Dungeon Lords

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”:http://boardgamegeek.com/guild/728 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”:http://geekdo.com/boardgame/45315/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.

Photo by Tom Rosen

I can’t beat “Andy Merritt’s”:http://homepage.ntlworld.com/andy.merritt/MainPage1.htm description in his catalogue:

bq. 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”:http://taogaming.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/dungeon-lords/ and “Chris Farrell”:http://illuminatinggames.blogspot.com/2010/01/2009-in-review.html have both criticised it for feeling:

bq. 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:

bq. 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”:http://taogaming.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/2009-year-in-review-part-1/, 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:
# Ian – 13
# Iain – 4
# 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”:http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/220/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.

Photo by Chris Norwood

I should point out that the Isleworth Gamers have a session reports “blog”:http://isleworthboardgamers.blogspot.com. 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.