Curse of Undeath is yet another installment in the wonderful miniature-skirmish-card game from Wizards of the Coast. Readers of my blog know that I have a lot of love for this game, and it comes as no surprise that I’m doing a review for this. I’d like to change things up a bit though and not just review the product but also talk about some strategy and share some of the experience that I’ve accumulated whilst playing Dungeon Command. November has been a crazy month with various tournaments and conventions so I barely had time to sit down and play with this new box, but what I’ve seen so far pleases me.
All of the boxes we’ve seen have been thematic and I expect this trend to continue. The theme extends into the art, card mechanics and inbuilt strategy all the way to what’s depicted on the tiles. The set oozes undeath and that’s how it should be. One of my friends pointed out earlier on when the game was just released that the ‘undead one’ will definitely feature some sort of a re-animation mechanic and he was spot on – zombies can come back from the figuratively dead. Although if I were honest, I was really wishing for an order card that would let you resurrect any miniature. This sort of card would be very powerful but there can always be drawbacks.
The miniatures are, as usual, lovely. I think in terms of sculpt quality, cool factor and paint job, these are easily the best out of the four sets. The skeletons come carrying axes but otherwise look exactly like the ones from Lords of Madness, which I think is a really cool touch. It’s a model that everyone liked but they’ve added a little variety to it and now your DnD game can feature an army of skeletons with different weapons. And to spruce up that army you also get another skeleton – with four arms and four swords and also a skeletal lancer on a horse. The other minies round out the undead theme with zombies, vampires, spirits and necromancers. Oh and let’s not forget the Dracolich.
The set focuses on Constitution as the main attribute. The undead are hardy and tough to kill – just as they should be. Every monster is iconically represented in the rules – a vampire will sap life, a zombie will come back from the dead, and a spirit will phase through walls. There is enough variety in the box to bring out various strategies and plenty of ideas for unique custom warbands.
Speaking of which, I’d like to talk some strategy. Many have drawn similarities to this game with Magic: the Gathering and I have to agree. Just looking at making custom warbands makes you realise that you probably have to quickly abandon the idea of a ragtag army of various miniatures and if you really want to play this game competitively – invest in some multiples. Whether it’s buying a second (or third, or fourth) box, or just getting singles from eBay, the fact of the matter is – it has to be done. One box is just not enough. Of course, if you’re not planning to play competitively and just want to play this game with some friends on your kitchen table – that’s fine. One box is probably all you need.
I’ve been toying with the idea of some custom warbands and now that Curse of Undeath is out this is what I’ve settled on for my current army. Since I haven’t had a chance to really play this competitively, it’s hard to know what the meta-game is like. Speaking of which, if anyone fancies playing in a Dungeon Command tournament within a reasonable distance of London, let me know and I’d be happy to organize one if there are enough people wanting to play. But I digress – back to strategy. As I’ve said, it’s tough to penetrate the meta-game without first hand experience, but I’ve decided to settle on a CON and STR based warband. Morale is what keeps you alive and removing your opponent’s morale is what wins you games. My warband focuses on those two aspects solely – hitting hard and staying alive. Here’s the list:
- 4 x Dwarven Defender
- 4 x Feral Troll
- 4 x Dragon Knight
- 2 x Vampire Stalker
- 2 x Skeletal Tomb Guardian
- 4 x Level Up
- 4 x Defensive Advantage
- 4 x Unbreakable
- 2 x Mortal Wound
- 4 x Undaunted Surge
- 3 x Feral Vitality
- 4 x Killing Strike
- 3x Invigorating Smash
- 2x Daring Attack
- Rhynseera the Alarphon
This warband is all about the Feral Troll. His regenerative ability plus an insane amount of hitpoints make this guy a powerhouse to be feared and respected. He is also level 5 STR and CON, which means that he can land Killing Strike after Killing Strike for those 100 points of damage all day long. You want to play Level Up on him as soon as possible and surround him with Dwarven Defenders. Don’t underestimate these guys. Whilst Dragon Knight is the only card that innately benefits from their Shield Block ability, there are four Level Ups in the order deck to make anyone an adventurer. I was toying with the idea of swapping the Defenders with Clerics, but clerics can only heal once per turn. Our army size is always going to be small and we are likely to have multiple hits on one target during the same round. The Defenders just shrug more damage.
The Dragon Knight is a good replacement for when you can’t find a Feral Troll. He doesn’t have regen but he hits just a bit harder and is also level 5 STR and CON, meaning he can play any card in our order deck. The rest of the cast are support actors. The Vampire Stalker is a hardy guy who can deal some decent damage and the Skeletal Tomb Guardian is a wonderful response to being swarmed by a lot of guys.
Some cards in the deck are really self explanatory. I went with a three-of of Feral Vitality and Invigorating Smash to counterbalance bad draws. Whilst Invigorating Smash is easily better, only 8 of our 16 creatures can play the card. Feral Vitality is only inaccessible to the Dwarven Defenders. Mortal Wound is a great trick paired with Undaunted Surge. Talking of Undaunted Surge, this is one tricky card. On the one hand, you’ll want to hold on to it, to play it at an appropriate time to maximize on the effect. However, with creatures staying alive for so long, it makes sense to play it early and stack up on those damage bonuses, especially if you can untap your guys with Daring Attack.
The only thing I’m not entirely sure about in the warband is the commander itself. Her ability to cycle through the order deck is very important because you want to find that Level Up as soon as possible. However, the very small creature hand leaves something to be desired. I’m not sure how the warband plays out with another commander but I’ve been lucky with Rhynseera so far. Your ideal starting hand is a single Dwarven Defender and a Dragon Knight or Feral Troll. Play both of them on turn one and let them hang out or collect some treasure. Your enemies won’t be able to reach you just yet. Pair them up and play defensively. You might lose out on some early treasure using this strategy but don’t let it bother you too much. Build up your leadership and then dish out the pain.