Board Game Review: Dungeon Command

Lo and behold, what should appear on the steps of my house from Wizards of the Coast?! Why, it’s the latest in their Dungeon Command series of games: Tyranny of Goblins!

So, here’s the breakdown:

Dungeon Command is D&D’s new miniatures game, which, quite interestingly, doesn’t use dice. “What’s that?” you say, “no dice?!”

Instead, the game uses a very simple mechanic: If you can see it, you can hit it ranged, deal damage equal to what it says on your card. If you’re melee only, and you’re in close combat, deal damage equal to what it says on your card.

That’s it?! Well, no. You can play cards, adding to your damage, while your opponent can play cards negating damage.

Here’s where the fascinating part of the game comes into play: At the beginning of the game, you have a a leadership score, that raises by one each turn. You can have as many monsters (in levels) out on the battlefield as you have Leadership points. By this, I mean that if a monster is level 2, you have 2 points less to spend on other monsters. Really tough monsters such as trolls and demons cost upward of 5, while lowly goblins cost 1.

You can customize your warband, but the rules appear vague: “you must have at least 12 monsters, but can only have four of any kind of monster.” What if I want to just load up on 12 trolls?! It wasn’t until I played the game that I realized why that wouldn’t work: You’d never be able to bring them all out. Your leadership score slowly creeps up, and by the time you got up to the chance to bring out 2 trolls, the game would be over.

Each time a monster dies, your group’s Morale drops by the level of the monster that died. If you have a goblin die, you’ve only lost one Morale. If you lose your troll, you’re in trouble. If your Morale drops to zero, you lose. In addition, you can choose to negate all damage to a creature by declaring that they “cower”, and lose morale equal to the amount of damage they would sustain.

This game is brilliant. You have a constant influx of new creatures charging onto the battlefield, collecting treasure and demolishing their opponent.

The great thing is that the language is recognizable to anyone who’s been playing D&D in the past 12 years: You have standard actions, move actions, minor actions. You can shift and charge. Some monsters have simplified flanking rules on their cards. It really feels like a D&D experience, on top of that. Your wizards are casting magic missiles and web spells, your heroes are pushing back against one another, and plenty of little monsters are running around underfoot.

While each set is designed for one person, you can have two people play the same set to get a feel of the game before you buy a second. The Goblin set played well, and I think I’ll look at getting the Heroes set next.

Be sure to go pick it up. More sets are coming out soon, so you’ll be able to play pretty much any race that tickles your fancy.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this game from Wizards of the Coast.

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