Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dungeon Lords


DUNGEON LORDS by Czech Games Edition
Published in 2009


Dungeon Lords. The setting for this game is the very familiar dungeon scene with monsters, traps and heroic adventurers, with one big and refreshing difference: It's the player that controls the evil Dungeonlord trying to make his dungeon into a profitable nest of evil, while the game mechanics unleash some pesky adventurers to come and explore the dungeon.
So the Dungeon Lords is a strategy game about building and managing an evil dungeon. Resources are gathered and then used to pay taxes, hire monsters, buy traps, and so on...


After playing Dungeon Lords for a few times, you really start to appreciate the hard work that lies behind running a monster dungeon like this... Your resources are scarce, and the Ministry of Dungeons is breathing down on your neck heavily. And on top of that, adventuring do-gooders come every year to make a mess of things!

It should be noted that Dungeon Lords doesn't come with solo-playing rules, but there are many different solo variants around, made by gamers themselves. I am using a variant of my own, to which I will include a link at the end of this review.



Dungeon Lords is a very well organized game. There is quite a lot of components in the game, and each one of them has their own space on some of the game boards. There are multiple game boards, up to seven that are used in a four player game. The boards are full of nice, detailed and humorous artwork, and the overall look of the game is very easy going and enjoyable.

The two most important game boards are the Dungeon Board, which represents the actual dungeon that I am building, and the Central Board, which has all the different orders that I may have my minions to carry out. One game is set over the period of two years, and the concept of the game is the following:
During the year I try to build up my dungeon, and acquire monsters and traps, so that when the year is over, and the adventurer party arrives, I am ready to take them on. Two of these years are played, after which the Ministry of Dungeons evaluates my dungeon, and I score points.

The dungeon starts off as nothing more than just three tunnels with nothing in them.

Resources of the game are food and gold... and imps, the little creatures who will do all the actual work in the dungeon.

A dungeon like this is completely defenseless, so monsters and traps are a must. Tunnels may also be shaped into rooms, which have special uses and abilities.


So without further ado, let's see what will become of my dungeon!
THE GAME BEGINS:

FIRST YEAR:

Winter:
As my dungeon has just begun its business, I need to gather resources. I send my minion to steal food from the village, and some of my imps to mine gold.

The gold that was mined was immediately used to buy traps; a Pendulum and a Poisoned dart. These will surely come in handy when the first adventure party shows up.






Spring:
I started with only 3 imps to do all the labor in my dungeon, so more will definitely be needed. With some gold and food my minion manages to hire 2 more.

My first monster is also hired; a Troll with an endless appetite. This creature will attack hard the first adventurer that comes to its sight, and it will also gladly help the imps when operating production rooms. I also send a minion to buy blueprints for one of the rooms, but he has to come back empty handed - all the blueprints were already taken. There seems to be a high demand for those...





The annual tax collection is held, and I have to pay off the rest of my gold. Luckily my dungeon is still very small, only 3 tunnels... Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to pay my taxes.

An amateurish fighter-adventurer appears near my dungeon entrance. He is waiting for some more "heroes" to come join him.

Summer:


It's time to expand my dungeon, so I order 3 of my imps to dig more tunnels. One of the tunnels is also shaped into a Chicken Coop. Here my imps can produce food.

Some imps and the Troll operate the Coop, but the food that was produced - and more - is then eaten by the same Troll. It was his payday and Trolls only want food as a payment...




An inexperienced, but eager wizard joins the fighter at the entrance. Soon the adventurers will be ready to make their move.

Fall:
I send a minion to do its best and improve my reputation amongst the townspeople. Somehow it manages to convince the people that we are not so evil...
In the meantime - however - I hire a Witch. This act doesn't exactly promote my mr.-good-guy image, as the villagers hate Witches.

Desertion! Two of my imps get bored and leave my dungeon... They will have to be replaced.

Another, even greener wizard arrives. Now that there are 3 of the adventurers, they finally have the courage to enter my dungeon.







End of the first year:
Here we are now, the first party of adventurers is attacking my dungeon! Luckily no priests or thieves joined the group, so it shouldn't be too difficult to dispose of these critters. But there are two wizards protected by a fighter, and it is those wizards that may have some tricks up their sleeves...

In the first tunnel, the fighter steps on a trip-wire. Woosh! My razor-sharp Pendulum trap cuts their column in
half, taking out the wizard that was advancing in the middle.
And before the fighter fully realizes what just happened, the Witch appears in front of him. The fighter's large
shield is useless against the Witch's wicked magic, and so the fighter must fall too.
The last, puny wizard however manages to survive, and casts an annoying spell; Graffiti. It will take some time for one of my minions to clean this mess off...

The wizard also secures the tunnel and drives away the comfortable darkness, rendering the entrance tunnel of my dungeon unusable.

In the next tunnel the wizard meets his end at the hands of my Troll.





And so the first attack is warded off, with relatively small losses.

