(2017 – Quixotic Games)
For years, Core Worlds has been one of my favorite games. It added a unique depth and thematic storytelling to the deck-building genre that I left had been lacking in games such as Dominion and Ascension. In Core Worlds, players began on the fringes of a galaxy, leaders of barbarian worlds. During a galactic war upon the central Core Worlds of the galaxy, these barbarian fleets were attempting to build their strength enough to take advantage of the fallen empire and take it for their own. As players began the game on the outskirts, they would play cards from their hand that would allow them to draft new technologies, ships, and ground units to add to their deck. These cards would then allow them to invade and take over planets which would provide additional energy that allowed the player to draft larger cost cards into his deck. By the time players reached the Core Worlds (the final rounds of the game) they’d built up a powerfully massive empire, full of impressive armies, fleets, and technologies.
Designer Andrew Parks is Kickstarting another unique deckbuilding game entitled Dungeon Alliance, which merges aspects of deckbuilding and hand management, with dungeon crawling, miniature based tactics. In Dungeon Alliance, each player will create their own Alliance of 4 Heroes, through a pre-game drafting system. Each Hero begins the game with 3 Starting cards that only that Hero can use and all 12 of these cards are shuffled together to create the player’s Alliance deck. The game is heavily focused on hand management, as players will activate and resolve one Hero at a time, but can only play cards that correspond to that Hero’s race or class. Once a Hero is used, he is exhausted until the next Round.
One of the most unique aspects of Dungeon Alliance is found in the game’s Upgrade system. As players earn XP from defeating Monsters and damaging Heroes of opposing Alliances, they’ll be able to spend this XP to draft new cards into their deck. Each of these cards contain sets of race and class icons that may be used by various Heroes. However, when a player drafts a card on his turn, he adds it directly to his hand, not to his discard pile (similar to Mage Knight). This creates a wealth of strategy as to when to draft certain cards. Players can attempt to draft a card and use that card for one of their Heroes on their very next turn. Also, the more cards a player drafts, the higher he’ll increase his progress on his Draft Chart, which increases the number of cards he can discard at the end of his turn, along with increasing the his total hand size. This helps players filter out cards from their hand in order to gain the best combination and synergy of actions.
In the dungeon, players will attempt to explore new rooms, defeat the Monsters within, reveal and collect treasures, as well as battle each others Alliances, all in order to gain experience (XP). After four complete Rounds, the game ends and the Alliance with the most accumulated experience wins.
– Dungeon Alliance board tiles
– Starting Dungeon tiles (one for each player color)
– Dungeon frame pieces
– Archway tiles
– Hero figures
– Hero tokens
– Hero cards & Hero Starting cards
– Hero Wound & Poison tokens
– Basic Starting cards
– Upgrade cards
– Monster & Challenge Encounter cards
– Monster & Challenge tokens
– Draft Chart & tokens
– Monster Wound counters (one set for each player color)
– XP tokens
– Dungeon die
– Initiative token
– Summary cards
– Solo Variant cards
As with any tile-laying game, the area of the board will expand as new tiles are revealed and added into play. However, in Dungeon Alliance there are set boundaries to the dungeon itself. The area that these boundaries encompass is based on the number of players in the game. Included in the game are a collection of frame pieces, and certain pieces are used for each player count (1, 2, 3, or 4). As I’ll be taking a look at a full 4-player setup, we’ll use all of the frame pieces to build the outer edges of our dungeon.
After the outer frame has been completed, each player chooses a player color and receives the Starting Dungeon tile for that color. The center of each side of the frame contains a passageway entrance. Players will place their Starting Dungeon tile adjacent to one of these sides, lining up the passageway on the outer frame with the one on their starting tile. This is the room of the dungeon in which the player begins.
Each player will receive a Draft Chart along with the Draft token that matches their color. As players build their decks during the game, the amount of cards they can discard at the end of a turn, along with the amount of cards they’re allowed to draw back up into their hand will increase. Each player will also receive a set of Wound tiles and Hero bases matching their color. Whenever a player attacks and damages an enemy, he’ll place one of his Wound tiles beneath it. Multiple players can damage the same monster before it’s killed, therefore the player that’s caused the most damage receives the majority of XP earned by defeating it. The Wound tiles that have been placed beneath a monster help to determine this.
Each player will put together an alliance of 4 Heroes, and these characters are each represented by a unique miniature. The colored bases are used to snap onto the bottom of the miniature to help players differentiate between the Heroes of each alliance. Although I’m using a prototype copy that doesn’t contain the miniatures or colored bases, here’s an example above of a couple of miniatures and bases from my Arcadia Quest set, which should give you an idea as to how these bases work. Note that these are miniatures from Arcadia Quest and not from Dungeon Alliance. For the remainder of the review, I’ll be using placeholder standees for each Hero.
