Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath – A Written Review
Review #47 – For All Your Board Game News and Reviews Visit 2D6.org!
Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath By Chris Dupuis, Peter Lee, Kevin Tatroe, and Rodney Thompson – Art By Kerem Beyit, Ben Wootten, Dan Scott, and Matt Adelsperger – Published By Wizards of the Coast
The thirst always clawed at her subconscious mind taunting her, beckoning her, and demanding of her to constantly feed on the living but the damnable thirst could never be completely quenched. In the beginning the thirst had almost drove Morgana to slay her own husband a gallant knight in the service of Cormyr, high ranking Dragoon Valistova, a man with many war decorations. Those very war decorations were the only things that saved his life that first night, one specific decoration that was in the shape of a Cross to be exact. He had spent all day after her funeral grieving at her grave, a grave she would soon climb out of. She found him passed out in a chair near the fireplace with a spilled glass of brandy lying where it had tumbled out of his drunken outstretched hand. The searing pain caused by her proximity to the Cross as she moved in for the kill was the only thing that stopped her from tearing out his throat. That pain allowed her to regain her sensibilities long enough to flee from the home she had lived in for so many happy years…
That first night the hunger drove her to slay many in a rampage of silent death across the city yet the hunger only seemed to grow with each new victim, until she met him… Delthrin Everet introduced himself as a necromancer and promised to conjure magics to appease the thirst but she would have to do something for him in return… The notion of being subservient to anyone was abhorrent to her but maybe if she could control the hunger she could return to her husband and a semblance of her former life, maybe…
Delthrin had given her a list of items to collect with a promise that in exchange for these items he would create an amulet that would forever appease her blood lust. The first few items seemed simple enough, blood from a Drow Priestess and a spider gem. With Delthin’s undead servants under her command she temporarily cast off her old life, believing that it held nothing for her now, so she could focus on the task at hand. Besides the Necromancer could make a great potential tool in the future…
* * * * * * *
Dungeon Command is a small scale fantasy based tactical skirmish game for 2-4 players using either a pre-built or custom squads. The game is played on double sided interlocking battlefield tiles representing a “Dungeon” on one side and an “Outdoor scene” on the other. The Battlefield Tiles come in 2 sizes, 4×8 and 8×8 square grids used for determining movement and range. The board is set up before the game starts to form the battlefield and each faction has their own unique Battlefield tiles allowing for extra customization. Your squad has a “Morale Level” based on the Commander you choose to lead your squad. Morale can be increased by recovering treasures randomly placed on the board before the game starts or by playing certain order cards. Morale is lost when creatures you control are defeated, “Cower” from attacks or have “Order Cards” played against you. When a player loses all of their Morale or ends their turn without any units on the battlefield the game is over and the player with the highest remaining Morale is declared the winner. Highest Morale helps to create a victory condition that deters simply ganging up on another player in 3+ player battles.
In a unique twist, it is a miniatures game that does not use dice, instead opting for one time use “Order Cards” that grant your Creatures additional abilities, extra attacks, dodges, ripostes, special movement, and other ways to change up the game. Don’t panic though while it sounds weird at first Dungeon Command has done an amazing job mixing a little bit from the card game Magic: The Gathering with the board game Dungeon Twister to create a memorable game play experience that plays quickly, offers strategy, allows customization, and has fantastic replayability.
What’s In The Box
Dungeon Command comes in an 11.5”x9”x3” clamshell box that includes a fantastic molded insert that holds all the miniatures and components in the box quite nicely. The box uses a more unique clamshell design box made out of cardstock as opposed to the more common thicker cardboard. This box design has held up better than I thought it would on my gaming shelf. My first faction box “Sting of Lolth” has gone through its fair share of abuse and is still holding all the components like a champ.
The box comes with a wonderfully designed molded box insert that does an admirable job of holding all the miniatures in place. The insert also includes compartments for all the tokens and cards.
