So after this weekend I am happy to say that I’ve played Dungeon Command A LOT, mostly due to the DnD Game Day. I was running demos at my local store and I’ve managed to squeeze in two ten minute breaks, otherwise there were always people wanting to play the game. I am glad it’s getting so much attention because the more attention it receives, the better it will be. This is because the game is built to be very expandable and has a lot of scope, and if more people end up playing it, the game will stay alive for longer, and Wizards of the Coast will publish more and more faction boxes, which is a win-win for everyone.
Do I need to mention the contents? I mean, there’s so much buzz about Dungeon Command – I feel like someone else has already done that job for me. But for the sake of this being a proper review, here goes. Each faction pack contains:
- 12 plastic hand painted miniatures.
- 36 order cards
- 12 creature cards
- 2 large and 2 small cardboard tiles
- various tokens
- alternate monster cards for the adventure system board game.
RRP is £31.99
What I’ll try and do is talk about each ingredient separately and then discuss them as a whole. Naturally the minis come first. They are the meat of this game and they’re pretty good. Most of the minis are reprints with alternate paint, which is a fact I really like. Even if I owned that particular mini before, I now have a different colour version, which lets me do interesting things when using them for DnD. I could use my three drow assassins with their usual purple cloak as troops and the new one from Dungeon Command as the leader. The minis that stand out have to be the Drider, Bronze Dragon and the Umber Hulk, with the latter being my favorite of them all. Every so often I like to throw a big scary iconic monster at my players and the Hulk is just that.
The tiles have great artwork on them, but they’re not something I intend to reuse outside of Dungeon Command. Their interlocking nature means I can’t use them with other Dungeon Tiles. But I think I’d still like them to be interlocking because it provides stability when playing the game. I’ve also noticed that when they do interlock, they still seem to be a bit loose, but I don’t have too much of a problem with that. The sheet with tokens provides the necessities to play the game. The tokens are sturdy and well made.
The cards. Now here I am stumped. The order and creature cards are easily one of the best and worst parts of the game. The numerous order cards make the game a lot more interesting and provide a host of different strategies and ways to play it. The artwork on each card is excellent, and whilst it is sometimes reused from previous DnD products, most of it is new and evocative. The card quality itself is poor however. In the four boxes that I’ve opened the cards have already been bent out of shape, and for people who want to avoid scuffs – I recommend sleeving them instantly. I don’t know if this is simply something that was out of WotC’s hands or if it was a deliberate decision, but it seems especially odd, because the game is customizable, and all the cards can be interchanged to form unique order or creature decks. Meaning that all future sets will have to be printed using the exact same material and printing process. Can I live with this? Yes, but if the game catches on big time (which I hope it does) I think WotC will regret this decision.
One of the big selling points of the game was that the minis can be used in the adventure system board games. The Heart of Cormyr set has a much more innovative way of utilizing the minis. Instead of making them all monsters, it adds a new encounter card that lets a player draw from an ally deck. The cards in the ally deck correspond to the miniatures from the set and the mini you draw becomes a helping hand in defeating whatever monsters hunt you. I can’t wait to try this mechanic!
Ok, so it’s time to discuss the game overall. Some of the regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve done a preview of the playtest rules earlier this year, and the game, whilst staying similar at it’s core, has changed significantly, adding layers of depth and complexity to an already exciting mechanic. The first addition I’ve noticed is the existence of commanders. This lets you customize the game more by adding an overall theme to your warband. I’ve also been very excited to find out that the game offers so many options in customization. You can shape and mold your warbands and order decks however you want. You can play with three players, four players, two two-player teams, it really doesn’t matter. Talking of order decks – here the game starts to feel like someone took DnD and Magic: the Gathering and squished them both together – in a good way. It takes what works from both games and blends it together to create an interesting ruleset. These decks provide cards that work similar to instants, sorceries and enchantments from M:tG. However, most require you to tap your creature to be played. A big change from the playset is that you untap your guys before and after your turn, effectively being able to do something on your turn and outside of your turn. The objective of the game is to reduce your opponent’s morale to zero. But no matter how low or high your morale is, you always have some minis to choose from to introduce into the battlefield because the creatures you control are based on your leadership score. This creates a game that avoids the ‘runaway winner’ problem. In fact, the first game I played against my wife she was struggling through most of it only to cleverly snatch victory out of my hands at the end of the game by playing a well timed Dragon Knight and striking my Umber Hulk with an order card that dealt a 100 damage (that’s the most damage I’ve seen in the game). It taught me to save my best troops and order cards till the endgame. Knowing when to play the right mini becomes an important strategy.
Overall I have to say I am very impressed with the game. And because every warband and order deck are completely customizable, more sets will mean more options. At the moment, a goblin set is scheduled for a September release and an undead set (featuring a dracolich!) is due out in November. If this keeps up we should have a new set every two months. I really hope this game picks up big time, because the game will simply become better with more content. I also feel like they’ve created a game where there’s a market for booster packs with order cards and alternate creature cards. And whilst some people shy away from anything that has the word ‘booster’ in it, I feel like it would be a welcome addition.