There are a number different Heroes in Dungeon Alliance. At the beginning of the game, each player will draft a team of four Heroes. The number of Heroes available during this drafting process is equal to the number of players in the game x 4 (+1). For example, in a 4-player game, 17 Heroes are available during the draft, because 4×4(+1) = 17. In a 3-player game, 13 Heroes would be available, because 3×4(+1) = 13. It’s much easier than it reads in text. Anyways, after determining the number of Heroes needed for the draft, all of the Hero cards are shuffled together and the drafted number are drawn and placed in the center of the table.
Each Hero is unique and will come with a set of 3 Starting cards tailored to that specific Hero. The Start player (who is randomly chosen and given the Initiative token) will draft a Hero card from the center of the table, adding it to his play area. He’ll then receive the Heroes miniature (of which he’ll snap his colored base to) the set of Starting cards for that Hero, and the matching Hero token. Moving clockwise, the next player will draft a Hero and so on, until all players have selected one Hero each. Then in reverse order, all players will select their 2nd Hero. Then beginning with the Start player, all players will select their 3rd Hero. Then again, in reverse order all players will select their final Hero. No matter the player count, there will always be 1 Hero card left in the center. It is simply discarded from the game.
This drafting process may be one of the more important parts of the game. Each Hero card contains a set of race and class icons. Each turn, players will have the opportunity to draft new cards into their hand, but only if that Upgrade card contains icons that match those of at least 1 of their 4 Heroes. At the same time, a Hero can only play these cards on their turn if the icons match theirs. So there’s a certain balance in needing to draft Heroes that work well together, but not necessarily all have the exact same icons. Having Heroes with all the same icons will limit the number of Upgrade cards you’ll be able to draft, but having a wide variety of race/class icons amongst your Heroes will make it harder to play specific cards from your hand, if multiple Heroes can’t use them.
Once all players have received the 3 Starting cards for each Hero, all 12 of these cards are shuffled together to create the player’s Alliance deck. The race/class icons found on the Starting cards are done in a way that the only Hero that can use these cards is the one it’s attached to. For instance, the only Root can use his 3 Starting cards, since he’s the only Hero in the game that has a race/class set of icons that match these cards. The previously discussed Draft Chart shows that players will start the game with a hand size of 6 cards. Therefore, at the beginning of the game, each player draws the top 6 cards from their newly created Alliance deck.
For instance, the Blue player has chosen to take Root, Belzamin, Mirabell, and McFarlin. He’s received the Starting set of cards for each of these Heroes which he’s shuffled into a single Alliance deck, along with his Heroes miniatures (cardboard standee for this preview copy), and the Hero token for each. He’s then drawn 6 cards from his deck to begin the game with. Until he’s drafted some Upgrade cards, he’ll be limited to these Starting cards, of which each card can only be used by one of his Heroes. Note that Hero tokens are used to show when a character has been activated or when that Hero is still available to use. With players moving and performing actions amongst 4 different Heroes, these tokens are a helpful reminder of which Hero you’ve resolved and whom you have left.
Alternatively, the game comes with a set of Basic Starting cards that players can use during their 1st game to help them learn the flow of the game. In the Basic game, player will replace the #2 and #3 Starting cards for each Hero (still keeping the #1 cards), with two copies of each of the 4 Basic Starting cards. These Basic cards contain a “universal” icon in the top left corner, which means all Heroes can use these cards on their turn, no matter their race or class. It’s probably best to use these during your initial game, as it keeps you from being stuck with cards you can’t play. Once you catch on to the strategy of drafting the cards that work best for your Alliance, you can use the regular Starting cards.
Players will then place their Heroes on their Starting Dungeon tile. Each Dungeon tile is made up of a series of squares. The square closest to the entrance on the Starting Dungeon tile represents the illuminating light from outside the dungeon, tinted in the player’s color. The player will place one of his Heroes on the center space of the tile, then his other 3 Heroes on the row of spaces nearest the entrance (as seen above).
As players explore and enter new areas, they will draft Dungeon tiles from a row nearby to add to the dungeon. Each Dungeon tile has a level (I, II, or III) attached to it, and at the beginning of the game players will separate these tiles into facedown stacks according to their level. A different number of tiles are used depending on the number of players in the game. Since we’re taking a look at a full 4-player game, we’ll use the setup rules for this player count. Note that less tiles are used to create the draw deck with fewer player counts. First, 4 level III tiles are removed from their stack and placed at the bottom of this session’s deck (always kept face down). Then, 7 level II tiles are removed from their stack and placed on top of the 4 level III tiles. Finally, all 10 level I tiles are placed on the top of the session’s deck. This creates a Dungeon tile draw deck of 21 tiles to be used in the game. If playing the basic game, only the level I tiles are used. Any remaining tiles are placed back in the box.
