Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising, a few weeks on...

With any game really there is always the honeymoon period, and after you've got back from the Seychelles you realise your delicate little flower is the harridan from hell and not quite what you were hoping for... I'm not however speaking from experience!!! But we all understand the new rush of excitement a new game provides. We've yet to find its flaws and get upset about how broken it is or indeed get bored with it and start 'playing away'. So two months ago after having the original Dwarf Kings Hold for all of a week I actually gave it a bit of a glowing review. I'll admit it was my first board game in a long time and my rose tinted nostalgia spec's were definitely out in full force. Read the original review here.
So with the second Dwarf Kings Hold starter set (Green Menace) release date just round the corner I thought I'd revisit Dwarf Kings Hold: Dead Rising to see how it stacks up after a few weeks or so have past. You see DKH:DR was the first real boxed board game I got during my recent stint of buying boxed board games. The majority of my hobby time to is and always will be spent I think on wargaming, so as a product the adversarial nature of the play definitely appealed to me and still does. More so at first than the co-operative games I knew were out there, like the D&D Adventure System Games, Mansions of Madness, Descent and Claustrophobia to name but a few... but is that still the case now?

Well its not a simple case of either or really. You see DKH:DR got me back into to board games... and it is still fun for me right now. However it is an adversarial game and that makes it quite different to many of the games I played growing up as a kid. In fact now I think about it, it was only really Games Workshops own board games I played, which were set up as antagonistic or adversarial games. Many of the others I played were co-operative based. Playing DKH:DR is what got me wanting to play more things and I have to be honest and say it hasn't seen many outings since my initial blitz of it...

Now this isn't because the games rubbish, on the contrary its more to do with me being a gaming magpie and always looking for the next hit or rush. So it has sat patiently in its box waiting for me to remember I owned it. Well remember I have. I took the game down off of the shelf the other day and ripped through a couple of games, and what still strikes me is how easy it was to pick up and play right away. The rules aren't stupidly complex and its quite an easy game to learn or indeed to teach. Now as some of you may have noticed Jake the creator of the game does frequent these hallowed Blog pages from time to time so I better put the next bit delicately...

...having played other board games and seen the standard of products out there now, I think its fair to say were I to review DKH:DR again it might take a hit on the price scoring and the quality side of things, mainly because the tiles and card components aren't as good as those from other companies and the price differential, for me isn't enough to justify this. Don't get me wrong the game plays as good as it ever did and on that side the score would remain high and indeed the RRP of £34.99 is still a good price, just not as good as I originally thought it was. Where I will give the game credit though is the Mantic miniatures being way more painter friendly than other product on the street, which is a huge bonus to me, even though my miniatures are still unpainted, I know, I know but those of you who know me well, will know how stupidly slow I am at painting stuff!!! Also I'd like to see some of those Mantic bases in the boxes to help with keeping your figures upright.

Now that the one bad thing or more precisely slightly negative thing is out of the way I will concur and agree with Jake that the game although simple to play, clearly has a hidden depths to it. I'm not going to pretend its chess with Dwarfs and Skellies because that would be a clear exaggeration, however what I will say is that after playing a fair few games it does become increasingly clear that there is way more to the game than the simple fun jovial vaneer of the product. We all know Ronnie Renton likes to emphasise fun, fun, fun... FUN!!! However there are different tactics at play and I always feel that grid board games always offer a certain positional tactics that just lends itself well to sneaky and cunning ploys and DKH:DR really is no different. There's more than one way to skin a dwarf!!!

I think as well something that elevates the experience of DKH:DR over say the D&D Adventure Game System games is the character that has been installed into every token and tile piece. I've said that already the D&D Adventure Games are ever so slightly soulless, well actually Geology Girl said it in our play test and I agree with her. While it all looks crisp, clean, clinical and professional, it did feel somehow devoid of character. Well that can not be said about DKH:DR because each tile and token has bags of character and it all feels like somebody has taken immense care over creating a nice colourful game from the rules via all the components and it just feels like there was care and love taken with it.

It all starts getting a bit serious - not so fun now hey? lol.

You see DKH:DR is way more than just some fun knock about throw away game, which I don't think Ronnie was trying to say in his video's, but I have had people say to me 'well its not a serious game' or its 'just a kids game isn't it?'. Perhaps Jake needs to take Ronnie to one side and get him to shout tactics, tactics, tactics in the video he'll inevitably do for Green Menace, because it is a very challenging game, when its played between two people who know what they're doing. There are tricks and strategies to play and above all else its still engaging and I think I'll still be finding it so months from now.

