Full Disclosure: A demo kit of Altar Quest was sent to me by Blacklist Games so I could make this preview.
To see the Kickstarter campaign for Altar Quest, click here.
What is Altar Quest about?
Altar Quest is a game published by Blacklist Games and designed by Adam and Brady Sadler. It's the next entry in a series that uses the Sadlers' modular deck system, but unlike Street Masters and Brook City, it has a fantasy theme. In Altar Quest, you'll be playing heroes who each have their own decks. You'll also be going up against challenges managed by quest, threat, and enemy decks that combine to form highly thematic, story-driven adventures.
Mechanically, Altar Quest has a bit more bookkeeping than its predecessors, but it also has several elements that make it more interesting to play. Like other Sadler games, die rolls on various skill tests are never entirely useless, even if they don't work out the way you want them to. In Altar Quest, "focus" results don't immediately count as successes, but get you tokens you can use for later—either to meet card requirements or to convert later die rolls into successes. On top of the dice that characters use for tests, there are altar dice that display "rhune" symbols—symbols that both you and your enemies can manipulate and deploy to power up your card actions. The hero cards themselves also do more than help you fight better—many of them can be used cleverly to affect both test and rhune dice.
Although the demo kit I received has only two heroes in it, the synergy between heroes is interesting so far. It's also entirely possible to solo the game with a single hero—something that matters to a lot of solo players.
Things I like about Altar Quest
So far, Altar Quest is delightful. The components are amazing, even in prototype form (especially the miniatures), and the gameplay itself is showing a lot of promise. The quest and enemy decks work well together to give you a goal to pursue as well as pressure to work towards it quickly. Your opponents will pack quite a punch, but if the demo quest is anything to go by, they are manageable. Depending on how the final game turns out, I might like this one even better than I like Street Masters, and that's saying something. I particularly liked the added element of altar dice, which gave me something new to work with when trying to reach my in-game goals.
It's also extremely clear, even from only samples of game text, that the Sadlers have put tremendous effort into building the world of Altar Quest. When you play, you enter a fully realized fantasy world with much left to discover, and I'm here for it.
Possible Concerns about Altar Quest
The Sadler brothers' modular deck system has an incredible capacity for in-game storytelling. It also, however, comes with some pretty serious bookkeeping, especially when you are first learning a game like Altar Quest. Before long, the game flow will make sense, but there are still a lot of cards to keep track of. And because multiple cards have different pieces of text on them, it's entirely possible that you'll overlook the occasional activation or card option. If that frustrates you, consider this one carefully. In my opinion, however, keeping track of all those cards is worth the effort--Altar Quest shines if you love thematic games that allow you to fully experience and imagine an in-game adventure.
Should I back it?
I personally want this game and am excited to play more of it. If you love fantasy and story-driven games, you will probably love Altar Quest. This is even more the case if you have fond memories of playing HeroQuest, because this game is giving off all of those nostalgic vibes. If you love Street Masters, then Altar Quest is also going to be a good match for you—especially if you prefer fantasy themes.
I would think twice, however, if you hate a lot of in-game bookkeeping. Altar Quest makes sense and it's entirely possible to manage it, even by yourself—but if that isn't your thing, this game is unlikely to change your mind.