12 prepainted plastic miniatures
1 Full Color Rulebook
1 Molded Storage tray
2 large double-sided battlefield tiles
2 small double-sided battlefield tiles
2 Commander Cards
- 12 Creature cards (one for each miniature)
- 36 Order cards
- 12 D&D Adventure System Board Game Cards
68 Die-Cut Pieces:
- 30 Damage tokens
- 6 Treasure Chest markers
- 12 Treasure tokens
- 4 Morale and Leadership markers
- 8 Creature identification tokens
- 8 Miniature identification tokens
All of this gaming goodness can be yours for $39.99. Digging up all those graves can get pretty time consuming though so if you want to save yourself some time you can point your browser HERE to order a copy.
Battlefield Tiles: Dungeon Command is played on a game board made up of interlocking cardboard tiles. Each tile is double sided with one side depicting a dungeon complex and the other representing an outdoor forest area. The tiles are made out of thick cardboard that has full color artwork on it and interactive graphical flourishes such as doors, magical circles, skeletons, walls of brambles and more. The tiles loosely interlock with each other and are also cut to match the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System Board Game tiles allowing them to be fully interchangeable. Anyone with a flair for creativity will appreciate the advantages this creates if they ever want to create their own adventures. These battlefields also work pretty well for classic D&D RPG gaming making them a fantastic value for gamers of all kinds. The tiles are designed to be placed in various different layouts creating different battlefields each time you play. I have been using tiles from the various factions for months now and they are not showing any signs of wear or tear. Much like Tyranny of Goblins the tiles from Curse of Undeath are much more interactive and obstacle laden than Sting of Lolth and Heroes of Cormyr. Curse of Undeath has walls that block line of sight, skeleton piles that impede movement, flaming braziers that cause damage, an unfortunate victim chained to a stone slab, and more. The more interactive battlefield boards are a definite plus as the series continues to evolve.
Die-Cut Pieces: The cardboard tokens are made out of thick durable cardboard. The art is a nice touch and the numbers on the tokens are very large and easily legible, definitely a nice touch. There are additional good design decisions such as the 50 points of damage and the 10 points of damage tokens are different sizes easily making them distinguishable at a glance. The chest markers and treasure tokens use a different font again aiding in easy identification. Nice touches all around and sometimes it’s the attention to details that makes a good game, great..
Cards: The artwork on the cards is very well done, this is definitely not the more reserved art found in the Adventure System games. Every single card contains full color very thematic artwork that does a fantastic job of evoking a high fantasy feel. All of the artwork is spot on; from a magical Lich preparing to conjure magical energies upon its foes, to a vampire enticing its newest thrall, all of the artwork fits the theme extremely well. The cards are separated into 2 different decks with each deck having a different back which again assists in easy clean up at the end of a game. The cards themselves use a nice easy to read font on top of a nicely contrasting background and occasionally include some nice thematic text and quotes from the “Commanders” the players will be playing. One additional very nice touch is a small image of the miniature that goes with the creature card in the lower right hand corner making it very easy to match up the miniature with its respective card. The cardstock on the cards is a little on the thinner side, not the thinnest I have ever seen, but not up to par with your average Collectible Card Game either. If the cards from my “Sting of Lolth” faction are any indication (by far my most used faction until now) the cards should be ok unsleeved thanks to the minimal shuffling of the cards the game requires. The cards are also individually numbered and have a unique set symbol on them should you choose to customize your war bands yet occasionally want to revert back to the original prepackaged squad.
Commander Cards: Each faction pack comes with 2 unique Commander Cards with different statistics and their own special ability. These cards are made of the same card stock as the game box, have full color artwork depicting the commander, easily legible game play information, and they each include minor game mechanic reminders on them reducing reliance on repeatedly returning to the rule book when trying to learn the game.
Miniatures: Each Dungeon Command faction pack comes with 12 pre-painted soft plastic miniatures. The miniatures are fairly well made with some embellishments like detailed armor and each creatures name is imprinted on the bottom of the base. The plastic used is the softer malleable plastic which adds to the longevity of the miniatures. The softer plastic does tend to bend and reshape easily especially for thinner bits like the Skeletal Lancer’s lance. If I had to choose between the softer plastic or the hard plastic used in hobby games it would be a hard choice for me. I am a hobby painter and really enjoy painting games like Super Dungeon Explore for example but I do like the security of knowing these figures will survive a 4 year old playing war games, repeatedly, while daddy is at work…
The quality of the paint jobs and the details on the miniatures has really improved with this release. The details really “pop” especially for anyone who is familiar with the mythology of some of these undead. The Disciple of Kyuss is a humanoid made up of a writhing mass of sentient green larvae like worms and the miniature does a great job representing the creature with a base overflowing with the worms and a wriggling mass forming the hands. The Lich looks like an intelligent undead sorcerer erupting from a cloud of smoke while preparing to unleash an attack on an unsuspecting foe. Even the Skeletons look great with full suits of armor and large shields.
