One of the most exciting gaming products this year got it’s first expansion, and with this review I want to have a look at how the gameplay changes for this faction. If you’re unfamiliar with Dungeon Command, I highly recommend you read my review, or better yet, just go and buy a copy and at the same time convince a buddy to do so as well. Like any miniature game, you need a partner who also owns a warband. You can play a game by just using one box, but it’s hardly fulfilling – it’s a lot more exciting when you have a box each and play the full-on battle.
As with any expandable game, there are different levels of immersion. You can limit your warband (and your opponent’s warband) to a single box, but as you play the game more, you’ll want to expand your army and it’s capabilities. The Tyranny of Goblins faction pack is a great way to add new miniatures to your batallion and introduce some new strategies to your order deck. The great thing about Dungeon Command is it’s unique ability to blend elements from miniature skirmish games and collectible card games without seeming like it strays too much into the territory of one or the other.
But before we get to the gameplay itself, let’s not forget that terrain is a very important part of any skirmish game, and we get four new tiles in the set with some very interesting features. The tiles have great ways to create defensive forts, whilst sneakily unleashing your reinforcements with cards like Into the Fray. The great thing about the tiles is that when you own more than one faction pack, you can mix and match them to create whatever terrain suits your warband.
All these obstacles are there for a reason. Goblins are sneaky, and if you command and army of them, you have to be sneaky too. With very few hitpoints, they might seem like a pushover army at first, and hopefully that’s what your opponent is thinking when you play an order card that changes everything. He or she might be wiser next time, but there are enough tricks to keep your opponent always second-guessing themselves. For example, playing against the Cormyrians I’ve drawn in my opponent’s army close to my starting area and have left quite a few of his soldiers damaged. Because of my commander, I was able to deploy creatures at the start of my turn, and decided to introduce the bugbear into the battlefield who untaps every time a creature dies next to it. So as long as I could keep killing things on the bugbear’s activation, I could untap him and attack again. This way I took down two enemy miniatures with the bugbear, damaged a third one and finished it off with a different unit.
And yes, the goblins ARE cannon fodder. After they’ve done the damage, they are very likely to die. But that’s OK, as you’ve got bigger things coming from the reserves. Your hobgoblin soldiers are only Level 3 but have a whopping 70 hitpoints and can withstand copious amounts of punishment. It takes forever to take them down, and in the meantime you can wilt away the opposition. You’ve still got the best part of your army in the reserves, that being the Troll and the Horned Devil. Your opponent will have to put everything he’s got to take one of them down, and even then it might not be enough. To be fair, in my first game I never even got to play those two as I’ve managed to strike a final blow to my adversary’s morale without having to deploy them. Having said that, if I did need to deploy them I had a potent combination of order cards in my hand to make sure they stayed alive. Mortal Wound is an instant attachment that prevents all damage but kills your unit during the deployment phase, meaning they have one more activation left in them. However, Rally removes all attachments from a friendly unit, so my big guy stays alive and wreaks havoc to puny humans.
The game still features extra cards that let you use your new minis in the Adventure System boardgames, especially Wrath of Ashardalon where these critters might find a new thematic home. The quality of the things inside the box is the same as the previous sets. The paint-job is OK, but as with all pre-painted minis you might want to do some adjustments of your own. The Horned Devil is definitely an exception to that – I wouldn’t want to change anything about him as he looks awesome straight out of the box. The cards are still made out of the same cardstock but that is to be expected. Don’t be fooled by the aesthetics though – this game is all about the gameplay, which at the moment is unique and unrivaled. And I’ve seen singles sales surfacing on ebay which can only mean that there is demand and the game is doing well.
All in all, I would recommend this faction pack to anyone who enjoys playing sneaky tricks and big brutes – it’s tremendous fun and I can’t wait to play it again. And don’t forget, the fourth faction pack – Curse of Undeath – comes out in November introducing even more variety to the game, followed by the fifth one, Blood of Gruumsh in February next year.