Dungeon Command

On July 21st Wizards of the Coast released Dungeon Command: Sting of Lloth and Heart of Cormyr on D&D Game Day.  While not only used for playing D&D this new product line is designed to fill the miniatures void left since the last line was cancelled, leaving 4e players everywhere wondering “How am I supposed to play this game with miniatures if I can’t buy any?”

The idea behind this new line of miniatures is to appeal to a wider consumer base by being usable in three different games.

First and foremost Dungeon Command is a table top game in and of itself.  Two or more players can sit down at a table with their own war band (the name given to a matched set of miniatures you get in a box) and fight it out.  Each box comes with four interconnecting board pieces used to construct part of the game board, twelve miniatures to use for your army, game play cards and a rule book.  While it is possible to play a game with only one box we found it much more fun and far less confusing if each person has their own war band.

When playing the game each player takes turns.  On your turn you activate each of your creatures causing them to move, attack, and collect treasure.  Each player has a commander card that lists their leadership and morale.  Leadership is a number that tells you the total number of levels of creatures you can have on the board at one time.  If your leader has a leadership of 8 then you can have 8 levels worth of creatures on the board at once.  If a creature dies then it no longer counts towards your limit and you can put a new creature down at the end of your turn.  Morale is perhaps the most important number in the game.  Each time one of your creatures dies you lose morale equal to its level.  So if your level 4 Drider dies you lose 4 morale.  If your morale gets to 0 then you lose the game.

Combat consists of one creature attacking another either with powers printed on its corresponding creature card or by using an Order card.  Order cards are the special abilities for your army.  They allow you to dodge attacks, do extra damage when you attack and surprise your opponent with abilities you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

Those are the basics of Dungeon Command.  Each player takes turns controlling his/her army until one of the commanders drops to or below zero morale.  We had an enjoyable time playing this game and if you are a big tabletop game fan then the box sets are probably worth the money.

But wait!  As I mentioned earlier there are three ways these box sets were meant to be used.  The second use for these is in conjunction with the games from the D&D Adventure system.  Think Legend of Drizzt, Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon.  Each Dungeon Command set comes with creature and ally cards to let you make use of the included miniatures in any of these games as well!

Lastly and perhaps most obviously you can use these miniatures when you play D&D.  They have standard size bases so they fit on 1″ grid squares perfectly.  Let  me also say that these miniatures are very nice.  The copper dragon in the Heart of Cormyr set was worth the entire purchase price to me.  The paint is well done and the sculpts are very detailed.  I also got a big kick out of the Umber Hulk and the Drider in the Sting of Lloth set.

Conclusion

Wizards did a great job creatin a product to appeal to multiple markets.  Even if you only want these minis to play D&D I would say they are worth the price.  You get all the miniatures you need in a single box to create multiple encounters in a themed adventure and several of the pieces in each box are generic enough to use in multiple settings (I’m quite fond of the spiders in the Drow set).  If  you enjoy tabletop strategy games, the Adventure System games or using miniatures in your D&D game then I would suggest considering this product.  If you are like me and enjoy all three then this is a must buy.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

(5 stars if you will use these for more than one purpose.)

Dad Reviews: Doodle Dice Monsters

Doodle Dice Monsters is a new dice game from Little Red Goblin Games that combines the fun of rolling dice with the fun of drawing crazy monsters and creatures.  The basic idea of this game is that each player draws one or more creatures and then has an agreed upon number of dice sides (we played mostly with 60 total sides) with which they can ‘buy’ whatever type of dice they want.  The game specifically references normal gaming dice: d20, d12, d10, d8, d6 (a normal six-sided die) and d4 but they also give suggestions on how you can use non-standard dice.

When I originally started reading the rule set for Doodle Dice Monsters I completely intended to play through the game with the normal group of Crimson Bastard Game Testers, most of which are either involved in our weekly podcast or do reviews here on the site and in some cases both.  Once I finished reading

the rules however I realized two things: First, my kids love crayons and second, they always want to play with my gaming dice.

So I played this game with a four-year-old, a six-year-old and an eight-year-old.

I didn’t tell them what we were playing or what any rules were up front, I just told them we were going to play a game, we needed some paper and all of our crayons and that they got to roll my dice.  I have never seen them

more excited.  I dropped a big box full of crayons that we keep in an old family sized pop-tart box in the middle of the table, cut printer paper in half and handed it out with the instructions “everyone take five minutes and draw some cool monsters, then we’re going to fight them!”  In that five minutes each of us drew two to four monsters.

