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Subject: A GFBR Review: Adding a Touch of Healing rss

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The elemental expansions for Dungeon Fighter continue with The Big Wave. This time, fire is absent and a cool, refreshing liquid has taken its place. In Big Wave, the players learn to harness the power of water … and will hopefully also learn to hold their breaths a long time.

The Basics. As with Fire at Will, Big Wave includes the new XP system and spells. While spells remain diverse, the water spells tend to have a focus on healing or using water templates. In fact, one spell lets you throw the healing template – a large heart. If a die lands on the healing template, instead of doing damage you get to recover five health.

As with the other expansions, Big Wave introduces new monsters and new throws needed to defeat them. For example, you may now need to attempt the cup shot. In the cup shot, you place a die in a cup (not provided) and then launch the die out of the cup.

And, just as fire introduced us to burn tokens, so too does Big Wave introduce something new – oxygen tokens. Spells or monsters might put oxygen tokens on the players. One is removed on each player’s turn. When the final token is removed, the player has drowned and is immediately killed.

But the best addition is the water elemental die. Rather than being a die, it consists of three small plastic cubes all tossed at the same time. For damage purposes, each counts as a separate throw. So each one that is off the board results in damage from the monster and each one on the board results in damage to the monster. They also don’t have the special symbol. Instead, a player can use the special ability of their choice only if all dice land on the board, or all are off target.

The Feel. Big Wave does a great job of continuing and extending the Dungeon Fighter system. The new shots fit right in line with other crazy shenanigans. In fact, one of my favorites is the waterfall shot. You use a long rectangular board which represents the waterfall. You put your die at one end, then slowly tip the other down. The die has to slide the length of the rectangle before leaving, bouncing, and (hopefully) making it onto the board. It’s a great way to simulate the rush of water. And the loss of control creates interesting results.

The new hero included has also become a popular choice at my table. His unique ability is the parrot. More than just a bird, it can fly to any other character and mimic their abilities. This makes him versatile and really allows for team strengths to shine. Because of this versatility, Captain Jack Parrot now accompanies almost every raiding party.

The XP and spell systems continue to impress. And the water elemental die is amazing. It is totally unique in all the world of Dungeon Fighter. Not only does it strongly evoke the feeling of water rushing over the board, but it is just a blast to throw. Like the other elemental dice, you don’t get to throw them that often. That rarity combined with the singular nature of the die means that the water elemental die has become my absolute favorite to toss.

Big Wave is also the first expansion to put some significant emphasis on templates. Fire at Will had the comet template, but all it did was increase damage. This has the healing template, and the slime template which both dramatically alter how dice are handled. Hitting the healing template does no damage, but does allow recovery. Meanwhile, the slime template, if hit, slides the die into a particular spot. So wherever it is pointing becomes easier to hit. If it’s pointing at a five or ten. Heck yeah! Hit that template and rake in the damage. But if it’s flipped poorly and points at a one? Then the one section just got really big.

Oh, and the big boss is Great Cthulhu. Not only does he have a ton of life and hit hard, but he also uses those oxygen tokens. If you don’t dispatch him quickly, he’ll drag you down to R’lyeh to your doom. Which, as it turns out, is not as nice as you may have been lead to believe.

Components: 3 of 5. Overall, the component quality is good. The XP are made of the same plastic as the coins and feel familiar. The cards are of the same high quality. Unfortunately, there are some color errors and the cards from this expansion are perceptively darker. Since I tend to keep my cards in the card tower, it isn’t a big deal. But it’s worth calling out.

Strategy/Luck Balance: 3 of 5. By no means does this change Dungeon Fighter into a strategy game, but it continues with the new elements of choice and strategy first introduced with Fire at Will. Acquisition and use of XP can be a tense choice that fosters discussion in the group. It might not be accurate to term it “strategy,” but it certainly increases choice.

Mechanics: 4.5 of 5. Big Wave is mechanically solid. The throws, like the waterfall, fit right in line with what is already present. Plus, new elements like the water elemental dice are amazing. It’s totally out of the box and interesting, but right in line with the base game and thematically appropriate. The water die alone is an incredible addition. And, like Fire at Will, Big Wave doesn’t beat you over the head with expansion content.

Replayability: 3.5 of 5. Dungeon Fighter already has a tremendous amount of replay value. Big Wave certainly increases that, but I’m not sure by how much. While the new stuff is really fun, if you mix it all in it may not show up in every play. This expansion is definitely understated.

Spite: 0 of 5. The game remains cooperative, so spite is absent.

Overall: 4 of 5. Big Wave is a wonderful addition to the base game and probably the second best elemental expansion. Once again, the mechanisms feel right at home and don’t attempt to change the simple, zany dexterity game into something it isn’t. Nevertheless, the addition of spells and XP provides players with additional options and marginally more control over their fate.

(Originally posted, with pictures, on the Giant Fire Breathing Robot. Check out and subscribe to my Geeklist of reviews, updated weekly)
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