Review: Dungeon Command Sting of Lolth vs Heart of Cormyr – spiders against dragon
He quickly hid behind a rock. A while ago, he saw a flash in the distance. He was sure, that it did not came from any animal or from water reflection. It was a gleam of armor. He knew, that in the narrow pass, something is waiting for him. He thought so even earlier, but now his fears were confirmed.
He looked at the opposite side of the passage, if there was a place, where he could hide and still get a better view. There were bushes growing at the foot of the rock. It was nothing great, but he could hide there, because of his short figure. He took a large breath and felt his legs to carry him forward across the distance. Just for a moment he dared to look into the pass, but he saw nothing. Is it possible, that it could be just a shadow? But before he could properly think it out, he was already in the bushes. Safe again for a while.
It seemed like an eternity, before leaves of the thicket stopped moving. He heard his breath and still gripped his small crossbow. Originally, he did not want to take it with him on patrol, but his brother convinced him, that it could come in handy. And maybe now its the right time. The thicket was truly a good position to see mouth of the pass, but it was empty. Anyone, who has been there before, hid just like him. But it did not matter. He was used to waiting. Carefully he shifted his body to a more comfortable position, put a loaded crossbow on his knee and turned his gaze onto pass. We will see, who will be more patient in the end..
Tensions on the battlefield brings you into experiencing the adrenaline rush almost constantly. Every thought is sharp, quick, and your whole body is excited to maximum performance. Imagine, that you are a member of one commandos team. This is the main idea of new miniature series of games called Dungeon Command.
This is a hot new game from American publisher Wizards of the Coast, company famous for its Dungeons & Dragons license, shortly known as D&D. Dragons and various creatures are inhabiting this world as well as lots of different, more or less intelligent animals, like on our Earth. Previously, they transferred this world not only into a role-playing game of the same name, but a Hollywood movie Dungeons & Dragons as well.
And now there is another medium in front of us, that should transports us into this world full of adventure. The history of modern board games from the world of D&D began in 2010, when they published an exciting adventure game called Castle Ravenloft. Wrath of Ashardalon and Legend of Drizzt continued this tradition. And now there’s a brand new concept from team of four authors: Chris Dupuis, Peter Lee, Kevin Tatroe and Rodney Thompson. Behind the whole illustrations is undersigned a large team of designers, such as Jason Engle (Thunderstone – review).
Box welcomes you with an interesting thematic illustration. Dungeon Command series is made up of sets, just like any expandable game. But this time, it means the ratio of one player per box. And this is the reason, why our review takes an enormous task of introducing two boxes – Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr. Both games are quite close in description of packaging and gameplay. Even before a few weeks, they were the only one to get, but now there is also Tyranny of Goblins and Curse of the Undeath waiting to please your senses.
Of course, when you must buy box for each player separately, you have to double the money expense. Yes, a simplified version of the game can be played with a single box, but trust us, its not worth it. If you want to expereince Dungeon Command, go for two. Each of the rivals should have his own army. The magic is in the fact, that your opponents can fight for the same clan as you or different. It depends on what characters they like.
So today reviewed games are hidden in boxes similar to each other, only with different illustrations – one is focused on the spider queen Lolth, while the other has the heart of the dragon Cormyr in its centre. These two miniatures are also the main attraction of the whole box.
To get to the entire content, you must first cross through interesting closing systém of the box. It has no separate lid, instead has a removable top side, which is secured at the bottom, with a hole for a finger for easier opening. It holds and opens up nicely and after lifting, you get a look, that is truly gratifying. Each of the boxes has a plastic insert with twelve holes for miniatures – eleven smaller in a circle around one major character. This is your main weapon in the fight against an opponent. But he would not be any less armed than you – while one box has a dragon, the second has a giant spider.
On the sides, there are also holes for order cards and other tokens. It’s heavy and thick chips, which must be punched out of the prepared sheets along with the six large plates of the environment. This is the place, where the entire fight will take place. These boards have knobs and you can link them like puzzle pieces. The smaller ones are starting parts for each side of the conflict, the larger are main battle area. The plates are reversible, you will find the cave environment on one side and on the other side an open green area with some rocks here and there.
Chips have numbers printed on them, but there are also chests tokens, which conceal treasures at predetermined locations. The most valuable fortune here is morale, as you will soon see. In addition to the classic round and square tokens, you will find a diamond with a hole in it. These one will you use for labeling values on the leader tab. There are two generals, who can you become, in each package. You can choose between them. This makes it possible to split your army in half and meet in the scale battle with only one Dungeon Command box. But half troops means half fun, as we have already said.
