Review: Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep – Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Most of the monsters live in deep forests or rocky caves, that were there long before them. They have to adapt to any curve, ceiling lowering or hall. They will learn to move around and use the environment to their advantage. But this time everything is different. The mad magician Halaster Blackcloak let his subjects dig the tunnels just as he wanted them. A perfect hero trap.
The lid of a massive and huge box is dominated by a picture of the main villain himself – a mad wizard. Inside, there are plenty of miniatures, cards, tokens, but most of all the boards, that are made like jigsaw puzzles. Preparing the adventure itself, however, ultimately depends on choosing a quest from the adventure book. The setup specifies some specific components to the players, but first and foremost, they learn where their heroes will enter the cave. They also place a healing surge nearby.
But who will it be? This is decided by the player, where everyone chooses one hero for himself. He gets not only a miniature, but also a set of skill cards from which the player chooses the ones suitable for the upcoming expedition. Then, according to the instructions, players prepare a stock of underground tiles and, above all, decks of various cards.
Players get first to the action every round, while they can decide among themselves the order, in which they engage in the fight. That’s because they work together as a team all the time. In doing so, with hero miniatures, they can move around squares (according to the speed of their hero), disarm traps and especially attack monsters.
These appear as a result of exploration, that is the second phase of every round. If the character is on the edge of the currently discovered game space, the player must turn the new board from the offer and attach it to the cave system. In doing so, the new spaces must point with a small triangle in the direction, from which the hero is currently exploring. But that’s not all, because tile can contain monsters. For each such symbol, the player turns one card from the shuffled deck of opponents, places miniature on the location and takes card for himself. He will be responsible for this monster.
It is the monster card owners, who will get into action again at the end of the round, when the villains phase occurs. It includes moving and attacking with monsters and potential bosses. Their behavior is predetermined and is printed directly on their cards. But the new encounter card will also enter the game.
Players simply use dice to attack. But their results can be influenced by bonus effects. Since these are twenty-sided dice, we will even encounter a critical hit rule (in the case of the highest possible roll of 20).
For defeating monsters, players get experience in the form of cards, that can help them sooner or later and avoid battle. Many monsters wear something and players can get valuable equipment, when creatures are killed. These items are accidentally revealed – from the shuffled deck.
Each scenario is just part of a larger whole, a campaign. Individual stories may not be successfully completed by the players, but then they must repeat their attempts. They cannot advance without a win. After a total of dozens of adventures, players close their story.
Dungeon of the Mad Mage builds on a simple format, that is dominated by the exploration, upgrading of heroes and fighting with monsters. In addition, it adds a story campaign to the mix (like his older brothers in the series). And in the process, players can level up their heroes to the fourth level now. New expert skills await them during the journey and skills are covered by a new special higher level tiles.
At the same time, better hero enhancements are probably the biggest news. If we, of course, disregard the new story. Generally, this series altogether is not marked by any significant changes, but above all by a balanced quality and easy-to-access entertainment. And all this is preserved here. But we’ll get back to that.
Experience can be spent for canceling encounter cards (and not for raising the level as we are used to). With that comes a new level of tactics. You do not want to use this option too often, because there is not infinite amount of points and there may be times, when you need rescue more.
The setup is not difficult and you can start playing in a few moments. Especially if you follow the instruction at the beginning of the rules and set aside the components, that are needed for each scenario. The game then starts running really fast and there is always something going on, as players discover new locations and have to deal with its inhabitants. This constantly increases the number of opponents, but on the other hand, if a player does not reveal a new board in the turn, he must instead deal with the consequences of the encounter card.
But individual stories also have their own specific rules, that distinguish them from each other. We do not want to spoil your experience of their gradual discovery. But each scenario also has sections of text, that need to be read after a certain moment. Players will learn a twist or a shift in the story and this will naturally affect their progress.
At the center of everything is the division of monsters among players, all with the task of working together. But everyone has an important responsibility for the team to manage these enemy creatures. The main thing is, that the players play as the monsters and the individual rounds of the game are not divided unnecessarily by a single stage of the monsters. Instead, the part is present after each turn.
The difficulty is gradually increasing across the campaign, but the individual matches of the series do not last longer, than ninety minutes. They will often be even shorter. But the difficulty of some stories will probably make you repeat. In addition, the replayability of the entire campaign is surprisingly high and after more than fifteen hours (the game contains 13 adventures, not counting any retries) spent on the way to the conclusion you will want to try it all over again.
The game remains very simple in terms of rules. There are no overly complicated elements. This makes it ideal for beginners and especially for playing of families with children. Dads will certainly welcome this chance to spend time with their offspring.
Processing at first glance looks great. But some pieces are not printed exactly. A much bigger problem is the rules themselves, which contain several errors. Therefore, be sure to look at the errata, before playing. The inaccuracy is not low and some errors can have a significant impact on your experience. And yet, beautiful figures will improve your mood, especially the gazers and beholders present (fans of the old EOB game will be delighted).
And this processing hesitation is a shame, because when you disregard it, Dungeon of the Mad Mage is perhaps the best game in the line! It offers practically the same thing, we know so well from previous D&D boxes, but it makes it a little more fun.
Review: Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep – Dungeon of the Mad Mage
Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage is the best game in the Adventure System Game yet. It offers an interesting story and minor improvements. Unfortunately, it also carries heavy weights in the form of unnecessary printing errors. If you watch out for them, then in the form of Dungeon of the Mad Mage you will get an adventurous canape, that will last for a long time to bite off!
Reader Rating1 Vote
the ability to upgrade heroes to fourth level
spending experience skipping meetings
total content and processing
length of each game
players feel constantly involved in adventure
many errors in rules and cards
the game is unchanged from previous games in the series