Thursday, 17 November 2011

Review: 'Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Manace'

First things first I owe you lot a bit of an apology, this review should have gone live during early September and I'd just assumed it had. Turns out I'd scheduled it to go live during September of 22,011. Yeah, like I'll still be blogging then!!! Sorry.

It might be a smaller box but it still has stuff in it!

This is the second of the Dwarf Kings Hold games, and is therefore a sort of dungeon crawler... but not... ish... it's not like the co-operative ones you might be used to. I've heard people refer to Dwarf Kings Hold as fantasy Space Hulk and this winds me up no end, as the only similarities are the grided game board and that you play with toy soldiers! But, I guess as a quick, none qualified statement it's not totally lame... although I still don't like it as it's lazy. Jake Thornton didn't like me calling the game adversarial last time around, but I think it is adversarial, because it pits one player against another, and there can be only one winner, although obviously you both win if you're having fun!!! Although obviously the 'actual' winner is the real winner. However, the first game, which I thoroughly enjoyed playing was a fun game to play and easy to pick up, it also had a nice level of tactics hidden away. Dead Rising, had Dwarfs facing off against foul shambling skellies, and this latest version changes that dynamic by putting brutish Orcs and nimbly pimbly Elves together in a Dungeon of doom. To be honest with you I was intrigued to see how the dynamic between Elves and Orcs would be different to that between the Dwarfs and the living dead. Oh yeah did I mention the cave ins...

Product description

Right when I reviewed Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising I had someone PM me a complaint that I hadn't made it clear enough that the miniatures required assembly, even though I said they did... so let me say from the start that the miniatures in Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace require the use of clippers to cut them from the spru's, craft knives to clean up mould lines etc. and indeed plastic glue to stick them together. I'm going to assume that beyond that basic information most of you are good to go all by yourselves! However, it is a fair point, most board games come with the miniatures pre-made for you so I guess for some people it is something that does need to be made clear, although I honestly don't think Mantic's miniatures should tax even the most basic modeller. It would though, have been good if they'd included a little assembly guide to help things on their way. You get a host of card tokens, 9 dice, 5 green and 4 blue. There are also 28 floor tiles of varying shapes, sizes and complexity, If you own Dead Rising you'll know what to expect. Last and by no means least there are those miniatures, you get 20 Elves and 8 Orcs, these are wargaming standard miniatures not board game rubbery things.

Poor Orc, ganged up on by two horrid Elves
Game Play 9 out of 10

The first disappointment is that nowhere in Green Menace does it talk about adding the two new races to the first two, so I guess we're still going to have to wait for that particular add-on, pull your finger out Jake! So no new scenario conditions are given to plug in the orcs and elves to the original six scenarios and pit them against the Dwarfs or Skellies. Boo hiss! Well, I got over that disappointment after a slight temper tantrum and refusing to come out of my room for an hour fairly rapidly. Why? Because Green Menace does include the elf rules for shooting with their bows, oh yeah baby I can now stick it to my enemies from a distance. Ranged combat for the win... except when I'm the Orcs, in which case stop being a coward and come face me like a man, or an Orc, or should that be an elf? Oh screw it, shooting adds a really nice new element to the game system.

The elves are tricksy in other ways too, not content to shoot the big lumbering Orcs from afar like the yellow backed cowards they are, the swine can also dodge out of the feathering way, because their anorexic frames make it hard to hit them, what with being 'nimble'. Yep, the elf race ability is 'nimble' and this means that they can 'dodge' certain attacks and move away. Bloomin cowards! It works thusly, a brave, noble and strong Orc strides forward to smite a bothersome and cowardly elf with a proper weapon, an axe, mace or plank of wood, you know proper, not like a bloomin bow. Any way if you only cause a low amount of damage the chuffing Elf can dodge away and take no fricking damage, because they are an elf. It's a total disgrace I tell you and an afront to the martial arts! Well as an Orc fan I would say that.

