Tag Archives: Skirmish game

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

Thirst…

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…

Hunger…

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…

Blood…

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 nicelyThe 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.

Components:

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

60 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?


Component Breakdown

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.

Game length:

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.

Pros

* 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

Cons

* 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…



/q

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Summoner Wars Master Set (Video Review)

Summoner Wars Master Set Front Cover

The War for Itharia Has Begun!

Summoner Wars is the exciting card game of fantastic battlefield combat that puts you in the grandiose role of a Summoner. Strategy shapes the composition of each deck of cards and how they are used. Tactics determine the effectiveness of those cards in battle. Call walls of stone to protect you in combat and serve as magic portals for you to summon your warriors. Call your forces forth and send them in a surging wave against your enemy. Cast spells that bolster your forces and cut down those who would oppose you.

~ Plaid Hat Games

Do you enjoy our video reviews? Please donate via IndieGoGo to help make Season 2 of Starlit Citadel Reviews a reality!

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Dungeon Command: Tyrrany of Goblins – A Written Review

Review #44 –

Dungeon Command: Tyranny of Goblins 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

 * * * * *

Thoriban reeled back, the pain was becoming nearly unbearable. He fought to keep control of his consciousness even the blackness at the far end of the room almost appeared to be shifting around in his field of vision. That last backhanded blow had  nearly sent him over the edge into the sweet embrace of darkness. He would not succumb though, not to this filthy goblin wretch, this ”Tarkon Draal” or whatever it called itself .

“Speak! How open door? You give word, we GO!” shouted the goblin, its putrid breath inundating his senses.

Thoriban wasn’t sure what was worse, the relentless beatings, or listening to the vile creature speak. It was amazing to Thoriban this waste of oxygen could utter words in the common tongue, let alone form a full sentence. Maybe, just maybe if he taunted the smelly beast enough it would get angry enough to just end it.

Thorabin braced himself as the next blow landed knocking out teeth and nearly dislocating his lower jawbone. Thorabin steeled his resolve and immediately spat back at the beast his teeth flying out in the process. “Ye putrid filth! Ye be thinking yer pea brain can even remember th’ words if’n I gave ‘em to ye? Jus’ let it know ye are not the enemy ye dolt!” Thorabin tried his best to muster a laugh hoping that final act of defiance would push Tarkon over the edge into rage…  

“Dothes nimere somaro sen der fa?” Thorabin’s laughing came to an abrupt stop as he realized this goblin, this enemy of his people since time immortal had just asked him in perfect dwarvish “Simply, I am not the enemy?”

Tarkon turned on his heels heading for the dwarven treasure vault but not before he took a moment to relish the look of horror on the dwarves face as he realized Tarkon was no simple moronic goblin and he had just given up all of his clans greatest treasures. Ahh yes Bane would be proud of his servant this day!

Thorabin’s screams of rage turned to fear as the blackness on the far side of the room unfurled its wings and slowly loped towards him…   

* * * * * * *


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 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 or “Cower” from attacks. When a player loses all their Morale or ends their turn without any units on the battlefield the game is over and the player who has 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, the game does not use dice, instead opting for one time use “Command Cards” that grant your creatures additional abilities, extra attacks, dodges, ripostes, and additional movement. Don’t panic though while it sounds weird at first Dungeon Command has done an amazing job mixing a little bit of Magic: The Gathering with Dungeon Twister to create a memorable game play experience that plays quickly, offers strategy, allows customization, and has plenty replay value.

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 a nice clean mannerThe first thing about the game box that will grab your attention (besides the more unique clamshell design) is the decision to use thin cardstock for the box itself. While at first I was more than ready to grouse about this decision, time has shown that the molded insert is more than durable enough to hold the box shape even when stacked on the game shelf. I am actually happy with the more environmentally minded and less wasteful decision.


The molded box insert does an admirable job of holding all the miniatures in place and includes compartments to hold all the tokens and cards. Although sleeving the cards creates a pretty snug fit.

Components:

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

60 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 of course shaking your goblin gri-gri at your monitor really aggressively might help your web browser find a discount.


Battlefield Tiles: Dungeon Command is played on a game board made up of interlocking cardboard tiles. Each tile is double sided with one side representing a dungeon complex and the other representing an outdoor area. The tiles are thick, full color, and actually contain extra graphical flourishes such as cave entrances, magical circles, skeletons, walls of brambles and more. The tiles 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. If only more companies had this kind of forward thinking. The tiles are designed to be placed in various different layouts creating different game boards each time you play. The tiles from my copy of Tyranny of Goblins are durable and after numerous plays have yet to show any signs of wear. Players who own either Sting of Lolth or Heart of Cormyr will notice a much more interactive battle map in Tyranny of Goblins including doors, rooms, and more obstructions that block line of sight which so far has deterred the reliance on pure ranged attack squads.


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. There are also some nice extra touches for example 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 good design decisions.


Cards: The cards are very nice. Anyone who complained about the more reserved use of art in the Adventure System games will be more than happy with these cards. Each card has full color original artwork. All of the artwork is very thematic and matches their respective faction very well; from 2 feral trolls facing off in a battle to the finish, to a Hobgoblin about to show a fallen humanoid “Goblin Mercy” 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 even 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 appears to be in the middle range, not the thickest I have ever seen in a game, but definitely not as paper thin as some games I own. I would put them at just ever so slightly thinner than your average current market Collectible Card Game. Since these cards are not shuffled often (generally only once per game) you really don’t need to sleeve these cards unless it is just something you are inclined to do. After a dozen plays the cards are still holding up very well without any signs of wear or tear but the cards did have an obvious “bridge” to them. Repeated shuffling seems to be slowly working the warp out thankfully making me think they were shrink-wrapped by the manufacturing plant before they were completely dried out. As a final note, the cards are numbered and have a 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 special abilities. 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 sculpts are fairly well made with some embellishments such as detailed armor and each creatures name is on the bottom of the base. As stated the plastic used is the softer malleable plastic which adds to the longevity of the miniatures and there is little fear of a staff or sword breaking. The downside to the softer plastic though is that they do not hold the finer details that the harder plastics and metals can and they can occasionally be “floppy” looking (compare the 2 Hobgoblin swords for a good example).


The paint jobs range from simplistic; the smaller goblins use what can be best described as simplistic muddy colors, to pretty decent, the Troll has some good use of shading, about on par with a “Dip Method” paint job. A hobby painter could, and easily can if so inclined, paint better miniatures. Honestly though the paint jobs are a nice touch and sometimes it is nice to just open up a game, toss the components onto the table, and just start playing without worrying about hours of hard work being ruined by a chip.


I am more than happy with the included paint jobs because I know I can easily pull out my paints and spruce them up quite easily. Once you start building war bands you might want to touch them up with paints to keep units from the same faction controlled by different players more distinct or simply rely on the included cardboard tokens if you are not inclined to whip out a paint brush any time soon. The miniatures are designed to use the same scale used in the Dungeons and Dragons Role playing game and the Adventure System games making 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 in all 3 faction packs.

Components and Presentation Verdict: 8.75/10 – 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 nice. Aside from the warp in the cards that is thankfully working its way out and the difficulties inherent in 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 but lost by having your units defeated. On a players turn they may move all their creatures and perform only one action per creature. Order Cards let players break the rules and do other things such as attack multiple times, move units on 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 lead your squad to victory over your enemies or will they suffer crushing and humiliating defeat?


Component Breakdown

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. Tyranny of Goblins includes a card that does in fact 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 4 Creature like this Goblin Wolf Rider can use any Order Card of level 4 or under with the DEX 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 Goblin Wolf Rider has the statistics of DEX and CHA, so a Goblin Wolf Rider may use any Order Card level 4 or under that uses the Dexterity or Charisma Keyword(s). So while the Goblin Wolf Rider could use Death Sentence (level 3 CHA) it could not use Feral Vitality (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.


