16 August 2012

Super Dungeon Explore (review light)

Two guys were playing this game down at the club so I took a seat and watched for a while, snapped some pictures and learned a little about the rules.

      This game has been on my radar, and from what I have heard it got a positive reception. It's not really my cup of tea because of the "anime" art direction of the miniatures and playing cards. But I guess that my fascination for "shiny pretty things and game components" often outweigh such initial reservations (just like with Dreadfleet). I did not run off and buy the game however, simply because I think it is a more "cute" version of regular dungeon hack&slash games - like D&D:Wrath of Ashardalon.

You have your group of heroes with predetermined skills and attributes, and you fight hordes of monsters. What sets this game apart from other games of this genre is the lighthearted approach, and silly look of things. The game really does a good job at simulating old Japanese Nintendo 8-bit games where you killed monsters that dropped hearts and life potions, and it does so very cleverly by using various dice.

Each profile, be it hero or monster, has a set number of attack/defense dice. And you simply roll the right amount of the right colored dice. Blue are the weakest, red are average and green are the best. The dice are D6 and have empty spaces, starts, potion and heart symbols. Starts are damage points inflicted by an attack, and also used to negate the damage points when rolling defense. Hearts immediately restore some of your life if your attack succeeded and killed the monster. And potions are life potions that you can save for later.

The heroes and the monster have a set number of "command points" which they can activate each turn. Apparently all the good guys move, then the bad guys move - close combat order is determined by initiative rolls. And the bad guys are constantly recycled and respawn at different locations near spawn points on the board. A tricky game mechanic is that every time a damage point is inflicted you keep track of total damage points in the game. Once you reach 16 damage points the "bad guys" are allowed to bring in a low level boss monster. And when you reach 36 damage points the "bad guys" bring in their boss - which is a dragon. When this happens they stop respawning.

Monsters also sometimes drop loot cards that include 4 categories of bonus cards that boost your character stats and equipment in the classic areas (strength, armor, life etc). The game seemed to play fast enough if you are familiar with the rules , and don't spend too much thought on such a lighthearted game. The heroes contain a variety of classic RPG classes, such as barbarian, dwarf, wizard, rogue - the bad guys are "cute" versions of archetype villains such as dragons, lizardmen, gnolls and such.

The components and production value is amazing. The only thing that I can complain about is that the "dungeon tiles" are huge squares with predetermined rooms and content - rather than the puzzle piece inspired tunnel network of D&D:Wrath of Ashardalon, where you gradually explore the dungeon and only spawn enemies at a certain rate. In Super Dungeon explore the whole map is revealed at the start of the game and all bad guys are placed on their starting positions (soon boosted by additional spawning enemies) - and the good guys are pretty much fighting against the clock (and their own success) to accomplish their dungeon raid before they are overwhelmed.

The most surprising thing about the components was that the "miniatures" are multi part slot based models - and require gluing together.

The game looked like great fun, and while I would not go as far as to call it a kids game - I think younger boardgamers will find this game very appealing. Older gamers will probably like it because of the nostalgia factor since it resembles in look and style the old NES and SNES games.


  1. Thanks for the glimpse at this, it's been on my radar for some time as well. All of those minis in the box make it very attractive, despite their cartoony style, which I admit is kind of neat.

  2. SDE is a great boardgame, it differs in a significant way from WoA in that SDE has a "Consul" player controling all the monster while WoAs is purely co-op.

    A small correction on the activation order, the consul and the heroes take turns activating models, one hero and then 4 "skulls" worth of monsters (1-4 depending on their value) until all models have been activated.
    The key to winning as the heroes is to quickly destroy the spawn points before they get overwhelmed.

    And yes it has a great apeal for younger players too, my four year old daugther often pleads for me to play it with her, and she actually keeps the interest up long enough for us to play a 2-hero game with only somewhat simplified rules.

    Look out for the expansion "Caverns of Roxor", featuring Link and Zelda look-a-likes, coming out soon.

  3. Thanks for the clarifications saturnismus, I wrote it as they told me / how they played. But I do remember the "skulls" activation, and yeah I should have mentioned this is a 1vs1 game :-)


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