The whole country is rushing to hell. The prophecy clearly states, that soon the hard fist of evil will fall upon the Earth and the end of the world as we know it will come. The whisper came to us, clearing its way through the clutter of alleyways and stretching through the bars. Me and my friends think, that the time is right now. We escaped from prison and now we’re on the run. We want to enjoy some fresh air before it all happens, so hopefully there will be no unexpected dangers in our way.
The country of Würstreich is plagued by horrors. And players take control of heroes, who aren’t such saints themselves. They are convicts, who are the main characters of the board game Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom. The game was created by designer Eric Radey and Sean Äaberg helped with illustrations. The game was produced by Goblinko in 2018, tested on a hot plate of Kickstarter campaign.
The big box is interesting from first sight, because you have not seen such a graphic concept in a board game. These are images, in which most emphasis is put on the wild shades of green, blue, red and orange. Inside you will be again dazzled by these colors, find the game board and place it in the center of the table. Players then unfold the decks of cards next to the map and shuffles each them (there is a lot). Each player selects one hero, gets his starting cards, marks all levels on the scale (luck, experience, damage, gold and lives) and places each hero’s figure on the map (this may vary depending on the scenario). Nearby, they prepares a set of tokens (monsters, looms, counters) and dice. The map has to be equipped with some tokens as well, based on the current story chosen.
Throughout the story, players work together, but their heroes can split over the course to form teams. Members of every one cooperate and at the beginning of each turn, they have to collectively determine, what advancement they choose – whether careful or bold. The map can be traveled on foot, on the water, walking quickly or moving to the islands. All shifts except slow moving to an adjacent square require a bold attitude.
Instead of all these moves, the character team can decide to rest. In this case, it remains in the same place, but it will enable them not only to cure some injuries, but above all to take action within cities and villages. You can do business, upgrade the status of the entire city, explore it, or improve your hero (by paying experience and gaining ability cards).
Once all teams and their characters are given a chance to take one action, it is time for the danger phase, that is prescribed by randomly drawn cards – once for each hero group, that is currently on the map. This part of the round always affects mainly the value of danger in individual locations. Players can now try to evade enemies or chase them as they progress.
The results will be the final phase of each round, which is the encounter, but the cards mentioned in the previous paragraph remain still in the lead. According to the icons at the bottom of them, players must draw enemy cards. However, this is only true for locations, that qualify for monsters with their value (the danger value of the location is less, than the value on the card being evaluated).
Before the fight, however, icons can instruct players to reveal an event, for example, or if law enforcement follows in their footsteps. Players often get a choice of how to deal with them, sometimes they have to fight. Other times they get a clearly defined effect out of the draw. Only then, depending on the danger of location and card, must they reveal the corresponding number of monsters. And fight.
Monsters have armor and lives, but everyone has a clear rule of how to determine their target among heroes. According to specific statistics. Players report their positions (defensive or offensive) and use dice to get as many hits as possible. Heroes use their agility to also avoid enemy attacks. All this leads to injuries and ultimately to defeating the monsters. Usually through the joint efforts of heroes who receive the reward for it, whether experience, gold or more.
The hero’s death can be temporary, if he is able to heal. But they can also die definitively and the player, who controls this character (if there is enough time) can choose a new hero.
From time to time the indicator on the scale of destruction may shift due to the level of danger or direct instruction of some cards. And this is not what players want, because increasing value translates into the danger of the world. Over time, the Hand of Doom will also look into the world. But heroes are not ony there to defeat enemies. In each of the available scenarios, they have a specific task that they must complete in time to win.
Dungeon Degenerates is a living world and sophisticated game. We’ve tried to simplify the rules a lot to give you a taste of the basic skeleton of the game. The first and strong draw is the theme, which is far from pure fantasy. On the contrary, it is more of a horror experience, which actually corresponds with graphics and its thick lines. The overall impression is quite retro, which is also caused by unclear and pixelated illustrations.
