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Subject: Super Dungeon Explore: The Player Experience rss

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Halgrim Padfoot
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Let me begin by stating my objective in this review. Other reviews have adequately covered SDE's component quality, general rules, value-for-money and other things you would initially notice about the game. This review is not about those things. This review is all about COMBAT.

Combat is the meat of SDE, as it is what will take up ~95% of your playtime. Thankfully, the combat mechanics are extremely well designed and will be a whole bag of fun for all players.

Combat, at its core, is composed of attacks and defences, which have strengths determined by a combination of dice rolls and static bonuses. When you attack, you roll your attack dice and compare the result against the defender's armour dice. So what makes SDE's combat so fun?

Simple

When you decide to attack something in SDE, you have very little to think about. All you do is look at your attack dice roll on your hero card, and look at your item cards (of which you generally have max 4) for any extra attack dice, and you're set. You will notice a spectacular absence of math in SDE - the numbers you can roll on any one die range from 0 to 4, and most of the time you will be adding 1s and 2s.

Fast-paced

The result of attacking/defending being so easy is that rolls happen very fast and turns progress quickly, minimising down-time between turns. Not only that, but heroes carry potions which can be used out of turn - even in between an monster's attack roll and an allied hero's defence roll. The effect of this is that battle is energetic and players are almost always engaged.

Strategy

Even if battle is fast-paced, battle without strategy is just rolling dice over and over and hoping for the best. SDE gives players the standard array of options for making different types of attacks - e.g., area of effect (AoE) vs. single target, multiple attacks vs. one powerful attack, buffing allies vs. doing damage, acting now vs. delaying. SDE adds 2 of its own fun little mechanics on top of this.

1. On each die, there is one face that is either a heart (healing; blue die), a potion (gain 1 potion; red die), or both (green die). All other faces are either numbers or blanks (zeroes). On a successful attack, any hearts or potions rolled are given to the player to either use him/herself, or give to another hero to use. This can be a godsend in sticky situations, and is often a reason for a hero to attack a lowly minion with zero armour instead of a more threatening minion. In all other situations, it is just good fun to hit something and have a heart/potion pop out of it.

2. Each point of damage ('wound') caused by any creature, hero or monster, advances the Power Gauge by one. The Power Gauge is a tracker that controls the rate at which monsters spawn from spawn points littered around the dungeon, makes bigger monsters spawn, and can buff all the little minions. When the Power Gauge hits full, the dungeon boss spawns and the spawn points that haven't yet been killed by the heroes make the boss about twice as powerful. The Power Gauge hence gives the game pace a real sense of urgency: the heroes can, if they wish, focus on killing weaker monsters and amassing loot and treasure (every 3rd successful hit gives the party 1 loot card to equip). If they do this, however, the abundance of un-killed spawn points further in the dungeon will simply replenish the fallen, and make for an early, nasty boss fight.

Visceral

All of the preceding elements combine to make a fantasticly streamlined experience where intellect takes a back seat to the 'feel' of the combat. Most monsters have simple roles and go down easily, discouraging 'analysis paralysis', and the waves of (initially) squishy reinforcements give the heroes a satisfying sense of power that is counterpointed by the little voice in every hero's head that's going "get to the spawn points or you're dead" on loop. On top of that, player advancement through the procurement of items just feels very solid. You can physically feel the extra power that an item gives your attack/defence by the number of dice in your hand and their colour. It makes it that much more satisfying when you roll an attack of 3 blue, 2 red, and 1 green (HUGE!).

Well, there you have it. I come from a Dungeons & Dragons background so I'm used to making whole bunches of house rules for combat, but was pleasantly surprised when it felt so balanced and light and fun in SDE. I hope this has been informative for anyone interested in the feel of SDE's combat.
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Paul Beasi
United States
Easthampton
Massachusetts
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My friend and I (oh who am I kidding, she did most of the work) just got all of the minis assembled. Now I look forward to actually playing.

Thanks for the review!
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Chris Topher
United States
Dist of Columbia
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Great review - touches on Combat very well.

There is definitely strategy in SDE, any time (as heroes) I choose to kill everything I can, I get bogged down... the Consul will get every single available model out. Nuts.

You really have to balance between killing stuff that is really in the way and Spawning Points.
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Colin Hall-Williams
United Kingdom
Derby
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This is exactly what I wanted to know about this game - the combat is such a big part of it that it will stand or fall on this alone. It looks like they have achieved exactly what they set out to do when designing this game, cheers for your opinion on this one :)
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Halgrim Padfoot
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Thanks! There is just so much strategy to talk about in SDE, I really felt like I had to hold back from making this review overly long in that respect.

I'm happy as long as people get the distinction that basic combat (resolving attacks) is simple, BUT there are many non-complex potential strategies which you can employ easily and in effective combinations.
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