In the past few years, Wizards of the Coast has been assiduously releasing board games based off their D&D franchise — check out Michael Harrison’s review of Lords of Waterdeep. Enter the company’s latest effort, Dungeon Command, a game of small group combat. Recently I had the opportunity to check out two of the game’s expansion packs.
The way it works is that the core rule packet (which is downloadable as a PDF, by the way) is complemented by “Faction Packs” of figures, cards, maps and tokens. Each faction pack is intended for one player, so you’d need to combine multiple packs to run a multiplayer game. (Or, quick start rules let two people play with one Faction Pack.)
One aspect of the game that may surprise D&D fans is that it’s diceless, instead using action and monster cards somewhat similar to the way Magic: The Gathering (also published by WotC) does. Obviously this puts player skill on the forefront, rather than relying on die rolls to resolve game events.
So, what do you get in the set? After the jump, I’ll unbox the Sting of Lolth Faction Pack.
The first thing you see when you open a Faction Pack is the rulebook, which is freely downloadable as I mentioned earlier. Still, having a printed and bound copy can’t hurt!
Underneath the rulebook is an advertising flyer for more D&D products, as well as two “commander cards” that describe the two leaders you can choose for your faction.
Great maps, which can be combined with the maps from other Faction Packs and are double sided to boot — one side has an outdoor scene while the other features a dungeon! They are 1-inch square ruled so you can use them with any miniature-based combat game.
Next come the miniatures — you get 12 non-randomized figures in the set. Everything is packed in the box very snugly, but I have to say that getting it back into the (relatively fragile) box doesn’t really seem worth it. The box is a goner.
I love the figures. They’re identical to regular D&D miniatures. There are even some crossover figures — for instance, I have a few Shadow Mastiffs already, and one comes with the Lolth set. The Demonweb Spiders and the Drider really rock, but my favorite is the excellent Umber Hulk (top left).
The cards are the heart of the game. You get monster cards relating to the figures, as well as “order cards” that represent various actions your troops can take in the game.
Finally, there are the counters, which you punch out and use during the game. Note that WotC has stashed the cards underneath the plastic insert that holds the miniatures!
Overall I think WotC has hit on a cool idea here — a miniatures-based D&D board game with the style of Magic: The Gathering. Even better, you can use monster cards and figures from other D&D “adventure system” board games like Legend of Drizzt or Castle Ravenloft. Dungeon Command has a lot of intriguing possibilities and I look forward to seeing the other sets.
Two faction packs are available next month: Sting of Lolth and Heart of Cormyr are due to drop on July 24th. You’ll have to wait long for the others: Tyranny of Goblins releases this September and Curse of Undeath comes out November 20.