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, Snig can have 5), Starting Order Hand (how many Order Cards they draw at the beginning of the game, Snig starts with 4), Morale (lose all your Morale and you lose the game, Snig starts with 14), and finally Leadership (how many Total Levels of Creatures they can control on the Battlefield at once, Snig starts with 6). 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 6 you could have a level 5 and a level 1 Creature out or 2 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 Tarkon’s turn his Morale is at 12 and his leadership is at 10 facing off against Snig with 14 Morale and 8 Leadership. Tarkon has a level 3 Hobgoblin Soldier on the board flanked by a level 1 Goblin Cutter, a level 3 Hobgoblin Sorcerer, and a level 3 Goblin Champion. Opposing them are a level 4 Bugbear Berserker and a level 4 Goblin Wolf Rider.

Tarkon untap’s all his creatures, draws a Command card, and since he doesn’t have any ongoing effects he moves on to his Activate Phase. Tarkon immediately goes on the offensive tapping the Hobgoblin Sorcerer and unleashing the fury of the Ray of Frost card he just drew targeting the Goblin Wolf Rider. Snig retaliates by playing Narrow Escape tapping the Goblin Wolf Rider and preventing 20 points of damage. The Goblin Wolf Rider is tapped but only takes 10 damage total. Next the Hobgoblin Soldier charges in and swings at the Goblin Wolf Rider Dealing 20 damage reducing it to 50 hit points and flanking it for… the Goblin Champion! The Goblin Champion rushes to the attack scoring 20 damage + 10 from flanking for a total of 30 bringing the beleaguered Wolf Rider down to 20 remaining hit points. Finally the Goblin Cutter Rushes in for the killing blow dealing 20 points of damage thanks to his special ability, defeating it, and costing Snig 4 Morale. Snig retaliates by activating the Goblin Wolf Riders special ability and replaces the fallen creature with a level 1 Goblin Archer.

The Deploy phase begins, Tarkon increases his Leadership by one, and then his Deploy phase ends.

Finally Tarkon performs his cleanup phase and untap’s all 4 of his creatures. Then play passes to Snig who is down to 10 Morale and ready for some payback starting with his ability to deploy during the refresh phase and an angry Troll begging to unleash its fury.

Simplicity of the Rules: 8.75/10 – To me the rules for Dungeon Command simply ‘click’ for me. I admit I bring years of experience from “Magic: The Gathering” and “Dungeons and Dragons” to the table but even ignoring that the rules flow well. The only challenge that players will have is timing issues and rules exceptions created by the cards themselves. I find if you stick to last in first out rule and walk through the steps of the Order cards step by step they do in fact make sense. There are a few rules and concepts that may take a game or 2 to get down without forgetting some minor details for example stopping movement any time you are adjacent to an enemy unless you have a power (shifting) that states otherwise. Overall though simply remember any rule on a card trumps the rules in the rulebook and before long you will be playing without any problems.

 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. The game is full of very high fantasy artwork including Trolls, Hobgoblins, and other humanoid races. Some of the images depict violence and blood shed from melee combat but overall beyond some depictions of very high fantasy creatures the images are not extremely graphic.  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.

You will probably want to keep this game in the 10 years and older section of the board game closet and away from the eyes of littler geeks, not because of intentional questionable content but because high fantasy by its very nature can be dark.

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 for now.

Game length:

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 minutes or less making this a game you can play multiple times in one night. The game also does a fantastic job of scaling well with 2, 3, or even 4 players and while 3 player games can occasionally lead to preying on the weak, since if you are leading in Morale your best strategy is to kill whichever player has the lowest Morale to bring the game to an end. 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 I would not turn down a 3 player game if one was offered.

Pros

* 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

* While I am constantly finding powerful card combinations I have yet to find anything I would call “unbeatable”

* 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 3rd faction that plays differently than the prior 2 factions

Cons

* Longevity of the system will continue to hinge on continued balance and unique new game mechanics

* 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

But Is It Fun?

Dungeon Command is a fantastic squad level tactical miniatures game. It takes mechanics from a few 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 some tactical games on the market. The Cowering rules also add a 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 handful of instances and you will lose with a full compliment of creatures still on the game board. The game is also fairly quick playing taking as little as 30 minutes but rarely going over the 60 minute mark once the game is set up.

The components are made from thick cardstock and the Battlefield tiles are designed to add to your tactical options. I like how each faction uses different Battlefield tiles, with Tyranny introducing doors, rooms, and other additions that will force players to change up their tactics if they want to win. I have not tried it yet but I want to use a fast moving Lolth based squad against a strong Cormyrian War Wizard squad on the Tyranny of Goblins battlefield just to see the results.

The miniatures also really add to the game. There is just something tactile and appealing about moving a figure across a game board versus a cardboard token. Wizards of the Coast even went 1 step further by painting these figures really adding to the eye candy. Some may argue that these paint jobs are not great but that misses the point entirely. The point is they are in fact painted and even a mediocre paint job is better than no paint job, the “Dip Method” proves that point. The plastic used for the miniatures is the softer kind of plastic instead of the hard plastic that is used in some games. This is a trade off type of situation, you can have the harder plastics that hold more detail but are prone to snapping and breaking or you can have the softer plastics that while not as detailed can survive a 4 year old. I like both types of plastics for their own advantages and disadvantages. My Super Dungeon Explore set arrived at my door with broken spears and arms which is something that will not be an issue with Dungeon Command.

Tyranny of Goblins adds a 3rd faction to the game and it plays differently than Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr. Out of the box Tyranny brings the concept of the “Swarm” style of play to Dungeon Command. Creatures in Tyranny have the ability to “split” into a slightly weaker creature when defeated. For example when the level 4 Goblin Wolf Rider is defeated, its controller can immediately deploy a level 3 wolf or goblin in its place. Tyranny also contains low level weak creatures that gain strength in numbers and deal more damage based on how many are on a single target. There is definitely a lot of synergy and potential for explosive damage. Tyranny also seems to blend extremely well with the 2 priors factions giving you some very powerful combinations if you blend all 3 faction packs together.

There are a few caveats to the game. The game is playable with 2 players using only a single faction pack but it really doesn’t do the game justice. The game is designed for each player to have their own faction and is even better when you start to customize your squads. The diceless gameplay may also be polarizing for some players and their really isn’t a way around it. Finally a neophyte to the game is going to be at a pretty severe disadvantage even using the stock faction packs playing against an experienced player. An experienced player knows that when they see a Dragon Knight charging towards their Troll, a killing blow is coming. Knowledge like this is the key to winning a battle and only comes with experience. I find games that reward experience to be very enjoyable but do a neophyte a favor and try not to trounce them terribly?

As a side note while this faction pack is well made I would not suggest it as your first faction pack to buy if you are wanting to decide if this is the game for you. The break down between the gold and silver if played by 2 players using only 1 faction pack seems to hamstring some of the great combinations this faction is capable of. I would say so far Sting of Lolth is the best first set for new players who have never played the game before.

That’s all fine and good but I already enjoy Dungeon Command, tell me why I need this Faction Pack?

Ahh yes Tyranny of Goblins, a faction pack that brings some interesting combinations not only among its own faction but creates some great synergy with the other 2 faction packs.

Let’s start with Snig the Axe. His weakness is a low starting leadership of only 6 but it is countered with his ability to deploy units during the refresh phase of the players turn. This grants him the ability to launch some very surprising attacks since he can deploy a unit and then activate it on the same turn, very deadly when paired with units that can deploy across the battlefield.

