Recommend
32 
 Thumb up
 Hide
5 Posts

Legendary Dungeoneer: Wrath of the Serpent Goddess» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Comely Lady Gets Angry rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Andy Parsons
United Kingdom
CHELMSFORD
Essex
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: I drink espresso ... WHEEEEEEE!!!!Microbadge: Dark chocolate lover - 70% cocoa minimumMicrobadge: Chili PepperMicrobadge: Cherry
This is a review in two parts. The first is aimed at people new to Dungeoneer. It will focus on similarities and differences to other games. The second part is intended for people like me who have played other Dungeoneer decks and are wondering whether Wrath of the Serpent Goddess is worth adding to their collection.

Dungeoneer Beginners Start Here

The Dungeoneer games are dungeon crawls. As such they share common characteristics with better known crawlers such as Runebound (Second Edition) and Descent: Journeys in the Dark. Each player chooses a character who has several attributes; in Dungeoneer those represent abilities in physical and magical combat, speed and life points. The aim of the game in Dungeoneer is to complete three quests. A quest might be as simple as going somewhere and picking up an item, it might involve taking someone or something from A to B, or it could require you to overcome a monster. To these ends, you wander through a complex of rooms and passages that is built up as the game progresses.

While Runebound and Descent come with boards and miniatures, Dungeoneer is played with cards. Subsets of cards represent characters, quests, useful items, allies, the floor plan of the dungeon, encounters and adverse events. A set typically comprises two decks of cards (a couple of small sets are a single deck). To those, you will need to add dice, some markers and – if you don’t want to use the rubbish cut out and fold figures provided – some pawns or miniatures. Each Dungeoneer set gives you a complete game in a distinctive setting. There are no expansions. The entire Dungeoneer series would fit in a Runebound box with room to spare; a plus point for the space conscious among us.

Something that sets Dungeoneer a bit apart is its handling of monsters. In Runebound, one of a certain difficulty is randomly drawn when a character visits a marked location. In Descent, they are pre-programmed into the scenario, with one player given the Dungeon Master role. In Dungeoneer, every player has a Dungeonlord phase as part of their turn. In that phase they may play monsters and adverse events against other players’ characters. This may sound like a license for leader bashing and to some extent it is. However, the number of bad things you can fling at another character is limited by the amount of peril he/she has accumulated. Peril is earned each time a character enters a new location. Each bad thing has a cost in peril that is paid by the character it is used against. The nastier the monster or event, the higher its cost in peril. Hence the leader whose peril is low can only be slapped by weak and feeble monsters. The idea of accumulating peril is a bit weak thematically: so, I went somewhere really dangerous two turns ago, but now I’m in the Chamber of Harmony and Light and a huge ugly monster is attacking me? Nonetheless, it works pretty well in game terms.

An objection to Dungeoneer that I’ve read relates to this mixing of “good” character and “evil” Dungeonlord roles. Some people prefer to get into character and wear the white or the black hat all game long. The Dungeonlord mechanism also underlines that Dungeoneer is a competitive game. This is no quasi- cooperative role playing substitute in which you root for the other characters. I like the interaction that the Dungeonlord mechanism brings to a genre that can be a bit multi-player solitaire.

Another plus point about Dungeoneer for me is that it plays quickly. The games I have played have finished in around an hour. That’s about as long as I can spend with a dungeon crawl before the move/kill monster/get stuff sequence starts to feel repetitive.

The only real negative is the rules. Wrath of the Serpent Goddess comes with version 2.3 of the series rules, so straight away you know that some work has been done on them…and then some more…and then some more. I suspect they are all there. Yet they are so poorly ordered that referring back to them to check a detail mid-game can be a pain. I’m reminded of Eric Morecambe’s response to Andre Previn’s criticism of his piano playing: “I am playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.”


So What’s New About Wrath of the Serpent Goddess?

If you have a few Dungeoneer sets, do you need Wrath of the Serpent Goddess as well?

There’s a lot that’s familiar in Serpent Goddess. It has the concept of a supreme female villain, who has a game effect while still alive. We have seen this before in Dungeoneer: Realm of the Ice Witch. In Serpent Goddess, Nakari the Goddess does indeed get increasingly wrathful as adventurers traipse around her realm in muddy boots, stealing treasures and killing her servants. This is represented by a dice roll at the beginning of every player turn. On a roll of 4-6, a marker is added to the Wrath card up to a maximum of five. The number of markers is subtracted from the peril cost of playing any fiend. If this was intended to launch waves of cheap monsters at the characters, it doesn’t quite work because there are only six fiends in the whole deck and most of them are just glory point fodder once the heroes have gained a few helpers or a level of experience.

Serpent Goddess also has the artwork that’s familiar from the rest of the series. As ever, it’s soft focus and muted, with nothing red of tooth and claw to upset the children. Like some other chief villains in this series, Nakari looks a bit underwhelming. The Queen of Darkness, Serpent Goddess and Infernal Mother appears to be a pretty ordinary woman in a flowing dress.

Nakari’s dungeon is actually a temple complex with rooms like the Chamber of Penance, Altar of Reparation and Sanctum Sanctorum. As ever, the artwork on the map cards is quite nicely done and evocative. As you’d expect of a Serpent Goddess’ lair, there are a fair few slithery things to bother the adventurers.