So what would it score now? Well here is how I'd score it now two months on:

  • Gameplay = 9 out of 10 (was 8)
  • Detail / components =  7 out of 10 (was 8)
  • Quality = 7 out of 10 (was 7)
  • Service = 10 out of 10 (was 10)
  • Price = 9 out of 10 (was 10)
  • Overall = 8 out of 10 (was 9)

I personally don't think it takes too much of a hit, and I clearly still think its a really good little game. Its just that having seen other product and the production values involved with them it does detract a little from DKH:DR as a product. However let me be clear, the core game is still damn good fun and still more than holds its own in the rules side of things against many of the board games I've subsequently brought, and its still more than deserving of your cash!!!

In the background you can see the ears of the poppy monster
as she prepares to pounce and ruin yet another board game - 
fear the poppy monster, FEAR HER!!!

I think Green Menace will only add to this longevity of the system, as its adding two new races to the mix. There's also the prospect of Jake and Mantic providing new rules or scenarios within the Mantic Journal and I really hope they do, and I believe that in the new Mantic Journal No.4 there is indeed another scenario, we've also had recently the rules for zombies (which can be found here: DKH Zombie Rules). Then there is the prospect of the third starter boxed set coming out, which potentially could add two more new races, maybe Abyssal Dwarfs or Twilight Elves, who knows? Probably Jake but he's not telling so until then... Peace out!


  1. I really, really can't decide between this and D&D: Ravenloft.. I might have to buy both I think ;)

  2. @FG: Nice to see someone going back and re-examining something after an initial review. Your comment about a honeymoon period is exactly right (true for almost any new experience actually - new restaurant, new film, etc).

    If you can believe that I can put to one side for a moment the fact that I wrote this, I do have one criticism (based on what I look for in a review as a gamer). It feels to me like it's *mainly* about the quality of the cardboard rather than the quality of the game. Now I know you mention both aspects, but you seem to focus more on the physical aspects of the components rather on how it works as a game. Doing what I do, it's hardly surprising that the rules and game play are my main focus as a gamer. Component quality is important too, clearly. However, out of your 4 marks out of 10 categories (ignoring overall), there isn't one that is clearly focussed on the game. All 4 are either entirely or partly (or could be read as) being a mark on the components, not the game.

    Putting my authorial head back on (checking for fit, clicking the bolts into place) I have an additional comment. Sadly I haven't got much say about component specification other than to nag a bit about putting the best we can get in it. The thickness of card is a simple function of price: no more, no less. I think that given the practical limitations that Mantic were working with they made a reasonable decision. They do much better figures than FFG. Matching the card thickness would have added quite a bit to the cost. Would that have made it a better game? Personally I don't think so, but you may disagree. Would you have paid £50 for the same game with thicker card? Don't think so. Going with the spec as it was, I think, the best option.

    Regarding the Journal, I haven't seen one yet. They always look nice and shiny though, and I wrote scenario 13 specially for it so DKH content is go!

  3. @ Pacific: I haven't played the D&D game, but it seems like that and Dwarf King's Hold are designed to press different gaming buttons. FG gives us a one word summary of "co-operative" for D&D and "adversarial" for DKH. Though I'd debate the details, overall that seems reasonably fair from what little I know about D&D.

    Whilst it would be nice for me if you (and everyone else) got DKH, it isn't for anyone any more than any other game suits every gamer. I intend to add more co-op elements to DKH in the future, but that may never get published. What would suit you and your gaming buddies best? Go with that.

  4. @Pacific I could do a bigger comparison between Ravenloft and DKH but I honestly think it would be utterly meaningless. Genuinely they are very, very different types of game and I think the description as one as co-operatve, you all play the same side in the D&D games and if one loses you all lose and adversarial for DKH you face and opponent one wins one loses is actually fairly accurate I think. It doesn't cover the subtle nuances of both games but as a starting point for the sort of experience you want I think its a good place to start I really do.

    Its more a case of do want to have a game where a you actually need a group of mates to come round and plan an evening of playing a game, all for one one for all... Castle Ravenloft. Or do you want a game that you can actually on the spur of the moment decide to play against somebody who just happens to be their, a fun and friendly competitive game... DKH. Now you can plan an evening of DKH with a winner stays on mechanic with a bunch of mates and then have everybody rapidly gang up on either the best or luckiest gamer, lol. That's fun too.