SECOND YEAR:

Winter:
Slow start for the year: One of my minions couldn't come to work, for it was cleaning off the nasty graffiti from a dungeon wall. Another minion tried to hire more imps, but the little creatures wanted more food than what my minion had to offer... so no deal was made.

The tax day is coming nearer again, so I order my imps to mine gold. They mine some, but not enough for the taxes...




My resources are low.







Spring:
I'm having serious trouble with my resource gathering and so, when the tax collector shows up, I cannot pay the full sum. This results is me receiving a Red Mark, which will lower the value of my dungeon in the final assessment.


But on the bright side - or perhaps on especially dark side - I manage to hire a very powerful monster; a Demon! These creatures are deadly fighters, but they come with a heavy price: They eat live monsters and I am the one who has to provide them for him.

And so, I have to feed my Troll to the Demon...





A new adventurer - this time a priest - arrives to wait at the entrance.

Summer:
I replenish my trap collection a little bit. I get a "Kamikaze Imp" -explosives set for free, and I also trade my Poison dart for an Anti-magic dart.

This new dart should work fine against the priest...




Pandemonium, a room with gothic arches, grotesque statues, gate to another dimension and whatnot, is constructed to the bottom of my tunnel system. The Demon will like this...

My very few imps are sent to the Chicken Coop to counter my food shortage.

Another, more skilled priest shows up at my entrance. Apparently the adventurers are about to take a whole different strategy this time...

Fall:
Like in last autumn, I send one minion to the village to polish my reputation. Imps head to the tunnels and mine gold, not very effectively though...

The pay day for monsters is drawing near, so I need to come up with something to feed my Demon with. Another Witch is recruited, and then chosen for this questionable honor to become the Demon's sacrifice.

An experienced, heavy fighter comes to lead the adventure party. This year the group seems a lot more menacing than the last time: The fighter is difficult to defeat, and the two priests will quickly heal any damage I deliver.





End of the second year:
There they come! But I am prepared: My Demon waits eagerly to jump into action, and the Witch (the one who wasn't eaten by the Demon) is preparing her spells. An imp is strapping some explosives on, and the Anti-magic dart is set to counter the healing spells of the priests. The fight begins.

The adventurers are greeted with brutal force! As the adventure party arrives in the Chicken Coop, my
defense plan activates: At first the Anti-magic dart shoots from the shadows, hitting the priest who is coming in last. The damage it causes is minor, but now the priests won't be able to use their healing for some time.

Next, the mighty Demon enters the room, attacking the fighter. The fighter, though armored and experienced, is no match for the Demon, and falls. The priests panic from seeing such a creature kill their leader! Then the Witch appears and attacks the first priest, nearly killing him too.

After the racket finally stops, only the priests are alive, and both of them are injured and shocked.
The priests decide to leave the Coop and try another way. They enter a safe looking tunnel. There they are met by an imp... Not such an intimitading sight, but little did the priests know that this imp is carrying explosives! A big explosion later, there is only one priest left, badly injured. But to the priest's credit, he does conquer the tunnel.



The priest moves on, but the overall fatigue is too much for the injured man... he falls before he manages to cause any more trouble to my dungeon, which is fortunate for me, since I had just ran out of monsters and traps.





The second attack is now dealt with, and it's time to have my dungeon assessed. Less than 10 points would mean I didn't do all that well, while 20 points and more would be an excellent accomplishment. Also, let's see if I receive any titles...



15 points, and the Battlelord title shared with another new Dungeon Lord.


CONCLUSION:

Not a bad score! Not nearly one of my best games either, but 15 points might be a little over the average. I only got one (shared) title, so on that account the game didn't go that well. Couple of more titles and this game would've been a very successful one. My resource gathering was the one thing that slowed me down in this game: Some orders were not carried out, and as there are only 12 orders per year, each one of them counts...
But the fights went well! Only two conquered tunnels.. that's a pretty good score.

As mentioned earler, Dungeon Lords looks very good. The boards are incredibly detailed, and the cartoonish artwork fits very well in the atmosphere. This game is, above all, fun! Fun with some real strategy in it... Just by reading the rules, or watching someone else playing this game, one might think that the strategy in this game is shallow at best, but this is not the case. Even in my solo variant, the strategic choices are considerable, and in a full four-player game it's something much more.

And the rulebook of DL deserves a special mention: It's not only very well written and easy to read, it also contains some genuinely funny comments by the two "mentors" that give you - the inexperienced Dungeonlord - tips about the difficult business of managing a dunegon.

RATING: 9 /10

SOLO RATING: 7 /10

One of the greatest real strategy board games I know of. My solo rating is somewhat low because of the fact that all the solo variants I have seen are either very cumbersome to play, or then they are missing game features. The biggest problem with my variant is the absence of the "non-player inaccessible orders"... When I can't see those, I lose one important strategic option, as I cannot plan my own orders accoring to the ones that my rivals can, on cannot choose.

However, Dungeon Lords still has strong solo-playing capabilities, and I recommend it for just about any board gamer, who is interested in a bit different kind of a strategy game.

My solo variant can be found from boardgamegeek.com

http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/72707/new-kind-of-solo-variant