inconsequential ruminations

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Flash in the Pan 2

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Dungeon Lords was a flash in the pan after all. I still think it’s a good game, but after three plays weaknesses emerged:

  • chaos – you can play as conservatively as you like, but it just takes one unexpected decision from another player to turn your plans upside down. Age of Steam has the reputation of being a harsh game, but bankruptcy is always deserved. In Dungeon Lords it’s out of your hands and in a game of this length it gets frustrating. Cute imps and funny monsters can only make up for it so much.
  • tough learning curve – Jeff taught the game brilliantly, but I was able to teach San Juan and fit in a two-player game while the tutorial was played through.
  • duration – despite familiarity this is a 2.5 hour game. Simply too long for a euro.
  • fiddliness – there is a lot of shuffling pieces around that gets tedious.

Despite these criticisms there is still a lot to like. You have to plan carefully and the theme is irresistible, but I’m less enthusiastic than I was.

Come back Reiner! All is forgiven – except Beowulf.

Written by Iain

June 28th, 2010 at 10:37 am

Posted in boardgames

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Flash in the Pan

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That’s the last time I name-drop Brian Bankler in one of my posts! In all seriousness, I am surprised that Dungeon Lords was a flash in the pan. It’s an interesting game, but I suppose it’s a crowded market.

Game Taster is a good description. I am trying to move away from this, especially now that I’m getting regular gaming with the Isleworth Gamers. If only they would chose an interesting Game of the Month.

Written by Iain

May 26th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

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Dungeon Lords

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Up until a month ago I had not played any of Vlaada Chvátil’s games, but now I have played Through The Ages, Space Alert and Dungeon Lords. Galaxy Trucker shows up at the club often, so I dare say I’ll add that to the list in a few weeks. Chvátil’s designs are slower and more complicated than I generally like, but they are all interesting and well developed. I can see why he has such an enthusiastic following.

This week we played Dungeon Lords and had a great time. Jeff has played around twenty times and taught us well, throwing in jokes from the rules. We played for two and a half hours, but we ran through an extended tutorial and played slowly. Jeff said we could play it in 90 minutes with experience. The combat tutorial was superb. I wish more complicated games would include these as understanding the rules well made our first game much more enjoyable.

I can’t beat Andy Merritt’s description in his catalogue:

Dungeon adventure board game with an impressive array of components, including two double sided boards, and three further boards, and heaps of cards, tiles and figures. The big twist is that the players are not the adventurers, but rather the assorted shady characters who set up dungeons! This they do competitively, and sometimes it will be necessary to indulge in a little evil to get the job done properly – unfortunately the more evil used the stronger the adventurers that dungeon will attract. Ahhh, the trials of being a dark lord…

Brian Bankler and Chris Farrell have both criticised it for feeling:

a little truncated. It seems like the story wants to develop more, but, on the other hand, the game itself doesn’t want to be any longer.

Personally, I felt the game ended at the right time. You would have to simplify it too much to include more combat rounds in a reasonable time-frame.

Chris also says that:

the determinism of the combat phase is thematically odd and may make it more of a brain-burner than it wants to be.

This what makes the game great. A game with a light feel, but that still requires serious planning. The rest of the game has plenty of chaos and randomness – ruining plans entertainingly.

We played the Advanced rules. Maybe Chris and Brian were playing the Basic rules? Brian recently said this might be his top game of 2009, so he must have reconsidered.

I would not play Dungeon Lords with non-gamers, or even casual gamers, but in the right environment it is excellent. Dungeon Lords manages to be deep, intuitive and has a fun theme. I like it as least as much as Agricola, which may have more variability, but it lacks the fun. Rather like Space Alert, it’s all about seeing plans fall apart under pressure, but it’s less hectic and requires serious strategic thinking.

Jeff was so busy concentrating on teaching us, he made a few mistakes, picked up a lot of evilness and so had to draw both paladins. Ian managed to stay good, but ran out of money and food early. I thought I was going to win as I avoided any serious mistakes until the last turn, but I ran out of money and failed to get enough food, so my monsters deserted me and the last adventurers ravaged my dungeon. Final scores:

  1. Ian – 13
  2. Iain – 4
  3. Jeff – 3

At least none of us got negative points, so we got our Dungeon Lords licences.

To start the night, we played High Society. I always enjoy this game. I think I prefer it to Money or For Sale, as it’s just as fast and strategic, while being more intuitive. Luckily we played the good-looking Uberplay version, not the ugly new Gryphon Games version.

I should point out that the Isleworth Gamers have a session reports blog. I normally post here before that is updated, so it’s not easy for me to link to the reports individually, but it’s worth subscribing in Google Reader if you like session reports.

Written by Iain

May 21st, 2010 at 2:34 pm