Although it is not clear from the text, the stories are interconnected and players have to deal with the consequences of their previous elections across missions. The main impact is a change in hazard at individual locations, which develops. Cities may appear and disappear on the plan. New routes open up. All of this gives the game an excellent ability to swallow players in its story.
But it’s not that simple that the missions are connected one after another. Instead, players will find themselves in a flourishing storyline, that always guides them through a few adventures. Next time they may repeat it with other consequences and conclusions, or they may decide to play some missions completely separately. There are twenty scenarios in total.
Each hero has six numerical statistics, each with his or her important influence. So you really feel like a real RPG buff, which is trying to transform this novelty faithfully into the board form. And it does great job, if you think of an RPG adventure game, say, twenty years old. The basic difficulty of the game is not high. Fortunately, the rules on their many sides also think of a possible increase in difficulty, if you like.
Originality peeks in many places. We do not have to mention only the cities, that may disappear and with them also places for rest are gone. But great are mainly two choices of advancement, which influences the whole turn and the possibility to divide the heroes into more groups. In doing so, cooperation is important in the game, because the individual skills support each other and it is important to think about it. Interesting is also the map, in which players can with a little skill (and luck) to discover shortcuts, that were not usable before.
Players do not have much control over the development of combat. It is controlled by dice and a choice of attitude at the beginning of the battle. But players can still use cards and various advantages to influence the outcome and above all abilities. And because they play as a team, they also work together. So it is no accidental fun. In addition, there are lots of cards and options in general and they also take care of variability.
Interesting are the weaknesses of heroes. Their inclusion is fun, because players can take it at the beginning of the game. They add some difficulty to the next course, but at the same time gain experience to start with. And these can be valuable extras.
If we are to criticize, then we must mention the overall slow progress of the game. It is not so much about the turns, but the feeling, that the game is flowing … slowly. The tempo simply slows down at times, because you always have to fight the random monsters that appear. Just like in some JRPG.
And then, of course, the aforementioned rules are a problem, because you will not remember everything. And learning them repeatedly just makes you wonder in advance, if you want to play Dungeon Degenerates today or leave it for another time. You must also remember longer preparation, which can delay fun for some 15 minutes.
Players could try to kill a lot of monsters and improve their heroes. But they must keep in mind that there are ticking hours in the background. As soon as one of the locations is at the highest level of danger (six) and should be raised again, there is a shift in the scale of destruction instead. As a result, players must always be one step ahead of the game and try to do everything with speed. Otherwise, they might lose.
You already get a lot in the basic box. Moreover, this game offers additional expansions, that can further enrich this complex experience and invite you to the world of adventure over and over again. But even a big starter box has a lot to offer, so don’t worry.
Another equally important decoration of the game is its processing. You do not need figures, just cardboard pieces in stands, because the overall impression will take care of graphics. Unique and unseen. Unfortunately, the rules have not received so much attention, so their initial swallowing requires strong nerves. The authors were aware that there are a lot of rules, so there are also big A4 help cards in the box, which will make entry a little easier.
The graphics already clearly indicates, that Dungeon Degenerates will not be for everyone. And this is confirmed by the theme, criminal fantasy. Even in our groups, there were players who simply didn’t like the story or concept. It is clear, that coincidence cannot be evaded here and rules the struggle and sometimes can decide the whole game (to your detriment). But all this can be forgiven, because Dungeon Degenerates is really unique, interesting and its individual missions are connected to one living world. So if you feel like target audience, then you should not hesitate too much. This should be a true experience for you.
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Dungeon Degenerates intrigued us from the start. You do not have to agree, because the game will not only not everyone's taste. Even in terms of gameplay, it has a number of boundaries that refuse to leave. You need to be lucky to succeed, but you will enjoy using everything at your disposal and fighting with its unfavorable mills. That's because in this world, you will settle in and be at home. It is true that overall development (heroes and game) is slow. Preparation takes time. The rules are complicated. But if you forget all this, then Dungeon Degenerates are a great choice.