Afterwards I went to each of the kids and asked them to tell me each creature’s name, weapon etc. and to pick dice to go with the monster.  Once we were done with that, which took as long or longer than the drawing in large part because of names like “Spikey-Shield Big-Killing Monster”, we setup our initiative order for the monsters and started fighting.

Honestly this was the part I had worried about.  I didn’t know how the kids would take to rolling the different dice and possibly loosing one of the new monsters they had just spent so much time drawing and telling me about.  It turned out great though.  They had so much fun describing the attacks and what was happening that they didn’t get bothered at all when a creature died and we ended up playing Doodle Dice Monsters until well after their normal bedtime, which now that I think about it probably made them like the game even more.

In the end what I expected to be another great game that I could play with the

guys during our rare game nights ended up being a great game that I can play with my kids or with the guys.  The appeal of this game is much wider than I had expected and we had so much fun that the kids are still talking about the game days after we played.  I can’t recommend this game enough to parents with imaginative kids and gaming groups that need a break from the normal day-to-day gaming from time to time.  It is well worth the time and money.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Review: Spinner of Lies

Bruce Cordell‘s sequal to Sword of the Gods released on June 5th and those of us who already knew about Demascus, the deva and erstwhile Sword of the Gods, rejoiced and those who didn’t already know about Demascus hopefully found out and bought both books.  The Forgotten Realms is full of iconic characters, personalities that help define Toril and Dungeons and Dragons in general.  Names like Elminster, Drizzt Do’Urden and Erevis Cale evoke excitement in readers and help to define the way we think about The Realms in general.  With the introduction of Demascus in Sword of the Gods it looked as though we were being introduced to the newest star of the Realms.  Spinner of Lies securely confirms that Demascus is indeed a force to be reckoned with while pulling the reader along on an adventure as twisted and sticky as the Demonweb Pits. Continue reading “Review: Spinner of Lies”

Review: IDW’s D&D Forgotten Realms #1

IDW and Wizards of the Coast have been working together lately to churn out a growing number of Dungeons and Dragons related comic books and the latest of these is a new Forgotten Realms series.  Avid readers will remember that I did a review of the trade paper-back version of the re-release of the original Forgotten Realms comics a while back.  Not long after that the announcement of this new series was made and I have been waiting ever since to get my hands on the first issue.   Thankfully the wait is now over, the comic read and the reviewing has begun.

First off, this book is actually written by Ed Greenwood.  If you don’t know who Ed is then I’m giving you a blank stare as you read this sentence.  Okay I’ll be nice, Ed is basically the real life Elminster and possibly an actual denizen of the Realms banished to our plane by some powerful magical spell.  In other words he’s kind of a big deal as far as the Forgotten Realms are concerned. Continue reading “Review: IDW’s D&D Forgotten Realms #1”

Dad Reviews: The Legend of Korra

 The Legend of Korra is a new Nickelodeon animated television series occurring in the same world as Avatar: The Last Airbender, some seventy years after the end of the first show.  This time around the new avatar is Korra, as you would expect from

the title of the show.  Prior knowledge of Avatar: The Last Airbender isn’t necessary to understand and enjoy Korra but I would recommend that anyone that hasn’t seen that show yet to go ahead and give it a try.  It is very compelling and I found it not only kept the interest of my whole family, but that I could also feel good about us watching together.

The legend of Korra thus far (three episodes in) lives up to the reputation of Avatar in every way.  The animation style is the same as with the previous show with an anime inspired look and feel that maintains a realistic quality.  The voice cast is excellent and do a wonderful job bringing their characters to life in combination with the animation. Continue reading “Dad Reviews: The Legend of Korra”

Dad Reviews: Kenny and the Dragon

Back in the late nineties my friends and I got our hands on the Planescape box set for second edition Dungeons and Dragons.  There were tons of things about the set that were compelling, immersive and just plain cool.  But what I remember most about all of it now looking back is the art work.  Something about it made me love everything to do with Planescape and to this day I can’t look at a single drawing from that set without feeling nostalgia.  The tiefling first illustrated there is still my idea of how a tiefling should look despite the changes made in the newer editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

Well it turns out that the artist responsible for all that wonderful work in Planescape went on to also become a writer.  Many of you will know Tony DiTerlizzi for his work as a co-author for The Spiderwick Chronicles.  I have yet to read any of those books with my kids but I have watched the movie with them and they really enjoyed it so it might be worth a review in the future.

