Ryan Thomason

D&D Dungeon Command – Demands Your Attention

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You know a game performs on the fun factor for an entire group of beginners when even though you spent that first hour and a half learning the mechanics, it’s all you want to play until the next board-gaming session. WPR’s Xopher Reed, Kyle Steenblik and myself all gathered around an old card table in my home office to play some board games. Where, I’m sure most well adjusted adults in their early 30’s would have played poker or…go fish (Goes to show you how socially adapted I am), we played D&D Dungeon Command. Why? Commanding Warbands of Orcs, Goblins, Undead, Drow or generic Hero’s is way cooler than saying you got two pair of Eights as the highlight of your night.

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Honesty is the key to any relationship between writer and reader, I will dispense with some for you. This was my first time playing any actual variation of a Dungeons and Dragons game that wasn’t a computer game. Yes, this was my first true D&D experience. That wasn’t with my three year old son at the time. I’ve read some of D&D 3.5, Most of D&D 4th Edition Essential books and some supplementary books, spent about seven hours making my first character over 6 months ago for a D&D 4e game that never got off the ground. (My Pixie Assassin stalks the shadows waiting for his time to emerge from the darkness) I’ve longed to have a “real” D&D experience, Dungeon Command has given me a small taste, and damn, do I desire to join a real adventuring group now.

Dungeon Command comes in five separate faction packs: Sting of Lolth (Drow Warband), Heart of Cormyr (Adventuring Hero Warband), Tyranny of Goblins (Goblin Warbard), Curse of Undeath (Undead Warband) and Blood of Gruumsh (Orc Warband). While you can have a two player game using just one faction pack, you really need to buy at least two for a proper battle. Or, one separate faction for each player, up to four total. We manged to squeeze three factions onto my rickety old card table, I’d suggest you use a decent sized table for your session. Each faction pack can run you anywhere between $25 to $40 depending on how much hunting you do online/brick and mortar stores. Wizards of the Coast graciously provided us with all five factions for review, we thank you Wizard of the Coast. Let me say this one thing, your money is well invested the miniatures that come with the game are very quality pieces and transition into your actual D&D adventure easily. Heck, they even give you cards on each monster to use in your adventure outside of Dungeon Command to save you rulebook flipping through pages.

StartSetup is simple enough (unless you’re all rules dorks like we were and spent a quiet 20 minutes sitting at the table reading our separate rulebooks) you assemble your 4 pieces of terrain that is either Dungeon or Outside terrain, everyone decides on which one to play. You put them together however you please and then connect your pieces to the other players to form your entire map. Each faction comes with two commanders (One with higher Leadership to give you a bigger and/or badder army start or one commander with higher Morale to give you a little more flexibility but not as much ‘umph at the start). You have your Order Cards that you can use to give attacks more damage, or take away damage dealt to you, perform some cool tricks on foes or just ones for you to hold onto and grin at how cunning you’ll look when you play it. There are twelve total monsters in each faction/warband that can potentially come into play. Every monster in your warband has a level depending on their abilities/heath/attack damage/etc, the way you know who can be on the map for your warband is by adding up the levels of the monsters you want in play against your leadership score, as long as the warband total isn’t higher than your leadership score, you’re golden. You get to place 3 treasure chests within your section of map that you can have someone in your warband rush to and camp on in your section or the other players sections of the map, boosting your morale scores by one until you’ve taken all the treasure (Either one, two or three treasures, it’s random). You win by wiping out the other players, either by reducing their morale to zero or making them run out of monsters to play.

Dungeon Command has no dice.

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Yes, no dice. We spent a minute after opening our faction boxes looking on the floor to see if we dropped them. This is entirely turn and card based. You attack someone, they have to wait until their next turn to attack back. Unless they have cards to take away damage, there is no defending an attack unless you have a card doing so. This system is incredibly fun and really speeds up the pace of the game while adding a lot of strategy to the mix. I personally soaked up every minute of our play time. Xopher has said twenty times he wants to play again, Kyle probably the same amount. Dungeon Command is something that you can easily come back to and play again. The factions are all incredibly balanced and you never know what the opposing players are going to do next. Xopher immediately grabbed the Blood of Gruumsh faction box when deciding time came around. I think he hugged it a little to his chest as he walked back to his seat. He likes Orcs. Kyle decided to go with the Curse of Undeath while I went the always underrated Goblins in the Tyranny of Goblins faction. Kyle and I both went with the high Morale commanders, while Xopher went for the true Orc threat in choosing a high leadership. Naturally, Xopher came out with some level four character some brutish fighters and immediately went on a straight path to Kyle and Mine separate sections of dungeons. “They’re Orcs, you come out brute force and swinging.” he said.

I built a small starting warband of a level one archer and a basic fighter with a level 3 Bugbear Beserker, while I think Kyle came out with a sorcerer and wolf of sorts. I’m not going to go over every aspect of our game, we were all beginners, there was a lot of talking about the rules, looking at rules, looking at more rules when actions came into play. Even though it doubled as a learning experience, we had an incredibly fun time. The first monster death came at my expense, Xopher killed my Bugbear with some jerk Orc. After that, I was on a quest for vengeance. VENGEANCE, for goblin-kin. Ok, maybe I just really wanted to get my first kill too. After a couple of rounds and a higher leadership skill. I boxed his jerk Orc in a corner and did something like over sixty damage than was required to kill it.

It felt good.

After close to three hours of playing, we decided that we’d cut the time left on the game to 15 minutes, giving everyone approximately two more turns. While we could have finished the whole game, we had other ones we wanted to get to also (reviews coming soon). I had to ditch my whole strategy of camping my Goblins in the only room that Xopher’s Orcs had to go through to get my section of Dugeon and go on the offensive against…a damn Owlbear. Blocking the door to Kyles section of dungeon? A damn Ogre. The stage was set for brute force against tactics. I had my new plan all setup in my head. I had the cards that made me feel like I was going to throw them down and wipe out that damn Owlbear blocking my door in a single turn. It was going to be awesome! I was feeling. Smug.

LOOK AT HOW SMUG I WAS FEELING.

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Then when my moment arrived, on my last turn….

Sorcerers and Archers can’t shoot through doorways if your other guys are standing in it. Plan. Ruined.

Still though, our single game of Dungeon Command already ranks as one of my most favorite board gaming experiences of all time. I can’t wait to play the guys again, and I know they feel the same way. If you’re worried about the monetary investment, just know this. You could have lost the same amount of money to some jerk friend of a friend playing poker and have nothing to show for it.

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