Tag Archives: Dungeon Crawl

WizKids’ Temple of Elemental Evil Board Game Arrives in North American!

TOEE Box Front

WizKids, makers of quality board games and miniatures, is pleased to announce the release of the latest title in the D&D product series – the Temple of Elemental Evil board game. In the Temple of Elemental Evil board game, you and your friends play as heroic adventurers. Using your amazing abilities, spells and magic weapons, you must explore the dungeons beneath the mysterious and dangerous Sword Coast, where you will fight monsters, overcome hazards and find treasure. Grab a copy of Temple of Elemental Evil and get ready for the tabletop adventure of a lifetime.

TOEE Components

The Temple of Elemental Evil board game features multiple scenarios, challenging quests and cooperative game play designed for 1-5 players. Play can occur in stand-alone sessions between friends, but the 13 adventures can also be played sequentially in a campaign. The contents can also be combined with other D&D Adventure System Cooperative Play board games providing endless replay opportunities.


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Excuse me while I drive really quickly to a game store!

TOEE Box Back

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Fallen – A Written Review





Designers:          Tom W. Green III, Stephen C. Smith

Publisher:           Watchtower Games


“You must make haste for you sense it is not safe to linger by the smoking remains of the ruined monastery. The black-winged beasts could return at any moment. You must set out for the Sommlending capital of Holmgard and tell the King the terrible news of the massacre: that the whole élite of Kai warriors, save yourself, have been slaughtered. Without the Kai Lords to lead her armies, Sommerlund will be at the mercy of their ancient enemy, the Darklords.”


Reading those sentences that kick off the legendary Lone Wolf collection, the most definitive Choose Your Own Adventure series ever penned, sets my loins afire like a lascivious teen emerging from boyhood.  Lone Wolf and similar novels straddling the edge of game and fiction were a defining element of my adolescence and with Watchtower Games’ Fallen a desire that I didn’t even know was still simmering is now being satiated like a starving lion coming across a maimed gazelle.  I’ve ripped its throat out, guzzled its blood and am feasting on its soft belly as I can’t let this game go.

While Fallen is absolutely unique it’s simultaneously difficult to fathom why no one has accomplished this before.  The structure is pretty simple – one player takes on the DM role while another chooses one of three heroes to go head to head against the evil Dungeon Lord.  Asymmetry is a key component as one reads story cues and assembles opposition for challenges that the legendary hero confronts.  Characters and Dungeon Lords possess special abilities, utilize equipment or monsters, and manage a hand of power cards.  The core challenge system is an opposed roll to generate successes with different types of dice weighted with different results.  Additional symbols that are rolled allow you to inflict damage on the enemy or charge your special ultimate power.  There’s lots of small mechanisms and facets to interact with but the entirety is simple and streamlined.

Over the top of this challenge system is the sexy structure of those Choose Your Own Adventure books.  The Dungeon Lord will run the player through a story card that has a branching narrative offering choice where the player can rely on logic and understanding or can attempt to feed into roleplaying his specific role.  The ensuing narrative is always interesting and actually pretty solidly written, never stooping to levels of cheese or camp.  The style of the setting and color of language reminds me most of Robert E. Howard’s sword and sorcery work, leaning towards dark magic and forgotten secrets pitted against brash warriors who lean on decisiveness and bravery.  It’s a powerful and invigorating story that is constantly moving like a fiery river smashing through a bend.  You get swallowed into the abyss and you don’t want to come up for air.



A wide array of beautiful and practical components.


After making the choice to say pull the lever or smash in the door, you will be presented with a specific challenge based around a stat coinciding with the narrative.  Typically the basis of the role is somewhat obvious as you’re going to smash the hell out of that door if you’re the Pit Fighter and relying on strength as your primary attribute.  Some choices will kind of sneak up and surprise you leading to bits of flavor text and interesting story that results in a skill you weren’t prepared to utilize.  That sense of unknown and stumbling through the story with a foreboding menace permeating the atmosphere is what digs its hooks in and smashes your bones.