The large miniature included in this set is the Dracolich which looks fantastic on the battlefield and towers over some of the normal sized creatures.
The miniatures use the same scale as the Dungeons and Dragons Role playing game and the Adventure System games which makes them 100% interchangeable with each other.
Rulebook: The rulebook has 15 full color pages including game play examples, a table of contents, and even a turn summary on the back page. The rulebook does a fantastic job of breaking down the components including a full page allotted just to describing the cards themselves (not that they are difficult to understand mind you). The rulebook is made out of standard paper though so expect it to tear easily if you are not careful. Aside from the use of standard paper though the rulebook is very nice and lays out the game rules very well in a logical easy to follow manner. The final page of the rule book includes instructions to play a 3 or 4 player free for all or a team based game and simple rules for building your own squads from scratch. Aside from the new artwork on the cover it is the same version of the rulebook included in all 4 of the faction boxes.
Components and Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 – Dungeon command comes with some good, quality components. The artwork is thematic, the intelligent design choices are apparent, the battlefield tiles are continuing to evolve, and the miniatures are getting better. Aside from the problems that come with the use of softer plastics there isn’t anything to complain about here.
How Does It Play?
Dungeon Command is a small scale skirmish game where each player takes control of a fantasy themed squad that will slowly grow in power as the game rounds pass. Players will seek out treasures and fight their opponent while trying to either remove the opponent’s creatures from the board or drop the opponent’s Morale to zero or lower forcing them to retreat from the battlefield. Morale is gained by finding treasures and lost by having your units defeated. On a players turn they may move each creature and perform an action with each creature. Order Cards let players break the rules and do other things such as attack multiple times, move units around the board, heal allies, and even prevent damage. After moving, players will have the opportunity to add more allies to the battlefield if their Commander has enough Leadership to control the additional forces. Players must use resources wisely though for each Order Card can only be used once and Creatures removed from the battlefield do not come back unless of course an Order card allows it.
Can you command your squad to victory over your enemies or will they suffer a crushing and humiliating defeat?
Dungeon Command is an exception based rules system, meaning the rules can be modified or changed based on actions and cards used by players. There are a few mechanics that so far have remained consistent though.
The most important thing to remember is that defeated Creatures and spent Order Cards are NOT shuffled back into a draw deck, when all your cards are gone they are gone, unless you play an Order Card that specifically allows you to break this rule.
Tapping: If you have played Magic: The Gathering this mechanic should be very familiar to you. Many games actually use the mechanic but refer to it as “Exhausting”, “Rotating”, or even “Bowing” cards. Tapping is a simple mechanic used to signify when an action has been performed and is represented by turning the activating card sideways 90 degrees. Many actions require a creature to be “Un-Tapped” to perform and in turn “Tap” the creature after the action is performed. All creatures controlled by the active player are Untapped at the beginning and again at the end of the active players turn.
Standard, Minor, and Immediate Actions
Every single Order Card is classified as a Standard, Minor, or Immediate Action.
Standard: Most actions are standard, often an attack of some sort. A creature you control can take a standard action only during your Activate phase and only during that creature’s activation. Taking a standard action taps the acting creature. Each Creatures basic melee and/or ranged attack is also classified as a Standard Action.
Minor: These represent quick actions, such as drawing a hidden blade, drinking a potion, or setting up for an attack. A creature you control can take minor actions at any time during its activation, whether it’s untapped or tapped. There’s no limit to the number of minor actions a creature can take during its activation.
Immediate: Immediate actions are usually responses to other actions. They can be played on any player’s turn. Taking an immediate action taps the acting creature.
