I started out thinking that Dungeon Command wasn’t all that hot, that the system itself lacked tension, and that it simply wasn’t much fun. I played with people who liked the same kinds of games I do, and they didn’t really like it either. I’m kind of surprised that Wizards keeps sending me these sets, considering that I didn’t give an ultra-glowing review initially. But when I played with my one buddy who loves Dungeon Command, I seemed to like it a little more, as illustrated with my Curse of Undeath review. Add to that the new factions that weren’t so truly “meh” as the first two, and now you’ve got yourself a campfire. Now, I got this expansion about a week ago, maybe, as Wizards sent me a review copy as they always do, and on Friday I got to duke it out with my that same buddy. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: Who you play with is equally important as what you play. Luckily, this faction brings some new things to the table that really didn’t seem to exist in the first two sets.
What, pray tell, do you ask, does this bring to the table? It brings the power of unstoppable force, that’s what. This pack is loaded with creatures and cards that allow you to gain morale, strike back and cause wounds upon destruction, and summon creatures and Elementals. Yes, you heard me right, summon Elementals. What this means is that this is the first pack that really puts any sort of emphasis on cross-pollination of units between sets, at least to the best of my recollection. Sure, there is deck-building to the degree that you can take cards from any of the sets to create your super-deck, but you really had no compelling reason to put other creatures into your warband except on a one-off basis, and they did it in a smart and logical way. I mean, it’s not pervasive in the set, but it’s something that’s new. If there’s a downside, it’s that you may want to buy several of the Cormyr sets to have access to this particular dynamism.
The models in this one are reprints of Heroscape/DDM as they have been in past iterations, but this particular set has very dark, bleak colors as befits an orc army. The paint jobs are about the same quality as usual, although the colors don’t do much to help the look of the set, with the exception of the Ogre, which I think represents the best model yet to be included in a Dungeon Command set. The thing just looks bad ass, to the point that it makes the rest of the set pale a bit in comparison. For all of you old-school D&D nuts, there’s even an Owlbear, which seems to garner a disproportionate amount of love for some strange reason. All I know is I hope that the owl was the one pitching in that particular mating session, for the owl’s sake, although to a bystander it probably looked like a bear that sat on a feather-duster. No wonder Owlbears are so cranky, their parents obviously didn’t get along.
In any event, as far as the quality goes, this is the same as the others with the exception of the Ogre, which as I noted, stands tall above the rest. I’d also like to mention that the artwork in this set is, I believe, a little bit better than in the past sets. I know that it’s a matter of taste, but the art just seems a bit more dark, foreboding, and thematic, at least to me. It’s most certainly depicting orcs doing orc-trocities, and doing so in style. In a game where the cards are not really the stars of the show, it would’ve been easy to not go all the way with making them look good, and I applaud Wizards for not taking the easy way out.
The theme in this set is very skewed towards offense, as one might imagine in an orc-laden setting, so when you play this set, you want to be ultra-aggressive. One of the leaders in this set has the ability to spawn a creature next to a treasure marker during setup, and the other allows you to ignore difficult terrain, so this set really favors overrunning the enemy and taking positional control. The Orc Chieftain also allows you to bring a new creature into play next to him while simultaneously allowing you to bump up your leadership value if you can’t fit the new creature in, so it’s like a double bonus. These are just a few examples of how the set was set up for a no-holds-barred invasion-style warband.
Add to that mentality the fact that there are ample damage sponge type creatures, so you can get up front and start smashing teeth out quickly and hold the line. There’s several 90+ Hit Point critters as well as many 50+ Hit Point critters, so there’s a lot of beatings they can take before death. These guys are absolutely tough to put down. The icing on the mud pie is that there are several morale boosts so you can stay in the battle even longer, hopefully running your opponent’s deck down. All in all, I think this is a big departure from the rest of the boxes as that it rewards both being overly aggressive and risky deployment where the other sets were primarily focused on smart play and timing.
The final bit of this that I think was the masterstroke are the new Dungeons and Dragons Adventure System cards. As usual, they are simple AI cards designed to allow you to cross these over to the DDAS games, but I’d argue that these are a little more varied than the other sets. The AI on some of these, especially the bigger guys, is such that they pass from player to player, causing an attack every turn. I mean, it’s not that huge a change on the surface, but I was lucky enough to play Ravenloft with these creatures injected into the mix, and we got our asses summarily handed to us, which isn’t a common occurrence. Deadly and fast, these new creatures are no joke, and when you add in that there’s a healer and some archers, this whole set can open a Bloomburg-banned Big Gulp of Whoop-ass on you if you’re not careful and clever.
Suffice it to say, I really dig a lot of the stuff in this set, but as usual, I gave it to a reader as I do with virtually every review copy I get. Jim in Massachusetts is one lucky bastard, and I will likely purchase this set based on the DDAS cards and models, which bring a whole lot to the table for that game. I’m not saying that because it’s not fun to use them with Dungeon Command, I simply really love the DDAS games to death, and these add an entirely new and painful feel to the game that I’ve been missing for a long time. Orcs and an Ogre running around in an abandoned vampire’s castle? Aw hell yeah, I’m in.
Why I Am Thinking Of Converting To Gruumshism:
– The Ogre is a superb model that I’d love to have played with many miniatures games
– The move from “smart play” to “Hulk Smash” in Dungeon Command tactics is welcome
– The DDAS cards are better than previous sets, which weren’t bad at all to begin with
– The art and production values make this a very nice package
Why I Think Gruumsh May Translate From Orcish To “Douchenozzle”:
– The paint base-coat was too dark for a dark wash; It was a real missed opportunity
– There’s still no dice in the box
As far as Dungeon Command goes, I’m still on the fence whether I really like it or not. I’m veering toward the former, but as a Heroscape aficionado it’s very hard to look at a game like this and not miss the dice. That said, I love Dungeon Twister and this game is a lot like that game in a lot of ways, so I’m quite conflicted. This set really shines because it allows you to exert constant pressure upon your opponent with unrelenting buffets of head-smashing blows, and the morale regeneration doesn’t hurt a bit. If I could characterize this set in a word, it would be “hydra”; it’s unrelenting, and when you kill one guy it seems two more come back, stronger, than the one you killed. Definitely a fun ride and perhaps the best expansion set yet.
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