Elves are not only the sunny creatures, loving magic and being friends with all forest animals, who will always lend you a hand. These light beings have their opposite. Dark Elves, who call themselves drows and their power uses evil magic, that has power to shake world to its foundations. And that might happen, if they come to power.
Perhaps, you’d expect, that our job will be to stop them. But it is not true, because gamemakers Peter Lee, Rodney Thompson and Andrew Veen decided otherwise. You probably know first two names . It is same designers, who created another games from Dungeons & Dragons world, such as Lords of Waterdeep. Their latest addition is called Tyrands of the Underdark and novelty for 2016 was published under flag of Wizards of the Coast and comes in distribution of Esdevium Games company.
Really big box supplies you not only with pile of cards (260 pieces), but also more than two hundred miniatures and a big board. Players use it all during setup, spread board in the center of the table and smaller one is equipped with smaller cards and tokens. Upper range is designed for the market, which shows in the beginning six cards from top of shuffled servants deck. Each match will only use two of the four races (each with forty cards) to create this deck. Players choose their elven family, get its pieces (one is placed onto starting location, which can be chosen one after another), small plan and a set of ten cards (seven nobles and three soldiers). These cards are shuffled and player draws five of them to hand.
In the game, players alternate in turns, when one of them is active and others are watching. When someone gets on the line, he may arbitrarily combine two actions as long as his cards and resources allow him to do so.
First step to success is to play cards from his hand. So player gets not only raw materials (influence and power), but also possibly activate some special skills of cards. Some of them also have to be paid for. Cards may be played one after another. Whenever he chooses, player can move to another activity in the menu.
Second action then represents an opportunity to take advantage of these collected points. Here, wider number of options are available and can be easily divided into actions happening with cards and on the board. Thanks to influence, it is possible to buy a new card from the market at the price indicated in its upper right corner. Remaining three actions shall use accumulated points of power with which players send new soldiers on board (one per point). These can be added only to spaces, where player has presence on the board. That means, that he needs to have a soldier or a spy in the direct vicinity.
As a consequence of cards, players can also move troops, send spies to any place without restriction throughout the plan, draw new cards from the deck or vice versa destroy cards from their hand. Opponents can be attacked, their troops removed or even replaced by own soldiers. To expell one soldier or spy from his spot, player needs to use three points.
At the end of his turn, player can promote card and invite it to his narrow family circle. This card will earn more victory points as indicated by the numbers in the lower right corner of the card (on some cards) in the end. Its followed by immediate gain of victory points for locations, where player has more force than other families. Active player then discards remaining cards from his hand and draws new five for future turn. If his draw pile becomes empty, he shuffles discarded cards and forms a new pile to continue playing.
Game continues by dragging for spaces on the map, building and optimizing deck, all until the moment, when either card market runs out or one player places his last soldier on the board. At the conclusion of the game, players are awarded points for their controlled positions, military trophies and valuable cards in their deck. After adding the points, winner is the one, who has collected the most points.
Tyrants Of The Underdark is a new revelation in the genre of deck-building games. And because they already deal with (dare I say) overused mechanism, they try to add quite new (distinctively less games in this area) element of board. It’s also not an original idea by far. Even we have played similar concepts already, for example in Web of Spies. But this fantasy game deals with it a little differently.
Reason is, that the actual cards and packages are really in the background. They only serve as a means to fight for majority in above locations. Fantasy theme and focus on very conflicted fighting fits game very well. Magic is an integral part of the game and a number of miniatures offer interesting special skills and allow you to manipulate your own as well as opponent’s soldiers.
Each player starts in a different area and is gradually extending his strength over the map. Troops can only be placed on neighboring locations to places, where your army is already located. So you simply can not try to occupy all four corners of the world. Only spies can be used to spread your force against this rule. Generals must plan their progress well. Enemy soldiers on the map will soon meet, because its size varies depending on the number of participants. From this perspective, tuning to various numbers has no problems at all and works well. A game hosts different numbers of players very well, there is no excessive waiting for next turn in here. Game time itself goes around one hour.
Game adds to the variability by the fact, that players will use only two out of four market decks every match. That’s good, because the whole set of cards with eighty cards then is often a little different. In connection with conflicts and different spread around the map, this is actually a guarantee, that the game will not look the same again soon. That allows you to have even more fun. In addition, each race is aimed a little differently, so their interactions are always interesting.
Despite the fact, that it is actually a combination of two elements into one game, everything works surprisingly well. The game does not act as a merger from independent halves, but it builds on itself well. Nothing new and original can be found in here, but still Tyrants has surprisingly refreshing feel to it.
An important element of the game is domination over locations. Those are equipped with neutral units at the beginning of the game. These are located in the city before the start of the match. Cities have different point values and motivate the players to really fight for them from beginning to end.
Cards go randomly into the market offer. Its shuffling and sequential revelation can significantly affect the outcome and provide advantage to some of the players. Cards have their special skills strong enough, so maybe players can feel injustice or disadvantage over others. And they will be right.
The only real problem of Tyrants Of The Underdark remains prize of the whole box. Not that it has bad processing or anything. There are a lot of miniatures, a big pile of cards, and even some of those additional tokens, but even so, the price tag is not fully justified.
Tyrants Of The Underdark is yet another deck-building. After that finding, your expectations are likely to fall. The bigger surprise game has prepared for those, who give it a chance. Terrific link of deck-building, map and struggle for supremacy will most likely impress you. Although the game can be criticized for being influenced by luck and for larger attack on your wallet, Tyrants Of The Underdark still remain excellent entertainment.
+ terrific mix of multiple mechanisms
+ excellent processing, figures and illustrations
+ lots of conflicts on the map
+ variable size
+ more race packages
+ neutral starting race
+ wide range of actions
- luck in market
- high price