Stuart PlattUnited Kingdom
Wednesday at Daventry Vaulters saw the debut of the shiny, new Dungeon Command game system.
This two player game used both of the starter sets of Dungeons and Dragons themed tactical miniatures game: Dungeon Command: Sting of Lolth versus Dungeon Command: Heart of Cormyr to the death.
Dungeon Command is a tactical board game, where summoned creatures battle it out to the death. It's not Summoner Wars, though you can feel the influence. It's not even Magic: The Gathering. This is a new pre-painted miniatures game from Wizards of the Coast which feels a little like a more simplified version of classic computer game Final Fantasy Tactics.
I won't breakdown the rules - in fact I'm not going to do RULES anymore beyond a brief overview - but in summary:
At the start of the game, and then at the end of each turn, players summon creatures from a hand of cards drawn from their faction's deck. They then activate those creatures on the play board - moving and attacking. Each creature that dies costs 'Morale' of the controller. When this figure hits 0, the warband flees and the game is over.
Movement is simple - creatures move as per their individual statistic, difficult terrain and obstacles which impede progress are clearly marked on the board. Friendly troops can move over each other (which is nice because it stops log-jams) and yet enemy troops have a 'Tackle Zone' like Blood Bowl which halts progress. This makes placement a tactical challenge, a key part of the game and something I really enjoy.
Combat is absolute. There are no dice - if you attack you cause your damage (unless your opponent uses a model ability or card effect to prevent it.) Yoda would definitely approve. The interrupt / instant style cards that your opponent may play to foil your plans will also force your opponent to 'TAP' that creature's card - so if you can force them to tap it beforehand, they will have no come-back.
There are a wide range of tactical options and effects that can be played to affect a creature’s ability to act and react - for instance spider webs which hold enemies in place. Clever use of these abilities will open holes in your opponents' defence and may turn the tide.
Step into my parlour...
This almost chess-like game design choice means that you can plan your actions and execute your strategy. This control is one of my favourite aspects of Dungeon Command.
The prospects of development for this game are huge. Each faction plays very differently, and is almost limitlessly expandable / customisable - that said there is nothing wrong with the game out-of-the-box.
Components are of high quality. Map tiles fit together well, the cards are well designed and clear. In addition, everything is artistically pleasing
The minis are fine. I'm glad that they're painted and easily identifiable. I am not a painter or miniature guy in any way, however, and I can imagine people turning their noses up at the somewhat slapdash paint-jobs.
Now, I am a tactical game fan and I like a fantasy theme. I love Summoner Wars. Dungeon Commander is therefore RIGHT in my wheelhouse and it scratches that itch I've had since playing Magic as a youngster - that being a chance to manoeuvre, position and attack your opponents in a physical space, as opposed to the abstraction of attack and block.
This is the game my 12 year old self would have sold his little brother for - and now, as a more grizzled 'hardcore' gamer (whatever that means) I am excited to explore the game more, and the prospects of what is to come in the same system.
Right now, Dungeon Command is 4 GAVELS out of 4.