Melding into the fantastic yet oppressive ambience is a number of touchstone elements such as an absolutely interesting character advancement system and the stellar Shadow Track which literally has momentum bouncing between light and dark.  However, the overarching achievement that will keep you coming back is the subtle yet powerful shift in narrative focus placed directly on the player.  The magic of Lone Wolf was that it brought you one step closer to the fiction allowing you to have a wavering hand jutting into the dark to manipulate your fate and give you a say.  However, the limitations of a paperback novel were severe and the barrier was only cracked.  Fallen shatters the blockade as you not only have choices in story flow but directly participate in the resolution via a nuanced system where choice and autonomy is granted.  The game doesn’t give you permission to act, rather it forces you to take the reins and drive the coach, whether you take that off the cliff or not is entirely up to you and the dice.  This is powerful stuff that transcends flavor text and pseudo-setting to achieve that level of immersion you only hear about in roleplaying sessions.

Overall the game is graceful and passionate but there are a couple of spots that put some pressure on the Dungeon Lord in particular to keep the pace alive.  During a specific session the narrative path will be determined by three separate story cards, each forming a chapter or act of sorts for the ongoing story.  The obstacle is that these cards are randomly drawn and not linked, so while the fiction runs smoothly on each individual card the story doesn’t always gel flawlessly from act to act.  Similarly when picking up the dice and building his pool for the challenge, the overlord selects one of his available monsters as the main adversary.  Typically the monster won’t perfectly align with the color of the challenge and will usually be selected for strategic reasons as opposed to narrative ones.  This isn’t a huge problem as it either requires a player that can suspend his disbelief or more preferably a GM-type running the bad guys who can narrate a proper segue between the disparate elements.  It’s best to picture the individual story snippets as perhaps three distinct highlights in the dungeon/adventure as opposed to one continuous narrative without breaks and to also imagine the creatures as an additional element supplementing the flavor as opposed to contrasting with it.



The Dungeon Lord controls one of three unique overarching personas, each with their own ultimate ability and unique selection of power cards. They feel very different and distinct, highlighting varied play-styles.


Undeniably the praise of this game is voluminous and storied but much like that narrative boundary inherent in its progenitors this game is stuck up against a wall holding it back.  There’s a definite stigma attached to Fallen due to the very nature of its success on Kickstarter accompanied with exclusive content.  The ire certainly is understandable on the surface as a wealth of content was available to backers that now is not here.  The truth of the matter is that nothing was cut out of the retail version of this game to satisfy the Kickstarter, this version of Fallen is what the designers intended and is their vision fully realized.  The game feels absolutely complete and will stand up to 30-40 plays, more if you have trouble remembering all of the story cards and each of their branching arcs.

Beyond the narrative possibly repeating in bites, you have a huge amount of variety between characters each possessing three unique arcs of advancement.  There is a large treasure deck to discover and many Power cards to encounter.  You could play the exact same story cards repeatedly and the experience would be drastically different depending on the creatures the Dungeon Lord draws and the evil mastermind faced.  The variety is here and passing this one over will be like throwing out the most juicy and succulent steak because you couldn’t have the entire cow.  When the already in development expansions hit you will have endless material that you will struggle to get to before your heart gives out while you’re eating fried chicken on your stained recliner watching re-runs of Jersey Shore.

Fallen is the triumphant story-driven thematic game that keeps me up at night.  It’s like a newfound lover that knows exactly what you want and pushes all the right buttons as if it’s been studying you for years.  It has me so astonished that not only does it taunt me on the verge of slumber but also while I’m in the midst of other titles, even ones I’d proclaim great.  Just because 2014 has come and gone doesn’t mean you can’t yet discover one of its defining extant releases.  Return to Magnamund and embark on the journey you were always destined for.

