Friday, November 29, 2013

Trying New Things: Wrath of Ashardalon, Dungeon Command, et al.

Today I went down to Treefort Games and participated in an afternoon of board game demonstrations. I showed up with an open mind, wanting to try new things. I got to play four games for the first time: The Wrath of Ashardalon, Dungeon Command, Small Word: Underworld, and Bang! (a card game).  So, what follows are mini-reviews of each.

From Wizards of the Coast
The Wrath of Ashardalon
The store owner wanted people to help demo boardgames. So I showed up early to learn the rules to The Wrath of Ashardalon. I was impressed with the number of "bits" that came with the board game. 

Almost too impressed, once I tried to figure out how all of these cards and critters work within the rules. They had a "solo" adventure. I studied the rules for about a half-hour, still couldn't figure out certain things like movement and actions in a turn. Read and studied for another 15 min, because I was supposed to eventually teach this some somebody else.

But I do have a general rule. I don't get the gist of a board game within a half-hour, I put it away. Maybe it'd have been better if I'd learned this with other players, but I only had myself. Once somebody offered to run Small World: Underground, I moved on. I'd hate to sink The Wrath of Ashardalon, since it seems a lot of people enjoy it, but its seems unnecessarily complicated. (You can blast me all of you want for that).

Smallworld: Underground
I enjoyed this game. We played the short two-player version so I could learn the rules.

The goal of the game isn't world domination, but to collect as much gold from your underground civilizations as possible. At the beginning of the game you chose a race (which costs gold) and then you use that race (mummies, gnomes, kraken, drow, etc,) to carved out an underdark civilization. The more territories you get the more gold. Races often get more gold depending on terrain time (Mushroom folk like the fungus coverns and so on).

At some point, you'll want this civilization to go in decline so you can start another one. You still get the gold and other resources from your old civilization. You have a certain amount of turns to collect as much gold as you can and try to stymie your opponents from doing the same.

This game was a lot of fun. It sort of spoofs fantasy/gaming culture, like having the One Ring as a artifact or the ghost of "Tomb Raider" hanging around. The game is produced by Days of Wonder.

BANG! The Spaghetti Western Card Game
I really didn't get to play this game long enough to have a postive or negative opinion of it: I didn't survive beyond my first turn.

You randomly draw a "character" and a "role" from a deck of cards. This determines your goals. You can be the sheriff, deputy, renegade, or outlaw. The sheriff has to kill the outlaws and renegade. Outlaws have to kill the sheriff and the deputy. The deputy has to make sure the sheriff survives. The renegade has to be the last one standing.

I was the renegade--the first to die. The only things I got to do was remove a card from somebody else's deck with on of my own card and then release a stick of dynamite around the table. Then I got shot twice by an outlaw, and finished off by the Sheriff.

So much for that. I'd like to try it again though.

Dungeon Command

From Wizards of the Coast

While the Wrath of Ashardalon caused me to furrow my brow in a vain effort to understand, Dungeon Command fairly straight forward and fun. It was a two player game, mixing miniatures from The Curse of Undeath and The Tyranny of Goblins. The miniatures themselves are fairly well done. I particularly liked the Lich Necromancer figure. I also liked the dungeon tiles.

Once thing that surprised me was how simple the rules played. They're sort of a mix between 4th Edition, the old 3.5e D&D Miniatures game, with a touch of Magic: The Gathering (you "tap" figures and cards--there's not a single die to roll. It's a steak and potatoes game that easy to learn.

Our only stumbling block was trying to figure out movement (can you double move like in regular D&D--or not. The language in the rulebook was a little ambiguous.)

Each player choses a commander--but the commander doesn't actually get a figure on the battlefield. But the commander does determine certain effects for your warband. You want to pay attention to your commander's morale and leadership ratings. Leadership allows you to bring in reinforcements. Morale is integral to the game--if you drop you zero morale because your minions die, you lose the game.

You get four phases on your turn: Refresh (untap your troops), Activate (have your troops take actions), Deploy (put new miniatures down--if you can), and Clean-up (resolve end-of-turn effects, etc).

I really enjoyed this game. I'm glad that I didn't dismiss it as some kind of 4e-lite game.

Even the price isn't too shabby: $39.99 per faction box, you get 12 figures and some dungeon tiles which are compatible with games like The Wrath of Ashardalon. 

The Moral: Try new things. That way you'll know what you like and don't like.

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