Alter Quest is a fantasy dungeon crawling game for 1- 4 players that takes between 30 and 90 minutes per dungeon. Players will take on the role of adventuring heroes that have come to the kingdom of Aridika to assist the newly crowned queen to reassert control over a foundering kingdom in need of dire assistance. As you delve into the lairs of Aridika you will begin to find that not is all as it appears and that the shrines are a sign of the rising power of an ancient evil that has long been lurking in the shadows. With the new queen vying for power, rogue vampire lords emerging from the shadows, and the increase of monsters in populated areas, the adventurers find themselves in the middle of a much larger plot, with peril through every doorway.
Players will choose a hero to start the adventure with. Each hero fills a different role, such as a fighter, rogue, or wizard. Each hero will have starting equipment and an ability deck that consists of special abilities and feats.
Next, a quest will be chosen. If you are planning on playing a campaign, then the story guide will let you know which quest to play. Each quest will consist of three main components, the quest cards, threat deck, and villain deck. Each will determine the types of difficulties the adventuring heroes will face as they push through the dungeon.
One of the last steps is to draw an altar card and roll the altar dice to determine the starting dice pool that will affect other cards that will be played over the course of the adventure. These can add bonuses to both hero and villain cards during the adventure.
During a player’s turn, they will take three actions that include moving through the dungeon, interacting with rooms, and attacking enemies while working towards the goal on the quest card. After all heroes take their actions then the threat cards and villain cards will activate.
For tests and combat, heroes will roll several hero dice which will give the player successes and focus. The number of dice rolled is based on each individual heroes’ stats listed on their card.
While exploring the dungeon, players will come across different features in the rooms as they pursue their goals as well as enemies to face. Eventually, after several turns, the elite villain miniature will spawn. Quest will either have players gathering clues or defeating said villain to complete their objectives.
When I first started to set up the dungeon, I had some minor difficulty trying to figure out what each piece and card was. The rulebook had a couple of confusing layout decisions but eventually, I was able to get everything sorted. One of the main issues was the card breakdowns and if certain keywords were present on a card, it didn’t tell how that keyword specifically interacted with the action-based system on the hero turn.
During my first play, I had to decide which character to use. I decided on the more tank-based character, the vampire Myreen Duvall. There were three other heroes but playing a vampire warrior sounded way too cool to pass up. Once I had everything ready to go, I started the adventure, finding a clue and the alter right away. Once I got a little further into the dungeon, I was beset by quite a few pig people. Being able to create armor tokens to mitigate the damage that was coming was easily the one thing that saved me.
Revealing rooms was where the action was for me. When you reveal a room, you get to draw a feature card, a quest card, and a threat card. Being able to get more events occurring in the game was good as I feel like the pacing was a little slow at first and I did get some good burst of action then. Each room was initially interesting to enter, but I felt that after the initial push I was being penalized to stop and interact with the features of the rooms since the villain deck still advanced at the end of every turn. While I would love to spend time exploring the dungeon in its entirety, it always feels like the clock is against the heroes.
One of the interesting aspects of the game was the alter dice. A lot of cards can be empowered by using the alter dice. If there is a matching die in the elemental pool you can use it to trigger the extra ability on your card and then roll it to (maybe) change the pool. This also works for enemies who will constantly use it as well, so if you want to empower your cards you have to utilize the altar dice before the different enemies can.
The biggest issue I had with the game was how repetitive it can be over time. The feature deck is limited, so you will eventually get repeated room features as you do multiple dungeons. The threat decks are themed which is nice, but you will run into the same enemies repeatedly. While the campaign mode helps mitigate this a little bit, it can still become an issue with the base game.
I was able to clear the first couple of quests pretty easily and I think the game shines with its synergy between its altar dice and card play. Combat was a back-and-forth affair between my hero trying to mitigate enough damage to hit back and utilizing the altar dice to empower my action cards that I was able to draw.
Overall, this was a generally good dungeon crawler. Each character feels unique and has a role to play in the party. The dungeon system and cards are well thought out and synergize well with the altar dice system. However, I did feel that the features and enemies of each dungeon became repetitive over the few I completed.
I think the progression system works like almost any deck-building game I have played in the past. While Altar Quest can capture the feeling of a fantasy dungeon crawl, the base game lacks a variety of different elements that cause it to become repetitive. The campaign system makes the game even better and the story guide is well written. There may also be a little bit of a learning curve remembering all the keywords and interactions that can occur on a turn as well.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – A solid fantasy dungeon crawl that could use some extra content and some tweaks to really shine.
• Hero decks and powers feel unique and synergize well.
• The layer of strategy with the altar dice helps the different cards shine.
• The story guide can help overcome the repetitive nature of the game.
• Limited room features, and threats can make the game feel a bit repetitive.
• Trying to linger and interact in rooms can cause enemies to swarm you.
• Each dungeon can be pretty limiting as far as how many unique rooms there are.