mainstream. We enjoyed the basic game, but Cursed City is a game that will thrive with good expansions. As we understand additions are on their way, we can't wait to get involved.Cursed City can be obtained here.