Calvin’s Commentaries: Dungeon Alliance

Dungeon crawling adventures in board game form are not new.

Nor are deck-builders with a few dozen in various forms amid the board games out these days.

So the two concepts coming together was almost to be expected, although the number of deck-builder dungeon crawl style games out there is now probably beyond what was required.

The two things do work rather nicely if you consider playing a role-playing game where you muck around in a dungeon looking to gather gold and treasure which is handled rather nicely by the mechanic of deck-building.

So we come to this week’s game Dungeon Alliance.

“In the days before the Void consumed much of the Old World, there were stalwart humans, elves, dwarves, and gnomes who banded together to invade the deep places of the earth. These heroes forged unbreakable alliances in search of knowledge, treasure, and glory. Rival adventuring parties would often descend into the same dungeon, and these companies fought one another as fiercely as they battled the monsters that lurked behind every dark corner,” notes the rulebook fluff (by the way I also enjoy such snippets as a way to enhance one’s view of a game).

“These were daring times when nothing in the world was considered more sacred than the oath that bound those who shared the dangers of the pit together. This was the age of the Dungeon Alliance.”

So what exactly in the game about.

Dungeon Alliance is a deck-building, dungeon-crawling, miniatures adventure game that allows players to send different teams of adventurers into perilous dungeons in search of experience and treasure.

“At the start of the game, each player drafts his or her team of four heroes and uses tactical movement and card play to overcome the dungeon’s monsters and treasures,” notes the rules. “Rival teams may compete with one another to slay monsters, or even battle one another for complete domination. When the sun greets those who emerge from the pit, only one Dungeon Alliance will prove victorious.

“As each team of heroes overcomes monsters and challenges, the heroes earn Experience Point Tokens that they can spend to purchase new cards for their Alliance Decks.

Once spent, XP tokens are flipped face down and are kept until the end of the game. Whichever Alliance collects the most Experience Points during the game will claim the mantle of victory.”

There is quite a bit to like here. In particular, there is a good range of miniatures that can be used in RPG play, or mini-games such as Frostgrave, in addition to Dungeon Alliance itself. That is a bonus.

The variety of miniature characters and dungeon tiles means no two games need to be alike.

The idea of staking wooden game pieces under wounded monster tokens to remind how close a battle is to be won works nicely.

The game frame, inside which the dungeon tiles are not good in that it shifts way too easily, leaving the play area off square and looking shoddy. A bit more attention to its design would have been an enhancement.

The aspect where players can choose from two known tiles when they open a door to explore makes no sense, so flip the tiles and take your chances as a real adventurer would.

In the end, the game is all right, but having played others, some being better; Hand of Fate: Ordeals, Dire Wild, Village of Legends this one just underwhelmed. Part of that was the game is a bit chit happy, slowing game preparation, and play drags 30-minutes-plus beyond the point of offering good enjoyment for time spent.

If this was the first game of its style to be played, it is likely to be better appreciated but as it was not, it ended up paling by comparison to earlier games.

Thanks to Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for helping with the game run through.

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