One of my sons has a real love for anything dragon or dinosaur related along with a love of bedtime stories so we spend a good bit of time reading different books every week.  Recently while looking on Amazon for new books I came across this one by the aforementioned Tony DiTerlizzi.  At 151 pages it was longer than our normal bedtime story which can be read in a few minutes before bed.  As a result I had to spend some time explaining that we would read some each night before bed until we finished it.  Once that idea sunk in though the reading of this book was wonderful.

Every night while we were reading it my son would rush into his room at bedtime and grab the book, bring it to me and then hop on his bed so we could get back to Kenny and Grahame (like the cracker).  The illustrations are a great way to break up story reading and getting to the next one was one of my three-year old’s big reasons for always wanting to read more of the book.

The story moves along quickly and all of the characters are well fleshed out, feeling realistic and helping to drive the story along naturally.  I also really appreciated the mentions several other books get within the story as Kenny all of the main characters are book lovers and constantly talking about great books they are reading or have read, all the way from Gilgamesh to The Reluctant Dragon.

Kenny and the Dragon is a wonderful book and a great addition to any family’s collection.  It worked well for us as a bedtime story but older children will enjoy reading it themselves.  Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins from an Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Reader’s Perspective

      The world that Suzanne Collins has created in her Hunger Games series consists of a ruthless, totalitarian government that after years of war has established 12 districts that are each subservient to a central capital.  Each of the suppressed districts is responsible for providing specialized resources for the all-powerful capital to enjoy.  And if that’s not enough to make you hate the mysterious tyrant that controls the capital, there is the Hunger Games.   Every year, as a show of the capital’s dominance, there is a competition in which children from each of the districts are selected by lottery to fight each other to the death in order to win food and medical resources for their district.  The action picks up as young Katniss Everdeen from the relatively poor and insignificant district 12 is placed into these Hunger Games.  

     One could go on about how Collins’ premise lacks in originality.  Mad Max anyone?  How about Running Man (gotta love Schwarzenegger)?  Should we even mention 1984 and Orwell?   So, as many hard-core sci-fi/fantasy fans maintain, Ms. Collins lacks originality, but does this shortcoming mark her as a hack?  Well that depends.  After all, we must remember that there is a precedent for every story.  In the fantasy realm, the likes of George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan admittedly draw heavily upon Tolkien, and Tolkien along with all popular fantasy writers draw heavily upon mythology (notably Norse mythology).  As for Science Fiction, even the likes of Asimov and Clarke use mathematics and science as a source for their inspiration. My point being that while some authors are more original than others, all writers are heavily influenced by previous writings and ideas. Continue reading “The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins from an Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Reader’s Perspective”

Review: Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy

The transition from third edition to fourth edition D&D consisted of many changes in the game. For Forgotten Realms the change in editions also heralded changes in the world of Faerûn mostly in the form of the Spellplague.  The story told in the three books of the Abolethic Sovereignty follows a group of adventurers several years after the Spellplague has washed through the land, changing magic and generally disrupting the world.  Raidon Kane is a half-elf monk who spends most of his life hunting aberrations.  As the story begins he is heading home to his daughter after an adventure hunting and fighting these strange creatures when the Spellplague bursts forth and turns his life on its head.

Raidon awakens about ten years later to find Faerûn much changed and that his former life, including his daughter, has been lost.  There is truly no rest for the weary however as Kane soon finds himself embroiled in a fight against those who would awaken the Abolethic Sovereignty and unleash the horrors of the Far Realm upon not only the Forgotten Realms, but all worlds. Continue reading “Review: Abolethic Sovereignty Trilogy”

DnD Player’s Strategy Guide Review

I picked up this 4th edition guide just the other day to see if it could help my game sessions in any way possible.  I haven’t had a chance to use it in a game yet.  It’s not like the strategy guides you normally buy for video games that gives you walkthroughs and holds your hand the whole game giving you spoilers and pointers on where to find all the hidden items.  This guide tells you how to make your D&D sessions more enjoyable by giving you helpful tips on character creation, how to work effectively with your party, how to spot a bad DM, combat tips, and other general information on playing the game better overall.   Read below for more in depth review-y goodness!

DnD Players Strategy Guide
Players Strategy Guide Cover Art by Penny-Arcade's Mike Krahulik

Continue reading “DnD Player’s Strategy Guide Review”