A novelty of this set for me was that it was my first encounter with Legendary Dungeoneer; an adventure featuring higher level characters, nastier monsters and some tougher quests. Before playing it, I’d imagined that this would be the same old Dungeoneer, just with bigger numbers. In fact, what those bigger numbers – particularly character life points bumped up from six to eighteen – allow is greater variation in all the cards. Several monsters now feature both a threat and an attack. Take for instance the Scaled Demon; when it attacks, all characters in its space must first survive a magical threat or suffer a wound and be tipped (fall over). That’s before its normal physical or speed attack. Ouch. It also feels like there’s greater scope for playing painful combos such as placing an Acid Torrent trap (-3 life points) and then Shove-ing a character into it. Set against this is a slightly higher level of complexity because there’s so much going on. This is perhaps not the game to first struggle through those rules and then learn the system with.

Another novelty is the Defeat Nakari quest. It is open to all players from the start of the game. Kill the Goddess and you win the game immediately. No need to complete two other quests. The catch is that the comely lady has nine life points and fearsome attacking abilities. You get to attack and be attacked once per turn until it’s all over one way or another.

To Conclude

I like the Dungeoneer system; it scratches my dungeon crawling itch, doesn’t outstay its welcome and packs a lot into a small package. I’ve enjoyed my games of Wrath of the Serpent Goddess. It’s another well implemented setting for the system. Legendary Dungeoneer, with its bigger numbers, offers potential for more varied characters, encounters and traps at only a slight expense in complexity.

Having said all that, Serpent Goddess is fundamentally the same game as others in the series. You are still wandering around, falling into pits, killing monsters and completing the same sorts of quests. If you have sworn off investing any more in Dungeoneer until Thomas Denmark comes up with something truly fresh and original, this is not the set to change your mind.


19 
 Thumb up
1.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeremy Yoder
United States
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Thanks for this review. I'd been considering the Dungeoneer series, thinking I need "Tomb of the Lich Lord" first, but this put me straight. I also appreciate you saying "This is perhaps not the game to first struggle through those rules and then learn the system with." So I'm wondering a couple things...

1) Overall, the series looks rather dark. Which of the sets is the least dark (art and/or concept-wise)? And whichever you (or others) select, is it as good as other sets? Does it also use the 2.3 ruleset?

2) I gathered from your review that the 2.3 rules lack something. It is because they're cumbersome to learn, or is the format simply laid out poorly? Are the rules fiddly, or does game play flow?

3) As I understand it, only 1 set is needed to allow up to 4 players. Does 1 set work just as well with 2, 3, or 4 players? Or is there a "sweet spot" to the game in regards to the # of players?

4) Are the "Legendary" sets something to avoid for new players to this game system?

Thanks!

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andy Parsons
United Kingdom
CHELMSFORD
Essex
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Microbadge: I drink espresso ... WHEEEEEEE!!!!Microbadge: Dark chocolate lover - 70% cocoa minimumMicrobadge: Chili PepperMicrobadge: Cherry
Jeremy,

Which of the series is the least dark? Possibly Dungeoneer: Dragons of the Forsaken Desert, in which, as the title suggests, the major foes are dragons. It's also one of my favourites of the series. I find the Wererat foes in Dungeoneer: Den of the Wererats more amusing than scary, but that's a single deck adventure and over too quickly for my taste.

My main beefs with the Dungeoneer rules are poor ordering and layout. This is definitely a game where I'd advise learning the rules and then explaining them your way, rather than reciting the text.

Like other turn-based dungeon crawlers (I mean you, Runebound), Dungeoneer can suffer a bit from downtime. That's mitigated because your character may be attacked in another player's turn, but it's there nonetheless. The game is certainly playable with four, but my preference is to play with no more than three.

I did put a comment in my review about the added complexity of the cards combined with the less than great rules making the Legendary decks perhaps not the place to start. I wouldn't want to make too much of that; Legendary Dungeoneer may be a half step up the complexity ladder, but Die Macher it's not.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Thomas Denmark
United States
San Rafael
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Thanks for a solid review Andy.

I agree with all your points. Dragons of the Forsaken Desert is also my favorite set for various reasons thematically, mechanically, and because I did all the art and design (the other sets I did about 90% with help from friends in order to cross the publishing finish line...).

Though I would say Vault of the Fiends is the best mechanically, and the original Tomb of the Lich Lord is so basic, polished, legible, and balanced it is the best for newbies.

I wish we could have written a perfect rules set. We worked so hard (2.3 versions worth!), but each version seemed to just get wordier rather than better. I love some of the rules summaries and cheat sheets that Dungeoneer players have posted here. I use the rules summary http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/22035/dngrturnsummary-pdf and the "1980's style rules" http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/40639/1980s-style-rules-fo...

I hope to someday publish a "best of Dungeoneer" set with a refined version of these great rules sets.
10 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete G
United Kingdom
Daventry
Northamptonshire
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
tldenmark wrote:
Thanks for a solid review Andy.

I agree with all your points. Dragons of the Forsaken Desert is also my favorite set for various reasons thematically, mechanically, and because I did all the art and design (the other sets I did about 90% with help from friends in order to cross the publishing finish line...).

Though I would say Vault of the Fiends is the best mechanically, and the original Tomb of the Lich Lord is so basic, polished, legible, and balanced it is the best for newbies.

I wish we could have written a perfect rules set. We worked so hard (2.3 versions worth!), but each version seemed to just get wordier rather than better. I love some of the rules summaries and cheat sheets that Dungeoneer players have posted here. I use the rules summary http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/22035/dngrturnsummary-pdf and the "1980's style rules" http://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/40639/1980s-style-rules-fo...

I hope to someday publish a "best of Dungeoneer" set with a refined version of these great rules sets.
That'd be great or at least a reprint of dragons for those of us who missed it... Kickstarter maybe?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls