When you play Dungeons & Dragons you take control of a powerful character that is skilled in many different types of arts. Whether you’re playing a spell-casting wizard or a fearless fighter, you’ve always got to keep a sense of strategy in mind whenever you face off against an opposing force. When in these situations you can usually rely on your team mates to make decisions and help lead your party to victory. But what would happen if it was just you? What if you were a commander of a warband and you had to make all of the decisions?
Wizards of the Coast thought about that idea and found a way to put it to light. With Dungeon Command you take the role of a commander who is leading a warband into battle. Dungeon Command, to me, seems like a mixture between Magic: The Gathering, Warmachine, and D&D, though it doesn’t involve dice. If you’ve played any of the D&D board games, such as The Legend of Drizzt, then you’ll pretty much have the hang of this game. It runs in the same format, though it’s without any plot.
Currently there are three different versions of Dungeon Command: Tyranny of Goblins, Sting of Lolth, and Heart of Cormyr. A brand new set, Curse of Undeath, will be releasing on November 20th and it will make four versions total. Inside the box you’ll find:
2 Commander cards
36 Order cards
4 interlocking battlefield tiles
12 Monster cards
12 nonrandom, prepainted plastic miniatures (2 large, 6 medium, 4 small)
The rules state that the box comes with everything one player needs to play the game, and while this is correct it’s not as big of a stretch as it really is. If you read the rulebook it states that two players can play the game with one box, but it won’t deliver the full experience. Basically each player will use half of the faction and play against each other to learn the game.
The miniatures are painted really well and sturdy. They don’t feel frail and it’s nice that the painting work is already done for you. The tiles are of great quality and are much larger than I expected from seeing the photos on the box. With one set the tiles are big enough to provide an ample battlefield for two players to use if you’re demoing the game or teaching a friend. When it comes to the rulebook, I think things could be explained a bit better, and I would have really liked to have seen an entire section for “Your First Game” instead of having it broken into pieces throughout the book.
Playing through the Dungeon Command game is simple, yet very fun and satisfying. It’s completely focused on combat, and players need to put their skills and strategy to the test in order to come out on top. The first things to look at are both of your commanders (or one if you’re using one box for two players). They come with cards that show different stats and abilities. Instead of having an HP total, each commander has a morale system. The commander’s morale represents the amount of influence they have on the battlefield. The higher the morale, the more willing your units are to fight for your cause. The lower the morale, the less likely your army will be to raise swords in your name. If at any time your commander’s morale reaches zero or less, you lose the game. You lose morale by losing units on the battlefield.
Leadership is a bit different. Each unit has a level associated with it. When placing units on the battlefield, or deploying, your commander’s leadership will determine what level and how many of each unit you can place. To calculate the number of units you can deploy into battle you add their levels together and subtract them from the total amount of leadership your commander has. For example, if my commander has a leadership of 8, I could deploy 4 level 2 units, or a level 4 and 2 level 2 units, so on and so forth.
Commanders also have a stat on their card that lists how many Order and Creature cards they start off with. Creature cards allow you to deploy new units during your turn while Order cards let you perform specific abilities during combat. This is where the game really reminds me of Magic. There’s a lot of strategy involved that keeps things interesting.
Units themselves have movement speed (in squares), HP, attack values, and some have special abilities. Each unit comes with its own corresponding card that will tell you what they can do in battle. Everything is pretty straightforward so long as you can read the card abilities.
During gameplay each player takes a turn that comes through in phases. These phases are:
Refresh – resolve start-of-turn effects, untap all creatures, and draw 1 Order card
Activate – activate your units, one at a time, in any order you choose
Deploy – increase your leadership by 1 and place new units on the battlefield
Cleanup – resolve end-of-turn effects, draw back up to your Creature hand size, and untap your creatures
During your Activate phase is when the game really heats up. This is when you can move your units and attack enemies. Attacking in Dungeon Command isn’t anything like attacking in D&D. It’s much simpler and more streamlined. To attack an enemy unit you only need to designate your target, tap your unit’s card (turn it sideways) that’s making the attack, and it goes through. Your unit’s attack power is subtracted from the target’s remaining HP. If they take more damage than they have HP, the creature is destroyed.
From this point you’ll go through the game taking turns and trying to wipe out your opponent’s units to bring their commander’s morale down. You can also just kill each unit on their board, and if they ever start a turn with no units on the board they instantly lose the game.
Dungeon Command is a really fun tabletop game. I like the fact that it blends a lot of my favorite elements from games I really enjoy playing. A lot of fans don’t seem to like the fact that it plays out without any dice, but I don’t have an issue with it. The absence of dice really allows for a more tactical approach, and when you’re putting your warbands together to take into battle, tactics play a really large role. Each one of these Dungeon Command sets are made for one-on-one battles, but there are rules in the book that lay out how up to four players can take part in one epic battle. These sets are currently running at about $40, which isn’t too bad considering everything you get. If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy some D&D action, or if you want to get into miniatures combat this would be a great choice to start with.