There are also quite a few tricks up this faction’s sleeve, including the Wolf Riders ability to split into a weaker unit when defeated something that cannot be underestimated. Tyranny also brings the highest hit point creature to the battlefield with a monstrous 140 hit points, reach of 2 and a hit that will leave a mark. Pair him with Tough as Nails which allows him to shrug off 10 points of damage from any source and you have a veritable tank. Sprinkle liberal uses of Reckless Attack to create a behemoth that can pound out 70 damage hits to anything within a 2 square reach.

The Goblin Champion is also a fantastic little needler. On his own not terribly powerful for his level but pair him up with Goblin War Cry and a handful of Goblin Cutters and you have a sea of little Cuisinart’s that will slice and dice the opposition into ribbons.

Tyranny also plays very nicely with the other factions. Ray of Frost might seem like a no brainer to give to a War Wizard, but with its level of 2 it is also great if paired up with a Drow Wizard bringing them closer to a War Wizards power. Arcane Ritual on a Hobgoblin Sorcerer will create a great tactical boost to your team. Blast of force will help you reposition those pesky range attackers and direct them into the waiting hands of your very hungry Troll. For a really fun little surprise use Shattered Weapon on a Goblin archer, they are already at 0 melee damage making the side effect meaningless to the level 1 creature.

Tyranny of Goblins is definitely a great addition to the game and will surely create new ways to modify your squads and bring your enemies to their knees.

Overall Final Game Verdict: 9.0/10 – Dungeon Command is a great, fully customizable, squad level tactical strategy game. The faction packs continue to offer variety and bring something new to the tabletop with each new addition to the series. I do hope they eventually sell packs of Order and Creature cards at a later date but with some of the low prices I have seen on the internet for these faction packs I don’t think I would be saving all that much by going that route anyways. With this faction pack my score for the Dungeon Command game system is actually going up!

As with the other faction packs Tyranny of Goblins does include cards to use all these monsters with your Adventure System board games.


/q

 

 

 

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Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth – A Written Review

Review #39 – For All Your Board Game News and Reviews Visit 2D6.org!

Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth By Chris Dupuis, Peter Lee, Kevin Tatroe, and Rodney Thompson – Art By Kerem Beyit, Daarken, Jason Engle, Dan Scott, and Ben Wootten – Published By Wizards of the Coast

Aliszandra stared down her nose at the pathetic male standing before her, barely paying attention to his rambling about the ‘possible dangers in the cave ahead’. She was a chosen high priestess of Lolth she cared little for a few insignificant surface dwelling humans spotted heading for the same cavernous complex. The visions from her goddess were telling her untold riches would be found in the ancient abandoned Duergar city and if some filthy humans would happen to get in her way, so be it… they would make tantalizing sacrifices to Lolth. Aliszandra’s delicate hand moved faster than the naked eye could see backhanding the drow male and sending him sprawling to the ground where he lay stunned from the unexpected blow. “SILENCE!” she hissed between clenched teeth her patience obviously worn thin. “Take your miserable hide, the drider, and a few spiders and bring me those humans!” Her voice then turned soft as she added “Alive I might add, I could use a few… play things to entertain the rest of us this evening”.

Valnar held his hand up to his compatriots as he signaled for silence. Caverns were always treacherous and sound had an odd way to travel but unless his ears deceived him that last muffled sound was a grunt of pain. Rhynseera had warned him this abandoned dark dwarven city was bound to be guarded by ‘something’ she just couldn’t scry exactly what that ‘something’ was. No treasure was worth losing his life or the life of his loyal guards over. Valnar quietly motions for the War Wizard and the Dwarven Cleric to take point while the Dragon Knight and Human Ranger cautiously advance deeper into the complex…  

* * * * * * *


Dungeon Command is a small scale fantasy based skirmish level tactical miniatures game for 2-4 players that uses pre-built or custom war bands. The game is played on double sided interlocking battlefield tiles representing a “Dungeon” or an “Outdoor scene” that is placed before the game starts to form the battlefield. The Battlefield Tiles come in 2 sizes, 4×8 and 8×8 square grids used for determining movement and range. Each team has a “Morale Level” based on the Commander chosen to lead the war band (usually in the low to mid teens), Morale can be raised by finding the treasures placed on the board before the game starts or playing order cards and Morale can be lost by losing units or having units “Cower”. When a player loses all their Morale or ends their turn without a unit on the battlefield the game is over and a winner is declared.

In a unique twist, the game does not use dice, instead opting for one time use “Command Cards” that grant your units additional abilities such as extra attacks, dodges, ripostes, and the ability to move across the board. Don’t panic though while it sounds weird at first Dungeon Command has done an amazing job mixing a little bit of Magic: The Gathering with Dungeon Twister to create a memorable game play experience.

What’s In The Box


Dungeon Command comes in an 11.5”x9”x3” clamshell design box that includes a fantastic molded insert that holds all the games components in a nice clean manner.

The first thing about the game box that will grab your attention (besides the more unique clamshell design) is the decision to use thin cardstock for the box itself. While at first the collector in me frowned upon this, my more environmental side realized that the molded insert was more than durable enough to hold the box shape even when stacked on the game shelf so I am actually happy about the less wasteful decision.


The molded box insert does a fantastic job of holding all the miniatures in place and there are compartments for the tokens and cards (with the card compartment large enough to snuggly hold the cards even after sleeving them).

Components:

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

60 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 but of course some astute crystal ball scrying could save you a few Menzoberranzan gems.


Battlefield Tiles: Dungeon Command is played on a game board made up of interlocking tiles. Each tile is double sided with one side representing a dungeon complex and the other representing an outdoor area. The tiles are thick, full color, and actually contain extra graphical flourishes such as cave entrances, 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. If only more companies had this kind of forward thinking. The tiles are designed to be placed in various different layouts creating different game boards each time you play. The tiles from my copy of Sting of Lolth are still pristine after numerous plays, without any sign of warping.


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. There are also some nice extra touches for example 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 good design decisions.


Cards: The cards are very nice. Anyone who complained about the more reserved use of art in the Adventure System games will be more than happy with these cards. Each card has full color artwork that I believe is actually original artwork. All of the artwork is very thematic and matches their respective faction very well; Drow cards show spiders/spider webs and a general darkness matching that evil race while Heart of Cormyr cards depict more “heroic” surface dwelling action. 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 even 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 learn which card goes with which miniature during the first couple early learning games. The cardstock on the cards appears to be in the middle range, not the thickest I have ever seen in a game, but definitely not as paper thin as some games I own. I would put them at just ever so slightly thinner than your average current market Collectible Card Game. Since these cards are not shuffled often (generally only once per game) you really don’t need to sleeve these cards unless it is just something you are inclined to do. After a dozen plays the cards are still holding up very well without any signs of wear or tear. As a final note, the cards are numbered and have a set symbol on them should you choose to customize your war bands yet occasionally want to play with the original prepackaged war band. There is one error though, card 6/36 “Faerie Fire” does have a misprint incorrectly listing it is a level 1 Command Card. Errata has indeed confirmed it is actually a level 2 card.


Commander Cards: Each faction pack comes with 2 unique Commander Cards with different statistics and special abilities. 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 sculpts are fairly well made with some embellishments like insignias, armor details, and the units name on the bottom of the base. As stated the plastic used is the softer malleable plastic which adds to the longevity of the miniatures where you will have little fear of spider legs or swords breaking. The downside to the softer plastic though is that while the sculpts are nice they do not hold the finer details that the harder plastics and metals can.