Each character has a portrait on their commander card, one ability and few numbers. Two are important for game start – how many order cards will you get at the beginning and how many of these cards can you hold in hand during game. Two scales on right side are more important for the entire course – morale and leadership. Morale determines the state of your army. If it drops to zero, you lose. In contrast, the leadership makes for some kind of experience. It tells you, how many monsters can you simultaneously control. This is the only number, that automatically increases with each round – plus one.
You could easily split cards according to their rear side into two decks – the monster cards and order cards. Each creature with whom you meet in the game, has its level determining its strength in comparison with the others, then a name, race and image. In addition each card includes a special ability, creature hit points and attack value (melee or ranged).
Then there are order cards with a command level, that specifies the minimum requirement – only unit with at least that level can be used to carry out that order. In addition, order card must correspond to the type of the unit, so you need the strength card (STR), you can only play it on a unit, that has this key shortcut listed in the row under its name.
Thus we have explained all the basic components, which will you use while playing Dungeon Command. It is understandable, that in each box are not only other miniatures, but also entirely different order cards. And their selection does not limit you to one box, so you can use order card from other box, if you own it. Or you can command even other miniatures. In this part of the game, you will discover a little tinge of deckbuilding here. And you can seee, that it can have a very important influence on the outcome of fights.
Games with miniatures have usually quite sophisticated rules, regarding movement and such and Dungeon Command is no exception. Therefore, we will not go in detail in rules explanation, we rather just slip over the surface, that we can devote to evaluation. And we will still touch a few specifics in this second part of our review.
Players will therefore prepare the battlefield. Its appearance is strictly given, when you have only two copies of the game. You can also create larger space, but this would be in multiplayer, with several Dungeon Command boxes. We will not describe or evaluate multiplayer in this review.
Each player has his starting piece in front of his. Between his troops and the opponent are tens of meters (virtual, its in centimeters) terrain, and it does not matter, if its underground or just green grass. Flowers will soon bend their heads under heavy armor of mighty warriors from both sides. But you first need to send them into battle. Unlike similar games, players do not start here with whole army in the field. They have to send them one after another and above it, they may strengthen and replenish their forces during battle.
All this is result of a great new concept of leadership. Each of commanders has a number on his card, indicating the maximum total level of units, which is capable of commanding at once. This limit increases each round by one, as the commander gains new experience. This concept allows you not to only replace the units lost to fill in remaining space in your commanding skills. But from time to time you can send new blood into balanced battle and change its fate. This feeling of constantly arriving reinforcements and player options to regroup is truly unique.
The game can then end up mostly in one way – complete loss of morale of your troops. Each general has besides his leadership also a fixed value of morality, which keeps his army together. For every death of a unit, this unit morale suffers and player must reduce it for the amount of level of his lost creature. Its place on the battlefield can be replaced, but the upcoming chaos in your ranks cannot be averted.
At the beginning of each match, players takes order cards in number corresponding with his commander ability. This goes also to monsters. Each player can send as many troops as his commanding number allows him and also up to number of cards drawn. He then draws back to his maximum hand size and the game can begin.
Players take turns and each makes all him moves, until actions comes to the next. At the beginning, you untap all your units (= untapping comes from Magic the Gathering and means rotate your monster card back, because you must rotate it by 90 degrees, when you activate its abilities), so you can use them again. He draws a new order card. Then he activates each unit once and can perform various actions with them.
After activation, commander will increase his leadership value by one and can possibly send a new reinforcement onto the battlefield from cards in his hand. But hi must follow the upper limit of leadership. At the end of the round, he draws monster cards for any deployed unit. And as a final action, he once again untaps his units, so they are ready to respond to any threat from opposing party. Then is player’s turn over.
Here you see, that the whole gameplay is not complicated, when it comes to a turn sequence. Everything starts to get complex, when you get to unit actions. Miniatures in the game can do several things each round – move, follow orders, use their power or perform other actions. Player may conduct only some of them or even all. However, there is a simple rule, that limits action amount. Certain actions require creature to be tapped (rotated by ninety degrees). Tapped unit then can do only simple actions, but it can still for example move.
Of course, each unit has a speed, that corresponds to the number of fields on the board, that it can overcome in a round. The movement includes many specific rules, such as stopping, when you get into contact with the enemy, flying, burrowing, pushing, sliding and more. Everything works quite logically and understanding of those rules is no problem, once you have played Dungeon Command at least once.
For the full experience, however, some important concepts should be mentioned. First of all order cards played from hand. These cards can somehow affect creatures. But the target unit must match requirements of the order card (such as intelligence – INT – for the order web). And also units level must be at least equal to that of order card played on the creature. Adjacent units can help you, so you can use more complex abilities than usual. Nice tactical detail!