Creature Card: The creature cards (and hence the creatures themselves) are the heart of Dungeon Command. Each miniature you control will have a matching Creature Card; you need 1 copy of a card for each copy of the miniature in your squad.
Each Creature Card is broken down as follows – The upper left hand corner will list the Creatures Level which denotes what Order Cards that Creature Can use. For instance a Level 6 Creature like this Dracolich can use any Order Card of level 6 or less with the INT or CHA keyword. Creatures can assist each other to temporarily raise their current level and use higher level Order Cards. Underneath the Creatures level will be one (or more) statistics which will be very familiar to anyone who has played Dungeons and Dragons. They are Strength (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Intelligence (INT), Constitution (CON), Wisdom (WIS), and Charisma (CHA). As with level, Order cards have a matching statistic for example the Dracolich has the statistics of INT and CHA, so a Dracolich may use any Order Card level 6 and under that uses the Intelligence or Charisma Keyword(s). So while the Dracolich could use Terrifying Revelation (level 6 CHA) it could not use Hulking Attack (Level 2 CON). Next under the Creatures Statistics is a Sword in a circle (melee attack) and possibly a Bow and arrow in a circle (ranged attack). Next to each symbol is how much damage that creature causes every time it attacks and is not blocked by an order card (range is in parenthesis next to the listed damage for ranged attacks). Creatures always do the exact same damage and always hit for that listed damage unless modified by Order Cards played by the attacker and/or defender. The upper right hand corner lists how many Hit Points the Creature has, all damage and hence Hit Points in Dungeon Command so far are listed in multiples of 10. The very bottom of the Creature lists the Creatures Speed, which is how many squares the creature can move on its turn. The rest of the card is dedicated to any possible special abilities the creature might have and under its name will be some keywords that interact with Order Cards. There are also colored symbols on the bottom left of the card that are used if you plan to play a 2 player game using only 1 faction box.
Damage Tokens: Damage tokens are placed on Creature Cards to represent damage taken and come in 10 and 50 point values. There are more than enough damage tokens included with the game. There are also tokens for games where multiple players are using the same creatures. The diamond shaped tokens are for tracking your commanders Morale and Leadership.
Order Cards: If Creature Cards are the heart of Dungeon Command then the Order Cards are the soul of the game. Order Cards come in 3 varieties each with their type listed under the cards name. Those varieties are Minor, Standard, and Immediate matching the 3 Action Types. The upper left hand corner matches Creature Cards listing the level of the Order Card and the matching Statistic (STR, DEX, INT, etc). Below the artwork is listed what effect the card has when played and any possible requirements for playing the Order Card. Like Creature cards the lower left hand corner has a colored symbol used when playing 2 player games using a single faction pack.
Treasure Chest Markers: Each faction pack comes with 6 Treasure Chest Markers and 12 Treasure Chest Tokens. The Treasure Chest Markers are numbered 1-3 on one side and are randomly placed face down on the Battlefield. When a Miniature lands on a Treasure Chest it is flipped over and replaced with the listed number of Treasure Chest Tokens. As a Standard Action a Creature can claim one of the Tokens if they are on that space, gaining a point of Morale in the process.
Commander Card: The Commanders are the leaders of your squad and are not represented by a miniature on the Battlefield. Each Commander has a unique special ability, a Creature Hand Value (how many Creature Cards they keep in hand, Morgana can have 3), Starting Order Hand (how many Order Cards they draw at the beginning of the game, Morgana gets 5), Morale (lose all your Morale and you lose the game, Morgana starts with 14), and finally Leadership (how many Total Levels of Creatures they can control on the Battlefield at once, Morgana starts with 7). Of all the statistics on the Commander Card Leadership is the one that needs some explanation. Your Leadership determines how many units you can have on the Battlefield at any time. The total Level (found on the upper left hand corner of every Creature Card) of all the Creatures you control on the Battlefield cannot surpass your Leadership Score. For example if you have a Leadership of 7 you could have a level 5 and a level 2 Creature out or 3 level 1 Creatures and a level 4 Creature. Your Leadership Score raises 1 point at the start of each of your Deploy phases though so you will be slowly be adding more or more powerful creatures to the Battlefield. Dead Creatures DO NOT count towards your Leadership, only living Creatures you control do.