Once more the Orcs are in trouble
Can you tell I've had the odd problem or two when facing the Elves? Early on in my play testing I really struggled to get to grips with the Elves while playing as the Orcs, but slowly that did change around as I learned the games subtle nuances. It's just fair to say that my initial fumblings with the game weren't quite as balanced as my first few games with Dead Rising were. Sure there is a balance in Green Menace once you learn the maps and the Orcs tricks the game is just as balanced but initially I wasn't as convinced. But, yep the Orcs get their own tricks too. The Orc race rule for them is their 'Green Rage' ability whereby an Orc model gets increased combat skills once it is injured. You hit them and it just makes them mad. How very Orcish! The Orcs gain +1 dice and +2 movement while in 'Green Rage' mode, that is not to be sniffed at trust me. However, Orcs become pretty vulnerable while green raged, if they take any extra damage they die. Doesn't sound so good now does it? So you can't just rush into things otherwise you'll be picked off. The orcs also have "shield bash" though, like the dwarfs did in Dead Rising, which makes me wander if an Orc can shield bash a dwarf or vice versa, and if they can isn't that just Morris dancing? I so hope Dwarf Kings Hold 3 includes a Dwarf / Orc Morris dancing scenario.

A tricksy Elf dodges... AGAIN!!!
The two new races aren't the only things that are new about Green Menace. While there is no question that Dead Rising and Green Menace share the same DNA, with all the comfort that familiarity brings, so both are clearly Dwarf Kings Hold games, it's just that Green Menace mixes things up a bit. Some scenarios have you placing 'treasure tokens' on the boards and a mad dash ensues to claim them, a bit like capture the flag, it's a really fun twist on the game play mechanics introduced in the first game. I like it I really do. The next new thing Green Menace throws at the gamers is cave ins, all I can say about cave ins is arrgggghhhhh! Seriously the first six or so games I played I was on the wrong end of every fracking cave in there was. Curse you Jake Thornton, curse you! However, the imbalance has slowly started to redress itself and I'm no longer walking around my house looking at the ceiling accusingly waiting for roofs to fall in on my head. The mechanic is quite a simple one and it adds a nice risk element to the game that both players have to be aware of and manage. It's just another tactical element to use or to factor into your plans. It adds a little bit of spice to proceedings, and it gets a cautious thumbs up from me.

A game set up and ready to rock 'n' roll
So the races and the missions play differently enough from Dead Rising to make this standalone product a worthwhile purchase as well. Both races seems to be more resilient to damage than the previous two races. The Orcs are slightly crazy and are pretty darn dangerous if you get close to them, and if you've hurt them they just get even more dangerous. Sure, you have to 'anger' them to have any chance of taking them down, but sometimes it can be best just to leave them alone. As the Orc player, you'll be emboldened when your Orcs enter 'Green Rage' but its a dangerous place to be, for instance there will be tense moments where your damaged Orcs will have to deal death to those poncy Elves or risk being removed from play themselves. It can all get very frantic. The Elves on the other hand can out maneuver their lumbering opponents and dodge if the Orcs don't hit home hard enough with their attacks. They are a frustrating foe to get to grips with and a great tool with which to piss off your opponent. They play very differently to each other and the previous two races from Dead Rising.

Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace is a really nice sequel to Dead Rising, it sticks to the same tried and tested mechanics that made the original so much fun. Yet it adds two new races that operate very differently and some new game play elements like those cave ins that add yet more layers to the game, without over complicating what is essentially a very simple core game. It's evolution rather than revolution, and I'm fine with that because the original formula wasn't too bad after all now was it? So why doesn't it score as highly as Dead Rising? And, why isn't it approved by cats? Honestly? It's all down to my own personal preference. I just like Dead Rising more as a game, it clicked with me straight away and I just seemed to get on with it better. Don't get me wrong I really enjoy Green Menace and I'd still recommend it. It is just that for me personally I prefer the original. The next step in the process I believe is writing rules that allow you to pit the two new races, against the two original races. I hope that as part of that process we get more troop choices and options, as well as some new specific scenarios, but I guess that's for another time. As things stand now, this is a worthy purchase.

Detail 9 out of 10

I loved the characterful artwork on the floor tiles of Dead Rising, and in this department Green Menace doesn't disappoint either. In fact the tiles in Green Menace are arguably even more characterful. They chock full of disused mining carts and tracks, puddles of water, pools of blood and many other neat touches. They really add to the atmosphere and feel of the game, and as I keep on saying that is of huge importance to any board game, as much of the tone is derived from the playing surface. So Kudos point to Mantic and their artist for getting that right. Another nice neat touch, that if I'm honest I didn't even realise was required from the first game, is that the dice are different colours now. In Dead Rising you had 7 green dice, which gave me a nostalgia hit because they reminded me of the original Warhammer Fantasy dice. But, in Green Menace you get 4 blue dice for the Elves and 5 green dice for the Orcs, it might not sound like much but it makes checking and comparing your combat results way easier, so yeah a nice touch and I'm saying that shows a level of attention to detail that's commendable.