    Honestly if I was having to buy just the one game, for the sort of gamer that I personally am, I'd plump for DKH, and I'm not just saying that because Jake is in the room. I think if you read my original reviews of both games I definitely had more fun with DKH and going back to it after leaving it on the shelf with reviewing other products it actually mad me smile getting it out of the box, that's got to be a good sign right?

    If you have the money though do consider getting both, as they are very, very different games and will offer you quite different experiences. I'm a bit of a collector so I do go out and buy lots and lots of toys, but I know others can't or don't want too so that's why I'm reviewing all the stuff I get my hands on. Hopefully that's helped you out pacific.

  5. @Quirkworthy point about score for game on its own duly noted. I actually had a section for Game (if it was a game), character (if it was a miniature) and usefulness (if it was an accesory etc) in my original reviews but peeps told me they weren't needed so I actually got shot of them. However I think you are right and I should have stuck with my gut instincts.

    If I'd have reviewed DKH originally with a game score it'd have scored probably 8 out of 10 as it was a highly fun game that was easy to learn, but at the time didn't seem to me to offer too much in the way of longevity or tactical depth at initial glance. However playing in the weeks after the initial review and also getting it down again for a mammoth session with a seasoned veteran of the game showed it has bags of depth and opponents willing plenty of legs left in it so it'd actually get a 9 out of 10 now.

    Not to sure it'd have affected my overall score of 8 out of 10 though. The reason I've personally focused on the card components is because mine have started to become dog eared. Now while I think that is as inevitable as night following day with games that use card tiles its happening a little sooner than I'd personally have liked.

    I take however the point on price I really do and as an entry point product DKH is at a really sweet price point. However your question as to whether I'd have paid £50 for it if the card components were as good as say Ravenloft or whatever is an easy one for me to answer having played the game... yes. Its so far the most entertaining board game I've played of my recent purchases and if the card components were up to the standards of other companies product for me the whole package would blow them out of the water.

    Now I know I'm not your normal consumer and I know that any product needs to be priced and targeted at relevant audiences accordingly, and its clear Mantic have done a fine job of that, but its my opinion. Wouldn't stop me buying it again though, and I do have Green Menace on pre-order.

    As for the miniatures I agree, I've said as much in other reviews of other product the D&D games to be precise. I'd also have agreed re FFGs mini's had I personally not seen the miniatures in Mansions of Madness, most of them aren't bad and are actually quite characterful and they're not made of as soft a substance as normal. Already handed them around a few painters and we concur, although they're not the greatest miniatures ever made they are painter friendly.

    Sorry its such a long winded response but I felt your queries, questions and points deserved a full and proper answer. Which hopefully I've given now hand on heart I really like DKH and when a wargame we're playing finishes early the quest 'game of DKH?' has popped up a few times. In fact most board games will live in my lounge whereas DKH will live in my gaming room. Now I might go back over my reviews and add those sections back in.

  6. @Frontlinegamer: thanks for the detailed reply. Much appreciated, and kind of what I'd guessed reading between the lines (apart from the discontinued rating).

    Very nice to hear that you'd give it a 9/10 now. Interesting too that it's gone up with playing. I agree it rewards multiple goes, which is one of the reasons I made it fairly quick. I have a couple of games that are really brilliant, but which take so long to play that most people don't notice cos they never play them twice in the same year.

  7. The score would definitely have gone up. I saw it at first as a chuck dice and laugh game with a nice tctical edge but not too serious. However playing it more and more it has kind of reminded me how Blood Bowl gets you.

    Very different games of course but ostensibly they both looked like simple games to pick up and play and look more like fun games than serious tactical games. However as time goes on with both games the depth of tactics and play just grow and grow.

    As I said on the thread on Beasts of War just when I thought I was getting the hang of things people do something different and it throws me completely. I've had what I though were well honed tactics stomped up and down on by others.

    There will inevitably come a point when you reach a good sound understanding and comfort zone, but I think that's when games like this really come into their own because then it becomes about who blinks first and that in itself is a different stage of gaming. Right now I'm in the tactics arms race and its really, really fun and engaging.

