Thursday, 28 January 2016

THE REALM OF DUNGEON SAGA: THE DWARF KING'S QUEST




Last night I did something I haven't done for a while now, and that is play a fantasy dungeon crawler! For those that don't know what a dungeon crawler is, it is simply a game that has a number of Heroes battling through a dungeon full of monsters controlled by a Dungeon Master. The Heroes are attempting to complete several quests, and the Dungeon Master is trying to stop them. Generally you get a wizard, a Barbarian, a Dwarf and an Elf questing and battling against goblins, orcs, skeletons, monsters and all types of weird and wonderful fantasy creatures. The dungeon crawler that I played, along with several friends from a gaming group I'm apart of, was Dungeon Saga, by Mantic Games.

As an introduction, here is the official word on Dungeon Saga from Mantic:



DUNGEON SAGA: THE DWARF KING'S QUEST

Over a thousand years ago, Valandor, the greatest known hero, fell in battle - fighting to protect the lives of those around him. From shore to shore, all owe thanks to his wondrous legacy. Now, sacred sites across the land have been defiled by the disgraced wizard Mortibris, who along with his vile undead minions will stop at nothing to obtain the secrets of Valandor’s power. Only the bravest heroes dare oppose him. Thrown together from the far corners of the realm, they step boldly into the depths, ready to face whatever foul evil awaits them…

Hero, your quest begins here!

Embark on a fantasy adventure for up to five players with Dungeon Saga: Dwarf King's Quest. With highly detailed game-pieces and learn-as-you-play rules, this set contains everything you need to transform your tabletop into a deep and immersive world of heroes and monsters. Play a single game in just 30 minutes, or combine the carefully composed adventures for countless hours of classic quest gameplay. When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, which part will you play in the epic Dungeon Saga?

Epic, story-driven campaign
Classic quest atmosphere
Easy rules you can learn as you play
Characters that develop as the adventure unfolds
Beautifully illustrated 3D dungeons with doors, barrels, bookcases and more!
26 detailed and fully assembled miniatures in coloured plastic
Evocative ‘ancient tome’ packaging in a protective sleeve

One player takes the part of the evil dungeon overlord with the forces of evil at his command, and the others divide the mighty heroes between them. Each hero has strengths and weaknesses and teamwork is the key: The mighty barbarian can slaughter many foes at a time, yet he is lightly armoured and vulnerable to strong enemies. The Dwarf, on the other hand, is steadier as his thick armour can resist most attacks. The Elf is not as skilled a fighter as either of these, instead preferring to stay at a distance where her finely-honed archery skills can best be used. Finally, there is the wizard -the others may laugh at his lack of fighting skill, yet it is often his magic that carries the day. If the others can keep him alive, that is.

This core set will be supported with a raft of expansion products as time goes on, adding new challenges and game modes to your Dungeon Saga. The first of these will be Adventurer's Companion which will add an AI system for solo and fully co-operative play, the ability to create unique characters from scratch using any model in your collection, the tools you need to design your own dungeons and much more!

Okay, so that's the official word on the game, how does it live up to that in real life?

There was a lot of excitement for this game, from myself and the guys I game with. Having pre-ordered my copy of Dungeon Saga, having a bit of a wait for a week or two-ish for the release, then getting the email from Mantic saying it's been dispatched to it arriving on my door step just added to my excitement and expectation. And, boy. Was I not disappointed when that box arrived.


One of the AWESOME things right away is the box. It's a  giant book! You slide the cover off, and inside is a giant book! So, nerd dreams coming true already and I've not even opened the flippin' thing yet.

Popping the cover, yes it opens up like a giant book, the inside is just as impressive. One thing that struck me, once the 'new print smell' had passed was that this is an 'out of the box' game. No miniatures need building, the dungeon furniture is all ready to rock, the board and tokens just need popping out of their card holders, and in addition to this; for every thing that is shrink wrapped you are provided a seal/reseal clip bang to store it in (this includes the board sections). Not only that, there is a separate card deck already sorted for the introduction quests you play so you don't even have to sort the cards until you have played a few quests. So far, I've got a full-on nerd going!