The paint jobs range from simplistic (a Drow humanoid doesn’t require much paint variety beyond black and… less black) to pretty decent about on par with a “Dip Method” paint job. A hobby painter could (and easily can if so inclined) paint better but honestly the paint jobs are a nice touch and sometimes it is nice to just open up a game, toss the components onto the table, and just start playing without miniatures nagging me to whip out my paint brushes (cough)Super Dungeon Explore (cough). I am more than happy with the included paint jobs because I know I can easily pull out my paints and spruce them up quite easily; I most likely will eventually do so when I start building war bands to keep units from the same faction controlled by different players more distinct. The miniatures are the same scale as used in the Dungeons and Dragons Role playing game and the Adventure System games making them 100% interchangeable.


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 directions for 3 or 4 player free for alls or team based games and rules for building your own war bands from scratch.

Components and Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 – Overall the components are nicely done in Dungeon Command. The figures are painted, the cards have nice artwork, and even the Battlefield Tiles are nice to look at with additional artistic flourishes. Aside from the fact that the Battlefield Tiles interlock very loosely and a single erroneous card I cannot find anything about the components to complain about.

How Does It Play?

Dungeon Command is a small scale skirmish level war game where each player takes control of a small fantasy war band that will slowly grow in power as the game rounds pass. Players will gain treasures and fight the opponent but the eventual goal is to either remove all your opponents units from the board or drop their Morale to zero or lower forcing them to retreat from the battlefield. Morale is gained by finding treasures but lost by having your units defeated. On a players turn they will Move all their units and usually perform only one action but Order Cards let players occasionally do other things such as attack multiple times, move units on 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.

Can you lead your War Band to victory or will they suffer crushing and humiliating defeat at the hands of your enemies!

Component Breakdown

Before I break down the game components there are a few mechanics that need to be explained:

The most important thing is that used Creature and Order Cards are NOT shuffled back into a draw deck, when all your cards are gone, they are gone.

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 (even if you have multiple similar miniatures they each need a matching card in your creature deck).  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 5 Creature like this Umber Hulk can use any Order Card of level 5 or under (but miniatures can assist each other to temporarily raise their current level to 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 Umber Hulk has the statistics of STR and DEX, so an Umber Hulk can use any Order Card level 5 or under that uses Strength or Dexterity. So while the Umber Hulk could use Deep Wound (level 1 DEX) it could not use Faerie Fire (Level 2 INT). 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 does every time it attacks and is not blocked by an order card (range is 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 is listed in multiples of 10). The very bottom of the Creature lists the Creatures Speed (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 included with the game).


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 game using only 1 faction deck.


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 a number of Treasure Chest Tokens. As a Standard Action a Creature can claim one of the Tokens if they are on that space, doing so raises that teams Morale by one point.


Commander Card: The Commanders are the leaders of the war bands 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), Starting Order Hand (how many Order Cards they draw at the beginning of the game), Morale (lose all your Morale and you lose the game), and finally Leadership (how many Total Levels of Creatures they can control on the Battlefield at once). Of all the statistics on a Commander Card, Leadership is one that deserves special mention. 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 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 6 and a level 1 Creature out or 3 level 2 Creatures and a level 1 Creature. Your Leadership Score raises 1 point on every one of your turns though so you will slowly be adding more (or more powerful) creatures to the Battlefield (dead Creatures DO NOT count towards your Leadership, only living Creatures 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 whose total levels are 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 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 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 it 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 with no creatures on the battlefield, the game ends at that point. The player with the highest Morale is the winner. (However, you cannot win if you caused the game to end because you had no 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 few turns into a 2 player gaming using only 1 faction pack. It is Aliszandra’s turn and she currently controls a Drider, Drow House Guard, and a Drow Assassin totaling 10 levels (out of her current 10 Leadership leaving 0 points unspent).  Kalteros controls an Umber Hulk, Shadow Mastiff, and Drow House Guard which are all quickly closing in on Aliszandra’s forces. Aliszandra un-Taps all her Creatures and draws an Order Card getting “Near Miss” – Prevent 20 damage and un-Tap this Creature. The Drow Assassin currently has the card “Vial of Poison” – add +30 damage with next melee attack equipped. Aliszandra notices her House Guard is 9 squares away from the Umber Hulk so she moves her House Guard 6 spaces, plays “Stalk” to shift behind the Umber Hulk, plays the minor action “Faerie Fire”- Anytime target creature takes damage add +10, and then taps to play “Piercing Strike”- Melee attack for +10 damage cannot be prevented. The Umber Hulk gives out a grunt as it loses 40 hit points leaving it with 60 hit points.

Next Aliszandra charges 11 spaces with the Drider, Taps, and plays “Deep Wound”- Melee +10 damage and target bleeds. Kalteros isn’t about to let his Umber Hulk die without a fight and plays “Near Miss”- Prevent 20 damage and un-Tap this creature. The Umber Hulk still takes 10+10 damage from Faerie Fire, for a total of 60 damage so far this turn, and is now bleeding (loses 10 hit points at the start of each turn) but un-Tapped.

Aliszandra is out for blood and finally moves her Drow Assassin 5 spaces and then plays Shadowy Ambush in an effort to end the Umber Hulks life (what’s a little overkill between Drow, right?). Aliszandra is hoping Kalteros doesn’t have any defensive cards as she announces a total of 60 points of damage. Kalteros frowns as he watches his Umber Hulk slump to the cold stone floor and Aliszandra grins because her Assassin still has “Vial of Poison”. Kalteros is now down 5 Morale for losing a level 5 creature.

Aliszandra’s Deploy Phase begins and she raises her Leadership 1 point but doesn’t have enough Leadership to add any Creatures to the Battlefield. Finally Aliszandra performs her Cleanup Phase, making sure to un-Tap all her Creatures, and then ends her turn.
It’s now time for Kalteros to even the score some with a little card called “Sneak attack” and “Stalk”.

Simplicity Of The Rules: 8.75/10 – I must admit that I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons in its various incarnations since the mid 1980’s and up through 4th addition so the rules really did click for me (they do after all pay homage to the 4th Edition Rules). Movement, shifting, assisting, even the statistics seemed like old hat to me. Having said that I can see some of the concepts taking a game or 2 to get all of them down without forgetting some minor details for example stopping movement any time you are adjacent to an enemy unless you have a card or power (shifting) that states otherwise. Speaking of cards they might cause the greatest confusion due to one rule “Any rule on a card trumps the rules in the rulebook”. Overall though after a game or 2 the rules are really easy to remember and play.

Daddy Why’s This Guy Got A Sword In His Belly?

A s 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 lists as a card based miniatures game for 2-4 players (as long as you have enough faction packs) ages 12+. It requires hand management, Action Point allowance, and strategy to play well. The artwork is very high fantasy including Dark Elves (Drow), mythical beasts (Umber Hulk), and an arachnophobes worst nightmare (lots of spiders). Some of the images are on the slightly violent side (but less so than Heart of Cormyr) such as the “Sacrifice” card depicting an unclothed subject having liquid poured over their body by a Drow Priestess. Overall the artwork isn’t blatantly gory or anything along those lines but it does depict a few images of humanoids getting the business end of a blade and Umber Hulks are not about to win any beauty pageants any time soon. 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.

All this is just to say you will probably want to keep the game in the 10+ crowd and keep it away from younger board game geeks. Again the game isn’t overly intentionally being dark or gory it is just high fantasy and it comes with those typical clichés.

Family Friendliness Verdict: 7.0/10 – The game can make a great family game for families with kids approaching the teen years especially with its scalable player count and customization of war bands increasing replay value. This isn’t Heroquest 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 for now.