Setup is pretty quick and easy:
Set up the Battlefield.
Randomly place Treasure Chest markers in their respective spots on the board.
Choose your Commander.
Shuffle Your Order and Creature Card Decks separately.
Place the markers at the starting point of the Morale and Leadership Tracks on your Commander Card.
Draw your starting Order Hand.
Draw your Creature Hand and deploy Creatures onto the Battlefield. The total levels of deployed creatures must be equal to or less than your Leadership Score.
Draw Creature Cards to refill your Creature Hand.
You are now ready to begin playing!
Rulebook Turn Summary.
A turn is divided into four phases, which must be taken in the following order.
1. Refresh: Resolve start-of-turn effects, un-tap your creatures to ready them for action, and draw 1 Order card.
2. Activate: Activate your creatures, one at a time, in any order you choose.
3. Deploy: Increase Leadership by 1 and place new creatures on the battlefield.
4. Cleanup: Resolve end-of-turn effects, draw back up to your Creature hand size, and un-tap your creatures to allow them to respond to enemy actions.
The most important thing to remember is that your Creatures Un-tap at the beginning AND end of your turn so they can play Immediate Order Cards on other players turns. It is important to remember especially in a 3 or 4 player game that they only Un-tap on their controllers turn NOT every players turn.
Each Miniature can move its speed on its turn even if it is “Tapped” and moving does not “Tap” a miniature.
The game also includes timing rules for multiple Order Cards (last in first out), terrain (those pretty graphics on the battlefield can actually occasionally impede and/or hurt creatures), special movement (flying, burrowing, shifting, etc), adjacent enemy miniatures impeding movement, assisting (to use Order Cards on lower level Creatures), line of sight and cover/dodging, and even Cowering, a mechanic where instead of taking damage a Commander can sacrifice Morale to save a creature… the catch is if you lose all your Morale you lose the game making Cowering something to use very sparingly.
The game ends immediately when any player’s Morale reaches 0 or below. Also, if any player ends his or her turn without any creatures on the battlefield, the game ends. The player with the highest Morale is the winner. However, you cannot win if you caused the game to end because you had zero creatures on the battlefield. If several players are tied for Morale, then the winner is the player with the most total Levels of creatures on the battlefield. If there is still a tie, the game ends in a draw.
A sample game might look something like this:
It is a 2 player game using 1 faction box between Morgana and Delthrin and it is currently the start of Morgana’s turn. Morgana starts her turn by untapping her 2 Creatures a Lich Necromancer and a Warrior Skeleton which are both mere squares away from a Dracolich that just finished the prior turn with a decimating combination that left Morgana with 7 Morale. It is now time for the Activate Phase. Morgana starts by using Mage Armor (minor action) on the Lich. The Warrior Skeleton then moves in for an attack, targets the mighty Dracolich, and plays “Hulking Attack” – +10 melee damage and gain Morale if the attack does damage. Delthrin wants to desperately stop this attack but the only defensive card he has is “Unbreakable” which is a level 3 CON card. The Dracolich takes 30 points of damage, leaving it with 80 hit points and Morgana gains a single point of Morale bringing her back up to 8. The lich moves adjacent to the Dracolich and then plays “Fear” a level 3 CHA to slide the Dracolich 3 squares and onto a square of hazardous terrain to cause 10 points of damage leaving it with 70 hit points left. The Lich follows up its last action by playing “Gout of Fire” to burn the Dracolich for a staggering 50 points of damage leaving it with a mere 20 hit points left. Unfortunately Morgana is out of tricks and out of creatures to attack with.
Morgana’s Deploy phase begins and she raises her Leadership 1 point to 12 and then deploys a level 4 Vampire Stalker.
Finally Morgana completes her Clean-up Phase and ends her turn.
Now it is Delthrin’s turn for payback and it begins with a little card called “Vampiric Touch”.
Simplicity of the Rules: 8.75/10 – Dungeon Command is a pretty straight forward game, the challenge comes in from the exceptions caused by the cards and how they interact. Most discrepancies can be simply solved by following the rules step by step and remembering last in first out.
Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?
As a father of 2 future board gamers, a large concern of mine is how secure am I in letting my eldest son play and or rummage through a game box. Granted, BGG and board games themselves very clearly tell you a minimum age, they don’t tell you exactly why that minimum age was chosen. My hope is to arbitrarily tell you why I think this age range was chosen for this game and then hopefully give a few ideas I might have for a game to make it easier on the young ones. Finally I will close with what seems to be the “sweet spot” for number of players and if the game has solo rules I’ll comment on those too.
Dungeon Command is a card based miniatures game for 2-4 players ages 12+. It requires player to use proper hand management, Action Point allowance, and strategic thinking. This faction pack is full of very high fantasy artwork including Zombies, Skeletons, Vampires, and melee combat. This is definitely your Halloween style of artwork. Nothing in the artwork is overly blatantly graphic but definitely close to PG-13 in some cases. The full color artwork is detailed and the image usually covers about 2/5ths of the card so it will be very hard to hide it from younger eyes. The game itself can be on the slightly more complex side requiring proper timing, minor mathematics, and future turn planning and strategizing to get the greatest advantage you can from played cards.
Considering all of this, I feel confident recommending this game to people ages 10 and up. While the gameplay is understandable by an 8 year old and in fact my 7 year old is pretty good at this game (he plays Cormyr), the overall imagery is dark high fantasy and you might want to consider that before letting young eyes wander over these cards.
Family Friendliness Verdict: 7.25/10 – The game can be a great family game for families with kids approaching the teen years thanks to the scalable player count. This isn’t Heroscape though and there really isn’t a way to sanitize it for younger eyes without gutting the core system. If you are looking for a game to play with the 7 year olds, stick with the Adventure System games or the recently released Dungeon! remake also from Wizards of the Coast.
For all the potential complexity of the game it actually plays pretty quickly with your average 2 player game (after set up, etc.) clocking in at about 30-45 minutes tops for players familiar with the rules. Even a 4 player game can end in 60-75 minutes making this a game you can play multiple times in a single night. The game also scales well with 2, 3, or even 4 players and while 3 player games can occasionally lead to “preying on the weak”, because if you are leading in Morale your best strategy is to kill whichever player has the lowest Morale to bring the game to a swift victory. A 4 player game mitigates this slightly though making this game best with 2 or 4 players depending on your group’s bloodthirstiness. Honestly though this game is great with 2, 3, or even 4 players and I would recommend it for all 3 player counts.
* For the price you get some great quality components and painted miniatures
* Game is customizable adding to replayability
* Squad based mechanics that offer strategy but is playable in under an hour
* Cower mechanics add an additional level of strategy that causes you to constantly weigh the pros and con’s of using Cowering
* Even after Dozens of plays the game is still fun
* Morale mechanics are a great inclusion and make it less of a “Blow up all your opponent’s creatures and to heck with the rest” game
* Card based mechanics are very well done
* Customizable battlefields
* Adds a 4th faction allowing for a grand 4 player mass combat between 4 very different factions
* The designers have shown they can continue to grow the game system while still keeping it balanced
* Each faction seems to be bringing a unique set of battlefield tiles to the game
* The game can be random and you may not get the right card combinations when you need them the most. This can also creep up in a bad draw of starting forces
* Some players will simply not like the card based combat and will prefer dice rolling
* Cardstock for the playing cards is on the thin side
* I would really like Wizards of the Coast to offer a way to buy individual Cards and Miniatures
But Is It Fun?
Dungeon Command is a fantastic squad level tactical miniatures game. It takes mechanics from some very successful games and blends them together to create something new and fun. Thanks to the Morale rules the game is also very playable by 3 or 4 players which is something lacking in many tactical games on the market. The Cowering rules bring a deeper level of strategy to the game. You can sacrifice Morale to save a creature you desperately need to keep alive but it is something you need to weigh heavily on. Cower more than a couple times and you will end up losing the game with a full compliment of creatures still on the game board. The game is also fairly quick playing taking anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for a 2 player match and 4 player games not taking much longer.
The game comes with some quality components and the quality of the miniatures is really improving.
