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Subject: A Deck Building Game with Direct Player Interaction rss

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Gene Chiu
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Tyrants of the Underdark is a deck building game with area control themed to the Dungeons & Dragons Underdark setting. Each player is a member of a house in the Drow society and are trying to control as much of the Underdark region as possible. You gain victory points for cards in your deck, cards you promote to your inner circle (removed from the game, but worth more points now), enemy units that you defeated and areas on the board that you control.

You will need to build up your deck in order to play abilities that help you place your units to take over areas on the board. To use deck building terminology, the game has 2 types of currency. Influence is what you need to purchase cards place into your deck. Power is what you need to activate certain abilities such as assassinating an enemy unit or deploying your own unit. Some cards give you power, while others give you the use of the abilities to deploy or assassinate units.

The game comes with a board that lists the areas and how each are connected. There are routes that connect various areas. To attempt to gain control of areas, you need to deploy your troops in those areas. In order to control areas, you will need to have the greatest number of units in that area. Each area has a number of spaces, if you have your troops in all of the spaces in the area, you have total control of that area. As the game progresses, control of areas can move back and forth between players. The board has a number of special areas. If a player gains control of them during the game, they gain a bonus of 1 influence during that player's turn. If a player has total control, the player gains extra victory points as well at the end of his turn in the form of victory point tokens.

Most actions that affect the board only work in areas where you have presence. You have presence in an area you have a unit in or in a space adjacent to an area with a unit. Players also have a special unit called a spy. Spys can be deployed in any area where you do not already have a spy. Spys allow you to extend your presence to areas not adjacent to your troops.

The game comes with 4 different half-decks of cards for you to purchase in any game. The 4 decks are the Drow, Dragons, Elemental and Demons. Each has a different theme. The Elemental and Demons decks also include some additional mechanics not present in the Drow and Dragons half-decks. Before each game, you choose 2 of the 4 half-decks and shuffle them together to make up the market deck of cards you can purchase. The game suggests using the Drow and Dragons decks for your first game. Players with deck building game experience should be able to handle the Elemental and Demons decks fairly easily. The 4 half-decks allow up to 6 different combinations of market decks.

There is also a mechanic that allows you to promote cards to your inner circle. When you promote a card, the card is now out of the game completely. This allows you to thin out your deck. As you purchase more powerful cards, promoting weaker cards to your inner circle allows you to draw into the powerful cards more often. Also, cards promoted to your inner circle are worth more points at the end of the game than if it were in your deck. This makes for an interesting decision in what cards to promote. When the game gets close to the end, you may want to promote as many cards as you can to get the most victory points as possible.

The game will end at the end of a round when either the market deck is depleted of cards or when one player has deployed all of his troops. The first player token indicates the player who went first. The round ends when the last player takes his turn. This ensures that in every game, every player gets the same number of turns.

The victory points are calculated at the end. Each area of the board has a victory point value for the player who controls it at the end of the game. You also get a bonus if you have total control of an area. If you have total control of certain special areas, you would have accumulated victory points during the game. These are tracked using tokens. You also get victory points for each enemy unit you assassinated. Those units are placed in your trophy area. The cards in your deck are also worth victory points. Cards you promoted into your inner circle are also worth more points.

The deck building and area control aspects of this game mesh very well. You have to strike a good enough balance between the two. I also really like the fact that this game has a lot of direct player interaction. You are competing directly with the other players for control of areas. You will be directly attacking the other players' troops. Certain cards allow to directly attack another player's deck. I am generally a fan of the deck building mechanic, but many deck builders tend to lack direct player interaction. This game has that deck building mechanic and allow you to directly lay a smacking to (or take one from) another player. As of now (2016) this is my favourite deck building game.

For those fans of D&D and the Forgotten Realms Underdark setting, the instruction book also includes some fluff on the Underdark area. I have read the Dark Elf Trilogy, so I know about Menzoberranzen. It's cool to also read about the other areas in the Underdark. I also found out I have been pronouncing Menzoberranzen wrong for decades.
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Randy Espinoza
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Ugh..There's always that one guy who doesn't know how to pronounce Menzoberranzan

Have you played Clank!? I lack deck builders in my collection because I find them boring, but these two seem to add enough meat to the mechanism to make for a fun game, I just don't know which one to go for.
It would be great to get the opinion of somebody who've played them both.
 
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James

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This should be the game of the year... I know some say the price is steep... but I am ok with that just due to how much fun this game is...


You might not agree fully with game of the year... but I don't think one can argue with the tag "Best game you are not playing right now"...


Only wish there were some characters from the Salvatore's novels added to the deck...

 
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Hertzog van Heerden
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Espinoza wrote:
...

Have you played Clank!? I lack deck builders in my collection because I find them boring, but these two seem to add enough meat to the mechanism to make for a fun game, I just don't know which one to go for.

...


I have played (and own!) both of them.


Clank!: A Deck-Building Adventure is a slightly more tactical experience, and probably easier to introduce newer gamers to, both from a more generic setting/theme and intuitive iconography on the playing cards. Tyrants of the Underdark seems to reward longer-term strategic play a bit better, and certainly has direct conflict, making it less suitable for conflict averse players. As a gamer's game, it may ultimately slightly edge out Clank! over time...


They both make very effective use of a board game map, probably better than Trains. If you are just getting into deck builders, and don't want to splurge at the outset, an excellent series to check out is Valley of the Kings (and its successors) and the upcoming Master of Orion: The Board Game.


Edit: It may not matter to most people, but the insert of Clank! allows sleeved cards to easily be placed, whereas TotU's doesn't. Also, the component quality of Clank! (IMHO) is far superior to the flimsy card-stock and purple wash appearance of Tyrants. If I was forced to keep only one, it might still be Tyrants, though.


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Gene Chiu
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Hertzog wrote:
Espinoza wrote:
...

Have you played Clank!? I lack deck builders in my collection because I find them boring, but these two seem to add enough meat to the mechanism to make for a fun game, I just don't know which one to go for.

...


I have played (and own!) both of them.



I love Tyrants because of the player interaction. I am now considering getting Clank. The lack of direct player interaction is giving me second thoughts although it seems the theme and push your luck element is very appealing.
 
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Gene Chiu
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Espinoza wrote:
Ugh..There's always that one guy who doesn't know how to pronounce Menzoberranzan

Have you played Clank!? I lack deck builders in my collection because I find them boring, but these two seem to add enough meat to the mechanism to make for a fun game, I just don't know which one to go for.
It would be great to get the opinion of somebody who've played them both.


I have played Clank! now. Of the two, I still prefer Tyrants of the Underdark more. The main reason is that there is more direct player interaction in TotU. You are constantly struggling to control territories or wrestle control or total control away from another player.

Clank! has some other very interesting elements. It has a huge push your luck mechanic. It's about how deep you are willing to go into the dungeon. The longer you stay, the more wounds you may get and the more likely you may die. Some cards and items also increase your chances of taking more wounds.

The player interaction in Clank! is more indirect. You either are racing against another player for some item or you try to generate more or fewer dragon attacks. The game I played, my friend saw I was likely going to win, so he tried to trigger as many dragon attacks as possible to get me killed.

Clank! has 3 types of currency. There's money to buy cards, movement to travel through the board and combat to avoid taking wounds in certain places in the board. I think it handles the three types of currency very well. It presents a challenge to the player to balance these three different resources in the deck.
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