When revealing Dungeon tiles into this drafting area, tiles will contain Monsters and/or Challenges. At the beginning of the game, each Monster Encounter card is placed face up near the Dungeon draw deck with the set of corresponding Monster tokens on the card. While the Monster tokens are placed in the dungeon to act as the enemy monsters themselves, the Monster Encounter cards are used as reference for their stats, abilities, and special powers. The Challenge tokens are shuffled and divided into 3 face-down stacks according to their (level I, II, and III). When a player enters a dungeon room with a Challenge tile in it, the tile is revealed and will include either a treasure or a trap. As with the Monsters, there’s a deck of Challenge cards that will be used for reference to describe a particular treasure or trap when resolved. At the beginning of the game, the first 2 Dungeon tiles are drawn and placed face up next the draw deck. There will always be two tiles available for a player to choose from when adding a new tile to the dungeon.
As players gain XP from defeating Monsters (as well as damaging Heroes of other Alliances), they’ll have the opportunity to use this accumulated XP in order to upgrade their Alliance deck. These Upgrade cards contain more powerful abilities than the Starting cards each Hero in the Alliance begins with, and each of these cards contain a particular level (I, II, or III). At the beginning of the game players will separate these cards according to level, then shuffle each set of cards into a draw deck. The top 5 cards from the level I deck are drawn and placed in a row. Only the level I cards will be available to draft from at the beginning of the game. As noted before, each Upgrade card contains a series of race and class icons on the left side of the card. If a player has at least one Hero whose race/class attributes (listed on the Hero’s card) matches that of the Upgrade card, he’ll be allowed to spend XP to draft it into his hand. Remember, that as players draft these Upgrade cards, their progress on their Draft Chart will increase as well, possibly allowing them a larger discard limit and hand size.
The XP tokens are separated into a few piles at the beginning of the game. Two of the piles contain a predetermined amount, depending on the number of players in the game. The remaining pile is used as a general supply (there will also be a small pile of -1 XP tokens which Heroes will accumulate if defeated). In a 4-player game, the 1st pile contains 20 XP worth of tokens, while the 2nd pile contains 35. At the beginning of the game, when players earn XP, they’ll pull from the 1st pile. Once this pile has been depleted, the level I Upgrade draw deck is removed, and the level II Upgrade draw deck will replace it. Once the 2nd pile of XP tokens are depleted, the level II Upgrade draw deck is removed, being replaced by the level III draw deck. The general supply is used from then on when gaining XP.
Finally, all other components including the Archway tiles, Hero Wound and Poison tokens, -1 XP tokens, and the Dungeon die are placed in supply piles near the play area. Once all of the setup is complete, the play area should look something like this:
In Dungeon Alliance, players are attempting to use their team of Heroes to gain the most experience (XP). At the end of the game, all accumulated XP by the team (whether spent or not) will count as the Alliance’s overall victory points. Players can accumulate XP by damaging and killing Monsters, damaging Heroes of opposing Alliances, as well as completing certain goals on some of the Upgrade cards. Players may also receive negative XP if a Hero is defeated by a Monster or by an opposing Alliance. A game of Dungeon Alliance lasts for 4 complete Rounds. Each individual Round encompasses a set of 4 Cycles followed by an End Phase. During a Cycle, each player will resolve one of their Heroes, moving in clockwise order until all players have resolved one Hero. Then moving in reverse (counter-clockwise) order, each player will resolve one active Monster until all players have resolved a Monster. This will continue 3 more times, until players have resolved all 4 of their Heroes and 4 active Monsters. Then an End Phase occurs which has a number of steps that players will perform to get ready for the following Round. Let’s take a look at how the various part of a Cycle work:
I. Hero Resolution:
On a player’s turn, he’ll choose one of his Heroes and remove its Hero token from the Hero’s card, thus activating the Hero. Once this token has been removed, the Hero won’t be available to take actions with again until the following Round. During the End Phase, players will reactivate all of their exhausted Heroes by placing the Hero tokens back on their corresponding cards, readying them for the next Round. It’s important to note that during a Hero’s turn, Upgrade cards can be played from the player’s hand in order to modify stats or allow for the Hero to perform special powers and abilities. As mentioned before, an Upgrade card can be played during a Hero’s turn as long as its race or class icons match the card’s. In addition, each Upgrade card is connected to a certain type, whether they be Reactions, Weapons, Armor, Maneuvers, various types of Spells, Pets, etc. However, each Hero can only perform one type of action each Round.
For instance, if McFarlin plays Elusive (a Reaction card type) when a Monster or opposing Hero attacks him, it’ll help boost his defense by +2. He’d be allowed to play this, because the race icon (dwarf) on the Elusive card matches the one on McFarlin’s Hero card. Once he’s played this card, McFarlin could not then play another Reaction card until the next Round. When a Hero uses a card, it is placed below his Hero card, as a reference to which types of cards he’s used this Round.
This first thing a Hero will do on his turn is move. A Hero’s movement is determined by his “speed” statistic, listed as the blue stat (3rd from the left) on the Hero’s card. For instance, as seen above, Mirabell has a speed of 5. This means she has 5 movement points to use on her turn. Some Upgrade cards may allow additions to this base stat (mostly the Maneuver type). The player must spend all movement, up to the maximum for his Hero before moving on to the next step of his turn (attacking). He’s not allowed to spend some movement, then attack, then move again. However, if the player declares that he’s not going to use his Hero to attack this turn, he can then take his full movement again. So if the player had resolved all 5 movement points with Mirabell, and chose not to attack this turn, he’d have another 5 movement point available to him for immediate use.