Game length:

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. Even a 4 player game (using only 2 faction packs, sorry I don’t have a 4th faction pack yet to test with each player using a full faction pack) can end in 60 minutes or less (45 minutes still being more common to be honest). The game also does a fantastic job of scaling well with 2, 3, or even 4 players and while 3 player games would occasionally lead to preying on the weak (if you are leading in Morale it is best to kill whichever player has the least Morale to bring the game to an end and gain victory). A 4 player game mitigates this slightly though making this game best with 2 or 4 players depending on your group’s bloodthirstiness, yet I would not turn down a 3 player game if one was offered.

Pros

* Great looking game components including pre-painted miniatures

* Great potential for expandability especially with future faction packs and customizable war bands

* Fairly quick playing skirmish level game

* Fairly logical rules that are easy to grasp after a game or two

* Cowering mechanics (while I didn’t cover them in great detail they add a certain level of strategy to the game)

* Powerful card combo’s but I have yet to find an unbeatable strategy

* 14 plays and it still feels balanced

* 2 sided Battlefield board offering game variety (and I like the environmental hazards on the Battlefield board)

* Morale mechanics making the game more strategic versus just blowing up all your opponents miniatures

* Does a fantastic job of doing away with dice

* The 2 current Factions play quite differently

Cons

* The longevity of the game system will hinge on how balanced future faction packs are

* First time players might want to make a printout listing all available actions so players don’t forget game mechanics (Dodge seems to be a common culprit)

* Some card combos are deadly if you do not have a counter for them allowing instant kills (admittedly only a con if you are new and are not expecting it)

* Diceless playing might turn some players off

* The randomness of your starting forces might be a negative for some

But Is It Fun?

Wizards of the Coast has done an admirable job creating a skirmish level game that is strategic, customizable, and plays well with 2-4 players. The components are well made using thick cardstock, painted miniatures, fantastic artwork on the cards/double sided Battlefield, and even the insert is made extremely well and holds all the games components. There is some great potential for expandability and customization in this game. Faction packs can be mixed and matched to create war bands, there are at least 5 faction packs we know of and I am sure there will be a 6th announced within the next few months. The 2 faction packs so far play differently but feel balanced; Cormyr relies on slow moving, heavy hitting, damage absorbing, turtling forces and Sting of Lolth brings fast moving (the Drider can move up to 12 spaces with the right Commander), hit and run, hard to hit (Uncanny dodge can stop any one hit no matter how much damage it does – Yes even Killing blow), Creatures and Order cards.  I have yet to see a blowout victory between the 2 faction packs and that really says a lot about the games balance so far. It will be interesting to see how future customized war bands keep the balance though, while I don’t foresee anything obnoxiously unbalancing yet I am leery of some combinations (Shadowy Ambush and Giant Spiders seems interesting…). Time will tell if customized factions will continue to be balanced and if they fail to be I am sure house rules or just pre-built factions will still provide balance and entertainment.

The game plays quickly for what it is, my original concern was that it would be a 2 hour game (much like Dungeon Twister). I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed games taking 30 minutes on average to complete. I also like the interaction of the Order Cards and the bluffing they can create. Do I risk hitting a creature with Shadowy Ambush when I see my opponent has a couple Order Cards in hand? Do I hit them with a small attack and hope they Tap so then I can lay into them with a heavy hitter later? There is definitely planning that goes into every action.

I really like the inclusion of the Cowering rules they add a bit of a gamble to your strategies that you really appreciate after a few plays. Do I Cower and hope I can get a few treasures to make up for the lost Morale? Do I let my Creature die knowing that my Creature reserves are finite and will run out eventually? I think the Morale rules do a great job of preventing the game from becoming a long boring slog, knowing I can lose not because I am out of creatures but because a few of my really powerful monsters were destroyed really makes me consider my moves and the possible ramifications of sacrificing a Creature. The Order cards do a great job of adding variety and strategy to the game. I really do not miss rolling dice in this game the cards make the game feel less random and more strategic. Also the Order Cards provided with the 2 factions really counteract each other well, a Dragon Knight using Killing Strike on the surface may seem powerful, yet Uncanny Dodge stops it dead in its tracks. I actually love the “Bluffing” that can be created from the order cards. If your opponent has cards in their hand then they have the potential to mess up your plans… or do they? You just don’t know what cards they have in their hand. You really need to be strategic with your use of Order Cards, even when on the defensive, and tossing out cards without rhyme or reason will lead to a quick defeat.

As a faction “Sting of Lolth” is designed as a fast moving war band that specializes in deceptive hit and run tactics. As of now Sting of Lolth has the highest potential movement with the Drider able to move 12 full spaces if you have the correct Commander leading the war band. Even the more middle range units such as the Giant Spider are able to move 9 spaces and use quick hard hitting cards like “Shadowy Ambush” for 50 points of damage. Sting of Lolth also has cards that do damage over time such as “Faerie Fire” which causes the target to take + 10 damage any time they are hit until dispelled and “Deep Wound” which continues to damage the target each round. Also worth mentioning is “Piercing Strike” a level one card that makes the next attack add +10 damage and become unblockable, combine this with “Faerie Fire” and “Vial of Poison” for some truly devastating lightning strikes. Range with the Drow faction can also be deceptive with Order Cards that let Creatures move before and after attacks makes it difficult for your opponents to ever know if you are in range to attack. The Drow currently have the most powerful defensive card in the game “Uncanny Dodge” prevent all damage from 1 attack. Add to all this Order Cards like “Scheme” which can be discarded to draw 2 more Order Cards and Sting of Lolth becomes a very devious faction that should never be underestimated. Any time I use this faction I make sure my opponent knows I have 2 Order Cards in my hand the bluffing of that alone can unnerve opponents. It helps if I grin deviously at the same time…

There are a few caveats to the game system though. The game is playable with 2 players with only a single faction pack but it really doesn’t do the game justice. It is almost akin to playing Dominion with the same basic 10 cards every time you play, fun at first but eventually you will long for the full potential you know the game possesses.


You will want 2 faction packs to create more varied and larger Battlefield layouts using more Creatures per side and more Order Cards. Granted the game is a good value at $40 per faction pack it will be an $80 minimum investment to really get the most out of the game. Eventually you will want to customize your factions but as of now that requires the purchase of a 2nd or even a 3rd copy of a faction pack even if you own a chest full of miniatures. Order Cards are not sold separately and I hope Wizards of the Coast corrects this oversight. Your average player will need 2 faction packs for the Battlefields but beyond that they would really only need a pack of Order and Creature cards to really get into customization.


The overall longevity of Dungeon Command will hinge on future faction packs. Wizards of the Coast will have to work hard to avoid the perils of faction bloat, where each new faction is more powerful than the last (I don’t see it happening but it would be detrimental to the overall game experience). So far the balance is there, if they can keep the factions interchangeable and balanced they will definitely have a winner on their hands.

There is some randomness to the game, from random starting order cards to random starting creatures, occasionally you might get a starting hand that is not optimal for the strategy you want to play. Strategy plays more of a role in the game than luck of the draw though and luck of the draw has yet to cause any landslide losses. To be honest I like games that offer a little randomness and would have enjoyed Dungeon Command less if it used the same starting Creature and Order cards every time you play.

The game does have quite a few rules that could have used a few summary cards for those first early learning games. Granted after a couple games this isn’t as much of an issue and the rules become easy enough to remember. Finally there is no getting around the diceless gameplay I personally like it and think the Order Cards are a fantastic alternative to the randomness dice create but I can appreciate that some people just crave the randomness of dice in their games. I would say give the game a try before you make a final opinion about the diceless game play, the game just might surprise you.

