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Subject: The Peasants are Revolting! Yes, they most certainly are... rss

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William Shields
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Game Summary

Dungeon Lords is a worker placement game that turns the tables on the fantasy adventurer genre. You take the part of an aspiring dungeon lord seeking to create the best dungeon. Twice a group of adventurers will come along and try to conquer your dungeon. Your goal is to create the best dungeon you can managing all the resources you need to.

The game takes place over two years. Each year there are four seasons and then (up to) four combat rounds.

Choosing Actions

One of the key mechanics in the game is choosing actions. Every person has an identical set of eight actions. On each round two of them will be unavailable. This is a key part of the game. You have to plan around having certain actions unavailable on certain rounds and plan around what other people can or can't do.

You do three actions each round and lock them all in secretly and simultaneously. The second and third actions will move up to be unavailable the next turn (with some minor exceptions).

Each action on the board has three spaces. So if all four players have a given action available someone could miss out if you all play it. This is particularly important, in my experience, when it comes to Recruiting Monsters.

Events

There are three events each year. Two of them are fixed: Dungeon Tax (1 gold per two rooms or tunnels rounded up) and Pay day (paying all the monster costs). The other is random (in the full game or a non-event in the base game).

One good thing about this is that you get 1-2 seasons notice so it's not just a random chaos factor and you can plan around them to some extent. This is very important.

Evil

The game has an Evilmeter that ranks you in evilness compared to the other aspiring dungeon lords. Being most evil can be an advantage (for scoring at the end) but also a disadvantage: become too evil and a powerful adventurer (the Paladin) will come and wreak havoc in your dungeon. This too can be an opportunity if you're able to capture him.

Adventurers

You will end up with a party of three adventurers by the end of each year (second year adventurers are tougher). Generally the more evil you are the more powerful adventurers you will attract. This makes them harder to kill.

In addition adventurers have types:

- Warriors sit at the front and do nothing but absorb damage;
- Priests heal damage after combat in the party;
- Thieves reduce damage from traps; and
- Wizards cast spells in the combat rounds.

Certain spells and monsters will be affected differently by different adventurer types (eg Vampires can't attack Priests).

This is another key aspect to the game. If you have a lot of traps and will be relying on traps to defeat the adventurers then thieves are bad. Wizards can be made for the random (and sometimes devastating) effects of spells. Priests can make combat much more difficult as excess damage is healed (and essentially wasted).

Experienced players will use certain actions to become less (or even more) evil to change which adventurer they get that best suits their strategy.

Monsters

There are many different flavours of monsters in Dungeon Lords. Generally they do damage to whoever is at the front. Sometimes they do damage to everyone. Mostly they're usable once per year. Sometimes they're usable every combat round. Some monsters have a choice in their attack type.

There are limits to how many monsters can be used each round (depending on their type and if the party is in a corridor or room) and they have different costs so you want to plan out what monsters to get and how that fits into the rest of your strategy.

The better monsters have an evil cost: hiring them will make you more evil.

Traps

The most effective strategies use a combination of monsters and traps. Traps generally do damage in some way, sometimes with a cost and sometimes with a secondary effect (eg Trap Door stops the conquering step). Traps are generally bought but can also be made.

Rooms

In the first year only production rooms are available and they can only be placed in certain places on your map. These rooms can either produce gold, food, new tunnels, new imps or make you nicer.

Production rooms are worked by imps.

In the second year there are only scoring and combat rooms. Scoring rooms give you points for various things at the end. Combat rooms change combat rules or make certain monsters more effective when they fight there.

Rooms replace tunnels.

Imps

Imps are your workers. They dig tunnels, mine them for gold (to pay your bills) and work your production rooms. Trolls (a monster) do double duty by being able to work in production rooms.

Actions

Each of the eight actions has three spaces. Starting from the start player each player places one of their minions in the first available space on the appropriate action for their chosen action card.

This is repeated for the second and third action cards.

It is possible for there to be no space available and part of the gameplay is to work around this happening so you don't waste actions and taking your turn order on relevant turns into account.

Interestingly often the second space is the best one to get to and at different times different players may value some spaces differently to others. For example, if you have no gold the first food spot (1 gold -> 2 food) is useless but the second (1 evil -> 3 food) is substantially better. Someone at risk of waking the paladin might have the opposite view.

The actions are:

- Gain Food
- Become Nicer (two of the spaces also allow you to peek at one of the combat cards in the upcoming combat rounds);
- Dig Tunnels
- Mine for Gold
- Hire Imps
- Buy Trap
- Hire Monster
- Build Room

These are resolved in order and the results from one action can be used in another (eg you can mine for gold in a tunnel you just built but you can't use the gold from mining to pay for food as that is an earlier step). So you need to plan around that too.