Elves still attached to spru's
Quality 5 out of 10

Right the last Dwarf Kings Hold game Dead Rising got a score of 7 out of 10 for quality, although at that point the game play element was bundled up in two other sections, Quality being one of them. This was because people thought having a game play, character etc section wasn't really needed in my early reviews... they were wrong! However, the original Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising would have scored a 6 out of 10 on the quality of its components, mainly because the card pieces are so thin, it was the quality of the rules and miniatures that really dragged that score up. However, I'm scoring Green Menace lower than this because the 3 copies (including mine) of the game I've seen have all had the exact same problem, with the tokens being off center when they were cut meaning much of the artwork on them is unceremoniously chopped off and this can make some of them hard to read, and well that isn't great. I did email Mantic quite a while back now but haven't had a response, so who knows whether they actually are willing to replace faulty components?

The Orc Spru's
It's such a shame because it lets the side down so badly, because the miniatures are actually really quite good. I love the Orcs and as I'm sure I've mentioned before I do actually own a Mantic Orc army, and no it's not a small one but a huge one! While the Elves still aren't my particular cup of Elvish herb tea they're not bad miniatures in and of themselves. I personally just don't like the aesthetics of them as they look weird to me and awkward... and Elves should never look awkward!!! The box is slightly smaller than the Dead Rising box, which was a bit too big for the contents really. Again the box isn't of the sturdiest construction, much like it's forebear and as such should be handled with care as it can damage easily. The other lamentable thing about the quality of the components is that the card tokens and floor tiles are a tad too thin for my liking. I'd much prefer them to be thicker and thus more durable. Again they aren't 'jigsaw join' pieces which gives a greater scope for map layout and also reduces the possibility for damage, given how thin they are.

Service 8 out of 10

I ordered this particular version of Dwarf Kings Hold on top of an order I placed at the Maelstrom as a pre-order. They sent it as soon as it was released and it got to me in good time and in one piece, which as always is pretty much all you can ask for in terms of service. Sure it would have been nice if it had come wrapped in a green bow or something but I'll let them off this once!!!

Price 8 out of 10

The RRP is £34.99 but the Maelstrom sold it too me for £31.49 of my earth pounds. Realistically I'd have been happy paying both prices for the game, but obviously I'm slightly more happy to have paid the lower sum. It's worth it at those prices as you'll definitely get your moneys worth out of it.

The Orcs about to get some revenge!!!
Overall 8 out of 10

Yeah it is a slightly lower overall score than the Dead Rising, but I think that it's fair given the issues with tokens and also the fact that I just prefer playing as the Dwarfs and Skellies. Maybe some of my friends are right and that Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace is the all round better game, but there was a clearer balance in my head between the Dwarfs and the Skellies from the off, and the strategic arms race with the first one was really interesting to witness and be part of. I'm sure there's yet more strategic depth to come out of the races and scenarios in Green Menace, but as of right now people have seemed to 'settle' on certain tactics in certain games and I haven't seen as much variance yet in Dwarf Kings Hold: Green Menace. However, I will keep plugging away at it in the hope I get some 'eureka' strategy moments and while doing so I'll be playing a good entertaining fun little game. It is arguably more fun than Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising, so I guess if you can only afford one then it might come down to whether or not you want the slightly more studious Dead Rising or the slightly more fun Green Menace... but thats not to say Dead Rising isn't fun or Green Menace strategic, they are. It's just that I feel they each favour a certain style slightly, both are good games and they're different enough to warrant purchasing both, which I would heartily recommend you all do by the way. Peace out!

4 comments:

  1. Glad you liked the game FG. I'd talk to Mantic again as I'd expect them to be happy to change the problem card for you. The copies I have had a chance to look at closely all have perfect register on the card. Sorry you got a duff one.

    The third Dwarf King's Hold does indeed allow mixing and matching of different races and scenarios. It should be out early next year.

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  2. Yeah it's a fun way to waste time. Looking forward to DKH 3 now though.

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  3. Great review. I've got this game but I've yet to play it as I'm too busy with Kings of War and Project Pandora :p

    Reading this has given me to get get cracking now..

    Damn you Mantic, must you have all of my free time?!

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    1. Yep it's a good fun game. If you have a few mates round to play it, play winner stays on. It's great fun to play the game that way, and if one person ends up dominating eventually all the others end up ganging up on them... that normally evens the playing field out.

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