Overall Final Game Verdict: 8.75/10 – Dungeon Command is a fun skirmish level game with customizability, strategic decisions, and a great fantasy theme. Wizards of the Coast is really continuing to surprise me with some fantastic game designs lately and Dungeon Command is no different. I do hope they eventually release the Creature and Order cards for separate purchase, between Heroscape and the Adventure System Games; I have more than enough plastic to field customized war bands but not enough cards. I am looking forward to future faction packs and would like to humbly put in my vote now for an elemental faction.

*************************************************************************************************************


Cross promotions are a wonderful thing and Dungeon Command definitely stepped up to the plate here. Ignoring the fact that the miniatures are fully compatible with the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game Wizards of the Coast also added cards to make all these miniatures fully compatible with the Adventure System Board Games. Sting of Lolth comes with cards to add more monsters to oppose your adventuring party…

Heart of Cormyr brought you allies and Sting of Lolth brings you… pain. With 12 new Monster Cards to add to your Adventure System games, while they don’t add anything that hasn’t been seen before they do add variety and a reason to use painted figures with your Adventure System games.

These Monster Cards are compatible with all 3 Adventure System games and add variety to the random encounters

The dungeon side of the tiles from Dungeon Command are about 95% compatible with the Adventure System tiles allowing you to either create a larger Battlefield for Dungeon Command or alternately the Dungeon Command tiles can be used as a “Final Battle Room” for the Adventure System games. The only minor issue I had is that the double sized tiles from the Adventure System “Legend of Drizzt” do not line up perfectly with the large Battlefield tiles from Dungeon Command. The single sized tiles all connected quite easily though (as you can see from the included photo).

 

/q

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Summoner Wars Master Set – A Written Review

Review #37 – For All Your Board Game News and Reviews Visit 2D6.org!

Summoner Wars By Colby Dauch – Published By Plaid Hat Games – Art By John Ariosa And Gary Simpson

 “It was Ret-Talus, the lord of the Fallen Kingdom, who found the first Summoning Stone. The stone bestowed its power onto the dark-hearted king, changing him into the first of the Summoners. For a thousand years Ret-Talus went unchallenged as he and his summonings wrought havoc upon the world of Itharia. The power of the stone was so great, that though the world sent entire armies to fight against him, none could defeat Ret-Talus. It was not until Dane Lightbringer discovered a second Summoning Stone, that Ret-Talus’s reign was put in check. The discovery of a second stone gave a new hope to the people of Itharia for not only did it mean that Ret-Talus’s power might be countered, but it also meant that the Summoning Stone was not unique. If there were two, surely there were more. Every faction of Itharia began pouring their resources into scouring the world for a Summoning Stone to claim as their own. More stones were revealed, and more Summoners emerged, but the Summoners of Itharia have failed to unite against their common threat and have instead let old faction rivalries and the desire for more Summoning Stones turn them against one another, and so it is that…

The Summoner Wars have begun!”

* * * * * * *


Summoner Wars, is a tactical board game for 2 players played on an 8×6 grid, with additional 2 versus 2 team based rules using 4 Summoners and 2 game boards. Each player controls a faction led by a powerful and unique Summoner in a battle where each player seeks to destroy their opponents Summoner and win the game. With gameplay reminiscent of classic tactical console games such as Final Fantasy: Tactics, Shining Force, and the more obscure but no less classic Mystaria, mixed in with the capture the leader objective of Chess, sautéed with a hint of Magic: The Gathering, and garnished with a subtle hint of Race for the Galaxy, Summoner Wars is a fantasy themed tactical miniatures style smorgasbord that uses cards in place of actual miniatures. The agonizing twist though is that you need to discard valuable cards from your hand to pay the cost to bring other cards into play!

Player’s will summon their forces, maneuver across a tactical grid, and crush the enemy but the game isn’t over until your opponent’s, far from helpless, Summoner is vanquished.

What’s In The Box


Summoner Wars, comes in a 14” x 14” x 3” box that includes a fantastic molded insert that aptly holds all the games components in a nice neat manner with ample room to sleeve your cards and store additional purchasable factions.

Components:

1 Rulebook

1 Battlefield Board split into 2 halves

5 Six-Sided Dice

20 double sided Wound Markers

225 Cards – Broken down into 6 separate factions

 


Cards: Summoner Wars is predominantly a card game. Thankfully money was thrown at the quality control department and it shows. The cardstock is thick with a glossy laminate which will definitely add to the longevity of the cards. These are full color cards with unique artwork on the front and back and different colored backs to help differentiate between the factions and speed up clean up after a match. The game mechanics are laid out on the cards in a very clean manner with extra large fonts used for the relevant rules, for example a unit’s combat strength number is large enough to be seen from across the table by an opponent. Very discernable images are used to differentiate between ranged and melee attacks, a bow and arrow signifies ranged attack and a sword denotes a melee unit. Even a unit’s special abilities are written in a nice clean font on a nicely contrasting background. Each card has a full color piece of artwork covering about 1/3rd of the card which is very thematic and done extremely well. From the humanoid “Goat-men” of the Mountain Vargath to the desert themed Sand Goblins these 40+ paintings are great. The cards are slightly smaller than what would be considered the standard card size probably best described as a middle ground between “Yu Gi Oh” and “Legend of the Five Rings” which can be slightly problematic when trying to sleeve these cards. While the cards are hardy enough that you do not need to sleeve the cards I was able to find sleeves that were passable if you are so inclined.


I’ll add a few footnotes at the end of this review (since this isn’t a review of game sleeves) elaborating on my sleeving experience.


Battlefield Board: The game board oddly enough comes as 2 separate none interlocking folding halves which are laid next to each other during game play. The boards are large, sturdy, and seem to be pretty durable so far. The image of the “battlefield” is reminiscent of a slightly tattered “battle map” where a general would plan his moves from adding to the theme of the game. There are also additional spaces on each player’s side of the board for a draw pile, discard pile, and a magic pile. Each rectangular “space” on the 8 x 6 board is large enough to fit a card in a space without crowding and there is a nice frictionless laminate on the board so you can simply “slide” your cards across the board as they move as opposed to constantly picking up the cards and moving them that way. I am honestly puzzled as to why the board is 2 halves versus a whole but other than that the board is nice.


Rulebook: The rulebook contains 21 pages of rules, gameplay images, and gameplay examples. The rulebook is laid out in a fairly logical manner and while there isn’t a table of contents, the rules are presented in the order they should be encountered and there is even a handy terminology and definition section towards the end of the rulebook. The rulebook does a great job of explaining the games mechanics and even includes rules for deck construction for players who buy additional packs, 3-4 player team based rules, and discusses additional ways to expand your game play.


Dice and Tokens: Finally the game comes with 5 dice and 20 double sided wound tokens to represent damage on units as it is taken. The dice are well made with the pips engraved into the dice and have a decent heft and roll to them. The cardboard life tokens are made of thick cardboard with a 3 on one side and are blank on the other to represent a single point of damage or 3 points of damage, nothing too exceptional for either component but very serviceable none the less.

Components and Presentation Verdict: 9.0/10 Colby has been quoted a few times saying the Master Set was quite an expense for his company and I can see why. Card quality in the hobby seems to be dropping and it is refreshing to actually see sturdy durable cards that are not paper thin. The cards are also pleasing to look at and show that thought was put into their design. The board is well made and while I believe it would have been better served if it was a single board it still works well. Overall the components show a definite eye towards quality.

How Does It Play?

Summoner Wars is a competitive tactical game played out on an 8×6 rectangular grid that uses cards instead of miniatures to represent each player’s units, if you imagine it as a 2D skirmish game you are halfway to understanding how the game plays. Summoner Wars requires players to use advanced planning skills, a little bit of luck from dice rolling/card drawing, and some clever hand management in order to defeat an opponent. Each player controls a Summoner, a magical sorcerer that can summon allies, evoke magic, and even fight off enemies. Summoning allies is far from cheap though, costing mana which can only be gained by discarding your own cards and/or by defeating enemy units. The card discarding mechanic can occasionally create some very agonizing strategic decisions, do you discard a card that you might need later, to get Mana to summon a card you need now? In the end, there is only one path to victory… the utter destruction of your opponent’s Summoner!