Heroes can move either adjacently or diagonally, and are allowed to normally move 1 space per 1 movement point. The only exception to this is if a Hero is moving away from a space that is adjacent (even diagonally) to an enemy. In this case, the Hero will need to spend 2 movement points to move. Heroes are allowed to move through spaces containing their own allies, but can not end their movement there. Heroes can not move through spaces with an enemy.
For instance, the player decides to move Mirabell to the northeast corner of the room. Because she is moving away from a space that’s adjacent to an enemy, she’ll need to spend 2 movement points. She’s allowed to move through the space with McFarlin, but can’t end her movement there. She’s also still considered adjacent to the enemy. So she’ll spend another 2 movement points to continue moving to the next space above. If there was no enemy present, she only would have had to spend 2 movement points total (instead of 4) to complete her move.
There are a few ways in which a Hero can use movement points, beyond simply moving from space to space. Movement points are used for opening doors, revealing and opening treasure chests, as well as revealing challenge tokens and disarming traps. Let’s first take a look at opening doors. There are three types of doors in the game; regular doors, locked doors, and secret doors. Regular doors are found when two Dungeon tiles have been placed adjacent to one another, and the door entrances from both match adjacently to one another (as seen above). When a Hero chooses to open a regular door, he’ll simply pay 1 movement point and place an Archway token on top of the connected doors to show that it’s been opened. If there’s not a tile present when the Hero attempts to open the door, the player will draft a tile from the two available in the drafting area, then orient it so that one of the doors lines up adjacent to the one the Hero is opening. These will include some type of Monster tokens on them, and possibly a Challenge token. Each Monster token contains a small arrow at the bottom and these arrows represent the direction that the Monster is facing. Monsters are always placed on a new tile so that they are facing the direction of the door being entered. Once a door has been opened, the dungeon spaces connected by the doorway on each room tile are considered adjacent. So when a Hero exits one room to enter another, he’ll move from tile space to tile space, not counting the Archway token as a space.
For instance, Mirabell decides not to perform an attack, therefore is given another set of movement points this turn. Even in a space diagonal to the closed door, she’s still considered adjacent to it. She decides to spend a movement point to open the door, however since there’s not a room currently there, she’ll need to draft one from amongst the two available.
One of these tiles contain 4 Zombie monsters while the other contains a Troll and a Challenge token. The Challenge token could contain either a Treasure or a Trap. She decides that she’d rather take her chances with facing one enemy and a Challenge, rather than the 4 Zombies (though defeating all 4 Zombies may have given her more XP in the long run).
She’ll remove her chosen Dungeon tile from the drafting area and place it adjacent to the room that she’s currently in so that a doorway from the new tile matches the one she’s opening. An archway token is then placed on the connected doors to show that it’s been opened, and the troll is oriented so that he’s facing the open doorway. A level 1 Challenge token is placed on the corresponding space of the new tile, face down. Lorna could now choose to continue her movement into the new area, or wait.
Once multiple Dungeon tiles have been added to the dungeon, players may find that door entrances have been blocked by a stone wall on one side, or on both sides. If one tile contains a door and the adjacent tile contains a stone wall, this is considered a “locked” door. If both sides contain a stone wall, this is considered a “secret passage”. As seen above, the wall to the east contains a secret passage (wall/wall), while the wall to the south contains a locked door (wall/door). Some cards include bonus abilities based on whether the Hero is attempting to open a locked door or discover a secret passage. It’ll take players a bit more work to get these open so that they can move through to the next area. A Hero adjacent to the doorway (even diagonally) can choose to spend 1 movement point to attempt to pick the lock of a locked door, or reveal a secret passage of a stone wall. However, a player can’t attempt to unlock a door or reveal a passage if enemies are still present in his current room.
The difficulty in picking a lock or revealing a passage is determined by the level of the Dungeon tile the Hero’s trying to enter. Remember that there are 1, 2, and 3 level tiles and this level is printed on the bottom of each. After spending 1 movement point, the player will roll the Dungeon die (containing facings of 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, and 3), and succeeds if the result is equal to or higher than the tile’s level number. Alternatively, if the player doesn’t wish to take the chance of failing, he can spend a number of movement points before rolling to increase the rolled result by that amount.
For instance, Mysterios finds that the entrance between the room he’s in and the adjacent one which he wishes to move into only contains a door icon on one side. Therefore this door is considered locked. Since all enemies have been cleared from his current room, he’s allowed to spend a movement point in order to roll the die to unlock and open the door.
Since the room in which he wants to move into is a level 2 tile, he’ll need to roll a 2 or higher on the Dungeon die. By rolling a 2, he’s succeeded and places an Archway token on the entrance to show that its been opened. If he wanted to, he could have spent 2 additional movement points (3 points total) before his roll to automatically succeed.