The detail on the miniatures and the paint jobs have really stepped up with this faction pack. Even the Dracolich looks fantastic compared to the other large miniatures from prior factions.
The miniatures are made from a softer plastic but I actually think this was a good decision. The softer plastic makes the figures durable and while softer plastic doesn’t hold the finer details like hard plastics can Wizards of the Coast actually did a great job getting some good detail onto these little plastic miniatures. The cardboard components are also still top notch and made out of thick cardboard. The quality continues with the battlefield tiles and I like how each faction brings a slightly different layout to the table adding a subtle additional layer to the games strategy. The only nit pick I can find with the game is the card stock for the cards but I honestly look at the miniatures, the cardboard, the price tag, and realize there is a lot of value here for your money already.
The game is playable with 2 players using only a single faction pack but that really doesn’t do the game justice. The game is designed and at its best when each player has their own faction. The game gets even better when you start to customize your squads. I really like games that reward experienced players and Dungeon Command definitely rewards victory to the more experienced players. This might be one of the few negatives to the game though; an experienced player can absolutely trounce a neophyte especially if you have a handle on the more common card combinations. I know if an injured War Wizard is making a beeline for one of my 20 Hit Point Creatures to make a melee attack 9 times out of 10 I can guarantee what card is about to be played on me.
Right now you are probably in one of the following camps, you played Dungeon Command and you want to know if anything is different enough to warrant another look, you have not played Dungeon Command and are wondering if this is the faction for you, or you own/play Dungeon Command and want to know if Curse of Undeath should be added to your collection.
Curse of Undeath doesn’t change the basic game play formula of Dungeon Command and honestly it isn’t broken so why fix it? The game is admittedly polarizing between people who like the Dice in their skirmish games and those who like the new card based mechanics, nothing has changed here. I do think you are doing yourself a disservice by dismissing the gameplay over a dice issue though. I think the Order cards offer a wonderful hybrid between the pure chaos of dice based systems and the more methodical gameplay of a pure tactical system such as “Dungeon Twister” and to a lesser extent “Mage Wars”. There are some new cards in this faction that does change up the game play some and I’ll discuss some of those cards below.
If you have never played Dungeon Command this is a great game that is continuing to evolve and grow in new and interesting ways. The game currently has 4 very different factions that play quite differently and the factions can be customized to create some very interesting combinations. It’s nice to play a game that continues to be supported by the developers and doesn’t show signs of slowing any time soon. There is a 5th faction due soon and I am willing to bet we will see a 6th faction announced. If you like table top miniature games or strategy games that play well with 2-4 players this is a great game to look into. As an added bonus the game plays well out of the box without any customization which is great for people who want a game they can enjoy without spending hours on customization. This is a fun faction pack but I still think “Sting of Lolth” and “Heart of Cormyr” are the best entry points to the game for anyone who is unfamiliar with the game.
While I still believe Dungeon Command is a well balanced game, I think Curse of Undeath is a pretty powerful faction out of the box. This might just be luck being fickle but in 3 games versus Tyranny of Goblins, Curse was able to absolutely trash the competition twice in a row and even the 3rd game was a pretty simple victory. Again this might have been circumstantial since I was able to absolutely tear through the Goblins with relative impunity but the other 2 factions weren’t quite as simple to defeat. “Sting of Lolth” in particular was able to really capitalize on its speed and maneuvering advantages against these plodding undead with only a speed f 6.
If you are looking to see if Curse of Undeath is a faction to add to your collection, read on!
Curse of Undeath adds a 4th faction to the game. This is a faction that is brutally efficient and self sustaining. It can absolutely decimate anyone who wants to use swarm tactics against them, take note “Tyranny of Goblins” players. With multiple creatures and order cards that deal 10 or 20 damage to nearby creatures, low hit point creatures will be torn apart pretty quickly. This faction also has multiple ranged attackers and the ability to heal itself while causing damage to other creatures. The Vampire Stalker can be brutally efficient at this. We also see the introduction of damage auras where Creatures will take damage if they end their turn next to certain creatures which makes life rough for purely melee based squads. This faction is definitely a great new addition to the game.