Component Breakdown


Champion Summon: Each faction has three unique Champions. Champions differentiate themselves from Common Summons by generally being much more powerful (almost as powerful as the Summoners!), they are unique (you can only have one copy of each Champion in your deck (an important distinction if/when you decide to customize your factions), and they can be very expensive to bring into play (8 Mana not being unheard of). The card lists the Champions attack strength in a large circle in the upper left hand corner (how many D6’s you roll when the unit attacks), under that is listed the Champions summoning cost (how many cards must be discarded from your magic pile to bring the card into play), and whether it is a ranged or melee attacker. Next to that is a 3×3 series of dots representing how many Hit Points the Champion has. Under that is listed the unique special ability the Champion possesses.


Common Summon:  Commons can be thought of as your grunts (don’t call them cannon fodder some of them are actually fairly tough). The cards are laid out exactly the same as a Champion card, with the difference being you can have up to 10 copies of the same common in your deck, and they are cheaper to summon into play.


Event Card: Event cards are one time use abilities that can thematically be thought of as single use spells cast by your Summoner (They can occasionally create permanent effects though such as resurrecting Units). They give a one time effect and do not cost anything to use. Each deck has to have certain Event Cards in them even if you customize your faction deck.


Reference Card: Each faction comes with a 2 sided reference card. One side lists the factions starting formation (each time you play you start with the same units in play, in the same starting position). The reverse side has a turn phase summary and the listed Event Cards that have to be included in your faction deck each time you play (this is only important when you start customizing your faction).


Summoner: Of course no faction would be complete without their Summoner, a mighty spell caster that can be the lynchpin between victory and defeat. Each Summoner card is laid out exactly the same as a Champion or Common with one exception, since all Summoners start in play, and you only get one Summoner (even if you customize your faction), there is a lightning bolt in place of the summoning cost (signifying there isn’t a casting cost). Each faction’s Summoner has a unique very strong power, some that might even require your Summoner to get into the thick of things, but if your Summoner dies you lose.


Wall: Finally the walls create a unique mechanic. Each faction has 2 walls in their deck (technically 3 but the third always starts in play), walls have 9 hit points (represented by the 9 dots at the bottom of the card), and walls are required to summon Units into play! When a Unit is summoned it has to be placed orthogonally next to a wall (one minor point diagonal actions are for the most part not allowed in Summoner Wars). So if you do not have any walls on the battlefield or you do not have any open orthogonal spaces next to a wall you control (whether because your opponent is blocking or you are blocking), then you cannot summon units into play. This can occasionally lead to some interesting battle tactics by opponents who will intentionally minimize your available summoning locations. Walls are brought into play during the Event Phase (not the Summon Phase) and remember you only have 2 more Walls in your deck.


Setup is extremely quick and easy. Each player picks a faction, sets up the game board according to your faction’s starting layout, shuffles their remaining cards and place them face-down on their Draw Pile section of the board (players start the game without ANY cards in their hand), and then decide who goes first.

Rulebook turn Summary.

Turn Sequence

Each turn in Summoner Wars is divided into 6 phases that have to be completed in order (the first player of the first turn takes a slightly modified turn to counteract the advantage of going first).

1. Draw: Draw up to 5 cards if you possess less than 5 cards

2. Summon: Bring Units into play from your hand by removing cards from your Magic Pile and placing them in your discard pile. You must remove 1 card for each point of summoning cost listed on a Unit. You may summon as many Units as you can afford and are willing to play on your turn. The summoned Unit(s) must be placed orthogonally next to a wall in play you control.

3. Play Event Cards: Play Event Cards one at a time in any order you like. You must fully resolve an Event Card before you can play another one but you can play as many Event cards as you have in hand.

4. Movement: You may move up to 3 of your Units up to 2 spaces each. Cards cannot move diagonally. Cards cannot move through spaces occupied by other cards. Cards must end their move on an unoccupied space. No Unit can be moved more than once per Movement Phase unless an Event or Special Ability directs otherwise.

5. Attack: Attack with up to 3 different Units that you control on the Battlefield. The Units that you choose to attack with do not have to be the same Units that moved in the previous phase. No Unit can attack more than once per Attack Phase unless an Event or Special Ability directs otherwise. If a Special Ability or Event allows a Unit to attack multiple times that Unit still only counts as 1 of the 3 Units you are allowed to attack with during this Phase. Resolve each attack before moving to the next. When attacking a Unit, if you destroy that Unit, place that Unit Card face-down on top of YOUR Magic Pile.

Sword Symbol: The Unit can ONLY attack orthogonally a unit adjacent.

Bow Symbol: The Unit can ONLY attack orthogonally UP TO three spaces away (including adjacent). Again no diagonal attacks are allowed and the 3 spaces must be in a straight line and any card (even friendly) between the attacker and the target BLOCKS line of sight.

Attack Roll: Roll 1 D6 per point of attack (3 attack means you roll 3 dice for example). Every dice that scores a 3 or higher scores a hit and a 2 or 1 is a miss. Every hit scores 1 point of damage and if a Unit takes damage equal to its remaining hit points (called life points in the game), it is slain and placed in the ATTACKERS Magic Pile.

6. Build Magic: You may take any number of cards from your hand and put them face-down on top of your Magic Pile. This builds up your Magic Pile and frees up your hand so that you can draw more cards on your next turn.

After a player completes all 6 phases, it becomes their opponent’s turn.


A sample game might look something like this:

It is a very interesting game between the Benders and the Deep Dwarves. The Benders turn is about to begin with 7 cards in the Magic Pile, no cards in hand, and due to a tough prior round only 2 commons on the board with the Summoner. The turn starts with Bender drawing the following 5 cards, Controller (2 summon cost, 2 attack, ranged attack, and only 1 hit point), Deceiver (1 summon, 1 attack, ranged, 1 hit point), Breaker (2 summon, 1 attack, ranged, 1 hit point), Wall, and the Event Card Mimic (look at opponents hand if they have an event card take it and place it in your own hand). Bender spends the summon phase brining all 3 of the commons into play, placing them orthogonally next to a wall, and spending a total of 5 Magic to do so. Next for the Event phase Bender casts Mimic, taking the Event card Magic Torrent (spend Magic Points to damage Units Near your Summoner) from the Deep Dwarf, and then plays it! Magic Torrent is put to great effect. Bender spends his remaining 2 Magic Points to injure 2 nearby Gem Mages, slaying both, and placing them in Benders Magic Pile (granting Bender 2 Magic Points in the process).

Bender smiles at the Deep Dwarves player, places the Wall on the board, and then moves on to the Movement Phase of the game turn. Bender moves the Controller into range to hit Tundle the Dwarven Summoner, the newly summoned Deceiver next to another Gem Mage, and the Breaker moves into an advantageous position for the next game turn. It is now time for the Attack! First Bender resolves their Controller attack against Tundle, rolls 2 dice resulting in a 4 and a 5, and scores 2 hits! Tundle is hurt and only has 4 hit points left! The Controllers special power then kicks in allowing Bender to move a close Unit 1 space! Bender moves Breaker 1 space putting Breaker in range to now attack Tundle, a die is rolled scoring a 6! Another hit and Tundle is now down to 3 hit points! For the 3rd attack Deceiver attacks the adjacent Gem Mage rolling a die resulting in a 1, missing the target! The attack phase is over with Bender feeling like he now has the upper hand! Bender doesn’t have any cards in hand so the Build Magic phase is ignored and it is now time for the Deep Dwarves to regroup!