Opening Treasure Chests
Whenever a Hero enters a room that contains a Challenge token, that token is immediately revealed. This can result in a Treasure or a Trap. As with doors, there are some Treasure Chests that are locked and some that aren’t. Once a Hero is adjacent to a space with an unlocked Treasure Chest, he can spend 1 movement point to pick it up, or can simply move onto the space, immediately picking it up. If the chest is locked, the Dungeon die is used in the same way as attempting to open locked doors and revealing secret passages. Heroes cannot attempt to unlock a Treasure Chest if there are still enemies in the room. The player will need to roll a number on the die equal to or greater than the level listed on the Challenge token. Again, Heroes can spend extra movement points before rolling the die in order to increase the rolled value.
Whether the Treasure Chest was locked or not, once a Hero acquires it, they’ll find the Challenge Encounter card that matches the Treasure referenced on the tile and receive the XP listed. For instance, opening a Locked Chest will award the player a number of XP equal to the level of the Locked Chest.
If the Challenge token reveals a Trap, the event on the Challenge Encounter card that matches the Trap on the tile will occur. While revealed Treasures are not collected until the player picks them up, a Trap is triggered as soon as it is a Hero enters the room. One way to keep this from happening is to reveal the Challenge token from an adjacent room. This basically gives the Hero knowledge of whether the token is a Treasure or a Trap, before entering.
Once a door has been opened (one with an Archway token placed), the Hero can spend 1 movement point to reveal a Challenge token in the adjacent room if there are no enemies left in the room he’s currently in. If the revealed token is a Treasure, it’s left face-up. If the token is a Trap, the player can either flip it back over face-down or can attempt to disarm the Trap. When attempting to disarm it, the player will roll the Dungeon die and needs a result equal to or higher than the Challenge token’s level to succeed. Again, the player can spend extra movement points before the roll to increase the result. If the player fails to disarm the Trap, the Trap is triggered and immediately affects the Hero, even though the Hero is in the adjacent room.
For instance, Lorna wants to check to see what the Challenge token in the adjacent room is before entering it. By spending 1 movement point, she’s able to flip over the token, which reveals a Pit Trap. Since this is a level 1 Challenge token, she’ll need to roll a 1 or more in order to disarm it. Even though she has no more movement points to spend (to help increase her roll), she decides to attempt the disarm.
Unfortunately, she rolls a 0. Therefore the Pit Trap from the adjacent room triggers and immediately affects her. By looking at the Pit Trap’s Encounter card, we see that the Pit Trap token is placed on the space Lorna is currently in, and she takes 2 damage. This Pit Trap token will remain on this space for the rest of the game. Any Hero or Monster wishing to enter or leave a space with the Pit Trap must spend an additional movement. In addition, Heroes and Monsters can not attack from this space.
After Heroes have finished their movement, they’ll have an opportunity to perform an attack. Attacks are resolved on Monsters, however if players are using the PVP ruleset, they’ll also be able to attack Heroes from opposing Alliances. Each Hero can either perform melee (adjacent) attacks or ranged (2-3 spaces away) attacks. The leftmost stat (red) on each Hero card list the type of attack the Hero can perform (sword for melee, bow for ranged), along with the base strength of the attack. For instance, as seen above, Melinda can perform ranged attacks with a base strength of 2, while Belzamin can perform melee attacks with a base strength of 1.
Some Upgrade cards can provide additional strength to the Heroes base amount when played, and there are also cards that will allow the Hero to perform a type of attack they wouldn’t normally be able to. For instance, the Crimson Moon Axe s a weapon type card which adds +3 to a melee Heroes attack, or allows a ranged Hero to perform a melee attack of 4. This weapon can be used by Heroes with the “martial” class icon on their Hero card.
A Hero can perform 1 attack on their turn, unless they chose to spend no movement points before attacking. In this case, the Hero can perform 2 attacks, but they must be on different enemies. In order for the Hero to attack an enemy, the enemy must be within the Hero’s line of sight and range. A Hero is able to see enemies that are in front of them and those to the side of the direction the Hero is facing. Facing the Hero in a different direction on a space does not cost any points of movement. When performing a melee attack, the enemy must be adjacent to the Hero (diagonally counts). When performing a ranged attack, the enemy must be 2 or 3 spaces away. A player cannot perform a ranged attack on an adjacent enemy.
Determining line of sight for ranged attacking purposes is quite simple. An imaginary line is made from the center of the Heroes tile to the tile of the enemy he wishes to attack. If this line is within 2-3 spaces (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally), and the line is not broken by a closed door or wall, the enemy is considered within the Hero’s line of sight. If the imaginary line barely scraps the side of an opened door, it is still considered line of sight. Bend it like Beckham! If a ranged attack is done where the imaginary line passes through another enemy or ally, the targeted enemy will receive +1 defense for each enemy/ally the line passed through before reaching him.
