Like many things carried under the Dungeons & Dragons banner, this game has some beautiful pieces. Each of the 12 miniatures are well crafted and look like something out of a Ray Harryhausen film. The artwork on the cards has a nice balance of form and function, demonstrating what the character or ability not only looks like, but how it is used. You are provided with 2 slick Commander cards to choose from (depending on the way you play an opponent), cards for the order to be played, and a 4-piece interlocking board which will be laid out in one consistent form or combined with an opponent's board pieces, depending on how you play. Let's dive right into that.
The Dungeon Command series is a group of faction packs that can be played to a lesser extent individually or combined with another gamer's faction pack, creating a larger board and more options for each person playing. I was only able to play with the single faction pack available to me which was enjoyable enough, but I can imagine how playing against someone with their own base set, especially one from a different faction, would open the game up to a much wider array of possibilities and actions. Each individual faction pack has its own theme which the order cards and characters emulate, the one I was able to experience being Curse of Undeath. Yes, it does sound like the title of a 1960s Vincent Price movie, but I can assure you it isn't as scary, which may be good or bad, depending on your point of view.
Dungeon Command is a turn-based hack and slash experience, at least based on the chances I got to play, but remember I was playing on only one base set. When playing 1 on 1 on the same board, you're splitting the cards, characters, and abilities between 2 people. While when playing against someone with their own faction pack you get the option of choosing which commander you use, which cards to play, and which characters to deploy. If you've ever played a D&D-based, game you probably have an idea of how board design is laid out and movement is taken. The board is divided into one inch squares, and your characters' abilities dictate how many spaces they can move in a single turn. Things of endless debate can be contended by the parties involved, including how the context of a card is supposed to be interpreted or whether one has line of site to an opponent and can shoot them from their current location. These are the things childhood friendships are made of, because nothing forms a bond like finding agreement in the trivial. When you're 12, nothing is trivial. It's like being a 30-year-old writer for Fanboy Comics, but without bills to pay. Speaking of being a 12 year old, let's talk instructions. As a younger lad, I would pour over game instructions multiple times before removing any of the pieces, in case there was somehow a rule I may have missed stating that removal of a certain piece before another will result in Santa being hung over a pit of spiders and gummi bears with razor blade teeth. Yeah, I was a bit over dramatic. Not much has changed. But, transitioning away from my psychosis and back to Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath, I will say that to me the instructions read a bit like an Ikea cabinet manual. 12 year olds would have worked their way through and corrected themselves as they went along, but being the responsible adult I am, I sat for half an hour going over the instructions with a fine-toothed comb and then tried the "Let's just play it!" method. It's surprising how easy a thing can be once you do it, like riding a bike or starting a flash mob.
I enjoyed playing Dungeon Command: Curse of the Undeath for what it is and what I can imagine it to be fully played. Other than some of the cards being bent awkwardly and sticking together during the un-boxing, the game play was simple enough to get through the first time after periodic glances at the instructions and got much easier with each sub-sequential play. Being a hack and slash type of game, playing on the same set with the same characters is a bit bland and cuts your options, because there really isn't much strategy as it is luck of the draw. Playing against another on a fully formed 8-piece board seems like it would involve much more thought and strategy, knowing not just which cards work well against others, but knowing what your opponent will do before they do it and setting them up for a fall. Playing 1 on 1 on the same board is good practice though, because when you roll into your FLGS with your faction pack in hand, you won't get pwned your first time and show the other kids that you've got some chops. Grab a copy, a buddy, and a few tasty beverages and play through a couple rounds to see what you think. As a horror fan, the Curse of Undeath faction pack was a great way to introduce me to the game, but with other options available now, I'm sure you'll find something in the Dungeon Command realm that will whet your appetite. So, as the Great Dungeon Master once said after handing over a 12-sided die, "Give it a roll."
You can thank me later.