Simplicity of the Rules: 8.5/10 The rules are very well written and organized with game play examples and images. The game is also designed to play simply but have deep strategies. For example all units (barring special abilities) have the same movement, the same to hit target number, and the same line of sight rules. For a skirmish style of game it does a great job avoiding ambiguity.

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.

Summoner Wars is a competitive board game for 2-4 players ages 9+. The game is full of high fantasy images such as, humanoid goats, orcs, dark elves, and even goblins. While the images are not gory they do have a slightly darker feel to them but nothing overly risqué. Honestly this isn’t anything kids cannot see on Saturday morning cartoons. The basic gameplay is also pretty simple, my 6 year old was able to figure out how to play the game but he did need some adult “tactical suggestions” such as when it was a good time to discard cards, and timing of Event cards. Some of the factions were too complex for him to understand the subtler powers of but he still had fun, even though “Dad these Deep Dwarves die easily don’t they?” Overall an 8 or 9 year old should have no problems playing Summoner Wars and an adult can really enjoy the deeper strategies some of the factions require.

Family Friendliness Verdict: 7.75/10 Summoner Wars is a fun Father/Son, Mother/Daughter game. The game is easy to teach and there aren’t any obtuse rules to confuse younger players.

Summoner wars states it is for 2-4 players but it is really a 2 player game. The back of the box DOES state it is a 2 player game, but the rulebook includes rules for 4 players, which requires the purchase of a second game board. The 4 player rules are for team based play but in my opinion they simply muddy the waters of a game that is fine as a 2 player game. While I thought the 4 player team based rules were OK, I did feel the 3 player rules were a waste of time. For a 3 player game 1 player controls 2 factions, while the other 2 players each control a single faction in a team based battle and I honestly would not play this way again. The 4 player rules aren’t bad though, they are just not for me (I don’t really enjoy team based games that much; I guess I want all the glory from a win.). The game can also be simplified for younger players by removing Event cards and directing them towards more simplistic factions. The Mountain Vargath are a great faction for teaching the game to younger players with their higher hit points and aggressive play style they can easily grasp their tactics “Roman Legion advance!”. An average 2 player game should take in the 30-45 minute range to play and a 4 player game will run about an hour.

Pros

* 6 VERY different faction included in the box.

* Rules to customize your Factions (if you buy reinforcement packs).

* The included Factions are fairly well balanced.

* Great card quality.

* Very simple to teach the game.

* Clean rules with very few rules exceptions.

* The storage box, not only does it hold the included Factions there is room for MORE!

* Plays fairly quickly.

Cons

* The luck factor, from bad rolls of the dice, to bad card draws, even the best of players can lose due to terrible luck.

* The Factions can get predictable. “You’re playing Mountain Vargath? OK that means you are going to be playing extremely offensively and I need to watch out for your Rusher advance and Brute knock back….”

 — Which leads to —

* You WILL eventually want to get reinforcement packs for these factions to reduce the predictability of matches.

* You really need to understand your Faction AND your opponents Faction which creates a learning curve for new players (admittedly for me this is a PRO too).

But Is It Fun?

Colby Dauch has done a great job creating a game that mimics the enjoyment of a grid based miniatures game without the extreme cost often associated with those kinds of games. The Master Set box comes with 6 new Factions but this game has grown even larger. With almost twenty Factions currently available on the market, reinforcement packs that allow you to modify your Factions, and a play test team that seems to have Goblin Whips at their back the game is only getting better.

The game comes with rules to modify your Faction which for me is a great plus. I actually want to buy the reinforcement packs so I can play with a sideboard adding to the surprise element of the game. Admittedly though it’s going to take a lot of plays before you will feel like you need the variety a sideboard can provide.

I really appreciate the simplicity of the rules. I almost hate saying that because I don’t mean to infer the game is simplistic and lacks strategy because that is far from the truth. Simple touches such as the reuse of the number 3, 3 or higher to hit, attack with 3 units, range attack is 3 spaces away, move 3 units on your phase. The symmetry makes it easy to remember the rules. I may not like some of the rules, such as the lack of diagonal interaction, but I can appreciate how it matters on a smaller game board and reduces discrepancies of the rules, especially with ranged line of sight.

The game is very quick to set up and most matches will take only 30ish minutes to play which really aids the Re-match mentality. I like a game where I can challenge someone again if they kick my butt which sadly isn’t possible with some of these 2-4 hour monstrosities. With all due respect to those 2-4 hour monstrosities I do enjoy playing.

Sadly, the game is unbalanced… for anyone unable or flat out unwilling to learn their chosen factions strategy. Yes that was a sensationalist comment made in an effort to lead to the following point. The included factions are indeed fairly well balanced (an impressive feet, in and of itself) but you have to A: Play to your faction’s strengths and B: Know how to exploit your opponents weaknesses. For example the Deep Dwarves are great at turtling and guerilla hit and run tactics. If you are using them, capitalize on this; if you are fighting against them do your best to tear their advantage away! The Mountain Vargath on the other hand follow a much simpler “Charge down your opponent’s throat and beat the living tar out of them” strategy. Be smart, know your faction, but beyond that know your opponents faction too! At the risk of sounding smug, it is fun to crush an opponent with a faction they just spent 5 minutes describing to you just how inept they are.

The game is not perfect though, luck can really hinder your game play. While you would THINK is shouldn’t be too difficult to roll a 3 or higher on a 6 sided die, you will be surprised how often you miss that crucial roll. I have also had my fair share of pretty lousy starting hands “All 3 champions and 1 of my walls? Seriously? What the heck!” It won’t happen often and a good sport will let you either mulligan… or trounce you mercilessly and then challenge you to another match. It all depends on what kind of friends you keep.

With the smaller deck sizes I have yet to feel like a game has turned into a slog or an attrition of forces. Each unit feels like it is important because you know in the back of your mind your draw pile is very finite and that may be your last Unit. This can also create some agonizing decisions when you need to discard cards into your magic pile. Do you hang on to your Champion and discard that event card and those Commons and hope you can somehow get enough Mana to summon that Champion? Do you toss the Champion knowing your Magic Pile is dangerously low and there isn’t a chance you will ever get the Mana… or is there? The additional strategic ramifications of this mechanic do add to the strategy level of what could have been a very simple skirmish level game.

Overall Final Game Verdict: 8.25/10 If you are looking for an expandable skirmish level game to play with a friend that won’t break the bank, this is a game for you!


I picked up Summoner Wars from Myriad Games and wanted to say thanks for a great game!


TO SLEEVE, OR NOT TO SLEEVE, THAT IS THE QUESTION!

I know I already said these cards are well made, so why would I go and sleeve my cards? Well I have 2 boys, they love board games, but they don’t love to wash their hands all the time. I am not germaphobic but I have seen them pick their noses on occasion… So without further rabbit holes I bring you Adventures in sleeving .


After some studious research and weighing the pro’s and con’s of what was available on the market, I settled on Dragon Shield card sleeves.

These are the Mini card sleeves for non-standard card games, which interestingly enough describes Summoner Wars cards. These sleeves provided a few advantages for me. First they are pretty darn durable. Second they come in quite a few different colors which helps to sort the cards after a match.


As you can see the cards fit pretty snugly in the sleeves.


Closer examination does show that the cards stick out of the sleeves just a hair but for me it was worth it for the next point…


… the cards still fit quite nicely on the board even when sleeved.

So in the end it wasn’t a perfect solution but considering all the alternatives, with their own issues, these seemed to work best for me.

Life is short, Play games!

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