Season

So each of the four seasons in a year goes like this:

- Reveal new event if applicable;
- Reveal new adventures if applicable;
- Place action cards face down;
- Reveal action cards and place minions;
- Resolve actions in order;
- Shuffle action cards up;
- Use excess imps in production rooms;
- Return imps;
- Resolve events (if any; there is a 1-2 season lag on these);
- Assign adventurers (if applicable; 1-2 season lag);
- Return Imps (and trolls);
- Move Starting Player to the left.

Combat Rounds

The combat rounds work a little differently. The party of adventurers is on auto-pilot through your dungeon. You have a little discretion (eg which of two equidistant tunnels or rooms from the entrance the party will attempt to conquer) but it is otherwise non-discretionary.

The round goes:

- Decide what square the adventurers will attempt to conquer;
- Plan what monsters and/or traps you will use this round (planning phase);
- Reveal the combat card;
- Resolve traps;
- Resolve fast magic;
- Combat;
- Resolve slow magic;
- Healing;
- Fatigue and Conquering.

Traps

Traps generally do damage and may have a secondary effect (and possibly secondary damage such as from a Poisoned Dart). Some also have a cost (eg food for Poisoned Meal or an imp for the Kamikaze Imp).

The number of thief symbols in your party will reduce the primary damage.

The horrible thing about thieves is that a strong thief can make traps mostly worthless. The good thing about thieves is they can be planned around.

You can use a trap for free (excluding usage cost) in a tunnel or for 1 gold in a room (plus usage cost).

Magic

Magic can be terrible. Each of the four combat cards has an effect on it. In combat rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4 the party needs (at least) 1, 2, 3 or 4 magic symbols on party adventurers to activate that effect.

You may get a peek at 1-2 of these cards from the being nice action (and I would recommend looking at the first 1-2 when you do this; the others matter less).

Magic can be fast or slow. Fast magic occurs before combat. Slow magic occurs after.

The horrible thing about magic is that it can be inocuous (eg lose 1 gold) to devastating (eg turning a dragon into a ineffectual sheep). The good thing about magic is that if you know what the effects are you can plan around it.

There is some debate online about which is the worst adventurer (after the paladin) with many arguing thieves are. In my opinion, wizards can be substantially worse because thieves can be planned around, always.

Combat

In tunnels one monster (plus unlimited ghosts) can attack. In a room two monsters can attack (plus unlimited ghosts). If multiple monsters attack you choose the order of attack.

Healing

This step only occurs if there was combat that round. It's important to realize this. Fire off a trap with no combat and no healing occurs.

Adventurers that lose all their hit points are immediately captured.

Priests heal 1 damage for each heart symbol they have (starting from the front).

Fatigue and Conquering

It's stressful being an adventurer. Each round they take damage (from 0-3) due to this stress.

If after fatigue at least one adventurer is alive the room is conquered. You become slightly nicer but the tunnel or room conquered is no longer usable (and will be negative points at the end).

Certain traps (eg Trap Door, Cursed Ring) and monsters (eg Slime, Demon) will prevent conquering step. This can be useful but it also means no fatigue is applied. Many people forget this.

The Paladin

The Paladin is a tough fourth adventurer. It is triggered by someone becoming sufficiently evil. Capturing the paladin is worth a lot of points (5 vs 2 for normal adventurers) but they can wreak havoc as they are healers, wizards and thieves and have a large number of hit points.

Interestingly the paladin can also move to other dungeons if another player becomes more evil either by them gaining evil or by you losing evil.

Stealing a wounded paladin is possible in the combat rounds although I've never seen this happen. Dumping a paladin on someone else is also possible.

Final Scoring

Much like Agricola you get points for certain things at the end and lose points for other things.

One of the more interesting aspects is that there are seven titles to hand out. Each is worth 3 VP if you're the only one to get it or 2 VP if it's shared. These are for things like:

- Leas conquered tiles;
- Most tunnels;
- Most rooms;
- Most monsters;
- Most resources (food, gold, traps);
- Most evil
- Most imps

A successful strategy, in my opinion, in part revolves around planning to pick up as many of these as possible. You will often find people in the last 1-2 seasons just mining for gold, hiring imps or building tunnels simply for the title.

The Rules

You may think this is regurgitating the rules but believe me it isn't. The rulebook is 32 pages and it's mostly rules with some (excellent) examples. There are a lot of rules and exceptions to absorb. But once you know them the game plays relatively quickly (it should play in 90-120 minutes with experienced players).

Strategy

There is a surprising amount of strategy in this game.