For instance, since Lorna performs ranged attacks, she can not attack the adjacent Zombie to the left of her. Nor can she attack the Goblin at the lower-right corner of the adjacent room, since the wall blocks her line of sight. She can however, perform an attack on the Warg two spaces in front of her, or on the Zombie on the center-left space of the adjacent tile (line of sight to this one barely scraps the wall of the Archway). However, because the shot will pass through the space with the Warg, this Goblin would receive +1 defense.
The Zombie on the furthest space of the adjacent tile is 4 spaces away, therefore its too far for her attack to reach. If he was only 3 spaces away, Lorna would be able to attack him, however again, since her shot would be passing through a space with the Warg, the Goblin would receive +1 defense when resolving the attack.
Once an attack is made, the total strength of the attack is compared to the total defense of the target. Each Hero and Monster contains a defensive stat (the green icon, 2nd on the left). There are two different defensive icons. A helmet represents armor defense and the icon that looks like Neo dodging bullets represents dodge defense. In most cases, these icons are interchangeable as the Hero/Monster’s defense, though some Upgrade cards and Monster abilities may only boost armor or dodge. After total strength has been compared to the total defense, the difference is the damage that the target takes. Each Hero and Monster have a health stat (yellow icon on the far right) which represents how much life they have. When a Monster is damaged, but its life is not fully depleted, the Hero will place a number of Wound tiles in his player color equal to the amount of damage he dealt, under the Monster token. When the Monster is eventually killed, this will help to determine which Alliance did the most damage. If a Hero has taken damage, the Hero will receive a number of Wound tokens equal to the damage dealt. If a Hero from another Alliance dealt damage to this Hero (only in PVP rules), the player dealing the damage receives 1 XP for every 2 damage dealt (rounded down), instead of placing Wound tiles underneath the miniature.
For instance, McFarlin has a base ranged attack of 2. He decides to attack Bugbear, who is 2 spaces away and within his line of sight. Bugbear has a base defense is 2, and 5 points of health. Though as we can see, the Yellow player has already dealt him 1 damage.
McFarlin decides to play Deadly Aim, which is a Battle Tactic card that adds +1 to his ranged attack if the target is exactly 2 spaces away. It also lowers Bugbear’s armor defense by -2. Therefore, Bug Bear’s base defense will be lowered to 0. If Bugbear’s defense had been the “dodge” type, this effect would not lower it. However, Bugbear’s defense if the matching “armor” type. Since McFarlin does a ranged attack of 3 (2 base +1 with Deadly Aim), Bug Bear will take all 3 damage.
Bug Bear’s base health is 5, though he had already taken 1 wound from the Yellow player. McFarlin’s 3 points of damage wasn’t able to kill him, but it does allow McFarlin to place 3 of his own Wound markers beneath the creature. Once Bug Bear is eventually killed, McFarlin’s alliance will have dealt more damage to him than any other alliance. Therefore his team will receive the leftmost amount of XP listed on Bugbear’s card.
Each Monster contains two separate XP amounts, listed on the bottom of their Encounter cards. If an Alliance is able to kill a Monster, and their the only Alliance that did damage to that Monster, that player will total both of these numbers together, and receives that much XP for the kill. If however, multiple Alliances took part in damaging the Monster before it died, they’ll check the distribution of Wound markers on the creature to determine who receives what amount of XP. The Alliance that dealt the most damage to the Monster receives the XP amount on the left, while the Alliance that dealt the 2nd most receives the XP amount on the right. Included in the rules are tiebreakers in case multiple Alliances have dealt the same amount of damage.
Unfortunately, in Bugbear’s case, the Alliance that does the most damage to him, and the Alliance that does the 2nd most damage to him, both receive the same amount of XP (1). In order to gain 2 XP from killing Bugbear, an Alliance would have to do all damage to him on their own.
If a Hero’s health reaches 0, either from an opposing Hero’s attack, or from a Monster, that Hero is considered defeated. The Hero’s miniature is placed on its side, and other Heroes and Monsters can move through this Hero’s space without penalty. The player who controls the Hero will also receive a -1 XP token. On the defeated Hero’s next turn, he has 3 options available to him:
– The Hero can perform a Burst of Strength by discarding 2 cards face-down onto the Hero’s card. It doesn’t matter what these cards are (they don’t have to match the Hero’s icons), but they won’t be available for the player to use until the end of the Round. If performing a Burst of Strength, the Hero can remove 1 wound token, stand back up, then take his turn as normal. Of course, this means that he’s only 1 point of damage away from being defeated again, thus gaining another -1 XP token. Performing a Burst of Strength is not limited to when a Hero has been defeated. At any point of a Hero’s turn, the player can play two cards facedown on the Hero’s card in order to remove 1 wound, add +1 to the Hero’s movement, or +1 to the Hero’s attack.
