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One of the biggest hit games in Apple’s App Store right now is Warhammer Quest, a fantasy-themed dungeon crawl wherein the player controls a team of four warriors as they descend through the underground lairs of orcs, giant spiders and the rat-like Skaven for plunder and to fulfill various missions. To say that the game was hotly anticipated among hobby gamers prior to its release a few weeks ago is something of an understatement because it is based on one of the most valuable, rare and hard-to-find hobby games in the collector’s market.
Before this app’s release, you either had to already have a copy of Warhammer Quest on hand, have a good friend with a copy or the $350 to $600 needed to buy a used copy, likely with missing pieces and almost certainly without the expansion packs, additional miniatures and other add-ons that were available for it before the game fell out of print in the late 1990s.
Warhammer Quest first appeared on shelves long before the iPad was a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eyes (or at least before it was a marketable concept), nearly 20 years ago in 1995. Published by Games Workshop, the title was something of an extension of earlier company efforts to do a simple miniatures-based dungeon game like Heroquest and Advanced Heroquest, both published in partnership with Milton Bradley.
Gameplay is conceptually simple: You and the other players move your hero around, contend with various events, hack monsters to pieces and take their stuff. It’s very much like Dungeons and Dragons without the pretense of story, and the focus is on action rather than role-playing, although the game included more detailed role-playing rules for those so inclined. Set in the company’s extremely popular Warhammer game setting, the title was and still is widely regarded as one of the best—if not the best—example of its genre.
In 1995, I thought $80 was too much to pay for all of this. In 2013, I feel stupid. There will never again be a game with this much stuff published for less than $150.
The original package was expensive for its time—I recall seeing it on shelves for around $80 and thinking that it was too expensive so I foolishly never purchased it. But the box was also packed to bursting with components, including almost 100 highly detailed plastic miniatures, multiple scenarios, dungeon tiles, a couple of books and probably a kitchen sink from an orc hovel in there somewhere. It isn’t hard to see why the game wasn’t in print for long—and why it’s never been republished after all of these years, despite its popularity. If it were reprinted today, with the same component manifest, this would easily be a $300 retail title.
But wait, there’s more. That big $80 box was just the beginning because Warhammer Quest was a product line, not just a single SKU. Games Workshop also released two large Adventure Expansion packs, Lair of the Orc Lord and Catacombs of Terror, not too long after the main set. These included all-new events, dungeon tiles, rulebooks, and most significantly metal miniatures of the new bad guys. Then there were also nine additional Warrior Packs, including the beloved Dwarf Trollslayer, that each offered players more hero options (and more metal miniatures) than the four included in the main game. And while you’re at it, you may as well pick up the three Treasure Packs that added new shiny stuff for your adventurers to covet, a set of blank event cards so that you could make your own scenario events (such as “Warrior need food badly,” if you are so inclined), and an additional Adventure Pack and two more Warrior Packs that were made available only through Games Workshop’s mail order service as late as 2000.
The final bill for all of this, in 2013 money? Astronomical. The Adventure Packs sell in a range from $75-$160, with some optimistic sellers looking for up to $300. The Warrior Packs are anywhere from $25 to $60, while the Treasure Packs are in the $30-to-$40 neighborhood, and I wouldn’t even hazard a guess on those mail order exclusives. The catch is that you’re almost never going to find any of this stuff parceled out for sale individually because what tends to happen with items like these is that collectors keep sets together. A full set with everything is more likely to be in the steely grip of a collector or player that won’t let it go, but if they would, well, the potential price would likely be nothing short of breathtaking. Finding any of this sealed and unused would be tantamount to winning the lottery.
The Elven Wardancer is one of the heroes that players can use to explore the dungeons of Warhammer Quest.
Fully painted, assembled and ready for action, the highly popular Dwarf Trollslayer will take on all comers.
Of these three heroes, only the Barbarian was packed in the base game. The others can be had only through expansion Warrior Packs.
There is, however, quite a market for Warhammer Quest pieces. Individual cards, sprues of miniature parts, rulebooks and so forth are often sold individually. Since there are so many components, it’s really more common at this stage in the game’s existence to find incomplete copies or copies with broken or damaged components. The good news is that it’s entirely possible—if you’re willing and somewhat insane—to piece together a “homebrew” copy of the game using a la carte purchases, home printed PDFs or scans of components, and using proxied miniatures in place of the official releases. Since it’s a Warhammer product, there are plenty of models that substitute practically at a 1:1 basis for what was originally in the game.
Or, you can just download a $10 app and get most of the experience and you don’t even have to paint the miniatures. The app certainly isn’t as expansive or tactilely satisfying as the physical game, but as a video game interpretation of one of the few “Holy Grail” tabletop games out there, it acquits itself very well.
I’m glad to be able to play the game without taking out a loan, but I can’t say that I don’t regret shirking that $80 box back in the 1990s.
Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.
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