07 September 2012

Super Dungeon Explore session and final thoughts

This weekend I got to play a full session of Super Dungeon Explore, I made a mini review of the game recently which was based upon my observations alone. Now I got to play a full game from start to finish. And I must say the experience was a lot more faded than I hoped for after my initial observations (and being mesmerized by the shiny components).

I can't say that I see much lasting appeal for a grown up crowd the way the game plays now. I still think it's ideal for younger players and a way of getting younger players into boardgames. But for me the 3 hour session went from fun to plain tedious towards the end.



We played 4 players, though you are really only supposed to play 1 game master vs 1 player controlling the heroes. But it worked out fine anyway.  That wasn't the problem at all. The problem is that you go into this game distracted by the nice boards and components, but the more you play the less fun it becomes. It turned out to be very repetitive and shallow after just a short while.

There are no scenarios or quests in this game. Every game is the same thing, you pick a number of heroes, you use a number of dungeon sections corresponding to the number of heroes you have at your disposal, and then you try to fight your way around the board in order to destroy these "totems"/"spawn points". After a little while a mid level boss arrives, and soon after the main boss (Dragon) arrive. And you just hack your way around. Each point of damage you deal has a good chance of healing you or giving you a potion to replenish your special ability. This mean that the dungeon master has very little chance or hope to beat the adventurers before any of the bosses arrive because the small monster minions drop health and potions pretty much whenever the heroes score a hit.

The Dragon boss always arrive, so you can't stop him in any way, and each is pretty much the same because the monster and loot track (a separate board) does not change or scale in any way. Once the dragon arrives, it has little chance of killing the heroes as long as there still are minions on the board as the adventurers will use them to heal and replenish their potions. At the same time the adventurers can't really hope to defeat the dragon boss until all minions have been killed, because the dragon may use them to block off corridors and breathe fire through his minions (that for some reason all are immune to fire).

In the end all the minions will have died and the heroes start hacking away at the dragon which is very tough and deals a lot of damage. Now depending on what you think is good/bad design choice, the boss monsters also replenish health and abilities whenever they deal damage. So essentially the dragon keeps healing whenever he scores a hit, which is quite often, making any progress extremely slow - and totally breaks the fast paced gameplay that the players have experienced up to that point.

So it's really just this endless mindless grind on great looking boards with nice miniatures and components. Nothing on the boards impact or matter, the boards are only there to provide some kind of movement limitations, which seems like a waste.


I also don't see any reason why you would want to replay the game or even run a second session the same afternoon unless you badly want to try out new heroes. The heroes are really the only thing that add variation from what I could tell, and the owner of the game seemed to be quite disappointed in it as well after having played it a couple of times.

I don't really know how it could be fixed in a easy way, there is a severe need for a purpose, sure the game simulates old NES 8-bit games and the like. But even those had some kind of story or quest for the player to follow. Even something shallow would be better than having nothing but "button mashing" on a boardgame level. The game has a high score on BoardGameGeek so people seem to be enjoying it despite this flaw - but I would not buy it having tried it out because of this lack of quests/purpose, despite some really good game mechanics and fun ideas. I mean, it's quite wrong when all players involved in a game let out a sigh of relief when the game finally comes to an end, despite having lost. And I can't imagine you going "wanna play again?" after a game, because that would be doing the exact thing all over again.

2 comments:

  1. We've played five games so far and are having similar impressions you have here. We've also found that it can be very difficult for the heroes to actually win the game (we won once out of five).

    I also feel that there's simply not enough treasure to go around and am a bit perplexed why they include so many treasure cards. A game this straight forward needs a better 'loot' mechanic to at least add another fun dimension to it.

    As you stated, the lack of a narrative or 'missions' is a huge drawback. It is hard to ignore the components though, but now they sell monster packs so one could get their chibi mini fix without the huge price-tag and wasted shelf space?

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  2. Actually, a small mis-intrepretation of the rules can greatly affect the flow of gameplay. As the consul player, the boss monster can never heal. If they roll hearts/potions on hit they can remove status effects but not damage. This is where the fast-paced game play got broken in your game. At first i found this game frustrating to play as the consul, too easy for the heroes! but then i learned about the loot card the consul draws at 16 bit and applies to all his minions and tried out better tactics to surround and trap heroes, and now it's a much more even game experience. So far my gaming crew have really liked the game.

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