Digging too deep can have scary consequences. That’s what The Ancestor learned after scavenging areas that surrounded his old, precious mansion. Awakening evils which began crawling through every corner of the area made him leave and beg his heir to recruit numerous adventurers that could solve the spreading problem. They were tasked with cleansing the nearby grounds for good. That is, if they somehow manage to survive these dark and cursed dungeons…
Myths, Novels and Other Stories
Mythic Games is well known for their knack for adapting various media into board games. They’ve looked for inspiration in history and legends (Joan of Arc), pulp novels (Solomon Kane) and mythology (Hel: The Last Saga). This time however they took a more recently created medium – video games.
Darkest Dungeon is a popular indie title made by Red Hook Studios. Released in 2016 it sold 2 million copies, got three expansions and earned its own devoted cult following. Now we’re about to experience it in the tabletop game medium thanks to Nick Niotis, Argyris Pouggouras and other people working with Mythic.
The Quest Begins
Darkest Dungeon The Board Game, like the original video game, is supposed to be played in a series of campaigns which will often end in complete annihilation of your party. That is unless you learn the mechanics, how to counter them and how to cooperate perfectly with each other. Learning curve might sound steep but it sure makes the game incredibly rewarding.
Each campaign consists of 11 episodes played successively. At first you’ll have to complete 2 quest episodes to face a boss, which takes up another episode. After getting rid of 3 major threats lurking in the areas surrounding the mysterious mansion, the titular Darkest Dungeon becomes available and ends up as the final, 11th challenge.
Apart from fighting and dungeon crawling players can work on developing the Hamlet where they level up, change their skills, rest, recover from stress, draw Town Events, buy Trinkets and train.
Heroes and Stances
It’s no secret that events at manor grounds, the Hamlet, and the entire region have attracted many adventure and excitement hungry heroes. When starting the game, each player controls one of them. Later on, if anyone in the party dies, it’s possible to recruit additional ones to the team but these are limited and you will run out of them when failing too much.
The roster includes all sorts of specialists like an always prepared and perfectly equipped Bounty Hunter, a Crusader with a colossal armour, a barbaric Hellion crushing her enemies with a halberd or a Plague Doctor specialized at crafting potions and grenades.
The characters can take on 4 separate roles called Stances during the game. Each stance allows to focus on another aspect of battle and some characters work better with certain stances. It’s also possible to change these during the game.
The Aggressive stance focuses on pure combat and is especially worth its time for heroes who want to stay in the middle of the battle and crush enemies directly. The Defensive stance promotes a more cunning approach, often exploiting enemy’s weaknesses. The Range stance allows fighting from distance and using weapons like guns. Finally The Support stance is good for healing, helping out your party or aiding their efforts by sniping enemies.
Time to Enter A Dungeon
When your team is ready: it’s time to start the first episode and go on your first quest. First you draw a future boss you’ll have to defeat, choose 3 out of 7 skills available for your hero, draw 2 quest cards from the quest deck and together decide on pursuing one of them. Next, you have to create a dungeon according to the map on your quest card. While the order of rooms is detailed there, their contents get randomized to a degree, so you never know what to expect when entering the next area.
Rooms have a wide variety and usually contain challenges, except for the empty ones you might sometimes stumble upon. Other types include Lairs filled with enemies, Trap rooms that damage you each time you pass them, Objective Rooms tied to quests, Curio Rooms with rewards guarded by monsters and Treasure Rooms that contain gold. Dark Rooms are another type and they reduce your party’s light value by 1.
During exploration you have to take care of the light that your torch provides. When it gets darker, enemies get more powerful and aggressive. Some situations might require you to separate from the party and their torch, leading to an increase in your stress level.
Exploration and Survival
While wandering through a dungeon each of you you will be able to take 3 types of actions. The first one is Scouting and it’s pretty vital to safe exploration. The only disadvantage is that it leads to stress increase, but in many cases it’s worth performing. When you scout, rooms that surround the one you’re in are revealed. Additionally, when rolling exploration dice later on, you only use 1 instead of 2, so the risk of getting many negative effects decreases.
The second action available is Exploring, which means rolling dice that might add additional challenges before entering a room. You have to roll 2 exploration dice (1 if you scouted said room before). Effects you can get here range from hunger, to obstacles like rubble or traps. There’s also a chance of getting valuable Curios here.
Entering Rooms makes for the third action. You uncover the type of the room (like the ones we discussed a section earlier) unless the scouting was performed. And then your party gets ready for a battle or whatever challenge awaits there.
Crushing Enemies (and Getting Crushed)
Revealing a room leads to drawing a card which will describe the layout in detail. These show what obstacles are there, where can you move and they also mark starting positions for hero and monster minis.The positions depend on the stance that each character is currently in. Initiative cards determine the action order during combat. This is highly randomized, just like in the original video game, and adds some unpredictability to the combat.
When fighting monsters, characters are able to move through the tiles, interact with their surroundings, alter their stances and use skills which usually means dealing damage, healing and performing other combat related tasks. Skills have their own ranges, amounts of targets affected, chances of success and other parameters. Similarly to players, monsters also sport their own skills. They are driven by AI and have their own ways of moving and picking who to attack first.
Heroes can die in 3 different ways. First: when their life falls to 0. Second: when they get a heart attack from a stress level reaching its maximum. Finally, after getting 4 negative quirks the character becomes mad and you lose them permanently.
Darkest Dungeon The Board Game on Kickstarter
Darkest Dungeon The Board Game seems like an ambitious project that honors its source material exceptionally well. The gameplay feels familiar and uses tons of concepts known from the original, which should please the fans. Same with the artstyle, that brings the well known sprites into 3D, without losing a single drop of their original charm.
Darkest Dungeon should also be interesting for people new to the franchise, who are simply looking for a fun dungeon crawler that takes a while to master. As for us, we’re highly anticipating the game and can’t wait to see what the Mythic guys come up with next.