I am somewhat surprised to play this. After I'd played it twice I had questions about how much replayability it has. Galaxy Trucker for example I think suffers from minimal replayability (opinions differ on this I am aware).

Despite some of the "cute" features of the game, which might deceive you into thinking this is a light game, this is a fairly heavy Euro worker placement game.

There is almost too much to do and limited actions in which to do it. Lots of things matter, like what traps you get, what adventurers come out and in which order, the order of the events, your turn order on particular turns and so on. Almost all of it comes with 1-2 seasons warning however.

I like this part a lot. If this were a game where you randomly lost all your imps with no warning then it would be a significantly worse game in my opinion.

There are tactics in the game but it is also quite deep strategically. I've come to believe that you have to be conscious of your endgame from quite early on in the game to do well. You have to balance doing worse in the first year combat vs what that allows you to do in the second year. There are many, many tradeoffs like this.

The Good

- Very little sudden randomness;
- Lots of conflicting needs to balance;
- Not a solo game at all;
- Excellent presentation;
- Much more rewarding than, say, Galaxy Trucker (imho);
- Deep strategy and tactics;
- The Actions mechanics works extremely well;
- Excellent examples.

The Bad

- Certain players will be subject to AP, particularly when choosing actions;
- There are a lot of rules to absorb;
- While most rules are easy to find some are not and even a few games in we've been surprised by some things;
- Certain corner cases require access to BGG to resolve. For example, what happens when you attack and the spell is Invisibility when you have nothing but Wizards? The correct answer is: nothing can be attacked, the adventurer order doesn't change and the monster withdraws, used.
- Not as much variability as, say, Agricola. I would liken this game more like Le Havre in that respect.

Overall

It's an excellent game. Everyone who plays it comments on how it bears so much similarity to the old PC game Dungeon Keeper. It makes you wonder why this hasn't been done before. Whatever the case, the execution is excellent.

Overall: 9 out 10
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Manuel Pasi
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I certainly agree that this game is absolutely top notch with only two drawbacks:
- AP can really be a problem in both phases of the game (building dungen and fighting)
- while the rules are in themselves quite clear and easy to understand there are a LOT of them, which makes ma somewhat hesitant to explain the game to new players...but fortunately enough my wife loves the game as much as i do!
 
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The Galaxy is Just Packed!
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Count De Monet - Sir, the peasants are revolting!
King Louis - You said it. They stink on ice.

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John Richert
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Having played this, I think there is a good amount of replayability. The key reason for this is the event mechanic. Sure, we know payday and dungeon tax will come every year, but which random event is going to come out. Also, what order are they coming out in?

Last night, during the second year, pay day came out as the last event. This was brutal as it forced players to go into the second year's battles with two, maybe three monsters. Obviously, it gets pretty tough defending against tough adventurers with only two monsters. One player only had one!

The random events can run from benign, say Rats, to nasty, such as VIP Visit. In our game yesterday, we had Witch Hunt come out midway through the second year. With everyone having roughly the same evil, it was a scramble to avoid the paladin, up until I embraced my inner evilness and decided to peg the meter. My strategy changed on a dime.

So yes, there is plenty to keep the game fresh. If I can get as much play out of this as I did Puerto Rico, I will be happy. Since PR only had one random element, compared to several here, I do not think that will be too hard.
 
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Christian Wilson
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PasiMax wrote:
I certainly agree that this game is absolutely top notch with only two drawbacks:
- AP can really be a problem in both phases of the game (building dungen and fighting)

My AP-prone group has started using the hourglass timer from Galaxy Trucker for the action phase each season. It has really increased the pace of our games, and we can finish a four-player session in about 90 minutes.
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Drake Coker
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Quote:
Since PR only had one random element...


Being pendantic, I think PR has two. The more important one is seating order

(I suppose one could argue that seating order is not 'random'. OTOH, it is certainly not specified in the rules, so I'll stick with it being an important element of chance for PR!)
 
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Guy Srinivasan
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We added a 3-minute timer for action placement in our last 2-player game. It worked pretty well... IIRC I placed the extra-player's card randomly once, and without much thought at all once or twice.

Not sure if you need more or less time with more players.
 
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Jacob Russell
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This is certainly a great game. I don't find it more rewarding the Galaxy Trucker though because Galaxy Trucker felt like something new, it felt unique, and the biggest reward to GT was the fun we had watching the ships blow up.

This felt like another worker placement game, but cleverly wrapped up in a theme that would be difficult to remove from the mechanisms. Great... but not nearly as distinctive as GT... or Space Alert for that matter, still my favorite Vladaa design in terms of innovation.
 
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