That’s all fine and good but I already enjoy Dungeon Command, tell me why I need this Faction Pack?
Curse of Undeath much like its namesake (death) is all about cold brutal efficiency. The efficiency is so brutal that it doesn’t need to defeat an opponent’s creatures to sap Morale, no it has cards like “Terrifying Revelation” that can do that directly…
This faction also stops swarm tactics Dead in their tracks. Thanks to Creatures such as the Skeletal Tomb Guardian that can literally dice through swarms of goblins without breaking a sweat
It is also no slouch when it comes to ranged damage capabilities, bringing 3 unique ranged attackers to the battlefield. These ranged attackers are not weak either, ranging from 70 to 110 hit points and bringing unique abilities that will make your opponents reconsider their tactics. The Disciple of Kyuss for example has great range, 70 Hit points, and will make any melee attacker regret they got into melee range with this devious undead monster.
As a standalone faction the Undead are very self sufficient, it makes sense though Death Rarely needs help doing its job…
Vampire Stalkers are the backbone for quite a few nasty card combinations and I can see a lot of players creating customized decks around them for a while. Attaching a Magic Short Sword card to a Vampire Stalker is a logical choice and the basis for quite a few card combinations, including Hulking Attack, creating a melee monster that can deal 40 unblockable melee damage, heal itself, and give your commander extra Morale.
Necrotic Howl is another great card to save for your Vampire Stalker. While the Magic Short Sword only helps on the initial Melee Attack, the extra insult to injury when you clear out a swarm of lesser creatures and then heal 10 Hit Points, tends to put a smile on your face.
Curse of Undeath also plays very nicely with the other factions.
Hobgoblin Sorcerers are already great creatures to keep in a magic circle, but attach “Call To Battle” to create an endless font for additional Morale and Deployment until your opponents can defeat or Dispel him.
War Wizards are already powerful enough especially with Fireball but giving them “Gout of Fire” allows them to deal 50 damage to any creature within 10 squares. As if War Wizards didn’t already have a large enough bulls-eye painted on their foreheads.
Drow Wizards are on the slightly weaker side as far as ranged attackers go, but using the Minor Action Command Card “Mage Armor” helps make them slightly more resilient. As a Minor Action it is a fantastic card to help bolster their survivability.
I am sure most players are always leery about placing a War Wizard on the board since the magnetism and “Prime Target” sign flashing above their heads is always a nuisance. Vampiric Touch though allows you to coyly feign ignorance when a Melee creature runs up and hits your War Wizard and then on your turn you grin while you sap all those lost life points back.
Death Sentence is also a great card to have in your hand if you have multiple Vampire Stalkers on the board. It’s humorous watching them each attack as Minor Actions and then attack again with a Standard Action. Need I really tell you how much nastier this is with those Short Swords equipped?
Even more fun can be had when you follow up Death Sentence with Shadowy Ambush allowing the Stalker to quite literally live up to the latter part of his name.
Finally if you really want to watch your opponent grit their teeth and “curse the undead”, Death Sentence, into Quick Jab, and finished with Shadowy Ambush will destroy most creatures in one fell swoop… and heal your Vampire 30 damage… Remember there is no limit to the number of Minor Actions you can take on your turn.
Curse of Undeath is a fantastic addition to this series that brings new tactics and strategies to the table while still keeping the overall games balance in check. This faction also has some very devious combinations that will start popping up in customized war bands once players get their hands on this faction.
Overall Final Game Verdict: 9.0/10 – Dungeon Command is a great, fully customizable, squad level tactical strategy game. Curse of Undeath is a fantastic addition to the series adding in new card synergy within its own faction and also when combined with other factions. The quality of the Miniatures has gone up and everything is pointing towards this game continuing to only get better as new factions get released! This is a great package for fans of Dungeon Command, players looking to up their Adventure System games replay, or Classic Roleplayers.
Curse of Undeath is also fully compatible with the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System board games. All 12 creatures have a Monster card to add to your Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, or Legend of Drizzt adventures! These monsters are pretty tough and thematically demand you add them to your next Castle Ravenloft outing! The Dracolich is absolutely begging for someone to write a customized adventure around him…
Michael V K
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