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Claustrophobia – Furor Sanguinis



Designer:            Croc

Publisher:           Asmodee/Marabunta


In many ways Claustrophobia is the perfect two player game.  It’s asymmetrical.  It offers somewhat deep tactical choices yet is easy to digest.  It boasts astounding variety through a multitude of scenarios and effects.  If you would have asked me in 2010 how the game could possibly be improved I would have shot back – “Improved?”.  Then De Profundis came out and my world was rocked.  In 2014 it’s happened again with Furor Sanguinis, which has taken things in an altogether different direction.

Furor Sanguinis includes a new unit, Kartikeya, 3 new tiles and a group of new tokens used across its 6 scenarios.  Kartikeya is an enormous Demon-Sized bipedal lizard whose race is known as Squamata.  He was born human and has been warped into the bestial monstrosity he is now while taking up residence in the tunnels below New Jerusalem.  He is searching for freedom and evolution by consuming the essence of Demons as he works his way up the hierarchy of hell.  It’s a compelling and bizarre narrative that unfolds across a half dozen scenarios that follow this horrific endeavor.




Kartikeya is first and foremost a beast.  If you ever wanted to Hulk smash your way through the dungeon, tossing aside Troglodytes and Humans like discarded toys, then this is the expansion for you.  Mechanically he functions like a cross between the Demon and Humans, rolling a dice pool to assign to areas that build up wounds as the game progresses.  You are able to beef up his combat ability or boost his speed and cunning.  He’s more flexibile than either previous faction and feels well bulked out as a single threat with a dynamic and nuanced play style that affords the ability to tackle many problems in creative fashion.

The Squamata’s Instinct board is similar to the Demon’s board but is divided up into sections corresponding to specific body parts.  The head has several abilities including one that offers Frantic, one that allows you to roll additional dice in the Instinct phase, and one that makes you Impressive.  The body allows for Regeneration and Elusive.  Arms control Combat ability and the Legs buff movement.  It all works rather seamlessly, offering those juicy signature tactical dilemmas of whether you go all out offense, worry about speed and pushing towards the goal, or sit back and take things slow while you maintain a safer crawl.

When you receive damage you must assign the damage to a specific body part.  Each section can take 3 or 4 wounds and once a body part has taken its maximum number you can no longer assign dice to abilities in that area or heal wounds there.  Because you can heal 1 wound a turn, the Demon or Human player can’t quite push for the death by a thousand cut strategy that works on the Humans.  The enemy will want to pick and choose his offensive moments, looking to overwhelm and provide a torrent of damage to mitigate the slow drip of the Squamata’s healing powers.  It’s an interesting pace that kind of mixes up the feel of the base game and really provides for a distinct combat experience.




One of my favorite elements of the previous expansion was the bevy of new scenarios that stretched the boundaries of the mechanics.  Likewise, Furor Sanguinis features scenarios that are a touch more creative and interesting than the base game.  You have opportunities to push through like a beast just slaughtering every foe in your path as you look to confront a tough new Demon, you also have missions where you will be navigating a delicate maze looking to locate Troglodyte eggs, one scenario even has you fielding chained Human slaves that can’t venture more than a tile away from the Squamata (think Michonne but the Walkers actually have jaws).  They’re varied, interesting, and leave you wanting to replay them to attempt different strategies and approaches.

Some of the early buzz abounding this expansion in the rumor mill was that it would allow for the possibility of 3 players.  This has always been a desire bandied about by a vocal group and it’s certainly not one I would begrudge.  However, the initial talk is not altogether accurate as there is only a single scenario that features all three factions and supports a possible three participants.  The mission itself never references three players though and it assumes the Squamata player will control the new lizard-beast as well as the Redeemer’s forces.  It works fine with the full complement of three players but this is not at all an expansion geared towards adding a third player to the table, rather, that is an added benefit of a single scenario, albeit one that is very engaging and perhaps the most memorable of the six.

