Tag Archives: skirmish

Under Attack – Dungeon Command review

DC COVER

It still leaves me gobsmacked that Dungeons & Dragons has been around for so long. I’m even more surprised that this game that I loved to play when I was a kid is now seen as an acceptable pastime – seriously, the amount of times I got beaten up for playing it at lunchtime rather than going outside to play football… life is so much nicer now that geekiness has been deemed cool. I see only one problem with D&D; it can come across as somewhat impenetrable. Look at the RPG shelf in your local game store or bookshop. The sheer amount of different rulebooks, guides and scenarios must appear baffling to someone who hasn’t even rolled a twenty-sided die. Creating your own character and getting thrown into an adventure taking place almost solely in a group’s collective imagination is daunting enough for an experienced player. Consider that some of these could take place over the space of weeks or months in real time… no wonder some people think gamers are crazy.

Thankfully, there are a couple of ways in that are less time consuming as well as a bit lighter on the rules. We’ve previously looked at the Adventure Game series here on littlemetaldog.com (including the excellent Wrath of Ashardalon) but now there’s another route you can use to scratch that D&D itch in under an hour: Dungeon Command.

At the time of writing, there are five different versions on Dungeon Command available. I currently own the Curse of Undeath and Blood of Gruumsh sets which focus on undead and orc characters, but other boxes take influence from all manner of areas of the D&D universe. Rather than taking control of a single character, you act at the commander of a group intent on only one thing: wiping out the enemy. It’s a very different experience to regular adventuring, but one that is really quite enjoyable.

It's an OWLBEAR! There! In the back! YASSSS!

It’s an OWLBEAR! There! In the back! YASSSS!

Each box set comes with twelve pre-painted miniatures which comprise one squad, though there’s also enough in there for two players to get a small taste how Dungeon Command works. Tiles are also included along with cards and various markers – all you need to do is find someone with another set, put together your arena by combining your tilesets, then you’re ready for battle. It’s here that you’ll discover the most notable difference: there’s NO dice in this game. Considering that you’re probably used to rolling all manner of small numbered polyhedrons if you’re even vaguely aware of role-playing games, this is quite the change. Instead you’ll be using Order Cards to determine what your minions will do, meaning that you’ll have be in a very different frame of mind if you want to win. Dungeon Command is all about the big picture – quite surprising considering the small area that your skirmishes will take place in.

As mentioned before, you’re looking to simply wipe out the opposition forces on the board. Doing so will lower their morale and victory will be yours if you get the other player’s down to zero. You can also win by having a higher morale when one player has no minis on the board at the end of a turn – particularly useful when playing games involving three or four people (because yes, the rules account for that too). The Order Cards you have at your disposal will allow for the bending of rules, and bring in a wide variety of strategies – do you go all out and try to beat down the enemy, turtle up and react to their moves or rely on magic over force? Dungeon Command offers you these options and more besides.

As you’d expect, you won’t start off with a whole army, though your small squad will quickly grow as your Leadership increases. Orders played are removed entirely from the game, as are defeated minions, so despite the face that the game plays in a very straightforward manner it’s far from easy to get to grips with. Forward planning is the key to the game; it’s not the kind of thing you can just play a couple of times and think that you have it down pat. Multiple plays will be rewarded as you formulate new plans, constructing strategies that will hopefully crush your enemies. Of course, their skills will be improving too, so be careful!

Here's what you get in the Curse of Undeath set. As you can see... quite a lot.

Here’s what you get in the Curse of Undeath set. As you can see, it’s quite a lot.

Each faction pack really manages to capture the spirit of their theme – the orcs in Blood of Gruumsh are all about face smashing while the Curse of Undeath tends to look more to dark magic. That’s not to say that the various undead minions can’t handle themselves in combat, and you do get a MASSIVE dracolich in the box…

On that subject, the quality of the minis is really rather good. The painting is to a decent standard in both the sets I have, and even the more fragile looking ones are sturdy. It helps that they’re well protected in the custom-designed box that come with each set – no danger of them getting smashed or crushed in transit. It’s amazing how many companies don’t consider this aspect of design when they provide games that come with a bunch of minis, but the Dungeon Command series should be held up as a great example.

So, we have a quick playing skirmish game with a nicely put together set of rules that comes with fantastic components. Whether it’ll be enough to convince the average person in the street to get into the world of D&D… well, I’m not so sure. It’s just so different to what you’d normally expect from Dungeons & Dragons, I don’t think many newbies would be willing to make the leap to its bigger sibling. As a standalone experience though? Well worth checking out, definitely.

The original Dungeon Command sets were released in 2012, with Blood of Gruumsh coming up later in 2013. Designed by a veritable army at Wizards of the Coast, you can pick up copies of all five sets from Gameslore for the comparatively bargain price of £25.99 each. Considering that includes 12 painted miniatures, that really isn’t bad at all…

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Battle of the Heroes – Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game review

Confession time. I never actually watched any of the Star Wars movies until I went to University. On discovering this horrific fact, one day in late 1993, a guy I was sharing a flat with called Ian locked me in a room with Episodes IV, V and VI (you know, the good ones) and refused to let me out until I had watched all three back to back. Which I did. And I was converted, realising the error of my ways.

