With Dungeon Command, Wizards of the Coast throws their hat into the tabletop skirmish scene. Dungeon Command brings Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering together to create a new and unique experience for a skirmish game.
Dungeon Command is Wizards of the Coast’s newest board game. Players can engage in head-to-head battles in this miniatures skirmish game. There are two factions available – The Heart of Cormyr, and the Sting of Lolth. Each faction comes packaged as its own set, but two factions are needed to engage in a game. So pick up both, or grab a D&D playing friend (the cards and miniatures can be used in other D&D games).
The Heart of Cormyr faction represents the standard D&D adventure group. The Cormyr warband and order cards are centered around teamwork and brute strength. The Dwarven Defenders and the Dwarf Cleric are huge buffs to deployed units and order cards like Shield and Defend Ally. Valnar Trueblade and Rhyseera the Alaphon are the commanders. Valnar allows creatures to move as a standard action, essentially double their speed. Rhynseera has the most starting order cards of the commanders and allows you to discard an order card from your hand to draw a new one.
Good needs evil to oppose and the Sting of Lolth faction is the yin to the Cormyr’s yang. Made up of the Drow and the Underdark creatures that they employ, their warband and order deck relies on speed and surprise to get behind the enemy lines and wreak havoc. The order cards are primarily Dex based, rogue style abilities. Sneak attacks, poisons, and stealth are the name of the game. Aliszandra Malistros is the first Lolth commander and adds 2 to the speed of all Drow and spider creatures. Kalteros the Sellsword rounds out the commanders. He allows collected treasure to be converted to an order card instead of a morale.
Each faction set comes with 12 miniatures and corresponding creature cards, 36 order cards, 4 dungeon tiles, and the tokens needed to play. You’ll need another set to play a full game against someone, but one set will give you everything you need to play. The box nicely holds everything and looks really nice, but could be a bit more sturdy as it won’t be protecting anything. The miniatures are very detailed, but the paint job ranges from fairly nice to disappointingly simplistic (mostly the Drow). The art work on the cards and box are great as you would expect for WotC.
The overall goal in Dungeon Command is to reduce your opponents morale level to 0. Killing opposing creatures will knock down their side’s morale by the deceased creatures level. At the start of the game, a commander is chosen to lead the warband. Each commander will give you a different static ability, creature hand size, starting order hand size, and starting morale/leadership levels. Instead of fielding the entire warband at the start of the game, your commander’s creature hand size will limit the number of creature cards you can choose to play during any one turn. The commander’s leadership will further constrict creature deployment as the total of your deployed creatures’ levels cannot exceed your commander’s leadership level. Each turn, the leadership level will go up, allowing for more creatures to be summoned. Treasure scattered throughout the battlefield can be collected to improve morale.
Combat in Dungeon Command takes a different approach from most skirmish games as well. Since all attacks automatically hit, no dice are used to determine outcomes. Instead, order cards are used to respond to attacks to prevent damage that would be taken from an attack. Order cards can also be used to preform powerful attacks, spells, or movements. The order cards are key to successfully outperforming your opponent. The right card at the right time can win the game. The influences from Magic: the Gathering are most apparent here. The stack from Magic is present (each action can be responded to and actions resolve in a last in, first out manner) and creatures will tap to attack, defend, and use Order cards. If you’ve ever played Magic before, you will have no problem picking up the rules.
With a price of $40 for a complete warband, this is a great starting price point for a tabletop skirmish game. The ease of learning also means this is a great game to start out with if you want to get into skirmish games and learn the basics. However, while I enjoyed the game, it’s a little too much like Magic for my taste. What you can do in a turn is highly dependent on what creatures you have out and the order cards in hand. Being used to Warmachine, not knowing exactly what creatures and abilities I would be starting with was a bit of a turn off for me. While the ability to create your own creature and order decks (max of 4 cards of one type) helps to counteract this, the only way to get multiples of the cards you need would be to buy sets multiple times.
Dungeon Command is a game anyone should be able to pick up and play. Overall, it is a fun game that is very easy to learn.The rules are probably the simplest of any skirmish game I’ve played and the rulebook is set up in a fashion easy to understand. However, it’s definitely geared toward the skirmish game and the TCG crowd. I don’t think Dungeon Command will replace my current tabletop skirmish game, but it’s a nice and refreshing change of pace to come back to every now and then.
*Review Written by Brutal Gamer Guest Contributor Tyler Herman*