Next was to have a look at the miniatures, every one in the set is awesome, I love them. They come unpainted, but that is a plus for me as I really enjoy the painting side of the hobby, and not so much the sticking together. 

Dungeon Wondering Minions of the Overlord

Our Four Brave Heroes

The Evil Villains
   
As you can see from the above photos, the miniatures that come with the game are fantastic, and they really feel the part when you play the game. 

Aesthetics out of the way, how does Dungeon Saga play?

The game mechanics are very simple and intuitive, this is perfect as it lends the game a fast pace, a shallow learning curve and the players to focus on playing and not flicking through endless books trying to figure out how to perform a simple task. 

On to game night; pizzas loaded, Coke and Haribo all set. Rules digested (mostly), roles chosen. On with the quest!

We decided to play the first three adventures, Adventure A and B (the introduction quests) and Adventure One (The first full quest). One of the other decisions we made was to start right away playing as a campaign, the outcome of each quest feeding into the next one.



Each adventure has dialogue for the Overlord (the DM ), objectives, set-up, a map, tactical thoughts (a guide for first time playing this adventure which comes in real handy for the Heroes) and all the elements you need to play and complete each adventure. 


The first adventure we played was Adventure A, an introduction adventure that used a small dungeon a small, specific set of Overlord cards and minions and only two of our Heroes; the Dwarf and the Barbarian.


The adventure went as expected, yes we got a few of the rules wrong - but that always happens with new games. The Dwarf and the Barbarian fought their way through the Skeleton Warrior guards, and made it unscathed to the dungeon exit - their objective for the adventure. The simple mechanics/rules really kicked in in this first game, the speed of fighting, for example, getting quicker with each turn. One of the things we really liked was that the Skeleton Warriors when attacked will either be smashed to bones or rendered to dust. If they are smashed to bones, the Overlord can raise them back to life in the following turn - awesome!

The second adventure was Adventure B, this one once again was a reduced dungeon with a specific set of cards and only two of the Heroes. This time, however, the Heroes were the Elf and the Wizard.


 This adventure didn't go as well as the first, unless you are the evil Overlord that is. Where as the first adventure had the two 'fighty' Heroes (the Dwarf and the Barbarian). This one had the two 'specialist' Heroes (the Elf and the Wizard). This meant that in the right situation these two Heroes are devastating and with one simple action could swing an entire game. In the wrong place at the wrong time though, they are very quickly dispatched by the Overlords minions. 

  
And that is exactly what happened, our Heroes be defeated by this adventure. The Wizard, wondering off by himself, became trapped and surrounded by Skeleton Warriors and Archers. The Elf, the more fighty of the two, became trapped in a different room fighting even more of the undead. This led the the untimely end of our Wizard - a victory condition for the Overlord.

Undeterred from their quest, all four Heroes continued on, and taking the lessons that they had learned, entered the first dungeon for their big adventure to begin....

  
 Adventure One, proved to be a challenge. We were still getting our heads around the rules and figuring out just how to get the best from each Hero, and that only comes with practice. 


Due to a misunderstanding of how the timing worked and just how that played into the victory objectives led to an awesome game of the Skeleton and Zombie hordes Vs the Heroes. Sadly, as much fun as we were having, we all failed to complete the adventures victory conditions. 

A quick re-read and clarification of the rules and how to apply them, a quick dungeon re-set, and we were off again re-playing Adventure One. This time the the game worked like a charm and although a bit less fighty, much more fun and a victory as well - for the Heroes.


Conclusions!

Pros: A beautiful game, lots of fun, quick to learn and play, challenging, engaging... Well, let's just call it what it is - BRILLIANT!

Cons: Some of the wording of the rules could be a little clearer, not a biggy as we soon figured out what the intent was. Also, with this comment you have to take into account that this is part one in a three part game (and I'm sure more are coming as well). Throughout the books you will find several comments to this effect, on the cards there are values and comments that play no part in the adventures included with this set. This is not a problem, I just means that the next expansion will bolt seamlessly into this one - which is what you want.

Summary: I love this game, and I can easily see Dungeon Saga becoming a solid part of my gaming group, of which all who played enjoyed the game just as much as I did. 

That's it for now, we're already set for the next adventure, which I will post here soon!








  







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