Now I understand the importance of the (in)actions of one simple stormtrooper who could have changed the course of history in a galaxy far, far away. I know that Han shot first (of course he would, he’s a badass). And most important of all, I have learned to hate that stupid Gungan with a fiery passion.

however, the thing that really grabbed me during that first proper viewing of the Original Trilogy were the battles in space. The howl of a Tie Fighter as it shot across the screen, the mosquito-like X-Wings coming to an end as they attempted to take down the might of the Death Star… it was incredible to see how well realised they were in a bunch of movies that I’d previously completely disregarded. And now we get to live out the experience ourselves in the rather glorious form of the brand new Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game.

Oh my. Never has so much joy come from such a small amount of plastic.

There’s little wonder why this eagerly awaited package has been snapped up quickly by gamers from all around the world. Just looking at the front of the box makes your average nerd salivate like a dog – there are two splendidly realised miniature TIE Fighters and a X-Wing right there! Look at their inherent beauty! Who wouldn’t want them? Then you open up the box, punch out a pile of tokens, grab the quickstart rules and away you go…

Fantasy Flight Games, the creators of X-Wing, have realised that the folks who play it want to get down to business in minutes. They want to be flying around the table making pew-pew noises from the moment they open the box, so you’ll be pleased to know that playing the game is gloriously straightforward. Each player chooses a vessel and a character card, each of which are marked with various stats that will affect how you play. You also grab a movement dial (FFG seem to be loving dials lately, don’t they?), a handful of tokens and then it’s time to fight.

See? Dials! Also, those things with the numbers on them are what you use to do your movements.

The objective is simple – wipe out the opponent. Select how far you’ll travel first by secretly choosing a move on the dial; some may cause stress on your ship meaning you’ll be limited in future actions, so always be aware of what you’re doing! Once you’ve moved, you get to attack as long as you’re in range of an enemy; you can fire off a few shots by rolling the custom dice that come with the starter set and they’ll do the same in a hopeful bid to cancel out your results. Do enough damage and you’ll blow them into the vacuum of space, then go on to rule the galaxy… all in around twenty minutes.

Each vessel’s card also has some special abilities that you may be able to use as well, from using the Force (of course) in order to change a dice roll, pull evasive manoeuvres such and lock on targets. Better pilots will have more abilities but the game strives to retain balance no matter who is facing off against who. Sure, pitching Luke Skywalker against a rookie TIE Fighter straight out of Empire School will generally result in a win for the Rebel Alliance, but you’ll always feel like you’re at least in with a chance.

Have a look through the forums on BGG that focus on X-Wing and you’ll see a lot of people complaining about the price. Now, I know that it’s relatively expensive for what you get and the fact that you only get three vessels does seem a little mean, but consider this; you’re not just buying a self-contained game (despite the fact that it’s perfectly playable just with this starter set). What you’re picking up is a whole new game system, and anyway IT’S STAR WARS. Of course it’s going to cost more than your standard game – is there anything out there that has George Lucas’ paws on that hasn’t gouged the fans? FFG will have paid through the nose for this license so they’ll need to make their cash back somehow.

TAKE ‘IM OUT VADER!

Thankfully, they haven’t just rushed out something to make a quick bit of turnover. The rules in X-Wing, though simple, give the game a real arcade kind of feel. Games are speedy, fun, raucous… everything you want from a battle in the depths of space. If you want something a little deeper, rules are included for larger scale battles because – you’ve guessed it – there are more and more ships due for release over the next few months. Already out there in Wave 1 are Y-Wings and TIE Advanced as well as extra standard TIE Fighters and X-Wings. Wave two promises more iconic vessels including Boba Fett’s Slave 1 and the mighty Millenium Falcon.

I’ve ordered mine already. I am *such* a child.

The X-Wing Starter Set is a pile of fun hewn from cardboard and plastic. Grab a couple of extra ships and the door opens even wider, showing you just how entertaining a tabletop skirmish game like this can be. And then you start thinking about the future, about other ships that could potentially come out, about setting up new missions and adventures to tackle. This starter box comes with a couple of small missions to attempt but imagine what kind of things could happen in the future. Personally I reckon that if FFG don’t release a large scale Death Star Trench Run set at some time in the future they’re missing a trick.

In conclusion, the Star Wars X-Wing beginner set is just that – something that will start you off on a potentially epic experience. It’s not for everyone, sure, and it *will* end up being a pretty expensive game if you insist on picking up every single thing that’s released for the system, but if you’re sensible and pick and choose the odd thing here and there, you’ll have something that offers a massive variety of play with relatively little outlay. Whether it’s a one-on-one dogfight or an epic battle to decide the destiny of the universe, this is a hell of a lot of fun – and it’s going to get even better.

The Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game is available now. Designed by Jason Little and produced by Fantasy Flight Games, a copy will set you back a shade under £30, but you can pick it up from Gameslore for £25

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