In attacking, there are regularly automatic hits. Injured units are marked with token values specifying attack strength. If creature runs out of lives, you remove the miniature from theboard and reduce morale of your troops by its level. At the end of round, you can call a new, maybe even more powerful monster, instead.
Shooting attacks are also important. For their good execution, you need to have the complete target in your sight. If you see only part of the enemy, you can try to shoot, but the opponent can dodge this shot. Price for it is tapping this character, so they could not avert second attack, if it was made.
Attacks seem quite predictable now, you agree? But that is not the case, because there is this little „but“, which gives each attack this highly needed tension. Players have order cards in their hands and with them, they can respond in Dungeon Command to any action. There is this STACK, how it is called. Cards gather there – once there is one placed, second player gets a chance to react with playing his card. Each event and its evaluation brings chance to respond. Now this part is very important and can completely reverse the result of seemingly irrevertable attack.
Last column of rules description will be devoted to concept of cowering. This means, that your unit crouches in fear of impending attack, with fear of death. Game now presumes, that enemy leaves this enemy be, because they do not make easy kills. What price do you have to pay? Instead of lives of your unit, you lose army morale and get closer to defeat. But this could be better solution sometimes, than to lose some important unit deep in enemy ground.
Dungeon Command offers amazing experience, there is absolutely no doubt of that. Authors brought to this game some great ideas, that warrants balanced battles until the last moment. Unlike similar games, where player has limited resources and since the moment he starts losing, there is quite certain, who will be the winner.
In this situation, Dungeon Command offers the possibility to regroup and attack again with other strategy. Players must constantly think and primarily use their order cards in right moment. No luck, only their decision makes them succeed. Order cards will create your way to victory, because they offer the ability to change the outcome of battles and allow your units do some great, superman, deeds.
There is no luck involved in the whole game. Yes, you draw the cards from two decks. But you created those decks yourself, so only person you can blame, is you. Still, units and order offer can be critical. Which leads us to probably one only shortcoming of the whole game.
Although at first glance, it seems that in you get everything you need for good in one box, the opposite is true. Dungeon Command is a game, that uses more of deckbuilding principles, than it seems. Its subtle and it does not involve just cards. In rules, there are limits the number of same miniatures and cards per deck, but you could not get that much from one box. So if you want to be really capable of fighting, you would need the same game twice. You can then easily put more copies of your favorite orders into your deck or use your preferred units. The not-so-low price per pack makes it uncomfortable.
But that does not mean, you can not experience great battles using only contents of one box. You just lose the ability to be able to adapt your army to your image. But trust us, first ten matches you wont feel no need to do that, because you will enjoy the atmosphere of battlefield and various tactical options.
The miniatures are simply amazing in their processing. The appearance of painted characters cannot be compared with usual featureless gray. You only need to spread them on the table to make you desire to play. Card graphics is rather simple, but serves its purpose and illustrations are nice.
Dungeon Command is a success. It is an excellent miniature fighting game with rather intuitive rules and large extendability for the future. These miniatures can also be used in other games from Wizards of the Coast set in Dungeons & Dragons world, so you get more in thebox, than you would expect. In addition, you can fight in two environments and take advantage of fanciful great mechanics. Declining morale determines the loser, while the force of personality and leadership will allow you to reinforce and complement your army even, when the fight is fierce. So if your collection does not contain some miniature game, if you simply like nice miniatures or if you crave for battle in two, then Dungeon Command should be the right choice for you.
Review: Dungeon Command Sting of Lolth vs Heart of Cormyr – spiders against dragon
Dungeon Command is a tactical miniature game. They will capture for themselves not only battlefield, but also your senses, because miniatures look simply stunning. And not only when unpacking, but you will look at them with pleasure in every game. Precisely these miniatures raise this game much higher in overall impression. But even without them, Dungeon Command would not lose its fans. It contains several interesting thoughts. Winner is determined not only by slaughtering enemy troops, because reinforcements are coming. Army is losing morale with each and single death of their companions. And when you lose control over your men, they will flee in defeat. This is exactly, how experience in Dungeon Commands feels. Number of your subordinates is determined by sum of their level and your leadership ability. Playing of order cards has a large influence on the whole match and guarantees unforseen twists in battles, which are otherwise luckless. You will carry deep experience from each battle. Game remains tactical and outcome depends in most cases on your skills as general. Dungeon Command is simply excellent miniature game. It creates great entry into world of painted miniatures and large battles for all beginner players. But it still remains engaging for more advanced players, who will discover many tought challenges in this box..
Reader Rating0 Votes
battle without luck
tactical playing of action cards
winner is determined by loss of morale
two sided maps
generals have a leadership skill determining number of units in battlefield