– The Hero can choose to rest, in which case he’ll be able to discard 3 wound tokens, stand up, then may take his full set of movement. But will not be able to attack this turn. Resting in this way is not limited to defeated Heroes. Instead of performing his normal turn, a Hero can choose to rest in this way, remove 3 wounds, and take one set of movement.
– Or the Hero can choose crawl out of the dungeon, and mend and relax at the local inn. This option is only available to defeated Heroes. In doing so, all wound tokens are removed from the Hero and his miniature is placed back at the entrance of the player’s Starting Dungeon tile. He will not however get to move or attack this turn.
C. Drafting A Card, Discarding, and Drawing New Cards:
Once a player has resolved their movement and attack, they’ll have a chance to claim 1 new Upgrade card from the row. In order to draft a particular Upgrade card, the race icon or class icons present on the card must match those of at least one of the Heroes you control (does not have to be the Hero you’re using this turn). The player also must spend the number of XP listed on the card, but flipping his XP tokens over. Unlike most deckbuilding games, in Dungeon Alliance when a card is drafted, it is placed directly into the player’s hand. This is very important in the hand management aspect of the game. It’s possible (and sound strategy) to draft a card into your hand that the next Hero you’ll activate can use.
Each time players draft a card into their hand, it increases their progress on their Draft Chart. The player may then discard a number of cards from his hand equal to the number listed on the chart. He’ll then be able to draw back up to his current hand size. So as you can see, the more cards a player drafts, the better he gets at being able to filter out his deck for the cards most advantageous to the Heroes he’ll use next.
A player may find that he can afford to draft a card from the row, but doesn’t like his choices. He can then discard a card from the row to a discard pile (as long as he would have been able to afford it), then draw a new card from the draw deck. The player can then choose to purchase this card and this card only. Once taking this action, the player can not choose to go back and purchase one of the other four cards. Even though a card has been placed in the discard pile, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be purchased ever again. Instead of drafting a card from those face-up in the row, a player can choose to purchase a card from the discard pile by paying +1 XP on top of its normal cost.
As players continue to earn XP, the 1st XP pile will eventually run out. When this happens, the level I Upgrade draw deck is replaced with the level II one. All current cards face-up in the row are kept there. When the 2nd XP pile runs out, the level II Upgrade draw deck is replaced with the level III ones. The level III deck is special in that all the Upgrade cards included in it contain Artifacts. All Artifact cards contain the “universal” icon, meaning they can be drafted by all players, no matter their Heroes. When drafting an Artifact, it is not placed in the player’s hand. Instead it is placed face-up in the Alliance’s play area and contains an ongoing effect that the Alliance can use for the rest of the game. For instance, the Obsidian Wand provides all Heroes in an Alliance with +1 attack strength when performing a Spell type attack or a Pet type attack. The Immortal White Lotus on the other hand, allows a Hero to remove 2 wounds when the Hero is first activated.
II. Monster Resolution:
Once all players have resolved a Hero, each player will (in counter-clockwise order) activate and resolve 1 Monster. When activating a Monster, the player must choose a Monster that is neither in a room with one of his Heroes, or in a an adjacent room connected by an open archway to one with his Heroes. There are rules in the rulebook on what to do if the only Monsters available to move are those in a room with one of your Heroes, or in an adjacent room, but those are minor occurrences. The player must always move a Monster into a position where it can legally attack an opposing alliance’s Hero (if possible). Like Heroes, each Monster has movement and attack statistics listed on their Encounter cards. They also contain a special power or ability that the Monster can perform during its turn.
For instance, a Giant Spider (left) can move up to 4 spaces on their turn, and performs a melee attack with a strength of 3. If it damages a Hero, that Hero receives poison wound tokens instead of regular wound tokens. At the end of a round, any Hero that has at least 1 poison token on them will receive an additional poison wound.
The Death Fairy (right) has no base ranged attack strength, but can move up to 6 spaces on when activated. It will always move the shortest distance to get within range of a legal attack (2-3 spaces from a Hero, and within line of sight). Any leftover movement points are immediately converted into its ranged attack strength. Therefore, if the Death Fairy does not need to move at all to legally attack, she’ll do a ranged attack with a strength of 6.
After a particular Monster has moved and completed its attack, its token is flipped over to its “red” side to show that it is exhausted. Once exhausted, it can not move or attack for the rest of the Round. Unlike Heroes, Monsters cannot forfeit their attack to take two separate movements, nor forfeit their movement to perform two separate attacks. A Monster always moves then attacks.
III. End Phase:
Once each player has activated and resolved a Monster the current cycle ends. Then players will resolve a new cycle. Beginning with the Start player (moving clockwise), each player will choose and resolve their next Hero. Then, moving again counter-clockwise, each player will activate and resolve a 2nd Monster. This continues until 4 cycles are complete, meaning all players have activated and resolved all 4 of their Heroes, as well as 4 Monsters. At this point an End Phase triggers, in which players will take a number of steps before beginning a new Round.
During the End Phase, players will “ready” each of their Heroes by placing their Hero tokens back onto the Hero’s card. Each exhausted Monster in the dungeon is also flipped back to its ready position. Players will remove all cards that were played on their Heroes during the Round and add them to their discard pile. Players may then draw cards up to their hand size (if able), and may need to shuffle their discard pile to create a new draw deck if their draw deck has been emptied. Also note that any Heroes with at least 1 poison wound token on them must take an additional poison wound token during the End Phase. After all of these steps have been completed, the Initiative token is given to the next player, moving clockwise, and a new Round begins.
End of Game:
Normally the game will end after all 4 Rounds have been completed. However, if all Dungeon tiles have been added into the dungeon, and all Monsters have been eliminated, players will complete the current cycle of their Hero activations (so that all players have an equal number of turns), then skip ahead to the End Phase of the current Round. After the steps of this End Phase is completed, the game ends. At the end of the game, players will count up all of their accumulated XP (whether spent or not), including any -1 XP tokens they received, and the Alliance with the most experience wins.
Dungeon Alliance is a clever, tactical, dungeon delving experience. At first glance, the dungeon tiles and miniatures will probably spark the majority of initial interest , but make no mistake, the heart of the game revolves around its approach to hand management. Pre-planning all starts with the initial drafting of Heroes at the beginning of the game. And you’ll want to create an Alliance that compliments each other. From a thematic point of view, I can appreciate the role-playing aspects that emerge from this part of the design. Having four melee wielding brutes in the same Alliance will provide you with a wealth of melee attacking cards, but really nothing else. Having four completely different Heroes with all unique icons and races will allow you to draft any card in the row, but each card will be limited in which Hero can use it. This causes problems when attempting to get the right cards in your hand at the right time.
In between these two extremes is how you want to build your Alliance. Enough complimentary pieces to use cards in multiple situations, but not enough of the same to where you’re limited on what cards you can draft. It’s the making of any great fantasy fellowship. A strong kinship of individual personalities. Having said that, since Heroes base statistics are tied to their main Hero card (movement, attack, defense, and health) and not just on the cards played, Heroes are still able to perform their base movement and attacks if the player finds he doesn‘t have the right set of cards in hand. Of course, being able to play cards on a Hero only help to enhance that Hero’s abilities and attacks.
Dungeon Alliance is one that can definitely take a few plays to sink your teeth into. This is one of the weightier deckbuilders I’ve played, but that‘s not because of the ruleset. In fact, the rules are fairly straightforward and simple. So much so, that the steps and explanation of a turn are easily found on the included summary cards. The learning curve instead comes from figuring out how to pre-plan, strategize and manipulate your hand of actions, skillfully amongst four different Heroes. It’s great that the game comes with a set of Basic Starting cards, and I think it’s best to learn the flow of the game using these. Having said that, while it took me probably until the end of my first game to catch on to how best to filter my hand, and draft cards accordingly so that I’d set up a great turn for my next Hero, it did finally click. And once it did, I wanted to play through it again and again.
I’m always impressed when a game includes unique artwork for each individual card. I’m very pleased to see that this is the case with Dungeon Alliance. Every Hero card, Starting cards for each Hero, Upgrade cards, and Encounter cards all contain completely different artwork. Whether intentional or not, this helped me connect to the Heroes of my Alliance. As players resolve and build their decks, they’ll become familiar with their Alliance’s abilities and Heroes, which will be unlike those of any of the other Alliances. When my Alliance can perform a Bash ability or use a Poison Blade, I know that no other Alliance has that ability or weapon in their deck. In addition, since all Heroes in the game begin with entirely different Starting abilities, there’s a massive amount of replayability within the combination of Heroes in an Alliance alone, even before taking into consideration the Upgrade cards.
The gameplay itself has a typical Descent-type feel, where Heroes will resolve actions, then Monsters will resolve actions, taking into account line of sight and directional facing. A better comparison can probably be made to how Arcadia Quest works, with the absence of specific goals. While the game includes friendly PvE rules, I’ve found I much prefer the PvP game (as I do with Arcadia Quest), especially during the later Rounds. It will probably take the first 2-3 Rounds to open up the dungeon, making connections amongst the various Starting areas, but once Alliances have come across one another, a whole new game ensues. By this point, players should have built up a pretty solid deck of powerful abilities, and that final Round can feel like an all out clash. You can’t totally disregard the Monsters however. Some of those found in the level III rooms have nasty powers, but provide a great deal of XP when killed.
As a fan of Core Worlds, and one that’s always wanted to try out Mage Knight (of which the hand management cardplay seems similar), I’m pretty enthusiastic to see the final production copy of this game when it releases. I’ve found that the 2-player set up is a much more focused way to learn the game, if only because players will be doing a lot of text reading to familiarize themselves with every card in their deck. Though, the game seems to play well with all player counts once everyone is knowledgeable with it. A really fun experience, and one I look forward to getting to the table quite often.
If you’re near the Wilmington, NC area, feel free to check out our community’s FLGS, Cape Fear Games.