What is quite fascinating about the three faction scenario and those that follow it is the winding narrative of Kartikeya and how he interacts with the previous two groups.  While his ultimate goal and hated foe are the Demons, the Squamata engages in a tumultuous relationship of uncertainty with the Redeemer-led Humans.  The narrative boasts some interesting twists that are coupled magnificently from a mechanical and design standpoint with the included scenarios.  The story that you interactively engage with is certainly interesting and it had me thumbing ahead to find out exactly where this was going.  I felt this sense of narrative and purpose to events that occurred was stronger than both the base game and De Profundis, and it’s definitely one of my favorite qualities of this release.



New tokens for Deadly Threat, Scenarios, and Kartikeya’s abilities.


Each scenario also includes a new mechanic for the Demon player that kind of flies under the radar when discussing this expansion.  Instead of drawing Demonic Cards to trigger nasty effects, the Demon player now collects Deadly Threat from that same space on his board.  This new threat can be spent to trigger unique events that appear in each scenario.  While the outcome is somewhat similar to the event deck, in practice the feel is quite a bit different.  Many of these Deadly Threat events are quite harsh and brutal, despite the fact that they may each only be triggered one time during the game.  Typically the Demon player will slowly amass this Deadly Threat and then unleash a torrent of pain over a few rounds by triggering a cascade of events that increase his punishment by an enormous factor.  To combat this approaching hell-storm, Kartikeya must move through the tunnels quickly to get to his objective before the Demon player can acquire too big of a hoard.  This acts as an interesting timer and pacing element of the game that dovetails perfectly with the healing and wound rules of the new beast.  It works admirably and never feels clunky or forced.

If you asked me for a list of gaming desires of 2014 a new Claustrophobia expansion would not have been high on the list, mostly because I thought it highly unlikely.  Luckily for us, “Furor Sanguinis” did arrive and it will tear you up and spit you out like Kartikeya shredding a helpless Trog.

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Baldrick’s Tomb Review

Baldrick's Tomb

Baldrick’s Tomb is a roguelike board game for 2-4 players. The game takes place in a four-story, underground tomb that is constantly being churned from the inside out by the late sorcerer Baldrick. The locations of everything – including treasures, traps, monsters, and even the exits – are completely randomized for every game as a result of Baldrick smashing the crypt to bits. The players are tasked with making their way down to the bottom of this tomb, collecting a precious treasure, then climbing back out.

But this is really only a means to an end. The real reason for a group of treasure hunters to explore a dangerous tomb is so that they can (hopefully) acquire heaps of treasure. Players will use their wit, push their luck, and call upon powerful scrolls to help themselves and hinder others, all in the pursuit of treasure points. The player who makes it out of the tomb with the most points wins.

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Starlit Citadel Reviews Dungeon Twister: Prison

Dungeon Twister

Dungeon Twister 2: Prison will re-launch the Dungeon Twister franchise with second edition rules, It will contain 16 miniatures, new rooms, new characters, a tutorial in 5 scenarios, a larger box and best of all, rules for Solitaire play!

Solitaire play features six levels of difficulty to provide a challenge to even the most experienced of players.

The Second Edition rules include a 5-step scenario-based tutorial. The introductory level is simple enough for an eight-year-old to learn.

This product will be backwards-compatible with all existing Dungeon Twister products.

Asmodee Publisher Blurb:

Fight, get out or die

Dungeon Twister is a strategy game for two players. You control a team of eight adventurers with varied and necessary abilities. Your objective: to escape from the Dungeon.

Unfortunately, in front of you lies a vast labyrinth of dangerous rooms which can rotate thanks to the astonishing mechanisms constructed by dwarves. These deadly traps and twistings to prevent you from escaping would be enough of a challenge by themselves, but you also face another group of adventurers with the same goal as yourself. Without relying on dice, Dungeon Twister calls upon all of your tactics and strategies, your ability to bluff, your anticipation of the danger and your management of combat and action cards.

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