Wednesday, 8 June 2011
Review: Dwarf Kings Hold (Dead Rising)
A few days back I made a post about my love of board games.Well I decided to go out and do something about it, I've pre-ordered the Gears of War from OG Games and am really looking forward to getting my hands on it when it is finally released around Septemberish. However along with the other games I was keeping an eye on Kingdom Death and Super Dungeon Explore they're not out now and that's left me twiddling my thumbs somewhat, but there is currently a dungeon crawler of sorts out for you to purchase right now and that's Mantic Games Dwarf Kings Hold. So I placed an order with Mantic on a Friday evening and on the Tuesday, after the bank holiday Monday, I had a nice new shiny box. I have to be honest and say this game had a hell of a lot to live up to for me because I used to pay things like this as a kid with my dad and I'm sure the rose tinted nostalgia glasses have elevated what were quite poor games into paragons of gaming excellence bar none. It was games very much like this that I first cut my teeth and that got me into this hobby in the first place. A lot to live up to then...
It came in a box, with some artwork on it!!! The box isn't the shiny, shiny top of the line cardboard box you get with say a Fantasy Flight Game or Wizards of the Coast product, and to be fair the game isn't aimed at the same 'production values'. Nope the box does its job just fine and the art work does its job too, bringing back memories of 80's cartoon Dungeons and Dragons with the Eye of the Beholder and its single animation, ah good times, first nostalgia points. Inside the box you get a few plastic spru's containing 22 Skeletons, at least I think that's how many I counted and 7 Dwarfs, oh yeah and a dog. There is a load of card tiles and all the dice you'll need to play, in a lovely shade of green that brought memories of the original first edition Warhammer Fantasy dice, ah happy memories came flooding back, nostalgia points for that too! There's also a little black book (no not that type you dirty, dirty people) that contains the rules, nothing flashy just a nice quality functional book again designed at keeping the cost down.
The game itself is actually quite a concise little set of rules. As you'd expect from a grid tiled board game, movement and facing play a huge part in the balance of the game as does use of orders as the various scenarios limit such things to either side, that's called resource management kiddy winks and is something you'll need in later life when the bank managers on the phone and the bailiffs are at your door! Onto the scenarios, there are 6 in all and as you'd expect they range from the easy to learn intro game right the way up to the mammoth veteran slog fest. However I'd be a big fat liar if I said I'd played them all, although the ones I have played I found fun to play and it doesn't take too long to play through a game so I think its more than possible to rip through 3 or 4 games in an evening after work. I also think the more adventurous and experimental of us (no sniggering at the back) might be able to come up with our own scenarios, no not with whips, handcuffs and pony tails, what the hell is wrong with you people!!!
Gameplay 8 out of 10
Right first things first this game is deceptively simple at first glance. I don't mean there are hidden rules designed to catch you out and make you look like a fool... oh no, what I mean is that it's a brutally simple game to play as the rules are quite straight forward and easy to understand. You can read through them no problem in about an hour and know what the rules are no problem. However its not that simple a game in practice, it has layers... many layers, like a San Franciscan bohemian hippies outfit!!! On the one hand its a really simple and easy game to learn, but on the other the tactical depth the game offers after multiple play throughs is as deep as Franz Kafka in a very deep hole, yeah that is deep. However it remains a fun and engaging experience throughout.
Detail 8 out of 10
I've been told by many people that the Mantic miniatures are... well crap. I'm not too sure whether I personally have low standards or the people I've spoken too have very high standards, but they're anything but crap! The undead are actually really, really nice models and would stand up well, I personally feel against any other companies plastic skellies and I love skellies as I used to paint them by the bucket load as a kid. This was because I hit on a really nice way of painting rusted armor and bone that made my miniatures look far better than my technique actually was... so there's some more nostalgia points! The Dwarfs aren't too bad either, I can see what some people are saying about the size of them when compared with the elves (which I saw the other day) but next to the Skellies they look about right and I quite like the look of them and for detail and quality they stand up to other companies plastic Dwarfs just fine and I should know I have a sizable Dwarf army.
