Dungeon Lords, a game by Vlaada Chvatil. Published in the US by Z-Man games. This is the second game I’ve purchased that Z-Man has released, (the other was Earth Reborn, review coming soon!) and I have a feeling it won’t be the last. It’s also the second game by Chvatil I’ve played, the first being Galaxy Trucker. I like this game better for the art and the gameplay both, but there are a few things that feel similar to Galaxy Trucker, namely the individual player boards and arrangement of tiles in an empty grid.
Here’s the box:
The game has two main things going for it: beautiful artwork and a well thought-out, well written (and wittily funny!) rule book. I must say, having not read a great deal about it beforehand, I thought I was in for a standard dungeon crawler, which is something of a fixation for me at the moment. It couldn’t be further from a dungeon crawler and still include the word “dungeon” in the title! This is a strategic resource-gathering game with combat.
Gameplay is divided into two main sections: building and combat. During building you try to gather resources to amp up your dungeon’s defense capabilities, and at the end of the year (confusingly in Fall, as the year starts in Winter) a group of adventurers attempts a raid on each dungeon lord’s lair. Along the way you also have to pay taxes on your dungeon to the Ministry of Dungeons, as well as re-pay the cost of your monsters (and ghosts) on a randomly-determined payday once a year. There are two years in the game.
- Boards: there are 4 color-matched player boards where each player manages his dungeon, keeps monsters (and ghosts) on the payroll, stores traps, and commands his army of minions and imps to build, buy, burgle and burrow for various resources. In games with fewer than 4 players, some of these boards are used as non-player colors, whose soul purpose is to make life difficult for the actual players.
- Distant Lands board: this is an organizational tool for keeping your shuffled tile and card decks, as well as discards, ready at hand
- Phase board: this tool has great visual cues to remind you what tasks need to be done in what order every phase, and divides play up by seasons. Slots for upcoming adventurers and events (tax time and payday) hold the respective tiles, letting you plan ahead to deal with all of these. The reverse side of this board tracks combat phases, with slots for each combat round’s spell cards. At the end of the game the combat side has a score track for figuring out which player wins based on remaining resources, captured adventurers, and how well you protected your dungeon!
- Main board: this is where most of the action occurs in the Build sections of the game, and it has slots for minions to engage in resource gathering of various kinds. Food, gold, traps, monsters, rooms, tunnels and reputation can all be had, for a price. The board also holds the Evilometer, which tracks the public opinion of your dungeon lord, evil or nice. If you’re evil enough, the paladin will come after you, so you’d better keep an eye on this, and be prepared!
- Monster (and ghost) tiles. The instructions make a repeated, humorous point of differentiating ghosts from monsters. Each tile shows the monster’s (or ghost’s) cost, attack and special effect info.
- Adventurer tiles. These are the enemies in the game, and each has a glyph, an HP rating and a set of icons representing any special abilities. Thieves can disable traps, priests heal and wizards cast spells in combat. More powerful tiles are indicated with both a more complex glyph and a lighter background. There are also two ultra-powerful paladin tiles, which basically act as amalgams of the other 4 kinds of adventurers, having all their abilities in spades. Paladins come after you if you’re getting too evil.
- Damage chits: the game has great looking little translucent red plastic cubes, each of which has a bubble trapped in it. These represent damage done to adventurers, as well as score-reducing unpaid taxes on your dungeon.