  8. I had an excellent game when I was at Q-Con that was just that level. We were playing scenario 1, and I was playing as the Dwarfs against one of the guys from the Arkham store who'd been playing nothing but scenario 1 for weeks, so he had a pretty good handle on it. It got to the stage that I had 4 tokens left in my hand and none left in the pool. My furthest Dwarf was a couple of squares from the final room with a skeleton between him and the objective, in contact with him. IIRC he was also wounded (though I may be making that bit up. I thought that he'd got it in the bag, but while he was having his final turn to put me in this position I'd been frantically plotting, and in the end I worked out how to get free of the skellies next to me and get to a position next to the tomb but far enough from the skellies so that he couldn't get to me. I had one token left in my hand for next turn: a 1. As often seems to be the way with the more experienced players in scenario 1, there are often quite a few models left at the end, whereas newer players will try to wipe out each other.

  9. yeah, it can really make for some quite epic games if both players know what they're up to it really does get to Mexican stand off proportions at times. I'm looking forward to seeing how the dynamic between the elves and the orcs plays out now in Green Manace.

  10. (...I know it's been an entire year (since the last post) and probably no one will ever read it, but since one of your recent blog posts led me to it I suppose I'll say it anyway...)

    Congrats for this "two months later" review kind of concept, and I surely agree 100% that our view over the same product tends to change as 'dust settles down'.
    Of course it's only after all the basic mechanics of the game are completely understood that we can seriously get a full insight of where the game can take us, and how challenging it can or cannot be.
    So yes, for me it makes perfect sense to have two different reviews of the same game, perhaps the first one over the product "per se" (contents quality, you name it...)and how easy it is to play the first couple of games (first impressions), and later to have a different review focusing on the tactics, how challenging it can turn out, possible upgrades, etc.

    One thing I seem to be missing on your review(s) its a couple of paragraphs on the game mechanics. I know 'dungeon crawl' states quite a bit, but it might be useful for us blog readers and "potential buyers", to get a clue on how this one works: Is the dungeon pre set? Are the opposing forces always the same? (Since there are scenarios I'll assume they are but...) What are the tokens for? How does combat works? You get the point.

    All in all a very nice review, congrats!
    Oh, and beware of the poppy monster!!!

    1. Thanks.

      These were some of the very first reviews that I did. Looking back on them now I think my writing was 'too general'. It's a very hard balance to strike though. If I wrote a review with too much mechanical info in them I'd be reproducing the games rules at the extreme, or just boring people to death. I agree in this review and my original Dead Rising review though I probably didn't give enough gamplay info. Hopefully my reviews have improved on that aspect significantly.

      I also agree with you about the reviews being conducted after playing the game for a while. I no longer review anything straight out of the box. TO be fair I didn't with Dead Rising either. I played it for a fair few weeks pretty solidly. However a few months later I noticed I'd actually grown to enjoy the game even more than I did initially. It taught me to lengthen my review period so when I write my game reviews now I'm doing so after far more intense and lengthened period of time. See I've learned. :P

      As to commenting on old articles. It doesn't bother me, I'll see them and I'll read them and respond to them. My Blog is an archive of reviews and thoughts on the hobby. None of them are 'dead' as far as I'm concerned and they're all still fair game to comment on. In fact I like it when people do as it gives me the chance to re-read discussions and articles I myself have forgotten about.

    2. Glad you didn't mind of my comment on 'old articles'.

      You know, in fact there are some posts/threads that IMO dont loose interest/validity over time. This one is a great example of that.
      I mean, I've lost count on the times I've searched the web for reviews on a particular game or game system (sometimes friend-induced searches, others just because I've liked the minis and want to know more about the game, ...).
      Most of the times the games have a couple of years out there, and the info is just as accurate as if they were brand new...

      IMO there's is nothing wrong in going 'general' you know?
      The first impressions on a game (box artwork, box sturdiness, it's contents, quality of those contents, etc.) fit perfectly in that 'general' approach to the game, and might help the readers to have a more rational(*) opinion on what they might get for their cash.
      On a second part of a review (or two months later as you named it), and after all the components of the game have been "identified and classified", then the more technical stuff can show up such as game mechanics.

      Oh and when I've mentioned that 'game mechanics' I was missing, I didn't felt it needed to be a hard core one. Just a brief description on how a regular game would work, what it would take to set up the game, how the pieces move, etc.

      Thanks for the reply!

      (*)Not sure why but I always get a chill whenever I write words like 'rational', 'game' and 'cash' in a same sentence...