The card floor tiles are functional and well designed. They have your typical dungeon tile artwork on them but unlike some boards I've seen recently the artwork is consistent and has its own unique little style that reminds me an awful lot of the airbrushed artwork I used to see in things like Dragon Magazine in the 80's you know female warriors with... erm... huge assets crammed into a metal bra... tin cans if you will, wizards with big floppy... hats (had you going) and gold stars on them, what I'm trying to say here is that the product wins even more nostalgia points. The rulebook is a small and simple affair that is there to just give you the rules, its a no thrills black and white affair which is a bit of a shame, but colour pages cost, as does commissioning artwork and realistically I'm not too sure how much such details would add to the package as a whole.
There are however two points where I think the product could be improved 1) Assembly guide for the mini's... OK so they're not hard but my stand in child for the day (the other half) came out in hives at the thought of putting them together without instructions and 2) bases. The figures come on little round stands but if you have hyperactive pets and they knock the table they'll come crashing down and you might find it hard to remember where everything was, which as I'm sure you can understand is a tad annoying. However these are minor gripes and if you have 4 Maine Coon cats like I do then I suggest you shut them out of the room before proceeding with a game, because they do so love nicking off with skellies (I'm looking at you Tybalt)
Quality 7 out 10
This score is dragged up to 7 out of 10 because of the quality of the rules and the miniatures contained within. The tiles are not the best, thickest, shiniest card pieces on the market, say like the current Talisman board or if you've not seen those the recent re-release of Space Hulk. However as a design element Mantic have been wise enough to realise this and so haven't gone for the usual 'jig saw' join of other similar products and you just place the tiles next to each other. The genius in this is that actually they might be less likely to get dog earned and damaged through use than all those expensive tiles, again showing the attention to detail put into the product to keep the price down, and ensure that lower production value doesn't harm the final product, I'm sure others have done it, but still. Nicely done.
Service 9 out of 10
Well what can I say? Ordered on a Friday night over the bank holiday weekend and arrived the following Tuesday, the first day that it could have. It was well packaged and not damaged. Is there really anything more to add? Oh yeah there is!!! They also package in with the game a spru of Mantics new and utterly brilliant looking Orcs, I know its a sales and marketing ploy, that they're currently using, but seriously it was a nice touch and actually looking at them, I'm super impressed with them. So much so that they might just tempt me into getting a Kings of War Orc army... damn you Ronnie, damn you!!! Shame I just don't have the cash to splash right now or I would.
Price 10 out of 10
Now this is a really rare thing for me. As most people who know me will attest, while I have no problem parting with my cash, in fact I'm sure my much better half would sometimes wish I wasn't so easily parted with it; but it's rare that I think anything I buy is bang on fantastic, couldn't get better value for money if you tried... but I'm giving this a 10 out of 10. Why? Because Jake Thornton has done a great job writing a fun little Dungeon Crawler that evokes memories of past classics, with quick accessible game mechanic of its own that just makes me smile. I don't have kids but this game makes me wish I did so I could force them kicking and screaming into the hobby like my dad did to me all those years ago. Also combined with the more than just functional miniatures and the nice artwork on those floor tiles all for £34.99 I'm not too sure what's to grumble about! Its a fantastic little game in a box at a really reasonable price, and that I guess is what Mantic Games is all about.
Overall 9 out of 10
I have yet to play many other new board games (and if anyone out there has any good ones do let me know in the comments), but honestly I'm not too sure many will be as much fun as this. I'm sure there are other games out there with way more complex rules and needing all sorts of different dice from D6 all the way up to D100's but will they be as quick and entertaining? This evoked all the memories I had of being a kid playing game after game with friends and family, rattling through them in an afternoon or evening. If you have young kids and want to introduce them too the hobby lets be clear about this their aren't actually any wargames currently on the market that allow you to slowly introduce the concept of miniature gaming to them; board games like this used to do that job and I can see Dwarf Kings Hold doing it again for another generation and at a very reasonable price. I don't know if its the sort of board game I'd want to play all the time, but if I'm tired and the TV is looking like there's nothing but rubbish on then I can see me cracking this out and sitting down and actually having a little quality game time with she who must be obeyed... perhaps we should get cracking on those kids so I can have more opponents. Peace out!